Apple Valley Farm sits near Lake Perry, about 30 minutes north of Lawrence. The old barns are now a melodrama theater, antique store and a saloon, while the homestead now serves as the Farmhouse Restaurant.
Yet, a trip there feels a little less like visiting a business and a whole lot more like going home -- if you're from the country, anyway.
The restaurant is an open place, full of windows filtering in the sunshine. Its decor follows a country kitchen motif, with wooden tables and chairs and checkered red tablecloths. Knickknacks and crafty items adorn the multiple dining rooms.
There is even an accommodating deck, where diners can sit to enjoy the approaching twilight. The place is impeccably clean and very inviting.
Inviting myself in, I found the best part to be the food. Thursdays through Saturdays are evening buffets, which are offered in conjunction with the theater, although you're welcome to eat there without attending the show. Sundays are for noontime family dinners.
Thursdays feature a Mexican buffet. There is a complete salad bar for openers and the main buffet is well-stocked with all the fixings for creating your own tacos, nachos, et al. It was fresh and hot and hit the spot.
The price is a reasonable $6.95. Tie that in with the $8 theater ticket and that makes Thursday evening a bargain night.
Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays focus on traditional family foods. The buffet provides huge, delicious pieces of fried and baked chicken. Roast beef is a second entree, and the side dishes include baked beans and really, really good mashed potatoes with a choice of white or brown gravy. Freshly baked bread, dinner rolls and cinnamon buns complete the menu.
For dessert you can have large slices of apple pie. It looked wonderful, but I was just too full to try it.
I had mixed emotions about the $10.50 per person charge, but I recommend going for two reasons. First, the food is great. Second, the prices apply on Friday and Saturday nights when most guests also take in a show. With theater prices at $8 to $10 on the weekends, your dinner theater experience comes to about $20 per person. That makes it reasonable for the excellent quality of both the food and show. I've been to pricier dinner theaters that offered far less.
The only real mistake the restaurant makes is charging for drink refills. I'm not trying to tell anyone his business, but no one else does this any more and it might be alienating to customers.
Across the drive is the Grainery Saloon. Airy and very clean, it comes complete with pool tables, a small dance floor, a bar stocked with the usual selections and a dining room. The bar serves various appetizers, including cream cheese-stuffed jalapenos, all priced between $1.75 and $2.75.
For my meal I ordered the 10-ounce T-bone. It came cooked to my liking and came with a dinner roll, salad and a bushel basket full of steak fries. The best part was the price: $7.95.
The bar also serves up different burgers, grilled chicken and barbecue beef sandwiches from $3 to $3.50. The guests next to me were having them and they looked great.
Pegi Day manages the restaurant and husband Terry the saloon. Meredith Day, who started this enterprise, can be found next door at the Milkbarn, an antique store.
I really enjoyed my weekend at Apple Valley Farm. It offers an enjoyable experience unlike any other in this area. Go for a visit.
And try to save room for the apple pie.