By Leslie LaChance
On most days, Braden may be a sleepy little whistle-stop of a town located in West Tennessee about 40 miles northeast of Memphis, but on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, Braden’s railroad crossing on Highway 59 is a high-traffic area. That’s because the friendly staff at Braden Station, a seafood restaurant by the tracks, is busy serving up a delicious down-home buffet and plate dinners to patrons who drive from miles around to sample the Louisiana Gulf Coast oysters and house-made desserts.
Diners come for the food and linger to enjoy the eclectic décor of the restaurant’s historic building, a 1908 storefront which once housed the bank, post office and general store operated by the C.T. McCraw Company, a regional cotton merchant.
Braden Station’s ample buffet features familiar coastal favorites – catfish, shrimp and clams, all deep-fried in homemade batters. The oysters, a house specialty, are fresh from the Gulf, fried in a light flour batter with a hint of black pepper to give them some sass. Dinner includes traditional side dishes like macaroni and cheese, fried okra, greens and white beans with generous chunks of ham. There are hushpuppies too, of course, along with a jalapeño hushpuppy option for bolder palates. On Thursdays, the buffet includes frogs’ legs, another local favorite. To satisfy the sweet tooth, patrons can help themselves to fruit cobblers such as apple or peach, or a sinfully rich chocolate cobbler, all made more decadent by a quick trip to the soft-serve ice cream machine.
George and JoAnne Jensen bought the C.T. McCraw building in 2002. Along with their daughter Kim Graves and her husband, Terry, they renovated the structure and opened the restaurant with Terry at the helm in the kitchen and the rest of the family “just doing whatever needed to be done,” JoAnne says. Why a seafood restaurant? “My son-in-law is from Louisiana,” George explains, “and I knew he could really cook some fish.”
The McCraw building boasts a high-ceilinged, spacious storefront, and the Jensens have retained many of the original architectural features, including a working freight elevator, the first one installed in Fayette County. The store’s original shelving is now filled with vintage toys, china and farm tools, most of which came from the Jensens’ own home. Though the big room seats 150 and is always bustling, the space still feels homey. It’s no wonder folks like to stop over at Braden Station for dinner and just stay a while.
The Dish on Braden Station
Braden Station is located in the Old General Store, C.T. McCraw Building, 189 Highway 59, in Braden, about 40 miles northeast of Memphis. The restaurant is open for dinner Thursday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. For information, call (901) 594-5959.