WINCHESTER — For decades now, Country Kitchen in Winchester has been the place to mingle, eat and make connections.
Not just simply a restaurant, Country Kitchen might be described as a local institution.
“It brings people together; some people have been coming here to meet for years,” said Toula Beckstead, co-owner and manager of a restaurant she described as “one of the last mom-and-pop shops” in Winchester.
“We offer a space for social gatherings,” she said, referring to the back dining room that serves as a place for clubs and organizations to commiserate while ordering from Country Kitchen’s selection of delicious, homemade dishes.
The operators love to help out with local charity events when possible.
“We have catered the [ATV] Ride for Dad the last few years. We donated all the food and served it to all the participants in the parking lot,” she said of the annual March prostate cancer fundraiser organized by the Nation Valley ATV Club. They have always supported many other community groups and teams including the Winchester Hawks.
The establishment has built up such a following with the off-roading community, “we’ve been nicknamed the ‘ATV Clubhouse’,” she continued.
A half century ago, the restaurant used to be one of very few eating establishments in Winchester, and Beckstead acknowledged there is a lot more competition today. To stay in the game, the restaurant has evolved and adapted with various improvements over the years.
More recently, they’ve added a gleaming, stainless-steel salad bar and dessert table.
There is a big screen TV in the back meeting room, as well as a number of other flat-panel TVs in the front area; those units went in when Athens, Greece, hosted the Summer Olympics in 2004.
Country Kitchen remains the epitome of a family-owned business.
“My parents immigrated here from Greece in 1971 and opened this restaurant four years later. My brother and I started working here when we were very young,” Beckstead reminisced.
Today, she takes care of the front, while brother Charles Theos “runs the back, and my mom still works here sometimes too, even though she’s semi-retired.”
Their mother is a gardner at heart and still plants an impressive spread behind the County Rd. 31 restaurant. With veggies varying from potatoes, beans, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and over 120 tomato plants, the produce all goes into the restaurant menu!
All of their sauces are made from their own tomatoes grown in the same North Dundas soil.
Toula recalled when they lived on the farm and grew their own potato plants. They had such an abundance that they sold their potatoes to other local restaurants and the general public.
Their homegrown vegetables are also used during their annual Authentic Greek Buffet in the Fall.
“They are all mom’s recipes! She does all the cooking, and starts cooking about a month ahead,” Beckstead declared.
The popular buffet includes both lamb and pig on a spit.
All of their fries are hand-cut, and the proprietor vows they always will be.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the township’s 2019 Explore North Dundas Spring/Summer Resource Guide. The involved interviews took place in the first quarter of 2019.