Friday, June 15, 2012

A Blog as Three Short Stories

Story Number One
Not as Good as We Wanted…Not as Bad as We Expected

A couple of years ago, I wrote (to paraphrase myself): “There’s a lot of bad pizza out there and during our travels we have eaten more than our share.” But suffering from severe pizza deprivation, we decided to roll the dice and stop one afternoon at R.J.’s Pizza & Subs in Galax, VA. I had read one commenter at say: “Pizza is my favorite food and I have traveled around the world eating pizza all over the place but nothing makes me salivate like thinking about R.J.'s cheese breadsticks and Stromboli.” Notice said commenter made no reference to R.J.’s pizza.

We have learned that when ordering pizza in your local “mom and pop” pizzeria, it is wise to stick with the basics. Don’t try an elaborate make-your-own trying to approximate a classic Margherita. Go with the sausage and cheese (light cheese) and hope for the best.

Our large pizza had a thin, but not very crisp, crust. The tomato sauce was of the long cooked kind that resembled oregano flavored catsup. And, boy, was there dry oregano! And the cheese seemed to be one of those multi-cheese blends that included, along with the mozzarella, some parmesan and others.

Not a great pizza—a 2.0 Addie pizza—but we were so starved for pizza that we managed to devour it in matter of minutes.

Story Number Two
It Was One of Those Days

“Why don’t we drive in to Hillville?” Chuck asks. “I just read about an interesting restaurant called the Hardware Store. It’s located in—guess—an old hardware store.” A quick check on Urbanspoon indicated that this place is now CLOSED.

“Why don’t we try Troy’s in Wytheville?” I ask. “Remember the one on-line commenter from the Philadelphia area who said Troy’s had the best cheese steak he had eaten outside of that city.” So drive into town we do. And up and down Main Street looking for Troy’s. Make a quick phone call to see if we have the wrong address. Hear a recorded message: “This number is no longer in service.”

And so we find ourselves at Smokey’s BBQ. We find ourselves as the only ones in Smokey’s BBQ. Just us and the three staff members who spent considerable time discussing—among other topics—some acquaintance who had been arrested for the second time, the location of the new Post Office, and the lack of left turns in downtown Wytheville.

A plaque on the wall indicated that Smokey’s had won First Place Beef at the Virginia Championship Barbeque Championship—year unknown. But neither of us ordered beef.

I chose the sausage plate with slaw and potato salad. (Other side choices were beans, pasta salad, side salad, and sweet potatoes.) The two large sausages had the appearance of two large hot dogs and were quite smoky. The slaw was less sweet than other we had eaten in the area. And the potato salad contained a small amount of pickle.

Chuck selected the chopped pork plate with beans and potato salad. The beans were the half sweet and half tangy style that characterizes Southern-style baked beans. I love them but they may be too sweet for some tastes. The pork—chopped and not pulled which seems to be the Southeastern Virginia way—was lightly smoky and juicy and tender. What it lacked was any discernable bark which is one of my criteria for good chopped/pulled pork BBQ.

Story Number Three
At Heart, It’s a Diner

Back on May 29th, I wrote about the characteristics of a classic New England diner. But I also wrote that diners come in all shapes and sizes and, even without the stainless steel, a small family restaurant can be a diner in its soul. And The Diner in Galax, VA, is a diner in its soul.

One writer at said: “The food at The Diner is always great, never disappointing. The portions are hardy and the prices reasonable. Local beef is offered and you definitely have to try the cheesecake. As if that isn't enough, the service is top notch. The atmosphere is family oriented and Guy always comes out to speak to his customers. You leave feeling full and valued as a customer. Would recommend highly!”

We stopped in early one Friday late afternoon/early evening before attending a program at the Rex Theater, and while the diner was only a quarter full at that time, the customers all seemed to know each other and the staff seemed to know all of the customers. As you will see later, informality reigns at The Diner.

In addition to the regular menu, a chalkboard listed the evening’s specials which included Surf ‘n Turf (rib eye steak and shrimp), beef tips, and lobster bisque with either a sandwich or salad.

In a striking display of uniformity, both Chuck and I ordered the same entrée—the chicken fried chicken—although with different sides. Chicken fried chicken is a boneless breast of chicken that is breaded or battered a la chicken fried steak and is served with the same white pepper gravy (that can but usually doesn’t contain sausage) that is served with chicken fried steak. While the portion size here wasn’t huge, it was—as the above writer said—“hardy” and was easily manageable without one feeling overly stuffed. The chicken was juicy and the coating remained crisp—even under the gravy.

My sides were the fried okra and cole slaw. Have you noticed that I order cole slaw a lot? I do so love a good cole slaw and this was cold, crisp, and tossed with a slightly sweet dressing. I suspect that the okra came frozen from a bag but were still fried to perfection.

Chuck’s mashed potatoes were made with real potatoes—you can always detect the taste of instant. And the only shortcoming in the meal was the green beans which were definitely from a can.

As we were paying for our 4.0 Addie meal, we had a chance to talk with Gary Sapone who is shown here discussing with a member of his kitchen staff—with some difference of opinion—the following day’s specials.

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

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