You could be forgiven for driving past Violet Hill, a sleepy hamlet east of Shelburne, thinking there wouldn’t be much to see. You’d be forgiven, but you’d be wrong.
One of the best culinary experiences in the region
known as the Hills of the Headwaters is found at Mrs. Mitchell’s
, a meticulously renovated 1889 schoolhouse-turned-restaurant that serves expertly prepared hearty fare. Across the street, Granny Taught Us How is contemporary home accessories store in a former Orange Lodge.
I visited these twin Violet Hill landmarks with a friend on a cool March day on my way north to Collingwood. Next time I’m in the Mono or Orangeville area, I will certainly be stopping by again – particularly in the summer when I can explore the beautiful gardens.
Named after the school’s last and longest-serving teacher, Mrs. Mitchell’s Restaurant has a rustic ambiance that echoes its origins as a one-room schoolhouse that served the community for over 80 years until 1968. The beige board and baton siding and pitched roof topped with the original belltower, reminds you of a simpler time.
Inside, the dark wooden floor boards, heavy beams and long harvest table are complemented by a well-worn cast iron pots, an open hearth fireplace, and harvest-themed paintings.
We visited on a Saturday at lunch and, at first, we had the place to ourselves, but it quickly filled up with locals, so reservations are likely a good idea, particularly during the summer. The service was friendly and quick throughout the meal.
We resisted the urge to try the signature smoked mushroom soup and spoon bread (made from a 17th-century recipe), instead filling up on hot-from-the-oven biscuits and sweet potato muffins, the latter were especially delicious with a dusting of cinnamon.
My friend indulged in a healthy brunch option: an omelette filled with spinach, cheddar, onions, mushrooms, and chorizo sausage and served with a broiled sausage. The plate came heaped with seasoned potato cubes and a mound of berries and grapes.
On this snowy day, I favoured the country beef stew, with beef, red wine, and vegetables served with a homemade roll and garden salad (the house-made garlic dressing is available to take home by the bottle). The stew was one of the best I’ve ever had, the beef being very tender, and the balance of meat the veggies (carrots, zucchini and button mushrooms) just right. The sauce was rich with a blending of beef and wine.
The dinner menu moved away from country classics to more upscale fare - an escargot appetizer and mains including maple-glazed salmon, half-roast duckling, and pork Wellington.
It’s easy to see why Mrs. Mitchell’s is a favourite wedding venue for those looking for intimate charm and delicious food. And special event fun isn’t confined to the schoolhouse: the cute footbridge by the pond is a great place for photos, and classy cocktails can be served in the perennial garden.
Across the road, Granny Taught Us How is a home décor store that specializes in smaller accents, such as lamps, pillows, and scents as well as jewelry, children’s clothes and books, and gourmet preserves and spreads. Found in the former Orange Lodge, the store has lofty ceilings and creaky wood floors are a reminder of its past life. This is a great after-lunch place to walk off your meal and pick up a souvenir from your trip.
Mrs. Mitchell’s Restaurant is open for lunch and brunch Tuesday through Friday 12-2 and on the weekend from 11-2. Tea is served from 2-4 Tuesday through Sunday. Dinner service starts at 5pm Tuesday through Sunday.