Apples and I both live in Arlington, Virginia. Minutes from Washington DC, within an hour from three international airports, the world is at our collective fingertips.
Yet, with all of the comforts of a major city, it seems that the country always seems to pull us away. It did when I visited Apples in Northampton, and it has since Apples moved down to VA.
This past weekend we traveled down to Charlottesville, taking I-66 down to Route 29, which allowed us to run parallel the mountains of Shenandoah National Park. There's a number of small towns along 29 leading to Charlottesville, but it's mostly open stretches of road flanked by cows and rotted out buildings.
To be honest, we really didn't spend enough time in Charlottesville to really determine its worth as a food town. We took a stroll through their downtown mallish area, which was full of small independent restaurants.
We ended up at a small Japanese place, Miyako, for sushi with our hosts, who were both incredibly gracious. Miyako was exactly what you'd think it'd be; fairly standard, decent sushi that was probably overpriced for Charlottesville (or DC even).
There was a small Chinese dumpling and noodles place in the same center (along the main street mallish area) that, in retrospect, we should have gone to. Next time.
This morning we ended up at the Tip Top Diner, a little outside the city. Close your eyes and imagine a small diner in the mountains of western Virginia...yep, that's exactly what it looked like. The french toast may have contained bread, or bread byproducts at some point, the eggs, well there was nothing cage free or farm fresh about them, and the grits, they contained enough butter to kill a small town. But damn was it all tasty.
I don't know how long Tip Top has been there, but it'll be there for twice as long, or as long as Charlottesville stands - and that's the way it should be.
Heading back home today, the plan was to stop in Culpepper, home of one of our favorite restaurants, It's About Thyme, and get a bite to eat. But after walking around and not finding anything open, we decided to hit the road again and head north.
For us north meant Warrenton, which on first glance looked an awful lot like Culpepper; a lot of brick, a lot of antiques, lots of small restaurants that are closed on Sundays.
Our plan driving up was to stop and get some BBQ at Smokie Joe's Cafe. Right downtown, it seemed to have all of the trappings of a quality BBQ joint. "Smokie" was spelled wrong, there was a pig on the sign, and we were out in the middle of nowhere. How could we go wrong.
Oh but we did. The place looked more like an empty jazz club than a BBQ restaurant. We left dazed, confused, and hungry. Luckily we had a plan B. in the local Main Street Bistro.
In following our trend of mediocre food, we got some basic hamburger and chicken sandwichness and went on about our business.
The greatest disappointment for us was passing up what could have been the culinary event of the year, the "Pig-N-Steak" in Madison County. How do we know this? Look at the menu. That my friends is BBQ. Plus, it probably has the best name of any restaurant I've ever seen (aside from maybe the Chick-N-Trout outside of Baltimore).
For a twenty four hour vacation we ate an awful lot, and I must say we were pretty disappointed with most of it. However, as Apples pointed out, we're spoiled living in DC. We've got a top five, very diverse food city at our disposal with hundreds of quality restaurants to choose from.
That's not to say that everything out there isn't up to DC's standard, it's just to say that next time, we'll be doing our homework...and our first stop, Pig-N-Steak.
I have been working art time in thr kitchen, and i do alot of catering in the summer. everything from whole hogs on the grill, hamburgars, hotdogs, turkey, ham, homade potato salad, chicken salad,pasta salad. all the food there is great. people come up to me in the store and say, i know you you cook at the pig n steak. i have alot of respect for John Lohr (owner) he is the boss, but i conceder him a friend. Jack McKeen
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