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Posted by Michael Stern on Monday, September 22, 2014 5:42 AM

Skyline Drive, the 105-mile two-lane that threads through Virginia's Shenandoah National Park, offers boundless opportunities to hike, camp, bird-watch, and horseback ride in the splendor of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is possible to eat well at a National Park Service oasis along the limited-access road – try the Smithfield Ham Monte Cristo or the roast turkey with cornbread stuffing at Big Meadows Lodge at mile 51.2 – but when big appetite beckons, we head for one of the four entry/exit points and drive into the countryside for great Old Dominion eating

Just off Highway 66 and ten minutes from the Front Royal terminus of the drive, The Apple House has been a landmark stop since the 1960s. If ever you doubted that Virginia is serious apple country, a visit to this little place is sure to clear things up. It's not fancy; in fact, for many regular travelers it isn't a restaurant at all, but rather a place to stock up on crunch-skinned apple butter donuts plastered with sugar. These are four-star donuts, radiant with fruit flavor and all the luxury of fried dough. They are modest-sized and easy to eat by twos and threes – a great, albeit rather messy car snack as well as coffee's best friend.

You can eat on premises, and the vittles are good. Breakfast, served all day, includes a typical roster of eggs and flapjacks; and the pork barbecue available at lunch is hickory smoked and satisfying. There are soups and salads and specialty sandwiches that range from BLTs to one-pound hamburgers. If you do have a meal here, save room for dessert. The next best things on the menu, after the apple-butter donut, are the apple fritter – sugar-glazed and chockful of fruit – and the baked apple dumpling with a caramel glaze.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Monday, September 22, 2014 3:40 AM

With urban-renewal brick walls on which hang blues-themed pseudo-folk art paintings for sale, 5 Sisters is a pleasant place to dip into traditional African-American-Dixie cuisine, much of which is very good. When we stop in for lunch on Saturday, the clientele is 90% Caucasian, many of them large, happy families with babies in tow. Classic blues play on the sound system. The air conditioning is efficient and comfy. Lots of light streams in through big windows.

Fried chicken is very, very juicy with brightly-seasoned skin – available by the piece either on a plate or on a waffle on a plate. BBQ shrimp (peel them yourself) come cosseted in a spicy sauce that is quite delicious, but the shrimp are mummified, dense, flavorless. There are too many good shrimp in this part of Florida for there to be any excuse for these.

We like the side dishes. Cheese grits are vigorously seasoned and luxuriously cheesy. Cornbread dressing is radiant with pepper and spice and stout enough to be a meal unto itself. Collard greens are deliciously bitter, just soft enough, and include lots of little lengths of tender stem that is nice to chew. Sugar and Spice yams, lolling in syrup, are uncomplicated, soft and friendly. Banana pudding is light and frothy – sometimes available in a chocolate version; and there always is a fruit cobbler on the menu.

5 Sisters is a live-music venue, with jazz and blues bands at Sunday brunch and in the evenings Thursday through Saturday. The current schedule is available on the 5 Sisters Facebook page.
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Roadfood of the Day: Stash Cafe - Vieux Montreal, XX
Posted on Monday, September 22, 2014

In Old Montreal

Menu catchphrase: 'Where Old Montreal's stone walls meet old Poland's cuisine.'"
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Posted by Michael Stern on Sunday, September 21, 2014 5:58 AM

Finding Fulks Run Grocery on Route 259 just south of the West Virginia border is half the fun. It is alluringly remote, in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, surrounded by nothing but countryside. It’s a real grocery store, built in 1949 by Garnett Turner; and, frankly, there’s little that you can buy and eat on the premises other than a country ham sandwich on Friday. But even if you are nearby some other day of the week, it behooves you to check out this place, for it is the outlet for Turner Hams, which are some of the finest anywhere.

Many people who know Turner Hams never go to Fulks Run, for it has been a thriving mail-order business for years. At home in Connecticut, we order boxes of boneless, center-cut sugar-cured ham slices and red hot rooster sauce and ham glaze to dress them.

Good as it is to get these items in the mail, there is special pleasure in entering the old, wood-floored country store and taking a deep breath of air perfumed by well-cured ham. Of course, you can buy a nice ham right here, to take home and prepare. We love the way the big beauties are displayed – wrapped in cheesecloth, piled up in various shopping carts all around the store.
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Posted on Sunday, September 21, 2014

Haddock And Chips

As you tear open the oil-stained paper, that distinctive fish and chips aroma escapes.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Saturday, September 20, 2014 5:37 AM

One of the juiciest niches in the restaurant trade over the last several years has been the upscale fast food burger joint. Not upscale as in fancy or gourmet, but upscale in the sense that the hamburger you get is hand fashioned and of better quality than the typical fast-food chain, and it is presented in a way that tends to be a little bit nicer than waiting in line at a drive-through or at the counter of a Micky D's.

It's a broad niche. Five Guys and In 'n' Out are positioned towards the mass production end of the spectrum and Shake Shack and Umami Burger are at the high quality end, with lots of one-of-a-kind burger joints and small chains of varying merit in between. Among the worthy singles is Prime Burger, which opened in Ridgefield, Connecticut, in mid 2014, serving burgers ground from a mix of top round, short ribs, and prime sirloin. They're good burgers, always cooked medium and therefore on the dry side of succulence, but full-flavored and pattied in such a way that they are agreeably fragile. They come plain or infused with Peter Luger steak sauce and bits of green pepper; and of course they can be gilded with all the usual condiments or with such one-dollar extras as avocado, chili, cheese, or bacon.

Fried sides include crinkle-cut French fries, sweet potato fries, waffle fries, and onion rings. What I've tasted seem to have been once-frozen, but of good enough quality and cooked in fresh enough oil that they come out crisp and tasty. Likewise, milk shakes on the side have a somewhat prefab flavor, but they do their job as a thick, high-calorie beverage/dessert.

Alternatives to the hamburger include a salmon burger, turkey burger, veggie burger, and grilled chicken sandwich. Nine-inch hot dogs also are available.
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Posted on Saturday, September 20, 2014

Close-Up

Grover's burger, with crisp garnishes, is a beautiful sight.
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Posted on Friday, September 19, 2014

Small Fry

This small order of skin-on fries is as tall as our big cup of loganberry. It's hard to imagine what a large serving is like!
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Posted by Bill Golladay on Thursday, September 18, 2014 1:06 PM

Tacos and More Loncheria is a small taqueria. Often the majority of their clientele are Mexicanos, but they have a mixed crowd.

Tacos and More is informal and their menu says they are “The Specialist in Mexican Fast Food.” Many people order at the counter, but some folks sit down and wait for someone to take their order. You can fix your own drink at the soft drink machine to the left of the counter. Or you can get cans of Mexican Coke or bottles of Jarritos from the cooler on the right. Homemade horchata is also available.

The tacos and other items are assembled to order, so the food comes out hot. There is a section of the menu called “Mexican tacos” which has choices such as pollo asado, lengua, carne asada, and several others. These come mostly unadorned, but there is a salsa bar where you can add whatever you like. During the non-peak hours, there may be a metal cover over the salsa bar. If so, you can raise the cover.

You can also get an order of regular American-style tacos with ground beef or chicken in either a hard shell or a soft tortilla. These come with lettuce and white shredded cheese. Sopes, burritos, soups and sandwiches are some of the other menu items. Breakfast is also an option with breakfast plates and tacos available.

If you are looking for tasty tacos and authentic Mexican food, Tacos and More Loncheria is a good place to visit.
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Posted on Thursday, September 18, 2014

Taco Supreme to go.
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