Catfish at the Center of the Universe: Cornerstone Grand Opening Tonight

The official grand opening for Dade's new Cornerstone Restaurant is today, Friday, March 17, and proprietors Kent and Penny Bangs Huff invite the community to turn up and snarf down their Friday special of all-you-can eat fried catfish-and-fixin's from 3-8 p.m. The catfish special is $8.99, or for an extra buck you can opt for a ribeye steak and two sides.

Cornerstone is in the site of the old Depot Diner on Highway 11 South in downtown Rising Fawn, which later became The Whistle Stop Cafe. Peny Huff, speaking by telephone, said the restaurant has stayed packed since its "soft opening" last Saturday. "We think we've got most of the kinks worked out by now," she said.

The Huffs previously operated a restaurant in Flintstone, Georgia. Their lease was up Dec. 31, the building needed extensive renovations, and they decided to move on to pastures new instead. They live on Lookout Mountain, and Ms. Huff says the new site is about as straight a shot from their home as Flintstone. (She did not mention Rising Fawn's strategic position at the center of the universe as a reason for the relocation, but that is doubtless so obvious a factor as to be dismissed as a given.)

Ms. Huff wishes to draw the community's attention to her restaurant's pulled pork barbecue, which she says won awards in the previous restaurant, and to the Huffs' signature Cornerstone Burger, which includes a hefty stack of the famous Q as well as a half-pound of ground beef.

But she also stresses the variety she and her husband will offer in their meat-and-three plates and daily specials. "Our motto is: We take the ordinary and make it extraordinary," said Ms. Huff. "My husband is actually an accredited chef from Illinois."

Kent Huff's specialty is German cuisine, said his wife, and come fall Cornerstone plans to bring Oktoberfest to the center of the universe. You haven't lived until you've tried her husband's Rouladen, says Ms. Huff.

"I take care of the front end," said Ms. Huff. "He's the one who's feeding and fattening the community."

She, like her husband, is from the Frozen North, said Ms. Huff, and Cornerstone's "Blue & Gray" burger is named not just for the two kinds of cheese that top it but to highlight the couple's reformed-Yankee status.

Another feature the Huffs brought from the Flintstone restaurant is their "tearoom" tradition. They fixed up the Depot's auxiliary dining room in lavenders and yellows as a sunny tearoom-style venue which they hope to rent out for festivities such as birthday bashes and princess parties. "It's a girly room," she said. "People call our dining rooms the 'his and her' rooms."

Lest it all start sounding like too-much-too-new, here's an interesting bit of continuity. Cornerstone's opening is the beneficiary of Randy's Restaurant's closing: the Huffs have hired Chris Howard and Kasey Howard, son and granddaughter, respectively, of Randy and Janice Howard who operated Randy's Restaurant from 1985 until they closed their door earlier this year.

Cornerstone's hours are posted as 11 a.m.-8 p.m.--but as the restaurant is brand-new, hours may vary and prospective diners might want to call before they pop in. The number is (706) 462-2301.

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