Sunday, November 18, 2007

Roadside Comfort Food

One of my favorite special series on Food Network is Alton Brown's Feasting on Asphalt, where Alton and his crew trek across America on motorcycles with the express purpose of avoiding the Interstates and sampling the regional culinary delights at small, usually family-owned restaurants along the way. During the trip to West Virginia, I tried out a place that Alton needs to visit on a future show.

Just four days before I stopped in, the Stagecoach Family Restaurant #5 had opened for business. This family-operated eatery along US 50 advertises "Home Cooked Food" on its signboard, so who'd want to miss that?

The signs beckon the hungry traveler on US 50 near Grafton

This particular afternoon, the lovely spouse, her lovely mother, and I were out running an errand, and decided it was time for lunch. So we decided to try out the Stagecoach to see if the food was a roadside hit or a roadside dud. So into the unpaved parking lot we go, crowded as it was. We pull the rented Chrysler Pacifica into a spot and head toward the door to the restaurant's austere roadside building.

Lunch inside! The Stagecoach Family Restaurant, simple and functional

As we walked inside, a spartan salad and soup bar was positioned to our left. The ingredients appeared fresh, but what drew my eye was the largest pot of hot broth and noodles I have seen anywhere. There was also an equally big pot of chili, steaming and emitting a wonderful aroma.

The dining room was simply furnished and the walls were paneled in a rough, light-colored wood. A table in the middle had been prepared for a larger party which was to enter shortly.

The main dining area of the Stagecoach

The placemats were simple, laminated affairs, covered with advertisements for local businesses, including two for the local hospital and one for a company that sells tombstones. My hope was that I would not be needing the services of either of these fine companies after eating at the Stagecoach! As it turns out, that is not likely to happen here.

The portions coming out of the kitchen appeared to be significantly generous, so I took it easy at the soup & salad bar. I had to try some of the noodles & chicken broth, so I selected just a little lettuce, bell peppers, cheese and dressing for my salad. As I love noodles, this made a great appetizer.

The simple salad and bowl of noodles & broth I ate. Tasty!

Perusing the menu was an appetizing exercise by itself. There were so many home style delights from which to choose, that it wasn't an easy choice. Since they are a small operation, the specials run out quickly. Much to my dismay, one that I had my eye on was the honey-dipped fried chicken. However, the lovely spouse wanted that, so I told her to get it and just let me have a bite. The waitress went back to the kitchen and found they had one serving left, so that went to the "LS", who did give me the drumstick. Oh my goodness! That is some of the best tasting fried chicken anywhere. Colonel Sanders, you are a pretender!

The Stagecoach's honey-dipped fried chicken

Since we wanted to sample different dishes, my mother-in-law went for the hot roast beef sandwich lunch. WOW! All I can say is she chose wisely. I only wish the taste of these yummy items could be posted online for all to sample.

There was nothing to beef about in regards to the hot roast beef sandwich

Since it is autumn, I felt like a real holiday-style dinner. Therefore, I selected the turkey and dressing plate. Let me tell you, it is delicious. The mashed potatoes were made from scratch, the glazed carrots I chose were perfectly cooked and coated with a wonderful glaze. A thick slab of homestyle dressing and good pieces of tender turkey breast were also in attendance, and covered with a generous amount of gravy. Some may not like that much gravy, but it was just right for me.

The turkey dinner was also a good choice

The Stagecoach also offers homemade pies and cake, but by the time we ate our lunch, there was no room left for dessert. Of course, that required us to stop in again a couple of days later just to sample the pie and coffee.

So the bottom line is this: If you enjoy home style comfort foods and are traveling on US 50 through West Virginia, I would recommend stopping by the Stagecoach. You won't be disappointed. It is located on the south side of the highway on the west end of Grafton.

One more thing . . . you might want to slow down for a different reason. Just about every time I passed the place, there were Taylor County Sheriff Department vehicles parked out front, with the officers themselves inside enjoying a hot meal. You don't want to be the cause of making one of them mad for having to get up from the table and go after you!

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