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For a true home-cooked Southern meal, head west to Tanglewood Ordinary. 

Southern Comfort

Out Patterson Avenue — way out Patterson Avenue — is a condemned man's last meal. All the more appropriate that you drive past a state penitentiary to get there.

The menu: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans cooked with a ham hock, pinto beans cooked with onions and a ham hock, turnip and collard greens cooked with a blend of salty spices, fresh slaw, corn bread and biscuits, and your choice of roast beef, country ham, or fried catfish. All you can eat. All for $10.99. Your only other choice: iced tea, lemonade, beer or wine, and whether or not your belt has enough holes in it for dessert. On Sunday, the pinto beans are replaced with black-eyed peas and stewed tomatoes. Welcome to the South!

In a strange way, Tanglewood is both exceptional and ordinary. Ordinary in the sense that it remains, after 14 years, unchanged, perhaps unchangeable. Exceptional in the sense that there is nothing else like it nearby.

With original construction circa 1927 from the tangled wood of the area, Tanglewood has a long history as a tavern. The main post-and-beam dining hall was built in the early 1930s as a country jukehouse and is the only atmosphere in which you could offer this kind of food and dining experience and make a go of it. After it had a succession of owners, Jim and Anne Hardwick bought the place in 1986. Recent renovations include several service-oriented improvements, fresh paint and acoustic ceiling tile to reduce ambient noise.

[image-1](Stacy Warner / richmond.com)I'll admit it was a little strange to have the woman who seated us say, "Your waitress will be out in a minute with your slaw." "Did she say slaw?" we wondered. Is that the salad? Our appetizer? Do we wait for the rest of our meal to arrive before we eat it? We decided not to ask, and we further suggest avoiding complicated thoughts like this when dining at Tanglewood. Fortunately, our waitress came back quickly and took our order: roast beef, two beers.

Out came bowl after bowl — eight in all — with the aforementioned sides, the fried chicken and the roast beef. We piled it on and sent back for more mashed potatoes and pinto beans, and thought about another round of chicken. Though absolutely stuffed after two plates full of heart-unhealthy comfort food, we plowed ahead with dessert: fresh apple cobbler and blackberry pie (with a lattice crust!).

Don't laugh. The same thing will happen to you. Surrounded by bowls of home-cooking this rich, savory and full of flavor, you'll lose all sense, too. It's like a Thanksgiving gorge-yourself-silly feast. Or as the folks at Tanglewood would say, like Grandmother's Sunday dinner. Only it's nothing like my Yankee grandmother ever made. It's true Southern culture. If only Norman Rockwell lived
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