Sometimes the most unexpected places harbor the best food, and The Oil Lamp Restaurant in Perry is just the place. Owned and operated by Mennonites, the humble eatery is a take-it-or-leave-it type place --- and I'm taking it.
Once you approach the building you'll notice that it's lacking some luster. But don't rule it out. They've got good people cooking good food.
Once inside you'll quickly learn the drill. Lunch and dinner both work the same: Stand in line, pick what you want and pay. Around noon the lunch crowd is thick and things can get a little chaotic, but otherwise it's an easy trip.
The menu changes day-to-day, even minute-to-minute. Once a vegetable or meat runs out, they bring out a new one. Sometimes it's the same, sometimes it's not. All of the food is homemade, so whatever they're cooking, you'll eat.
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Don't be afraid, they're pretty steady with their fare. The menu doesn't stray from the usual too often. They'll have three meats. Roast beef and fried chicken are popular. Sometimes they'll serve pineapple-glazed ham or beef stroganoff. Vegetables include creamed corn, broccoli and cheese casserole, turnip greens, green beans and sweet potato casserole. They offered rice and mashed potatoes with gravy both times I visited. Many desserts were also available. They had pecan pie, blueberry pie, peanut butter cream pie, cherry pie and coconut cream pie --- just to name a few.
Pricing is simple: You pay for each thing you order. A serving of meat is $2.50, a vegetable serving $1.25, a roll is .25 and a desert is $1.50. Mix it, match it, however you want it; those are the prices.
After paying for your food you can choose a seat in one of the two dining rooms. On the left side of the register there are six six-seat tables, and on the right side of the register there are six four-seat tables. All tables are covered in a plastic picnic-pattern tablecloth.
They're going with the less-is-more approach with the decor. The table cloths are as crazy as it gets. A couple of grandma-style animal paintings and a welcome sign is about the extent of the decoration.
But the lackluster decor has no impact on the food. My two favorite meats were the roast beef and the pineapple-glazed ham. The roast beef was tender with just enough flavor and the ham was sweet with bits of pineapple. The beef stroganoff was also impressive, but the fried chicken was much too dry for me. The broccoli and cheese casserole was also a miss; however the sweet potato casserole was wonderful. For a second I thought it was November already. The turnip greens were flavored just right, but pass up the helping if it's at the bottom of the pan --- way too salty.
Let's talk about something sweet, like dessert. Most of the desserts were mediocre, but the peanut butter cream pie and the pecan pie both served up a happy ending. The peanut butter cream pie was cool with a light peanut butter taste and the pecan pie, to my surprise, had bits of chocolate morsels in it.
Don't let first impressions turn you away. Oil Lamp's simple, no frills meal and sweet ending can win over anyone.
Oil Lamp Restaurant
626 Courtney Hodges Blvd., Perry
Two and a half stars
Phone: (478) 988.2643
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday; also 5-8 p.m. Thursday and Friday
Payment: Cash, credit cards
Price range: .25-$2.50
Kids menu: No
Vegetarian selections: Yes
Wheelchair access: Yes
Noise level: Low
Health code: 93