Monday, July 2, 2012

Have You Noticed…

that independent camera stores are going the way of the dodo bird? They appear to have been overtaken by the camera department at (insert name of big box store here). Chuck maintains that the guy working in said camera department probably used to own his own store on Main Street in (insert name of town here).

We needed to be in Roanoke, VA, for part of a day, and Chuck was happy to see that one of this fast disappearing breed still existed—Lee Hartman & Sons, so we made a stop to purchase some memory cards for his digital camera. And so helpful was the salesman—Tom Beaman—that we asked him for a restaurant recommendation. His suggestion was Shakers out near Valley View Mall.

Following Tom’s directions, we easily found the mall and started looking for Shakers. On the way we passed a plethora of franchise operations—Red Robin, Olive Garden, Panera Bread, Sbarro, Carrabba’s, and Cheddar’s. We eventually found Shakers, and I remarked to Chuck that this, too, looked like a franchise. But we were hungry so this would have to do.

Once inside, the dĂ©cor confirmed our franchise suspicion. Just to the right of the entrance doors was a fairly large bar room with the requisite flat screen TV’s.

Up a few stairs on the right sat a large and stylish dining room. “This looks corporate.” I said to Chuck. But the furnishings and fixtures were—as best as I can describe them—“calming.” No frou-frou. No vibrant colors. Just what you would expect from a place that
describes itself as “polished casual dining.” But then Chuck picked up the advertising tent on our table and read the words “Not a Chain.” It seems that there are only two Shakers—this one in Roanoke and another in Lynchburg.

“Since 1986, Shakers Restaurants has become known as the best casually elegant American Restaurant in town. The restaurant’s superior dining experience is a draw for hard-working folks from
all walks of life; students from colleges and universities, business people, and families from the neighborhood.

“…Shakers Restaurant Corporation was founded…with the following thoughts in mind. ‘Serve simple foods, using the finest quality ingredients, serve guests in a clean, attractive atmosphere, and make sure that the guest leaves satisfied’” (

“Whether it's burgers, steaks or something with a lil flair—the choices on restaurant row at Valley View Mall have changed over the years. But, one restaurant has been there since nearly the beginning…. ‘We're one of the original restaurants of Valley View Mall…,’ remembers Owner John Buckles. Hometown chain, Shakers has been a staple.” (Susan Bahorich at

The menu includes a little bit of everything, and I considered the Catfish Fish Tacos, the Chesapeake Crab Sandwich, and the Grilled Tuna Sandwich. But I finally chose the Seared Sesame Ahi Tuna salad—but only after ascertaining from our server Blake that this would indeed be served rare. And rare it was. Beautifully rare. As I said to Blake, “If it’s not rare it may as well be Chicken of the Sea.”

Rare ahi has a soft almost buttery texture, so is perfect to be served with crisp accompaniments. In this case, the texture balance came from crispy wonton strips and napa cabbage tossed with a wasabi dressing. Now most of what is served in the United States and called wasabi isn’t really wasabi. Instead, it is usually horseradish mixed with other ingredients like mustard powder. But no matter. For some reason it works beautifully with ahi tuna. Here, there was just enough heat to be noticeable, but not so much to overpower the tuna.

Chuck selected the lunch sized Salt & Pepper Catfish (one fillet rather than two) that came with cole slaw and one side. He briefly considered ordering the au gratin potatoes as his side of choice. It was at that point that Kitty Humbug looked at him and said “Au gratin potatoes with catfish and not fries? Can I get a table for one?”

Chuck chose the fries.

Everything on this plate was outstanding. He is not as enthusiastic about cole slaw as am I, but he kept saying to me “This is great slaw. This is really great slaw.” And it was. The hand-cut and twice-cooked fries had been dusted with the same salt and pepper blend that was mixed into the catfish breading. I will admit to swiping a fry or two—or more—from his plate.

And the catfish was perfect. Over the years, we have eaten more than our share of fried catfish—usually in Louisiana where they are no novices in the art of frying. And this catfish may well have been the best we have eaten. Moist, flakey, and with just the right amount of breading with just the right amount of seasoning, it was flawless.

We so enjoyed our entrees that we decided to finish with dessert and Blake’s recommendation was that we try the Xango or fried cheesecake which was banana cheesecake wrapped in a cinnamon sugared tortilla and then fried. With this came a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with caramel. Wow!!

A word of praise for our server Blake. Like Bren at Ancora in New Orleans, he knew the menu and was able to answer all of our questions. And he perfectly walked the narrow line between friendly and overbearing.

Well, I thought it was a chain, but it wasn’t a chain. Instead, Shakers was a 5.0 Addie lunch experience.

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

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