The Annex Café is celebrating its 49th year of operation this month. The Annex is a fixture and popular eatery in downtown Tracy City.
Julia Hargis and her daughter, Peggy Hargis Griffith, opened the Annex Café in 1972. Julia wanted to cook down home southern-style food and convinced Peggy to open a restaurant with her to do just that. After Julia’s death at age 100 two years ago, Peggy carried on the business. Peggy said her mother was an excellent cook.
“My mother was the best,” Griffith said. “You can’t compare to her.”
When asked what recipes or secrets her mother shared with her, Griffith gives a typical response: that Southern ladies do not measure or write down recipes; they learn by being in the kitchen, helping and watching.
“My mother’s advice for cooking was to add a pinch of salt to everything,” Griffith said. “She would have me sift flour seven times before making cake batter. She just knew when it was right.”
The café is a mainstay for the town and like a second home to many. It’s also a throwback to their grandmother’s cooking. Peggy knows them all.
“I’ve got good customers,” Griffith said. “They’re like family.”
The customers are an addition to the Hargis family, many of whom have been employees at some time or another.
“It’s always been a family thing,” Griffith said of the café. “We all work together.”
Griffith’s brother, Bill Hargis, comes in most days to eat and check on the restaurant. When asked about his mother’s cooking, Bill called it perfection.
“My mom was a perfect cook,” Hargis said. “And I married one, too.”
Bill is also the maintenance man.
“Bill is the handyman,” Griffith said of her brother. “He keeps it running.”
Griffith’s great-niece, Brandy Henley, started working there at an early age. She is now married and lives in Sewanee, but stops in frequently and goes right to work to pitch in.
“I’ve been working here since I could walk,” Henley said. “Working here has helped shape me into the person I am today. I learned a good work ethic and respect for my elders.”
Henley isn’t the only younger member of the family to frequent the Annex. Griffith’s great-nephew and recent high school graduate, Holden Hargis, spends his lunch break at the café frequently.
“I’ve always eaten here,” Hargis said. “Aunt Peggy is very sweet unless you make her mad. She will let you know when you have.”
Regulars also bring fresh vegetables from their garden to Peggy. These are prepared and added to the menu. Folks know what the daily specials are. Tuesday’s special is pork chops, and Thursday’s is fried chicken. Homemade desserts are offered daily as well.
The Annex, at 375 Railroad Ave., Tracy City, serves breakfast and lunch weekdays from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. while supplies last.