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Recs? I-81 in VA from Maryland border to TN

  • j

Well be driving south along the full length of I -81 at the end of the month. We're interested in recs for home cooking, bbq or the best local food within 10 miles of the Interstate. Traveling with DH and 2 grade school children.

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  1. In Harrisonburg, there's the Little Grill Collective. It's a laid-back "hippie-ish" (but not vegetarian) kind of place, and there would be plenty that your kids would like.

    1 Reply
    1. re: profjmm

      Would second this place as something a little out of the ordinary.
      Here's a link... http://littlegrillcollective.com/

      (Note that they only accept cash and checks)

    2. The very best food: kwcafeterias.com . I always stop at the K&W whenever I am in Roanoke, Va. Probably the closest one for you coming off I-81 would be the one right off the I-81 exit I-581 then take the I-581 Exit 3E.1609 Hershberger Road at the crossroads mall. Phone: 540-563-4977. They also do a great breakfast.

      1. If you're looking for excellent home cooking, go to the Homeplace Restaurant in Catawba, VA (just 7 miles off I-81 west of Roanoke). It's in a converted farmhouse, and they serve grand southern feasts family-style. They don't have a website but here's a link with a lot more info. about the place: http://local.yahoo.com/info-12886525-...

        4968 Catawba Valley Dr
        Catawba, VA 24070
        (540) 384-7252

        Another different option is If you're looking for excellent cuisine that prides itself on sourcing from local farms. There's an exciting new restaurant in Roanoke called Local Roots Cafe. Very interesting because the chef does one part "slow foods movement", growing their own herbs and having relations with dairies and farms, but they also experiment quite adeptly with molecular gastronomy. So you can get everything from hearth-baked fresh pizzas there to avant-garde dishes rendered with pectin and liquid nitrogen.

        Local Roots Cafe
        1731 Grandin Rd
        Roanoke, VA 24015

        Tues - Sat
        11 - 3 Lunch
        5 - 9:30 Dinner

        11-2 Brunch

        They also have an approchable kids menu.

        As their website is currently down, here is an article about the restaurant: http://www.roanoke.com/columnists/nai...

        and here is the chef's blog: http://jhenrysmith.wordpress.com/

        3 Replies
        1. re: mikeh

          the home place sounds great. i wish i'd known about it after i was finished sitting for the bar in roanoke a few years back. do they serve lunch and dinner every day?

          if jwg and family go there, it sounds to me like they'll need to check into a local bed & breakfast for a nap after lunch!

          1. re: alkapal

            I found an article with Home Place's hours:

            4 to 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 3 to 8 p.m. Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays

            It might change depending on the time of year so they should call to find out.

            As for Local Roots, I get e-mail newsletters from them, and here are some of their recent menus (noting that they change something like weekly):

            Kid'S meNu !

            Granola 4
            Grilled cheese 4
            Polenta 4
            Slice of cheese pizza 3
            Bowl of homemade oat cereal and homestead creamery milk 4
            Bowl of seasonal vegetables 4


            QUICK STARTS

            Garlic Crostini, Parmesan
            Local Lettuces, Parmesan, Lemon, Sea Salt

            Fresh Mozzarella, Parmesan, Herbs
            Fig Jam, Local Apple, Goat Cheese, Greens, Truffle Oil
            Bacon, Tomato, Cheddar
            Or Choose :: Garlic, Caramelized Onion, Bacon, Chicken, Greens,

            FAST MAINS

            Apricot, Garlic Aioli, Organic Greens
            Goat, Mozzarella, Parmesan,
            Tomato Sauce
            Local Apple, Cheddar, Honey Mustard
            Honey-Wheat, Goat cheese, Garlic Aioli
            OUR BACON
            NRV Hydro Tomato, Local Lettuce, Aioli
            Chicken, Beef or Vegetable
            Cheddar, Smoked Salsa, Organic Greens
            Cheddar, Smoked Salsa, Organic Greens



            Yoder's Hydro Tomato, Greek Oregano, Mozzarella 10
            Lamb Stir Fry, Thai Red Chili Sauce, Shiitake, Soba 11
            Braised Pork Tacos, Salsa, Cheddar 10

            BIG PLATES

            ½ Roasted Chicken, Garlicky Polenta, Siberian Kale, Honey Jus 18
            Short Rib 'Sous Vide', Carrot Puree, Siberian Kale, Red Wine 21
            Beef and Pork Sugo, Local Roots Pappardelle Pasta, Parmesan 16
            Hawaiian Marlin, Shiitake, Seaweed Salad 25
            Thyme Crusted Lamb Saddle, Tomato Provencale, Shiitake, Kale, Lamb Jus 22


            Soft Chocolate, Hazelnut Shortbread, Ginger Ice Cream 7
            Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee, BliS Maple Syrup 7
            Chocolate Cake, Mascarpone Sorbet, Coffee Caramel 7
            Yuzu Sponge Cake, White Chocolate Meringue, Spruce Water, Lemon Gastrique 7

            1. re: mikeh

              mikeh, thanks for the hours at the homeplace.

              boy howdy, at "local roots", i could definitely go for this pizza: Fig Jam, Local Apple, Goat Cheese, Greens, Truffle Oil

        2. One of my top 5 restaurants is The Log House in Wytheville,Va. I had the best strip steak there. I believe my sister had grouper. It was very good.

          1 Reply
          1. re: sixties child

            We had a very nice dinner there as well.

            There's also Skeeter's in Wytheville. A neat old place with great dogs.


          2. The kids might get a kick out of the Pink Cadillac Diner, which is near Natural Bridge VA--less than 30 sec. off I-81, exit 180-A. Decent burgers etc. Elvis type theme.

            Based mostly on reading reviews, I would mention three places for more serious eats. Google them or search the boards here for more info:

            Thai Siam near Arrington VA--a carry out mostly but some claim it's the best Thai food in North America. Somewhat more than 10 min. from I-81 tho.

            Ridgewood BBQ in Bluff City TN. Excellent q. But hard to find and odd hours.

            Town House Grill in Chilhowie VA. Very high level, fine modern cooking. Excellent reviews. Destination restaurant. Expensive but cheap for what you get, according to those who've been. I think open only for dinner. Probably not for kids, but maybe yours think differently.

            4 Replies
            1. re: johnb

              Town House is spectacular. I wouldn't take kids there, and it's dinner only.

              Mrs. Rowe's in Staunton--southern home cooking; very reasonably priced. Excellent pies.

              In Salem, Mac and Bob's (exit 140--American), Mamma Maria's (exit 137--Italian) and Awful Arthur's (exit 137--seafood) are good bets.

              Ellis Soda Shoppe in Abingdon (exit 17) has an extensive menu of great food and is kid-friendly. Be prepared to wait if you go for lunch.

              1. re: ToriB

                I second Mrs. Rowe's. Not fancy, but good southern food. We stop there often for breakfast on the road. And always take a pie to go.

                1. re: ToriB

                  I just moved to rural Southwestern VA from Toronto, Canada and am shell-shocked on a number of fronts, not the least of which is the lack of roti shops. At any rate, I was in Abingdon on Labour Day weekend and went to Ellis. The soda was remarkable and the food was very good diner fare.

                  As much as I like the vibe at Huddle House, I know there must be some good food in Appalachia...

                  1. re: doubtc


                    i'm sorry for your predicament, but i had to laugh at "not the least of which is the lack of roti shops".

                    good luck. and learn to make rotis. you might start a fad.

                    you'll meet fellow hounds. don't worry!

              2. Local Roots Cafe in Roanoke is proving itself to be the best around in my book. Inviting atmosphere in an old house; local, organic, sustainably produced food from nearby farmers and they now have their own garden behind the restaurant. As already mentioned there is now a childrens' menu and also there is Sunday brunch. I have never had a disappointing dish there and am finding it difficult to try other restaurants now with their Sysco food. 540-206-2610. Happy travels. Reort back to us. BTW, Local Roots is closed on Mondays. I guess you need the address: 1931 Grandin Rd, Roanoke 24015

                1. We drove I-81 from Knoxville to Harrisburg a couple weeks ago. After doing some research on chowhound, we came up with the following places as possible stops (from S to N) depending on how the timing worked out:

                  Starving Artist Cafe in Abingdon, VA
                  Greenwood Restaurant in Troutville, VA
                  Wright's Dairy Rite in Staunton, VA
                  Schmankerl Stube in Hagerstown, PA

                  We got a later start than anticipated, and therefore chose the Starving Artist Cafe, but when we arrived in Abingdon we found it no longer existed.

                  Instead we went to the Ellis Soda Shoppe (http://www.chow.com/places/54164), a thriving little lunch place right around the corner from where the Starving Artist used to be. Our waitress at Ellis told us that the cook from Starving Artist (which closed almost 5 years ago--so much for reading old threads!) was now at Ellis, which was a nice coincidence.

                  Mr. Ellis himself seems to be a pharmacist who got into the restaurant business pretty late. But the place was filled with vintage pharmacy equipment, which was cool, and there was a photo of President Obama eating there during one of his campaign stops in 2008.

                  As for the food, the menu offered slightly nicer stuff than typical soda shoppe/lunch place fare. It was mostly salads and sandwiches, but verged toward the fresh end of the spectrum rather than the burger/tuna melt end. I ordered a salmon salad and my wife had a turkey sandwich. Both were freshly made (the salmon was probably frozen, but still tasted pretty good) with plenty of real vegetables (not just iceberg lettuce) and very tasty. Much better than the usual diner/nostalgia joint food.

                  I would definitely recommend it as a stop off the highway if the timing works out.

                  1. jwg, for good BBQ the BBQ Ranch on North 11 has been a standard in the area for ever. Heading south it's off the first Harrisonburg exit you come to. There are several others too.

                    Hank's BBQ - http://www.hankssmokehouse.com/about.cfm
                    or the Smokin' Pig both in the H'burg area.

                    For what it's worth, here's a link to the list I've been keeping here on CHOW

                    14 Replies
                    1. re: cuccubear

                      i think it was the smokin' pig that used to cater an annual 4th of july event here in northern virginia. but the pork and smoked turkey was sliced, not chopped or pulled. wow, the pork was awesome. sooooo succulent and with a nice, honest -- but not overwhelming -- smokey flavor. it was a pot luck affair, but i knew not to get hardly any side dishes, and then just a taste! the focus was on the Q!

                      edit: the smokin' pig menu doesn't list sliced pork, or smoked turkey, either. but maybe their catering had different options? that is, if it is the same company.

                      1. re: alkapal

                        They've changed over the years, but I remember their sliced pork for my last class reunion. I'm am hoping to go there tonight for dinner. All this talk is givin' me a cravin'!

                        The other place, Hank's used be my favorite. They claimed that if you caught it, they would BBQ it, but I think they stick with the standard fare nowadays. Nothing like BBQ Iguana, eh?

                        1. re: cuccubear

                          the only qualm i had (but it didn't stop me from...well....pigging out) was that it was a wee bit salty.

                          please ask them if they used to cater a 4th of july event at bull run park (at the pavilion) in fairfax county about 3-4 years ago. i think that the park authority changed the rules about caterers; so last year, it was not smokin' pig doing the catering, but some "in house" or "approved" caterer (which i don't quite "get," since it's a public park). i was so disappointed that my favorite ambrosia of the Q wasn't there.

                          1. re: alkapal

                            I didn't see your post until just now, so I didn't ask them about bull run, but I did get some Q there last night. 1 lb. of Carolina style Pork BBQ. It was pulled pork and was delicious. Onion rings and 'tater salad were standard fare. They offer "southwest" style too, which they describe as sweeter and tomatoier. Fried pickles and a host of other sides.

                            The # of Q and the two sides came to $15, but now I've got lunch for the week!

                              1. re: alkapal

                                I thought I had reported back (re: your comment on the 15 Ingredient thread) :-)

                                And don’t forget to pick up some Kline’s soft-serve ice cream next door, so creamy and good!

                                1. re: cuccubear


                                  tell me about this, i just recall a little french-ish place in "downtown"-- way back -- that was quite nice.

                                  i'm happy about your Q tip. fo' sho'. thanks.

                                  in my life, there will never ever be another "massaunutten" event, though! those people are sharks. crazy time there!

                                    1. re: cuccubear

                                      waaaay back -- 20 years? holy moly!

                                      reading upthread, i see you *did* report on the bbq >>>"""I didn't see your post until just now, so I didn't ask them about bull run, but I did get some Q there last night. 1 lb. of Carolina style Pork BBQ. It was pulled pork and was delicious."""<<<

                                      cuccs, maybe i was thinking of whether you'd been able to find out if these were the same folks at bull run in 2008. sorry. i sho' don' wanna rile a craaaazy bear! {;^D.
                                      <i regret not getting this "maxine" mug> http://www.embroiderydesigns.com/imag...

                                      1. re: alkapal

                                        oooo, and she's pointing that finger right AT me!

                                        Let me think about this "French-ish" place. I'm not sure...sometime around 1989-ish...hmm?

                                        1. re: cuccubear

                                          but that maxine is craaAAAzy, anyhow!
                                          cuccs, i guess --- maybe --- that place was on liberty or main near market? i'm really guessing, but it seemed to be like "downtown" -- and maybe facing some small-town-like govt. bldgs? the restaurant was in a row of older buildings, with small restaurants in a very walkable area. a bit romantic. well....obviously not there anymore... ;-(.

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            Well, there was a place called “Christopher’s”. It was rather elegant for the area. They weren’t in business very long, and that was probably farther back than 20 years. The only other place I can think of is “Calhoun’s”. They always had good food. Nice dining downstairs and a bar upstairs. That would fit the timeline. That placed closed and then opened up again about 10 years ago. It’s called “Cally’s” now and is a block north of where it was (on Court Square).

                                            And yet, if that’s still not it, there have been many short-lived restos in that area over the years. I’ll keep pondering. I should revisit an old project of mine where I was creating a timeline of sorts of all the restos that have come and gone in H’burg as far back as the 30’s and 40’s.

                                            1. re: cuccubear

                                              i can almost picture the *location* in my mind, and if i drove downtown, i could probably get a better idea for the location than looking on zoomed google maps! ;-)). calhoun's doesn't *sound right*. may...be...christopher's....but...not...sure....
                                              it wasn't really too expensive, but what i guess we'd call "moderate" today.

                                              the place wasn't too elegant, because we would not have been "dressed" up, but rather upscale casual, at most.

                      2. re: cuccubear

                        We stayed in Harrisonburg for a weekend with 2 kids. Hank's Smokehouse in McGaheysville, about 8 miles out 33 off of 81 in Harrisonburg was really good food. The ribs were more to my liking than the pulled pork. They also have an interesting sister restaurant, the Thunderbird Cafe down the road.

                        We ate at Southern Kitchen in New Market and found the food and service to be good. (And if you are ever there on the 4th, get there about an hour before closing, eat dinner, stay in the parking lot and you have an awesome view of the fireworks!) The fried chicken was very well done, although not the best I've ever eaten. Wouldn't recommend the mashed potatoes. Blackberry pie was good, solid diner pie.

                        * Southern Kitchen
                        606 S Madison St, Whiteville, NC 28472 Remove

                      3. Mother's in Bristol, VA. It's a meat & three, and very hardcore Southern. Delicious country cooking, and very, very cheap. It's maybe 2-3 minutes off of I-81.

                        1500 Euclid Ave
                        Bristol, VA 24201-3732
                        (276) 466-9111‎

                        Sarah M.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: StrandedYankee

                          Tried Mother's last week & found it is now out of business.

                        2. Trip report:

                          We stopped on the way down at the Middlesex Dinner in Carlisle PA for lunch. Good basic lunch. Very nice and accommodating staff. Would definitely return.

                          We left I-81 Southbound at I-64 W and We treated ourselves to a stay at the Greenbrier in White Sulpher Springs, WV, for our anniversary. We really enjoyed our breakfasts, lunch at the pool, and Sam Sneed's, but it was as expected pricy.

                          Leaving the Greenbrier, we continued west to I-77. Just north of the interesection, we had lunch at a "cafeteria" managed by the Greenbrier at the Tamerick (sp?) crafts center,. It's a showplace for West Virginia arts and crafts, with studio space as well as sales. Lunch was quite good, for a cafeteria, although I'd skip the fried green tomatoes next time. It's just too hard to keep them crispy on a cafeteria line. Greens were excellent, DH liked his trout.

                          Back on I-81 south, we detoured through Bluff City TN to Ridgewoods BBQ recommended on this board. Although pork was shaved, not pulled, flavor was very good. We really liked sides of slaw and beans too. Surprised that they only have the shaved pork, and not ribs or chicken as an alternative. Also, no other traditional sides for BBQ other than slaw and beans. I would have enjoyed some greens and cornbread too.

                          In Cashiers, NC, we had excellent meal at the Orchard. Fresh goat cheese app, excellent fried green tomatoes app, and shrimp and grits entree. This is a destination if you are in the Highlands, Cashiers or Sapphire area.

                          Northbound, we had a massive road 13 + hour trip planned so we started early. We fed the family at the "bottom of the mountain" at Clydes in Waynesville. Excellent breakfast with biscuits, grits, sausage patties etc. We opted for sandwiches at a rest stop. For dinner, we stopped at Haag's Hotel exit 23 on I-78 in Pennsylvania, and was a bit disappointed. It's a family style Pennsylvania Dutch which I enjoy. I chose this one, as it was described as like the old farmhouse restaurants prior to becoming too touristy. We had warm rolls, and a choice of meats which were o.k. Meatloaf was good, fresh sausage too, but chicken was just average. However, some of the sides and beverages were disappointing. Green beans may have been canned. Dried corn side was tasty, and slaw too, but that was the extent of the veggies on a 20+ item table. No fresh tomatoes, corn, or other veggies which you'd expect in July. Iced tea tasted like from a mix and coffee tasted like instant. Cherry pie filing was definitely from a can. I will still search for a good place to stop on I-78 W. We'll try the place at exit 25 in Lenhartsville next year.

                          1. thanks for the report! sounds like the good chow outweighed the disappointing.

                            1. We repeated our trip in August and have two great additions:

                              Wild Flour in Abingdon, VA-- a wonderful bakery with homemade soups and sandwiches. Excellent breads and cookies. They even made my DS a BLT off the menu.

                              Trailhead Cafe in Abingdon -- great sandwiches, soups and lunch place with charming owner!

                              1. We had dinner at Harbor Inn Seafood last night.

                                All in all it was good.

                                The service was kinda slow for what the place was.
                                The slaw was fantastic.
                                The stuffed grouper was so, so. The fish it's self was really good but the crab stuffing wasn't crabby, nor was it very good. That posed a bit of a problem because in our road weary state I realized after that we ended up with it in a lot of our dishes.
                                Stuffed shrimp. The shrimp were good but there was that crab stuffing again.
                                Crab cake...you guessed it.
                                Stuffed deviled crab.....again.

                                The hush puppies were tasty. Kinda strange that they make them log shaped but the taste was good.

                                I'd go back but would avoid the crab stuffing.


                                2 Replies
                                1. We had a great lunch before leaving Roanoke.

                                  AFAIC the Texas Tavern is a true CH place. I didn't discover this place. I'm sure it's been mentioned here before but simple honest food in a place that's on it's 4th generation of ownership.

                                  We had a cheesy western, dogs all the way, chili and a cheese burger.

                                  The western was basically a cheese burger with a fried egg. It was fantastic. The burger was similar in flavour to a Krystal's burger but an upgrade. The dogs were excellent and the chili was also very nice.

                                  The place just celebrated it's 80th birthday too.


                                  Texas Tavern
                                  114 Church Ave SW, Roanoke, VA 24011