Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Time to Hit the Reset Button

We arrived in Wytheville, VA yesterday afternoon and will be in southwestern Virginia and northwest Tennessee for the next two months. This isn’t our first trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains and Crooked Road area so I know what to expect. As a rule, restaurants fall into two categories: small local “diners” and national franchise operations. As with any rule, there are some exceptions. But it helps to know what to expect.

And the smaller places usually don’t have a web presence. You may be lucky and find a few comments on Yelp, Urbanspoon, or Trip Advisor but don’t expect the restaurants themselves to have a web site.

We decided to start our day with breakfast followed by a drive to the mountains and I remem-bered that we had eaten and enjoyed a few dinners at the County Line Café in Galax, VA. And I did find two comments on James L. wrote: “I love this place! Probably my favorite place to eat in Galax. The food
is cheap, delicious, and appears at the table within minutes. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner you will not be disappointed…” And from Liz. H.: “I grew up eating at County Line.... County Line is definitely a staple in Galax and the “go-to” place for country home cooking…. Although I no longer live in Galax, whenever I visit we try to make it into County Line. You definitely get more than your money's worth.”

The café is only open until 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, and when we arrived, it seemed as though half of Galax had come there for breakfast. And one of the reasons that I love small local places like this is that they afford the opportunity to shamelessly eavesdrop on conversations.

At one table a man stood waiting for his take-out order while discussing—at some length—whether a mutual acquaintance would return “up here” now that he is retired. I assume that he had moved somewhere
“down there.” And then there were the two couples amiably joking with each other about it being Saturday and that meaning breakfast and Wal-Mart.

While we were waiting for a table, I glanced at the
“specials” board and immediately experienced
sticker shock—in a good way. The day’s specials were: one pancake with bacon, sausage, or bologna (Yes, you read that right!) for $2.49; one biscuit with gravy and bacon, sausage, or bologna for $2.49; and two eggs, one biscuit with gravy, and bacon, sausage, or bologna for $3.99. The highest price on the regular menu was $6.95.

I have been craving biscuits and gravy, so went with the special that included two eggs over easy and sausage. And, at prices like these, I figured I could go ahead and add a side of home fries. The latter
were potatoes cut into cubes and looked as if they had been deep fat fried rather than cooked on the flattop. While this gives you a uniform browning, I do miss the way that flattop-cooked potatoes manage to pick up the various flavors from what has been recently cooked on that particular spot.

The eggs were well cooked with nice runny yolks and firm whites. The sausage patty was decent—nothing special. And I would have to rate the biscuit and gravy as average. This was not the best of biscuits, and the gravy didn’t pick up much of the sausage flavor.

Ever the spendthrift, Chuck ordered the $6.95 breakfast of three pancakes, two eggs, and the choice of bacon, sausage, or—again—bologna. And if that wasn’t enough, he also added a side of home fries. Now I know that these were Chuck’s eggs and not mine, but I don’t like it when a restaurants prepares scrambled eggs by pouring them out in a thin layer on the flattop like a plain egg omelet. Where’s the fluffy?

But the pancakes were the highlight of both of our breakfasts. They were light. They were fluffy. (Did they save the fluffy for the pancakes?) And they had none of that sour baking powder taste. These were fine pancakes.

Time for us to head out. And let me tell you that folks here don’t dilly dally over breakfast. Some tables turned over twice while we were eating. These folks have things to do on Saturday mornings.

Our rating? Based on Chuck’s pancakes, I’ll give County Line Café 3.0 Addies.

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

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