Saturday, July 7, 2012

Blue Ridge Pig, Kathy's, and the Brew Ridge Trail

Blue Mountain Brewery
While on a recent trip to Staunton, I tried a few restaurants that I had never been to. I had long heard of Kathy's in Staunton, but had never been there. I think the memory of a bad experience at Mrs. Rowe's still lingered, but I'd heard nothing but good things. So, one morning I had the pleasure of dining with American Shakespeare Center actor Benjamin Curns and he suggested we go to Kathy's.

Kathy's is a classic American family restaurant. It is located in the area that used to be the "main drag" in Staunton, but has become secondary since the downtown revitalization. The decor is a mix of family restaurant and diner.

I ordered the "Big Mike's Country Breakfast," not because I was famished but because it was the most Paleo compliant item on the menu. "Big Mike's" includes a slice of country ham, a sausage patty, three slices of bacon, grits, brown (but creamy) sausage gravy, two eggs, two biscuits, and home fries. I donated the biscuits to my wife and Ben and went to work on the rest. It was a fantastic platter. I wholeheartedly recommend visiting Kathy's for a hearty breakfast. My wife and I returned a few weeks later and I again ordered "Big Mike's." We have heard nothing but raves for the pancakes, so my wife ordered the bacon pancakes. This features bacon mixed into the batter and topped with one slice of bacon. I had a bite and it was wonderful. We have yet to try lunch, but we'll give it a shot one of these days.

I am from the Triad of North Carolina, the home of Lexington style barbecue, so whenever I hear people praising pork barbecue I'm somewhat skeptical. Let me also say, I am not hog wild over Lexington style barbecue either. I prefer a very smoky, meaty flavor with very little of that vinegar taste. So, when ASC actor Rick Blunt suggested we try a place in Nellysford called the Blue Ridge Pig I was a bit blase about it. Boy, was I in for a surprise! We went with Rick over the Mountain to Nellysford to give this place a shot. It appears to be a condemned shed glommed on to the side of a convenience store/gas station. It is the true definition of a dive. The wonderful smell of smoked meat smacks you in the face as soon as you step out of the car. I ordered a pulled pork sandwich, with nothing but meat. It comes on a toasted Kaiser roll. The meat is the best barbecued pork I've ever had. It really tastes as good as it smells. The thing I've noticed over the years is the taste of the meat never lives up to the smell. Well, not here! It's amazing. And while I was skeptical of the Kaiser roll, it works great as a complement to the meat. My wife, who doesn't particularly care for pork barbecue, even raved about it. We can't wait to head back even though it's a bit of a drive. Be advised, Blue Ridge Pig is a cash-only establishment.

While you're out that way you may want to check out Blue Mountain Brewery, Wild Wolf Brewing Company, and Devil's Backbone Brewing Company. They are all located on this same road, Rockfish Valley Highway (151), aka the Brew Ridge Trail. I've been to Blue Mountain and Devil's Backbone. The food I've had at both is average (bratwurst and burger at Blue Mountain and the Bonesmoker platter at DBB), but the beer at both is great. I suggest doing a sampler/flight. You can find most of Blue Mountain & DBB's beer throughout Virginia, while Wild Wolf is still mostly in the Shenandoah Valley and Central VA.

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