Left at the Fork

the road | the food | a new direction

Smithfield Inn, Smithfield VA

REVIEW

The Smithfield Inn was built as a residence in 1752. Seven years later it was converted to a restaurant and inn. Like any restaurant over 250 years old, it’s obviously gone through many owners and had its ups and downs. For a long time in the 20th century it was well-known for traditional home-style Southern cooking. It was eventually even owned by Smithfield Foods, the giant pork processor and home of the world-renowned Smithfield Ham. Continue reading

Checking in at: Commonwealth Brewing Company, Virginia Beach VA

The local brewers love to combine fruits with beer, and nowhere is that more apparent than at Commonwealth Brewing in the Chic’s Beach neighborhood of Virginia Beach (just a minute or two off the south end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel). There are brews with peaches, apples, lemons, blackberries, black currants, pineapple, apricots, limes, plums, pomegranates, raspberries, oranges, yuzu, Buddha’s Hand, prickly pear, and pomelo. And those are just the fruits that showed up on today’s menu of 22 beers! Check the website and you’ll find well over a hundred brews listed. Continue reading

Chesapeake Bay Farms, Pocomoke MD

REVIEW

Have you noticed how dairy farms have taken to making and selling ice cream on site to the public? It’s part of their struggle to survive as small farms, like much of America, participate in the gig economy to make ends meet. From an ice cream lover’s perspective, it’s a welcome trend, bringing not just the chance to sample homemade ice cream, sometimes even made from the milk of the cows grazing on that farm, but also the opportunity to get out and enjoy rural life for a few hours. Continue reading

Checking in at: Seafood City, Felton DE

Our fried flounder sandwich and crab cake sandwich were quite ordinary but it’s really unfair to judge Seafood City based on that. This place is known for steamed crabs. We stopped in at 11AM, as soon as they opened for the day, for a quick lunch. We were, of course, their first customers. And we weren’t about to tear into a pile of crabs right then – we had to hit the road. Continue reading

Ice Cream on Grand, Englewood NJ

REVIEW

Ice Cream on Grand is one unique ice cream shop. All the ice cream is homemade, using fresh fruits and quality ingredients, but it has none of that preciosity you find in those urban ice cream sanctuaries found in city neighborhoods populated by 20-somethings. There are crowd-pleasing flavors and colors, like at Baskin-Robbins, but unlike BR, this ice cream is really, really good. Continue reading

Checking in at: Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Fairfield CT

Frank Pepe pizza was once the insider’s choice for America’s best pizza, unless that insider professed a love for their competitor down the street in New Haven, Sally’s. Then the pizza renaissance happened. America discovered days-long dough fermentation, Italian double-zero flour, hand-made charcuterie toppings, the freshest of homemade cheeses. They took trips to Naples and wrote volumes on the science and art of “real” pizza. Continue reading

The Shack, Groton CT

REVIEW

When The Shack opened in East Lyme in 1989, it was practically a shack, albeit a shack that quickly became known for the quality of its breakfasts. Thirty years have come and gone, and there are now two additional Shacks not all that far from the original, in Waterford and Groton, and that first Shack has found a new, more modern home in East Lyme. They’ve also expanded their hours, now serving all three meals (except on Sundays, when it’s still breakfast only). Continue reading

David’s Place, Oakdale CT

REVIEW

We love coastal drive-in restaurants, even more than we love diners. There’s something about dining on fried seafood and inhaling the inimitable aroma of onions and potatoes and vaporized cooking oil mixed with the salt air that gets our juices flowing. If we’ve just spent the day in the sun, within sight and sound of the water, it doesn’t even matter if the drive-in is ten miles inland, as David’s Place of Oakdale, CT is. Our memories supply the salt air. Continue reading

Checking in at: Holmberg Winery, Gales Ferry CT

Holmberg Orchards was started in the late 19th century by Swedish immigrants. The operation is still in the family, run by the third and fourth generations. It’s that fourth generation, Russell, who has introduced fermentation to the family business. They’ve planted grapes and produce both traditional wines and fruit wines from the Holmberg orchard. Those fruit wines are notable for two reasons: they are actually made from the juice of fruit (not grape wine flavored with fruit “essences”), and they have a clear and clean taste of the fruit from which they are made. We find them particularly drinkable and enjoyable, in a country wine sort of way. Continue reading

Checking in at: Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough, Noank CT

We had a gorgeous, sunny day for our kind-of-annual visit to Abbott’s on the eastern Connecticut shore. There was once a time, many years ago, when we were able to say that we’d tried everything on Abbott’s menu. No more; they continue to add to their offerings. There’s a steamed artichoke, bowls of pasta, ribs… presumably for fish-frowners dragged here against their will. We sampled the lobster deviled eggs for the first time today: they are fine, the eggs themselves are a little sweet in a Miracle Whip kind of way, and the lobster is totally unnecessary. Which we say about lobster mac ‘n’ cheese as well. Continue reading

Paul’s Pasta Shop, Groton CT

REVIEW

We live in a part of the country where casual Italian restaurants are more common than fast-food restaurants, so you might figure it’d take a lot just to get us to walk through the doors of an Italian eatery when we travel, not to mention come away impressed. But impressed we were with Paul’s Pasta Shop of Groton, which would have fit in quite nicely with the rest of the old-time joints back in our old NJ Italian neighborhood (when it was still an Italian neighborhood). Continue reading

Smakosh Restaurant, Uncasville CT

REVIEW

The name of the restaurant is Smakosh, which doesn’t sound familiar to American ears. Is it someone’s name? What ethnicity is it? Turns out that it’s a Polish word for gourmet, and if you figured that out ahead of time you might assume that Smakosh is a Polish restaurant. There are a smattering of Polish dishes on the menu, although most of the offerings are straight-ahead American breakfast and lunch foods like Benedicts, western omelettes, burgers, and tuna salad. It’s those Polish dishes, however, that brought us here, as well as the fact that they, like us, consider pierogi a more than suitable breakfast option. Continue reading

Buttonwood Farm, Griswold CT

REVIEW

We’d heard good things about the ice cream at Buttonwood Farm, but it was a dreary, drizzly evening as we motored through the rural Connecticut countryside. Surely we’d be their only customers when we arrived, if they were even still open. Perhaps on this most uninviting day for ice cream they decided to close up early. Turning in to Buttonwood from the country road, we were astonished to see an ice cream stand and parking lot bustling with activity. What were they all here for? Was there some sort of event we were unaware of? Continue reading

Checking in at: Milford Point Brewing, Milford CT

The brewery started last year, and the taproom’s only been open since April. Milford Point is a nano brewery, the term used nowadays to signify a very small scale brewing operation. For most of their first year they gave tastings, filled growlers, and sold kegs to local bars. Finally, with their tap room, folks can stop by for a fresh pint. They are Milford’s first brewing operation and, only a year later, they are, by our count, one of three Milford breweries. It’s a hot time for brewing! Continue reading

Checking in at: Walter’s, Mamaroneck NY

As David Byrne once said, “Same as it ever was.” The beef/pork/veal franks are made for them, the house mustard is dotted with relish, and the dogs are split and then grilled in buttery oil on the flattop. The unique building is a National Historic Landmark. Since 1919. P.S.: Don’t ignore the top-notch shakes! Continue reading

Checking in at: Greasy Nick’s, New Rochelle NY

What once seemed like a temporary but important setback for Greasy Nick’s — they neglected to renew their liquor license a few years ago — is now permanent. There’s no longer beer, cheap or otherwise, available at the roadside eatery! A can of downscale beer was always as integral to the Greasy experience as the fried onions on the cheeseburger and the soggy corn-on-the-cob swimming in a lake of margarine. If you’re the type who prepares for such things, remember to bring your own, or else go with soft drinks. Continue reading

Checking in at: Villa Barone, Robbinsville NJ

When Villa Barone is full, which is often, the place can be deafeningly loud. This evening we discovered a solution: try to secure a table in the corner of the room. With no diners on two of the four sides we found we could actually hear each other speak. This remains our go-to casual neighborhood Italian restaurant. Bonus: BYOB helps keep the prices down. Continue reading

PJ’s Pancake House and Tavern, Robbinsville NJ

REVIEW

PJ’s is one of those longtime Princeton breakfast institutions that seem to exist in just about every college town: not especially known as a haven for breakfast epicureans, but popular. They’ve been branching out lately, expanding to five restaurants in the area with the recently opened Robbinsville spot. They’re also trying to break out of their breakfast-only identity, with what they call a tavern menu and outdoor bistro-style seating. Judging from the Robbinsville  location, we’d have to say the tavern-like atmosphere kills the breakfast mood more than it helps the lunch/dinner vibe. Continue reading

Checking in at: Polish Water Ice, Seaside Heights NJ

Polish Water Ice’s specialty is water ice that’s made in and served from soft-serve machines. It’s a growing chain with two locations on the Seaside Heights boardwalk, where they aggressively offer free samples. The texture really is super-smooth for water ice. All the flavors are based on sweetened, neutral-tasting grape and/or apple juice, with stabilizers and preservatives. There’s no peach in the peach ice or cherry in the cherry ice – the flavors are all artificial. Continue reading

The Original Steaks, Seaside Heights NJ

REVIEW

Philadelphia cheesesteaks are traditionally served on long rolls. While it’s rare to encounter one on some other kind of bread, it’s not unheard of. One of the best cheesesteaks in the region is served on a round hard roll, just across the river in Camden’s Donkey’s Place. And here in Seaside Heights, the dueling cheesesteak joints known as The Original Steaks and Steaks Unlimited, across the street from one another, employ pizza bread as the absorbent vessel for the thinly sliced beef, goopy cheese, and well-cooked onions. Continue reading

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