Saturday, June 23, 2012

It Was This Review…

that caught my attention:

“While waiting for my bacon cheeseburger, I noticed something seriously wrong. The placemats read, ‘Uncle Buck's Meat is Hard to Beat.’ But let's face it: If you read something so obviously ambiguous, wouldn't you think, ‘Ok, now that's just wrong?’ Funny motto aside, the service and food were both pretty good” (Jess at

I can’t verify if this is true. The table at our breakfast at Uncle Buck’s in Luray, VA contained no placemats. Perhaps they save these for lunch and dinner. Buy I can attest that the small “gift” shop in the front dining room does sell t-shirts sporting this motto. And, no, in a rare burst of discretion, I didn’t buy one.

The reviews for Uncle Bucks were all over the place. Some rated the food as good to excellent. Some didn’t like the food at all. And a surprising number of reviewers had problems with the service. But most went something like this” “If you are looking for a great, big home-style breakfast…this is it. Breakfasts are traditional and more than ample (read: huge)….The food itself was well done—none of that excess grease which can often be characteristic of diner food—and well seasoned. The decor at Uncle Bucks is country style and seemed to be a truly local joint (few tourists)...” (Sophie B at

The front dining room is decorated in a semi-country style with checked wallpaper and farmyard prints. Complementing (?) this scheme is a narrow shelf about halfway up the wall on which old soda and beer bottles were displayed. I haven’t seen Coors in a bottle since my college days.

The back room is all horses all the time. There were hanging jockey shirts and saddles.

And there was an abundance of framed prints of horses and jockeys. And, just behind Chuck, was a print of a woman riding a dressage horse.

Given how the lights reflected off the bald pates and silver hair, I suspect that Uncle Bucks is a morning haven for local old people. We fit right in.

Along with French toast, pancakes, egg and meat combos, and omelets, the menu contained a number of breakfast specials—all of which seemed designed for outsized appetites. There was the Ranch Hand with a pork chop, two eggs, grits, fried apples, and either toast or a biscuit. There was the Local Favorite with rainbow trout, two eggs, home fries or fried potatoes, and either toast or a biscuit. And there was the Virginia Gentleman with country ham, two eggs, home fries or fried potatoes, and either toast or a biscuit.

And there on the menu was something we haven’t seen since we left Philadelphia four years ago—creamed chipped beef. (Don’t anyone go “yuck.” If done right, creamed chipped beef is delicious.) So Chuck decided to order one of the more unusual items on the menu—pancakes smothered in creamed chipped beef. And to this he added an order of fried potatoes.

You must be asking yourself, so what is the difference between home fries and fried potatoes? As explained by our server, the home fries are frozen cubed potatoes that are deep fat fried. The fried potatoes are sliced cooked potatoes that are browned in a skillet. The fried potatoes were good, but I think that they could have been browned until crisper.

So how is chipped beef over pancakes? In this case it didn’t work so well. And the fault lay in the white sauce in which the chipped beef was suspended. It was almost flavorless. Had there been a stronger chipped beef flavor to the gravy, it would have offset the sweetness of the pancakes.

I decided to order an “all a la carte” meal that included one biscuit, a bowl of sausage gravy, and an order of house-made corned beef hash. I have yet to find a house-made corned beef hash that I really like, although this version was far better than most I have tried. It contained thin strips of lean and not too salty corned beef mixed with some of their home fries in a three-quarters meat to one-quarter potato proportion. I would have liked some crust, but at least I finished this portion, and the same can’t be said of some I have tried.

I knew that I couldn’t eat an entire portion of biscuits and gravy, so with my two sides did a “make it myself” version. And I was lured into the biscuits and gravy by C. Heath at who wrote: “This place did not let me down. Hubby is a Texas boy so he can be picky when it comes to biscuits and gravy and he said theirs are probably the best he has ever had!... This is a very cute restaurant with very nice staff. I say this begrudgingly because I couldn't get any of them to tell me what the secret ingredient was in the gravy. LOL! I'll figure it out though if it kills me.”

You are kidding, aren’t you C. Heath? This gravy was no better than Chuck’s with the creamed chipped beef. Chuck conjectured that they make a batch of white gravy and then toss in a handful of sausage or chipped beef depending on the order. And I am sure that he is right. “Secret ingredient?” Huh? This was so bland to again be flavorless.

Chuck did finish off his breakfast with a “dessert” of a bagel and cream cheese. No. I don’t starve him at home.

We had high hopes for Uncle Bucks, but considered it to be a 2.5 Addie disappointment.

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

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