Thursday, June 28, 2012

“Do You Know What I'm Looking For?”

…my Favorite Traveling Companion asked as we exited the northernmost section of Skyline Drive at Front Royal, VA, in search of lunch. “I am looking for a diner with lots of cars in the parking lot.

We arrived with no plan and began an aimless drive through this small Virginia City. (You can’t be a true Wanderer without at times being aimless.) After a number of turns, we espied a sign reading “Now Open.” This was Aunt Sandy’s Diner, and, yes, there were a lot of cars parked in the lot.

We walked into this small (fourteen tables) café and only two tables were empty. Using a formula of three occupants per table plus two
servers, that totaled thirty-eight pairs of eyes following our movement from door to table. I know what they were thinking: “Who is that tall, handsome, silver-haired stranger?”

The diner’s newness means that its décor hasn’t achieved that timeworn
“funkiness” that makes so many diners charming. Here, the atmosphere was more “country warmth” with beige checked café curtains coordinating with beige checked tablecloths,

a clock whose starburst pattern was achieved through cutlery,

and walls hung with antique implements of some kind.

On one wall hung a framed Safeway ad with ground beef selling for 23¢ a pound and chicken fryer parts for 39¢ a pound.

And in true diner spirit, the servers flung endearments around with abandon.

“Hi, baby,” said one to a customer.

“Give me a moment, sweetheart,” said another.

The menu was not extensive and included such favorites as hamburger steak, honey dipped chicken, vegetable soup, chile, and a long list of sandwiches.
Listed among the sides was cottage cheese. I must admit that never in my dining out history have I said to myself, “Boy, cottage cheese sounds good to me.” The day’s specials were a cold cut sub and a pork bbq sandwich with macaroni salad or fries.

Since the menu broke no culinary boundaries, neither did our menu selections. Chuck ordered the regular hamburger with onion only. (Servers look at him in disbelief when he declines the lettuce, tomato, catsup, mustard, and pickles.) To this he added one chile dog and an order of fries.

While his burger was a good diner-version burger with a nice crust from frying on a hot flattop, it was a bit dry. Neither of us remembers to ask for medium so we always get a burger that is cooked medium-well to well done. The chile dog was not so good.
We debated whether the chile tasted burned or whether the off flavor came from the taste of raw chile powder. And the fries, standard from a bag crinkle fries, were crisp, but a bit dry.

I ordered what the menu described as the diner’s “special burger”—the Onion Burger. If you are not fond of sautéed onions—and I mean lots of sautéed onions—then this would not be the sandwich for you.
(Chuck counts himself among those who do not.) But I do, so this to me was a delicious sandwich. Add to the mountain of onions, two slices of melted American cheese, and you have one juicy and very messy sandwich. A multi-napkin sandwich.

I added a side of good chopped cabbage slaw, and like most restaurants in this part of Virginia, the kitchen resisted the urge to add vinegar to the dressing.

This was a satisfying if not great lunch and earns 3.0 Addies.

On our return to Luray, we made a brief stop at Fairview Market for a spot of dessert and shared a two-scoop dish of ice cream with blackberry and peach from Garber Ice Cream—a Virginia, family-owned company that has been making ice cream since 1912.

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

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