The Western Boulevard diner, a Raleigh staple for nearly thirty years, serves classics like barbecue chicken, biscuits and hamburger steak.
by Catherine Currin | photography by John Gessner
The parking lot is always full at Pam’s Farmhouse Restaurant. Inside a small, unassuming building on Western Boulevard, red vinyl chairs scoot up toward laminate tables topped with condiments like molasses, butter and Texas Pete. Tan brick walls display North Carolina memorabilia and signed photos from patrons over the years.
The restaurant’s owner is Pam Medlin, who’s originally from nearby Henderson. “I started working when I was 13 bussing tables, then came to Raleigh to work at 401 Seafood,” she says. She opened Pam’s Farmhouse as her own breakfast and lunch spot 27 years ago after working for years in the industry at old-school Raleigh joints including Big Ed’s and the State Farmers Market Restaurant.
In fact, she was such a fixture at the Farmer’s Market that she worried about how folks would feel about her opening her own spot. “I didn’t know what my customers would think about me leaving somewhere I’d been for so long,” she says. But the response was overwhelmingly positive: Many of those customers followed her over to Pam’s Farmhouse, and she’s had regulars ever since.
“We have a neighborhood crowd that comes in every day to drink coffee,” says Medlin. “There’s the grandparents who brought their grandchildren, and now the grandchildren are grown. We’ve watched so many kids grow up.”
Today, Pam’s Farmhouse is open Tuesday through Saturday, serving up Southern breakfast starting at 6 a.m. and wrapping up at 2 p.m. after lunch. A loyal crowd arrives before it opens most days (there’s usually a line out the door). Sit down for breakfast and you’ll be welcomed with a thick ceramic mug full of coffee — in the afternoons, iced tea in a mason jar.
Menu staples include a country breakfast with buttery grilled biscuits, as well as lunchtime favorites like hamburger steak smothered in gravy (served with classic sides like chopped collard greens, squash and onions) and macaroni and cheese. Medlin says that her barbecue chicken is the best seller.
Pam hands out copies of the hand-written, paper lunch menu with the day’s fare. “Many of my recipes are passed down from family members,” says Medlin. “The cooking hasn’t changed much, since most of my kitchen staff has been with me for more than 20 years.” Similarly, patrons of Pam’s Farmhouse come for the food and stay for the community.
“We don’t have customers, we have family members,” says Medlin.
Becky Sparks has worked as a waitress at Pam’s Farmhouse for 25 years. “I’ve stayed here for so long for many reasons,” she says. “It’s a family-oriented place where everyone feels welcome when they walk in the door.”
While things have changed a lot in Raleigh over the last three decades, little has changed at Pam’s Farmhouse. The decor is just about the same, and customers like the menu as-is, Medlin says: “I hoped to add some different things to the menu.
But customers tell me to leave it.” Sparks highlights some of her favorites: “You’ve got to try our hot cakes, the Western omelet, link sausage and, of course, barbecue chicken for lunch.”
Medlin credits the consistency of food and service to her longtime staff. Many of her team — her “girls,” as she fondly refers to them — have worked alongside her for decades. “Pam is an excellent person to work for, plus everyone seems to enjoy coming here,” says Sparks. “We can’t wait for our customers to walk through the door.”
Medlin’s mother works the register, a job that Medlin jokes is her least favorite. “There’s too many other things to do,” she says. Pam’s Farmhouse has been a mainstay for everyone from families grabbing a weekend breakfast to workers logging weekday business lunch, but as Raleigh grows and expands, Medlin welcomes newcomers to try her home cooking. “I always take them something that they probably haven’t tried before,” she says. “They usually love it. And they will be back.”
This article originally appeared in the July 2023 issue of WALTER magazine.