POMARIA — Each week, WLTX 19 gives the Golden Spatula Award to a Midlands restaurant that receives a perfect score from the Department of Health and Environmental Control during inspection.
This August, M&N Cafe in Pomaria was one of those winners.
“When the health inspector comes in, he checks everything you are doing at the time, and like always, we got a 100 percent,” said Margaret Free, owner of M&N Cafe since it opened its doors 25 years ago. “I have always tried to keep that A, and go by the rules. I have worked at other places and I always thrive for an A.”
The inspector came to the restaurant, located at 5089 U.S. 176 in Pomaria, on a Tuesday, and on Thursday WLTX 19 aired the highest and lowest scores of the week. M&N Cafe was the highest and was named the winner of the Golden Spatula shortly after.
Free found out that her restaurant was the weekly winner from her daughter Nell. After that everyone was talking on social media and in the restaurant, that M&N won the Golden Spatula.
“I was shocked. I thought it was very nice to receive the award, but I never expected to get one. I thought it was just for restaurants in Columbia,” she said.
Free heard from WLTX the Wednesday after the announcement was made. They asked if they could present her the award the next day, and if she would prepare three meals to be filmed.
“They came in a little after lunch, and I had three meals prepared for them to film. We had the hamburger steak, cheeseburger basket and the grilled chicken salad,” she said. “I was not able to watch the original airing at 11 p.m., I was in bed, but I did watch it later and it was a very nice segment.”
Free said that while the WLTX crew did not eat any of the food, they did try her homemade fries, which are cut and cooked by the M&N employees.
“The girl tasted a fry and had her cameraman try one too. They never saw homemade fries before,” Free said. “I find that interesting because that is how I started making money, cutting my own fries.”
Free said she has seen an increase in business since the segment aired. Many new customers came from West Columbia, and were buying the hamburger steaks and the rib eye.
“Right after it aired, so many flocked in, we needed to have people come in and help with the crowd,” Free said. “We had a couple from West Columbia call and asked how to get here. They had not been in this area in a while and did not know we were 40 minutes away.”
Newberry County residents have also been by to congratulate Free for the award. In fact, since the segment aired, there has not been a day she has not gotten a congratulations or a new customer because of the award. The support she has received from county residents has meant a lot to her. Free tries her best to buy local products and support what she calls her people in Newberry County.
“I just really thank Newberry County for all the love and support, and for enjoying our food. I have been in business for 25 years now, and all I can really say is thank you for all the support,” Free said.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.