Sunday, May 20, 2012

I’ve Frequently Said…

we don’t “do” chains. Let me expand for a minute. I’ll be the first to admit that were we traveling with a couple of small children who, at the end of a long day, are tired and cranky, I would welcome the sight of the “Golden Arches.” Letting peace reign over the land—or in the car—would take priority over a unique culinary experience.

But we aren’t traveling with children (Although I must admit that we sometimes arrive after a long day tired and cranky.) so our objective is to find small locally-owned diners, drive-ins, and dives. Yes, we are two Guy Fieri “wannabes.” But if we wanted to eat at Ruby Tuesday’s, Applebee’s, Burger King, et al, we could have stayed in Pennsylvania. I want to experience the variations that come with eating local food.

So we find ourselves in front of the Patrick County Courthouse in Stuart, VA, and are looking for a spot for lunch. A drive down Main Street didn’t produce any promising options.

But we made a turn or two and found a parking place in front of the Star Theater.
A walk to the theater's doors found them locked, but a "chef" next door had a suggestion. He pointed out Slate’s specials board promoting sesame chicken, Salisbury steak, and “lots of yummy desserts.” This is the place.

Slate’s is the classic
“locals joint.”

“Where are you folks from?” is a clue that our accent—or lack thereof—tipped off the server that we aren’t from around there.

The diners were a mixed bag of businessmen and women, senior citizens, and families with small children.

As we looked around, we wondered about the decorating theme. Hanging on the back wall was a giant moose head (Are there moose in Virginia?), below which hung a small Mona Lisa reproduction, and below that hung two crossed swords.

One side wall contained a large collection of tools and farm and garden equipment. (Note the two bug sprayers.) The square basket held a large stirrup, a sheaf of dried tobacco, and a
“smoker.” I think these are used to remove bugs from tobacco and other plants.

Another wall featured a variety of old music instruments and some tools. All these items probably refer to the work and activities of the area,

but this rather informal, funky combination of decorations is contrasted with the somewhat formal light fixture and the pressed tin ceiling

But most interesting of all was the Yoda figure atop the divider separating the entry from the dining room. And what’s with the two giant cardboard cigarette packs? Is this a message that if you smoke you’ll end up looking like Yoda?

The lunch menu was heavy on salads and sand-wiches. Continuing our sticker shock, I noticed that the BLT cost $3.00. My lunch choice was the Little Dan River (named for what is really a stream running through Stuart) Sandwich ($4.00) and for an additional $2.00 I added the homemade potato chips. The sandwich contained nicely thin sliced rare roast beef with cheddar cheese, red onion, and horseradish sauce on a croissant.

This proved to be a very good sandwich. My only complaint was an excess of red onion but this was easily corrected by taking off about half the onion. But I especially appreciated how thinly sliced the meat was—and I have learned that this is the exception and not the rule.

The chips were a mixed “bag.” Those that had clumped together were a bit soggy and undercooked, but those that hadn’t were so nicely crisp that they shattered when bitten. And I took our server’s offer of ranch dressing as a dipping sauce and was glad that I did.

Chuck selected the French Dip ($5.00) with a side of house made fries ($2.00). His sandwich contained the same thin sliced beef as
did mine but in this case it was heated in au jus before being placed on a soft
“hoagie” roll. The au jus for dipping was a little bit salty but still had great flavor. In addition to the beef, the sandwich contained sliced Swiss cheese.

Like my chips, his fries were hit or miss. The problem was lack of size uniformity. The thinner fries were thoroughly cooked. The thicker ones were not.

Now for those
“yummy” desserts. The choices included peach cobbler, coconut pie, and peanut butter pie. We chose the house made peach cobbler,

“Would you like this warmed with ice cream?” asked our server.

“You bet.” we replied.

First, notice how large this portion is. I am not sure of the exact price, but this was less than $3.00. And it was excellent. Not too sweet and full of peach pieces. Between the two of us, we managed to devour it quickly.

Time to pay. We learned on our last Virginia trip that you need to watch the paying practices of other patrons. Like many smaller restaurants, Slate’s doesn’t present the bill at your table. Rather, it is kept at the counter and when you are finished you go to the counter to find out the amount. If you wait for the bill, you might be sitting there all afternoon.

As we were paying, we remarked on the object hanging off the counter’s front and I asked if it was a feed bag. The owner (I assume that he was the owner) said that it might be but no one knows for sure. But it made a handy place to put the complimentary mint candies.

After Kitty Humbug claimed his mint, we departed for Fairy Rock State Park, pleased that we had found our good 4.0 Addie lunch.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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