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Food blog: Road trip to Charlottesville and Staunton, VA

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Saturday, July 9th was my 63rd birthday.  And since the trip out of town to Florida and SC was so satisfying, I requested another adventure.  Only one day and close to home this time.  We’re in the Richmond VA area and only one hour and one and a half hours respectively from the charming little towns of Charlottesville and Staunton, VA. 


I asked for an off-the-interstate drive, a wander around the lovely Staunton, lunch and dinner at old favorite places, a visit to Reunion bakery, and chocolates from our own @Jim D..  The only thing that didn’t happen was Reunion.  Sadly, they were closed that week for their summer break.  Still, it gives me a good excuse to get the family on the road again and make another visit to Jim.


I didn’t eat a bite of breakfast because I wanted to be good and hungry for lunch.  This was difficult to accomplish as our first stop on the way to Staunton was at the Albemarle Baking Co. in Charlottesville:



Incredible place!  I wish we had something comparable in Richmond.  We bought a few things that fit into breakfasts and snacks over the next couple of days.  A sampling:























Back in 1987-1989 when Mr. Kim was in grad school at VA and we lived in Charlottesville one of our favorite places to sightsee was a store called Food of All Nations.  I say sightsee rather than shop because we were, of course, broke.  Our name for it was Food of High Prices.  But we loved to look and did treat ourselves occasionally – my beloved English candies, HP sauce, German sausages, good bread, etc.  We almost never go to Charlottesville without stopping and this time was no exception.  A good wander through the aisles, a search for Tiptree Little Scarlett jam (none there), and a little stash of candies:


I can’t find the treacle toffee here in Richmond anymore and haven’t had liquorice toffee since Callard & Bowser stopped making it. 


Then it was on to Staunton for lunch and neighborhood crawling and CHOCOLATE!  (Back to Charlottesville for dinner).  Lunch was at Wright’s Dairy-Rite, a classic drive in (with actual car hops).


When Mr. Kim was in grad school, I worked at a private social service agency, inspecting day care homes for the USDA meal reimbursement program.  One of my responsibilities was observing meals served at day care homes that were licensed through our agency.  Every home had to be visited once every six months, so about half my time was traveling around central VA meeting day care providers and children and helping to serve breakfast, morning snack, lunch, or afternoon snack.  When I would find myself in Staunton, I always ate at Wright’s.  I’d sit in my car, order a cheeseburger and a shake, and eat.  I could read a book, smoke a cigarette, and enjoy some quiet time!   They have a pretty wide assortment of food (including a highly recommended Reuben, funnily enough) but we stuck with the classics.  Jessica had a double cheeseburger and crinkle cuts:



Mr. Kim had another double with jalapenos:



I had the “Superburger” and onion rings.  Basically, an early Big Mac, but with excellent, flavorful burgers:


The burgers were just our style – thin and juicy.  Let’s just take another look at those onion rings:


These were among the best onion rings I’ve ever had.  Maybe I had some better ones when I was a toddler, but not since I became an adult have I had any better ones.  They were NOT tempura, which is what everyone seems to do nowadays.  They were crumb coated, but thinly.  The onions were completely cooked, but still crunchy.  I cannot say enough good things about these.  Two weeks later, we’re still talking about them.


The day just kept getting better.   Next, we got to meet @Jim D..  He was so gracious and invited us into his home for a little visit and “get to know you”.   We had a lovely time and really enjoyed meeting Jim and hearing about his late arrival at chocolate making.  Mr. Kim had arranged for me to receive this gorgeous assortment of chocolates:


I was stunned at how lovely they were but was truly stunned at how delicious and inventive they were when I tasted them. I’ve done a more in-depth post about them here, and you should definitely go look at that. 


After a leisurely drive around the lovely old neighborhoods of Staunton and a little antiquing, we had a snack and a drink at Clocktower Eats & Sweets.  A lovely coconut cake:



And the saltiest soft pretzels and beer cheese we’d ever tasted:




More neighborhood wandering, then we took the long way to Charlottesville – my favorite drive across Afton Mountain and Rockfish Gap and beside lovely old homes. 


Dinner in Charlottesville was at our family favorite, Al Carbon.  I’ve talked about this restaurant before and shown almost identical photos.  Most American cities now have the Mexican/Central American rotisserie/charcoal chicken places, and they are good.  But most of them that we’ve been to are basically Mexican restaurants with rotisserie chicken.  This is miles above any other place we’ve ever tried.  The chicken is astonishingly good, and the sandwiches and sides are unlike anything I’ve ever had. This is a chicken tamale and the beef cemita:


Don’t know why I neglected to undress the tamale before taking the picture.  The cemita was loaded with breaded slices of beef, Oaxaco cheese, ham, and avocado.  It’s my favorite thing there. 


The elote and the incomparable chicken:


It’s even excellent cold the next day. 


Sweet potato and fried plantains:


The sweet potato is cooked in a sweet, creamy sauce and is slightly caramelized and the plantains are perfectly cooked. 


Dessert always presents a dilemma.  Al Carbon makes churros to order.  BUT just outside, in the parking lot is a frozen custard stand.  I had a flash of genius.  Considering that it was my birthday and that you are allowed, actually ENCOURAGED, to go big that day it occurred to me to do both.  We ordered churros and took them across the parking lot and created this on the spot:


It was utterly divine.  And we were a happy family:





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Happy Birthday!  Do you still have the occasional cigarette with your burger?


1 hour ago, Kim Shook said:

When I would find myself in Staunton, I always ate at Wright’s.  I’d sit in my car, order a cheeseburger and a shake, and eat.  I could read a book, smoke a cigarette, and enjoy some quiet time! 


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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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Happy belated birthday!  That was a fine mini-trip you went on.   All the food looked delicious but I have to admit, I was blown away by the chocolates.  They look amazing.

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