Motor Inn truck stop is next best thing to home

| October 25, 2012

A wise man once said, “Any restaurant that has the balls to put a sign that just says, “EAT” over the top of it probably has good food.” (Actually, my brother said that, but no one knows who he is, so for general purposes he’s a wise man now. You’re welcome, Brother.)

The Motor Inn and Family Restaurant, located at the intersection of State Routes 33 and 127 in Mendon, Ohio, is just such a place. This rural truck stop carves 15 acres out of the corn fields to offer a true mom-and-pop experience.

Referred to as “The Corner” by locals, this piece of land has served as a travel stop for as long as anyone in Mercer County can remember. In the summer of 1939, a tragic accident involving a car and a semi caught the whole corner on fire and burned the original Motor to the ground. The current truck stop was immediately rebuilt in its place.

When we stopped at the Motor, I was pouty and my sparkling personality had ceased to function properly. It was my first time out, I was missing home and I was completely pissed that we had run out of drive time only two short hours from home. My husband assured me the experience at the corner would make up for not getting home. I made up my mind to be pouty and miserable about the whole thing. I did not have an open mind.

There were less than 10 big trucks in the sleep lot, but the parking lot in front of the restaurant was full of cars with local tags. We went into the convenience store, which is attached to the restaurant. I was surprised at the variety of gift cards available in such a tiny place. My husband was surprised at the electronics room, he found it well-equipped and thorough. The staff was extremely friendly, and treated us like they knew us, which helped me miss home a little less. I might have actually smiled at the clerk, but I won’t admit it. It was becoming increasingly difficult to remain pouty.

We stocked up on regular trucking needs, snack cakes, pop, smokes, beef jerky – the staples of life on the road. We debated for about three seconds on whether or not to get a slice of Hunt Brothers Pizza. We decided to sit down for a real meal at the restaurant instead.

The place was packed. The smell of stir fry was the first thing I noticed. It was in complete contrast to the decor, which was as “fried chicken” as you could get. Everything was polished wood and gingham. We were greeted by a friendly waitress, who informed us the special for the evening was chicken stir fry. I almost laughed at how funny it seemed to have a weekly special of chicken stir fry in a teeny country town, but then I remembered I wasn’t going to sparkle, and stifled the chuckle.

I opened the menu and immediately noticed the first three choices in the dinner section: fried chicken (I knew it), rabbit (half or whole), and frog legs (please don’t let any gross frogs touch my food). My husband saw the same thing at the same time.

“So, you’re getting frog legs?”

“I’m sorry, my mother doesn’t allow me to eat amphibians.”

“Oh come on, you get the frog legs and I’ll get the rabbit.”

“I will eat frog legs when Kroger runs out of ground beef. And everything else edible.”

One of the locals, who heard our entire conversation, as the dining room is small and no place to have a private conversation, leaned over and assured us both the rabbit and frog legs were equally delicious. He went on to tell us there was a time when both were fresh from Ohio, but he thinks they’re frozen now. “No one takes time to hunt anymore, they just grow animals, ya’ know? Kill em’, put em’ on a truck and zip-zip you got frog legs.”

I politely thanked him and made a mental note to refrain from talking about anything I didn’t want the entire town to hear. (We almost got kicked out of a Denny’s in Virginia because someone overheard me saying, “Hit me again Ike, and put some stank on it!” They thought we were having a domestic incident, and I was simply asking for more bacon.) I also made sure to put ‘frog farming’ into the mental Rolodex for the next time I had a few minutes to Google random things.

The menu included a ton of comfort food and ranged from salmon patties to tapioca pudding. I had a hard time choosing between hamburger steak and catfish strips. I ultimately chose the hamburger steak, because it can be slathered in brown gravy and I’m completely nuts about brown gravy. It’s my secret ingredient. It also happens to be the only thing besides spaghetti sauce I will allow to be spread on my food, as I do not eat condiments of any kind. (See Coupons and Crawly Things). My husband got a bacon cheeseburger with fries and a Pepsi.

The food arrived quicker than I thought it would, and smelled like heaven on a plate. My hamburger steak was cooked exactly as I ordered it. It was a good, quality piece of ground beef, just thick enough to not be overwhelming. I’m pretty sure the mashed potatoes are homemade. I was just slightly disappointed with the brown gravy, but I’m a connoisseur of brown gravy, as I have mentioned before. It had a great taste, but was just a little too thick.

  • Melissa Owens

    Thank you so much for the shining article on a wonderful Mom & Pop stopping place! They deserve our business & verbal/written support. As a 27 yr veteran o/o, I always much prefer cozy over corporate! Happy Trails All!

  • Gary Elkins

    Wonderful story ….love the mom and pop stops over anything ..great to hear. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.