When you visit Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park or the Micanopy and Gainesville area, the best way to get the most of the experience is to eat like a cracker.
Fortunately, it’s easy to do. Almost next door to the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings state park is The Yearling, a restaurant founded in 1952, when Rawlings was still alive and writing. The restaurant celebrates the Florida cracker culture that so enchanted Rawlings when she came to Cross Creek.
The Yearling serves Rawling’s legendary sour orange pie, as well as frog legs, catfish, venison and the best cheese grits I’ve ever had.
The ambiance of the place, which looks like a weather-beaten shack, is old Florida hunting lodge. It’s decorated with antique outboard motors, old guns and enough memorabilia to stock a store. Stuffed fish and mounted deer heads abound.
The restaurant has been recognized as one of Florida’s best restaurants by Florida Trend Magazine for a decade, although if you read reviews on Yelp or TripAdvisor, you’ll find it has its critics. (Comments include “over-priced” and “food was nothing special.”)
The restaurant is open Thursday to Sunday from noon to 10 p.m. and often features live music by the legendary blues singer Willie Green. Green, son of Alabama sharecroppers, is a recording artist who has opened for many music great, including Eric Clapton. After alcoholism and some hard living, he ended up on the streets, where the Yearling’s owner found him and offered him a gig 10 years ago. This short video tells the story and gives you a sample of Green’s talent.
The Yearling is located 14 miles from Gainesville and 25 miles from Ocala, right on Cross Creek, which connects Orange Lake to the south and Loclossa Lake to the north.
Planning your visit to Cross Creek:
- Florida Rambler article about Cross Creek and Rawling’s home.
- Website for Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park.
- Historic Micancopy, Florida’s oldest inland city, is a few miles away and is a great place to browse antique shops.
- Herlong Mansion Historic Inn and Gardens in Micancopy is a bed and breakfast known for its white pillars, wide verandas and Southern hospitality.
- Nearby Paynes Prairie State Park offers extensive hiking plus shaded sites for tents, trailers or RV camping. The park is known for its sinkholes, birdwatching and alligators, but the wild horses and buffalo you can spot here set if apart.