29 December 2008

Road Food, Part 3: A side of bittersweet

Arrived home in mid-afternoon, after a 5 1/2 hour drive back from visiting the ancestral homestead in southeastern Virginia. The Spouse, Wee Lass and I went down to visit with the Parents of Gumbo, get some face time with my Big Bro and his lovely better half, and celebrate a slightly delayed Christmas. A pleasant visit overall, especially if one is a certain granddaughter who receives her yearly toy allotment (i.e. a shitload) in one fell swoop. More princesses for the Princess, with not one but TWO 'Belle' dolls. Wee Lass likes herself some Disney. Oh, and there was food. A lot of food.

The drive can be made in about 4 hours, but we stopped to eat in a little town called Tappahannock, in eastern Virginia. It sits near to the Rappahannock River, which in turn is nearby to the Chesapeake Bay. Good fish and oyster country, that. The place we went to eat is an old seafood restaurant right there on the main drag through town, by name of Lowery's:

It's a funny thing that I had never eaten there until relatively recently, on another holiday visit. Way back when I was still "a-courtin'" The Spouse (at that point The Girlfriend), who lived in Maryland at the time, I would pass Lowery's every trip. I was in too much of a hurry, and too busy stuffing my face with nasty-ass Hardee's steak biscuits while driving, to give this unassuming restaurant a try. Pity for me, as I discovered later.

We finally stopped there to eat on a holiday visit years ago, Wee Lass was now our permanent passenger, and we had begun to think of McDonBurgTacoAldsKingBell's as food of last resort. So we were less inclined to choke down fast food and more in the mood for some real food. Fortunately, Lowery's is good, as we discovered, so we stopped in today for lunch. Not what you'd call fancy-schmancy, more low-key and definitely old country decor. They also have a talking mynah bird, named Jay-Boy, in what amounts to a gift shop area in the back. They also have, for the young'ns, a little wishing well with toy fish in it. The kids get a little fishing pole with a magnet and hook, and they 'fish' in the well. You snag a fish, take it to the counter, and then pick out a free toy. On this visit, Wee Lass decided to go with the purple plastic beads. She was quite delighted with her new jewelry.

Oh, yes, the food. They specialize in seafood, fried, broiled, baked. They do a good broiled fish, a tasty crab cake (sandwich or platter), shrimp and hushpuppies. Surprisingly, the best bread pudding I have ever had was at Lowery's. I was licking the bowl! But my favorite is the fried oyster sandwich. Yum, yum, YUM! They have access to some mighty fine oysters out of the nearby waters. This being a good time of year for oysters, the sandwich was what I got:

Just look at all that goodness! Damn, too bad for you guys that there is no Smell-O-Vision available for the Internet! A simple, humble thing, but when it is done right, there isn't much to beat the taste and crunch of a fresh fried oyster sandwich. This one was done right!

Truth be told, this sandwich (as good as it was), was not the best thing I had to eat on this trip. No, the top honor for that would have to be the grilled peanut butter sandwich I had for breakfast this morning before we left to go home. I wasn't thinking ahead, plus I was really hungry, so I didn't think to take a picture of it. In hindsight, I wish I had. It was very attractive. It was crispy on the outside and gooey-soft on the inside. Biting into it was like biting into some of the best memories I have from my time as a little Gumbo. This is a sandwich I would drive a long, long way to have, it's that good.

Who could create such a wonder? What chef could turn a humble grilled peanut butter sandwich into a delicious mouthful of memories? Why, that would be my Moms. She did me a favor, made breakfast this morning, and gave me a grilled peanut butter sandwich like only she can make: a simple thing, done right, made with love. It doesn't get any better than that.

Thank you, Mom.



  1. No disrespecting mom or anything but now I am kinda wondering what a grilled peanut butter and fried oyster sandwich would taste like. Yeah, I am weird like that.

  2. My mum's swooning reading this. When she worked in Australia she used to have toasted peanut butter sarnies for breakfast too. Sometimes she'd put cheese and bananas on it as well. Bubbling cheese, caramelised bananas and peanut butter. She's looking all glassy-eyed. But I guess it can't equal one made by mom.
    PS: I can tell she's dreaming about stuffing her mouth with those fries in that photo too. Mum should stop worrying about the size of her thighs from time to time and simply indulge:)

  3. Sometimes the best restaurants are the ones that look unassuming. I would rather have good food than a cheesy pre-fab atmosphere any day of the week.

  4. Fried oysters, yum. I love restaurants like that. Nice slideshow too. It's fun to see other parts of the country.

  5. I don't like oysters (unless they're smoked or raw) but that sounds and looks delish.

    Oh, and you've been tagged.

  6. Now, was it a grilled peanut butter sandwich, or a fried one? My mother would fry her "grilled" cheese sandwiches, and I have the waistline today to prove it.

    I understand that fried peanut-butter and banana sandwiches helped do in Elvis. But it's so hard to tell.

  7. My brother-in-law lives in Chesapeake and our best friend's live in Norfolk. I would like to say that seeing them is the best thing about visiting, but it's really the food.

  8. Robin: Perhaps not as weird as you think. For a brief instant as I wrote the post, I wondered too...

    Henry: I understand why mum would be glassy-eyed. Oh, and the fries? They were really good, thin and crispy-chewy. Tell mum to go ahead, just once in a while is okay!

    Kat: I agree,it has taken me years to get around the automatic 'book by its cover' response.

    OAM: Thank you! The slideshow was impromptu, shot them on the fly out of the car window.

    MD: see, now you've got me all worked up about some smoked oysters with pasta and herbs. Dang it, its not even lunch time! Tagged? Like when they tag bears and birds in the ear, then let them go?

    Headbang8: It's sort of both. Butter up the bread and brown the sandwich on a really hot griddle. Call it a 'frybrid' approach? I haven't gone the Elvis route yet, too dangerous!

    MF: Small world! I grew up in Portsmouth, and I have a lot of family in Chesapeake and thereabouts. Amazing! Who knows, maybe we can get together for a fried seafood dinner sometime...

  9. Mom's always seem to make anything taste better no matter how old you are. I can never make a grilled cheese sandwich as good as my mom can when she is here to visit! : ) Glad you and the family had a good visit! : )

  10. I've never had oysters... but I loves me some crab.. mmmm..

  11. I keep seeing your name everywhere I go so I came over for a visit! Nice to meet you Irish Gumbo. I'll be back to visit again soon!

  12. Hi………
    Absolutely fantastic post! Good job!
    Great! Keep writing…….
    Good week………
    " A Happy New Year''

  13. I've never had a toasted peanut butter sandwich, but I'm going to try one tomorrow. The Mr. likes the peanut butter and banana combo. :)


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