Vivian Howard’s fans from NPRs “A Chef’s Life” would follow her anywhere to try her cuisine, but her main kitchen is in little old Kinston, North Carolina. Crowds from near and far reserve up to three months in advance for a tasty meal at Chef and The Farmer.
Unless you live nearby, you’ll need a place to stay. While there are some chain hotels available, if you want the full experience by staying within walking distance, stay at the O’Neil Hotel or the newly opened Mother Earth Motor Lodge. Think of the Motor Lodge as the 70’s Howard Johnson’s type while the O’Neil is a boutique hotel. While more affordable, the Motor Lodge was full the weekend we visited, so we’ll experience it next time! Click here to read about the O’Neil.
Reservations are made through the restaurant’s website. Reservations can be done up to 90 days ahead, but it is still hard! Parties of 7 or more should call the restaurant directly at (252) 208-2433 x1. One trick we learned was that if you follow their Facebook page, you may be able to get a last minute reservation. And they take their reservations seriously, I got a text at least a week in advance, confirming!
We arrived for a late dinner – 8 pm on a Friday night. We reserved almost a full three months in advance. The good news is that the place was as full and exciting as I imagined!
While a famous restaurant, the Chef and The Farmer retains a casual atmosphere. Some guests were dressed up, many more were casually attired, so wear whatever you like. The good news is that everyone is so enthralled with their meals, that they’re all willing to share!
We sat next to a couple celebrating the wife’s birthday. Living at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, they drove up and stayed at the Motor Lodge specifically to dine at Chef and The Farmer. The husband convinced Allan that the 16 oz steak that was the size of his wife’s head was worth it! They ordered a trio of desserts and insisted that I try some of it before I even got to order!
The Food! All The Delicious Food at Chef and The Farmer!
Appetizer and Small Plate
Everyone raves about Chef and The Farmer’s flash fried collards ($6) – and they were so right! Light and crispy with a bit of sea salt! One of my favorite items of the night. I also ordered the Millford Mill Grits ($13) – grits with some sage sausage, spicy tomato, egg, watercress and white cheddar. I liked the presentation and this was an interesting twist on a Southern tradition.
For our main meal, Allan went for the Lane Angus Ribeye ($48) – a 16 oz rib eye steak with pecan romero, farm arugula, coriander salt potatoes and field peas. I decided to try the Sweet Potato and Peanut Green Curry ($25) – with bok chou and Thai basil. At our waiter’s suggestion, I added the shrimp. This was so good! The tangy of the green chili, balanced with the sweet potato, and the boiled peanuts for just a bit of crunch – yum!
Dessert was tricky! Having sampled the Rosemary Creme Fraiche Cheesecake from our neighbor, I ordered the Spiced Apple Stack ($9) with creme fraiche. It was good but not as gooey as I had hoped for! Allan chose the chocolate ice cream ($5) – topped with a salted caramel that could have been served all on its own! If I had known that it would be so good! You can also order a trio of three desserts for $25 or a flight of 4 for $30. This is a great way to share and try multiple desserts! Next time!
We finished our dinner with after dinner drinks – I’m a fan of dessert wines and followed the recommendation of a Paul Culver Late Harvest Riesling ($12) and Allan ordered a single malt scotch. They even brought a dropper with a distilled water! Very fancy!
The meal and experience at Chef and The Farmer was worth it!
Vivian Howard also runs the Boiler Room Oyster Bar next door. And if you’re in Kinston, you should go try a beer or spirit at Mother Earth Brewing or catch a live band at The Red Room. On Tuesday, December 12th, she opens Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria in Wilmington, NC. Sounds like another road trip is in order!
Annick, The Common Traveler