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Dec 15, 2008 12:08 PM

VA I-81 road trip, lunch suggestions?

Hello everyone, I'll be traveling from Washington DC to Mars Hill, NC (near Asheville) in a day, by way of I-81. Would like to stop for a fairly healthy (interesting would be a bonus!) lunch somewhere not too far off the interstate, between Harrisonburg and Blacksburg. Any suggestions?
Thanks much --

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  1. This question has been asked before, so you might want to try a search. I myself have suggested the Pink Cadillac Diner, which is no great shakes but is a fun stop when there is nothing else. Exit 180 near Natural Bridge. The best single place near your route is the Ridgewood BBQ near Bristol, but that is outside of your lunch range. In general, the pickin's are slim.

    1 Reply
    1. re: johnb

      In the same area ( also too far for your lunch, but might be good for a snack later in the day)
      is Wildflour in Abingdon ( right off 81, I think it's exit 19).
      Soups, wraps, sandwiches for lunch and wonderful baked goods.

    2. The Red Hen in Lexington, VA looks to fit your route and timing perfectly. It just opened up about two months ago and specializes in fresh, local ingredients. The chef there was hand-picked by the owner from what had been one of the most respected Charlottesville restaurants. They are open for lunch on weekdays, usually from 11-2.

      The Red Hen
      11 E Washington St, Lexington, VA 24450

      2 Replies
      1. re: mikeh

        Great, Thanks johnb and mikeh -- good to have two good leads. If we weren't on such a tight schedule we would without question take a detour to Charlottesville -- just a pleasure to greet that town again. That said, mikeh, which Charlottesville restaurant lost its chef? The C&O?
        Cheers --

        1. re: mikeh

          My daughter and I had a delightful meal at The Red Hen in Lexington several weeks
          ago - first, it is an absolutely charming building and layout; second, service was great
          from start to finish, finally (most importantly), the menu is creative (much of it locally
          sourced), the food perfectly prepared and presented in an attractive manner. Good
          wine list too.

        2. Not sure if this fits into the "interesting" designation for you, but I could suggest a good Thai place (Thai Cafe) and a very good Vietnamese place (Saigon Cafe) off 81 at exit 247A or 247B in Harrisonburg, VA. I lean toward Saigon Cafe- they have great fresh spring rolls and good pho along with lots of other options. Great winter food. Ok, summer, too.

          Saigon Cafe
          787 E Market St, Harrisonburg, VA 22801

          Thai Cafe
          182 Neff Ave Ste W4, Harrisonburg, VA 22801

          4 Replies
          1. re: lagniappe

            oh yes oh yes, very much so. Anything specific you recommend at either place? Is the Thai restaurant willing to make dishes very fiery if requested, do you know?

            1. re: nuthatches

              I know it's not directly on your route, but the best Thai food I've had in the United States (yes, the UNITED STATES), is in the middle of rural Virginia between Charlottesville and Lynchburg, called Thai Siam Takeout in Arrington, VA. The family opened it up after the kids went off to college. Everyone in the family was telling her how well she cooked and that she should open up a place since she now had spare time on her hands...and she did!

              Eating here is like dining in someone's home, because that's what she's going for. Her dishes are absolutely authentic - this is "home-cooking Thai" at its finest.

              Since my mother is Thai and I love Thai cuisine, I've always tried to scout out the best Thai restaurants in each city I visit when I'm on vacation, and where I've lived. I've been disappointed 99% of the time. Nothing I've found in five years living in San Francisco, plus substantial time spent in D.C. and Atlanta, can compare. This little tiny place beats out all of them by a MILE. It's the best Thai restaurant I've found since one in Anchorage, Alaska (run by a family whose summer home is there - also gives them something to do in their spare time. See the pattern?).

              Anyway, she'll definitely do "Thai spicy." You'll become her best friend if you order it that way - she loves giving people the real thing. You won't find any Sysco truck outside of her place - most of her veggies come straight from her own garden, and what she can't grow, she gets by shopping at Asian markets IN PERSON in D.C. to select the top products and drives it back to her restaurant.

              I stop by this hole-in-the-wall whenever I'm driving past the area (and I feel like a drug-runner or something because whomever I'm visiting always sends me an order in advance so that I can take them a cardboard box full of takeout that they can enjoy for days on end).

              Here's someone else who recently reviewed the place:

              If you search the Internet, you'll find that most people feel about this place the same way I do. Someone from NYC even says this beats anything he's found there!

              4137 Tye Brook Hwy
              Arrington, VA 22922
              (434) 263-8577

              1. re: mikeh

                I'll be damned! I have attended a Jeep Jamboree near there a couple of times, and I remember passing that place and thinking how odd is was to see a Thai restaurant way out there in the boonies. If only I had known! And the food we got to eat was prepared by the Lovingston Volunteer Fire Dept. Ladies Auxiliary, and wasn't so hot. If I ever get back you can be sure where I'll be eating, and it won't be at the firehouse.

              2. re: nuthatches

                Sorry it took me a little while to reply. The Thai place will make it as hot as you want it. It's a little family restaurant- they love it when you show an interest in the food and culture. One of the owners got some lemongrass with roots for me, and some galanga (thai ginger) as well, so I could have ingredients at home that are hard to find in rural VA supermarkets. I've mostly stauck with Tom Yum soup and variations on Pad Thai or a Spicy Basil stir fry.
                The Vietnamese place has better fresh springrolls- not just a salad in a rice wrap, but with basil and mint, and great hoisin/peanut sauce. The Pho is great, but my favorite is the Com Tay Cam- a clay pot dish with rice, pork, shrimp, shittakes, ginger, lemongrass, and other things I can't remember. Comes out so hot you just have to stare at it for a couple of minutes, or risk burning your mouth. I usually go with the burn option. Throw some sriracha on top, and I'm happy.
                Saigon would be slightly easier for you to find from 81, but both are within a mile or so from the road.

            2. There is a good German place about 10 minutes from Straunton, VA.

              Edelweiss Restaurant
              19 Edelweiss Ln
              Staunton, VA 24401
              (540) 337-1203

              1 Reply
              1. re: jlawrence01

                I love Edelweiss, but I think it might not be the same without the accordian extravaganza of weekend nights. Also, if you had lunch there and got back in the car, you'd probably fall sound asleep while driving before you hit Lexington.

              2. When you do actually reach Mars Hill, you might want to try the French Broad Taqueria in nearby Marshall. I haven't been myself, but it's gotten good comments. Here's the original thread.