Thursday, June 21, 2012

Half Way Up a Hill…

on Main Street in Luray, VA sits a small and seemingly unpretentious cafe and market. But there is nothing humble about the food at West Main Market. This is one of those small local gems that you might be lucky to find every six months or so.

“This is THE locale in Luray to enjoy exquisite sandwiches created with passion and ‘from scratch’ soups and savories lovingly made by the owner himself….this humble cafe will take u back to the day when proprietors actually took pride in their daily fare….Finally a local foodie has opened a small cafe on Main Street!” (Tony at

West Main Market is part sit-down restaurant (with seating for fourteen), part take-out sandwich shop, and part deli.

Décor is limited to some vegetable prints hanging high on the walls,

a stand holding beverage cozies and a green plant,

and the small deli case holding meats, cheeses, and house-made salads. You don’t count a food case as décor? You should have seen these salads.

The brain behind this operation is Bill Isenberg who opened West Main about four years ago after a career in both private and corporate food service. He is an aspiring RV’er, and he and Chuck spent considerable time discussing to the pros of the RV lifestyle.

If Bill is the brain, then Lisa is the heart. But it is Lisa who greets the customers, takes most of their orders, dishes out their soups and sides, and calls everyone “sweet pea.” She is a sweetheart.

The main menu, which is posted on a four section chalkboard above the counter, contains a list of five salads and over fifteen sandwiches. (The Market’s website contains the full menu, for which I say “Thank you, Bill.”) The sandwiches are divided into hot and cold deli and grilled panini categories. And two “from scratch” soups are offered each day.

The soups that day were (I think) a buffalo chile and cream of mushroom. As I have written many a time, Chuck is not a mushroom eater, and I saw this as the perfect opportunity to indulge in one of my food passions. This was an outstanding version chock full of portabello mushroom pieces in a cream base that was seasoned with what I believe to have been thyme.

Another of my food passions is blue veined cheese, so I selected for my sandwich the Roast Beef & Bleu Cheese with red onions and horseradish sauce on a toasted sub roll. This roll was in the tradition of great rolls—crisp and crunchy crust with soft, but not fluffy, interior. (I learned that the rolls come into the Market partially baked and are then finished on one of their convection ovens.) The roast beef was thin-sliced and still faintly pink, and the generous amount of blue cheese had been warmed and had begun to melt into an oozy puddle on top of the beef.

Chuck took one look at the board and immediately knew which would be his choice—the hot deli pastrami and Swiss with whole grain mustard and cole slaw on rye. The succulent pastrami was piled high with just enough slaw for crunch. The sandwich was heated until the Swiss began to melt like lava down the sides of the bread.

And, of course, since no meal is complete without a potato product, he ordered a small serving of potato salad. (No fries? No, West Main Market doesn’t have fries. So he grabbed a bag of Route 11 potato chips instead.)

I have been using the potato salad from the Jimtown Store in Healdsburg, CA as my gold standard, but they have met their match. West Main’s was made with Yukon Gold potatoes, minced celery, and chopped scallion, it was tossed with a rich mayo dressing that contained some grainy mustard for “zip.” The dressing was so rich and creamy that I thought there had to be some sour cream mixed in there. But we were told that there was no sour cream, just mayo.

And then it hit me. (No, this is not a commercial for Capella University.) This has to have been made with Duke’s Mayonnaise. So I ask “What mayo do you use?” The answer: “We only use Duke’s here.” I discovered Duke’s four years ago while visiting Virginia and left with six bottles in our clothes closet. I plan to do likewise again on this trip. I am not sure what makes the difference from Kraft’s or Hellman’s, but the difference is certainly noticeable.

And then it hit me. What I had suspected was true. This 5.0 Addie Market uses only the highest quality of ingredients.

As Nick F. at wrote: “I wish I could give a 6th star to this place, it's that good. I haven't found a sandwich I didn't like, and the soups are equally great. All fresh ingredients, fresh bread, fresh everything. For a small town, these sandwiches compare to those that are available in NYC and other big cities. Inexpensive sandwiches that are big on flavor and don't skimp on quality or quantity... hard to find nowadays.”

Will we find time for a return visit—or two?

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

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