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Harrisonburg, VA


cjsadler
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Sorry I didn't see these posts eariler since I went to JMU.

I fondly remember Thai Cafe, Dave's Taverna (beer and sandwiches), Mr J's and Little Grill (veggie options).

Joshua Wilton was the fancy option, but I haven't been there in 10 years. If a date took me there...giddyup.

In Staunton, Mill St Grill was pretty popular.

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I would have suggested JM's for wings and dime drafts, but I believe its since been converted into a Buffalo Wild Wings. *sigh*

That you are right about, but it never mattered because if you are looking for Buffalo chicken in Harrisonburg, the Thumbs & Toes (much better than they sound) are the way to go. Spicy and plentiful, offered for a measly $10/pound, these are surprisingly good for college-bar food.

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That you are right about, but it never mattered because if you are looking for Buffalo chicken in Harrisonburg, the Thumbs & Toes (much better than they sound) are the way to go. Spicy and plentiful, offered for a measly $10/pound, these are surprisingly good for college-bar food.

Ah, yes: thumbs & toes. From the Biltmore, no? That was the "nice" place that you'd take your parents. Then they realized that they could make so much more money selling booze to the college kids and it turned into a dump. But a good dump.

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A place to avoid in Harrisonburg is Clementine at 153 S. Main St. This restaurant presents itself as an upscale eatery that also features music and art.

In reality, this is a bar with food. If you're looking for a place for a drink, it's probably fine, if noisy. But as a restaurant, you'd be better off finding another place to eat. We shared the seared ahi tuna appetizer. I'm grateful that I only had to eat half of it. If the tuna was seared, it wasn't evident. Worse, the tuna was old. The best I can say is that it was so thinly sliced that the overwhelming fishy flavor of the overripe tuna was covered by the thin puddle of soy and wasabe. At $7.95, it was dramatically overpriced.

I'd ordered a burger with mozzarella, roasted red pepper, pesto, lettuce and onion. The roasted red pepper was AWOL. So was the pesto. The burger pattie was so overcooked that it closely resembled a hockey puck, except when it crumbled into a sawdust-like powder. My order was for it to be cooked to medium doneness. I wonder what it would have been like if I'd ordered it well done?

Clementine features house-made potato chips. Nice idea. They closely resemble those from Grandma Utz. The other dinners were similar in their ability to dismay their respective diners. Here's the Web site for your viewing pleasure, but remember, look, but don't eat: http://www.clementinecafe.com.

Wayne Rash

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A place to avoid in Harrisonburg is Clementine at 153 S. Main St. This restaurant presents itself as an upscale eatery that also features music and art.

In reality, this is a bar with food. If you're looking for a place for a drink, it's probably fine, if noisy. But as a restaurant, you'd be better off finding another place to eat. We shared the seared ahi tuna appetizer. I'm grateful that I only had to eat half of it. If the tuna was seared, it wasn't evident. Worse, the tuna was old. The best I can say is that it was so thinly sliced that the overwhelming fishy flavor of the overripe tuna was covered by the thin puddle of soy and wasabe. At $7.95, it was dramatically overpriced.

I'd ordered a burger with mozzarella, roasted red pepper, pesto, lettuce and onion. The roasted red pepper was AWOL. So was the pesto. The burger pattie was so overcooked that it closely resembled a hockey puck, except when it crumbled into a sawdust-like powder. My order was for it to be cooked to medium doneness. I wonder what it would have been like if I'd ordered it well done?

Clementine features house-made potato chips. Nice idea. They closely resemble those from Grandma Utz. The other dinners were similar in their ability to dismay their respective diners. Here's the Web site for your viewing pleasure, but remember, look, but don't eat: http://www.clementinecafe.com.

Wayne Rash

I haven't been in a couple of years but Klein's Frozen Custard in downtown Harrisonburg uses an original Electro Freeze machine, one of only two remaining in the entire state of Virginia. On our last visit I thought their custard was superior to Fredericksburg's Carl's or the now closed Frozen Dairy Bar in Falls Church.

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I haven't been in a couple of years but Klein's Frozen Custard in downtown Harrisonburg uses an original Electro Freeze machine, one of only two remaining in the entire state of Virginia. On our last visit I thought their custard was superior to Fredericksburg's Carl's or the now closed Frozen Dairy Bar in Falls Church.

I wonder whether Electro Freeze still supports those old machines. If so, there may be a business opportunity lurking here somewhere.

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A place to avoid in Harrisonburg is Clementine at 153 S. Main St. This restaurant presents itself as an upscale eatery that also features music and art.

In reality, this is a bar with food. If you're looking for a place for a drink, it's probably fine, if noisy. But as a restaurant, you'd be better off finding another place to eat. We shared the seared ahi tuna appetizer. I'm grateful that I only had to eat half of it. If the tuna was seared, it wasn't evident. Worse, the tuna was old. The best I can say is that it was so thinly sliced that the overwhelming fishy flavor of the overripe tuna was covered by the thin puddle of soy and wasabe. At $7.95, it was dramatically overpriced.

I'd ordered a burger with mozzarella, roasted red pepper, pesto, lettuce and onion. The roasted red pepper was AWOL. So was the pesto. The burger pattie was so overcooked that it closely resembled a hockey puck, except when it crumbled into a sawdust-like powder. My order was for it to be cooked to medium doneness. I wonder what it would have been like if I'd ordered it well done?

Clementine features house-made potato chips. Nice idea. They closely resemble those from Grandma Utz. The other dinners were similar in their ability to dismay their respective diners. Here's the Web site for your viewing pleasure, but remember, look, but don't eat: http://www.clementinecafe.com.

Wayne Rash

I do not doubt your experience, but I can report we had a perfectly fine lunch there yesterday. The pork barbaque sandwich topped with house cole slaw and tabasco onions (crispy onions) on a house-made roll was pretty good, even though the pork could have used a tad more seasoning. I substituted a house salad for the homemade chips and chose a clementine orange vinaigrette dressing that I thought was fairly interesting. My young companion devoured the steak and cheese on an impressive looking large sourdough roll with no complaints.

The place also has live music. I saw that Larry Keel & Natural Bridge will be there on February 4, 2011, and Jack Lawrence will be there on February 9, 2011. Both are highly recommended, imho. I would definitely go back for the music, and even the food, although I would admit that this is not the type of place in which I would order ahi tuna. :)

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Some of the best bagels I have ever eaten come from Mister J's Bagels in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

(I'm typing this in a Starbucks, overlooking Bridgeforth Stadium - the JMU / Maine (yes, Maine has a football team wink.gif) game starts in 30 minutes.)

I tried Mr. J's Bagels today (the one on East Market St.), and I can't say I loved it. If I were a student at JMU, I'm certain this would be in my rotation (the electric, pre-football game atmosphere here brought back college memories for sure), but I can't really rave about the two bagels I had (sesame, and egg-everything). Honestly, to put it in a DC perspective, I prefer the Bruegger's in Glover Park (that said, I think Bruegger's is underrated).

The Farmer's Market was active today when I drove by - it's open Tuesdays and Saturdays, 7 AM - 1 PM. I also drove by Kate's Natural Products, but didn't go in - it may be worth a look.

If you're passing by on I-81, I would try Inca's Secret at 182 Neff Ave (which is less than five minutes off the interstate). There are actually two competing Peruvian semi-fast food restaurants, several storefronts down from each other - I went into both, and this was by far the more interesting looking. I wouldn't necessarily get the chicken here; they have plenty of authentic Peruvian-American (long-cooked) dishes that caught my eye - they should only take a few minutes to prepare.

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The Little Grill Worker-Owned Collective has been a restaurant since the 1940s. In 2003, a worker-owned corporation purchased the business, and with the current model, every worker has the opportunity to buy a share of the business after six months.

The building itself - which was a pool house before it became a restaurant - is an awesome dive, made charming only by the wonderfully hippy-ish workers, homemade hula-hoops for sale by a local craftsman, watercolors by a local artist framed by a local framer, lines out the door waiting for Saturday morning breakfast, the menu which proudly dedicates itself to sustainable, regional products, offers made-from-scratch food items, and shows a polite contempt for our artificial, industrial world ... and of course the food itself, lovingly cooked by the owners.

I grabbed the last seat at the bar, and cozied up to a cup of Equal Exchange Coffee ($2.00), a medium-bodied roast that is exactly the type of coffee you'd hope to find if you went to a local coffeehouse - it is neither insipid (which is what you'd expect from a place looking like this, pouring their coffee from pitchers), nor burnt; the turbinado sugar served with it came in one of those shaky cylindrical things that always have that little hole at the top that gets clogged.

The Brickers Son ($6.50) is "two whole wheat toads-in-a-hole covered with veggie chili & cheddar cheese. Served with spiced potatoes," and is a richly satisfying dish that any breakfast hound should be chasing after. I needlessly ordered a side of fine Country Ham ($2.00) - the real thing: salty and hard - and when I attempted to cut it, pinning it down with my thin, quivering fork, sawing back and forth with my dull knife, the bar (and I mean the actual bar where I was sitting) almost fell off the wall.

All the food was wonderful, and The Little Grill is a breakfast experience not to be missed. People spend nine hours and a thousand dollars driving to-and-from New York City for a dining experience - yours can be found here, for under ten dollars (the cash-only prices include tax, so WYSIWYG), a two-hour drive each way on scenic highway (I-66 really does become scenic, I promise) and rolling hills. Consider it a poor-man's trip to Masa.

Yes, you'll burn ten gallons of gas to get here and back, but you can also save the experience for when you find yourself driving south through Virginia. This place is a little gem and worth remembering if you're ever driving near James Madison University (spelled out for you city folk), and I'm pretty sure it will still be here, waiting to charm you when you arrive.

Cheers,

Rocks

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I have to drive out to Harrisonburg about once a month or so for work and I've driven past this place each time, but never stopped in. I'll make sure to do so next time - hopefully the lunch offerings are as enticing as the breakfast menu sounds!

I must echo the fact that 66 and 81 are quite beautiful as you make your way through the Shenandoah Valley. I'm not even a nature type, and it's always a refreshing change of pace for me to see mountains and abundant greenery.

For other offerings in Harrisonburg, I have to say that I rarely make it out of there without stopping at La Taurina - a taco truck just up the road from Little Grill on your way out of town. No frills at all, but their carnitas and carne asada tacos always hit the spot, and at 3 for $5, you can't go wrong.

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Got up early Saturday morning to drive to Hickory, NC. Plan was to start early, head down I-81, and hit some place on the road for breakfast. Two hours later we rolled up to The Little Grill Collective. As Don describes above, this funky cafe/diner is exactly the sort of funky cafe/diner one would hope to find in a college town. And sorely lacking in DC.

At 9:30am the wait was approx. 10 minutes. The place only has 10-12 tables so seats are few. I had the Huevos Rancheros, a pile of rice, black beans, two sunny side up eggs, topped with veggie chili and cheese and served with two flour tortillas. At $7 the sort of breakfast which will let you put many miles on the road before hunger strikes again! I thought the rice and beans could have used some more punch, maybe some cumin and garlic or some cilantro. But really this breakfast was all about mashing everything together, adding some hot sauce and lapping it up with the tortillas.

The gf had Beth’s Favorite - Two scrambled eggs with green peppers, onions, tomatoes, garden veggies, mushrooms & cheddar cheese ($6.50!). The eggs and veg made for a likeable mash up. However, the side of fried potatoes needed some serious help. Not hash browns, not fries...more like slices of potato tossed into the fryer, cooked until beige, with no seasoning.

A side of sausage was fine.

The Little Grill Collective is a good option for the veg/vegan veto crowd, with multiple options for no-meat eaters. The vegan oatmeal chocolate chip cookies at the cash register make for a good car snack.

By the time we left, probably 20 or so people were waiting outside for a table, which has to be about a half to 3/4 turn of the entire restaurant. You have to drive through Harrisonburg to get to the place, so easy on/off the highway it is not, although it is only about a 10-12 minute drive off I-81. But if you have some time to kill and want some local funk with your breakfast, definitely a place to consider. My advice, arrive early and bring cash, no plastic accepted.

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During a recent road trip which took us down 81 South, lamenting the closure of Dave's Taverna (I know, I know, the food wasn't *that* good, but college memories and all that), we veered a bit off the highway to Thunderbird Cafe in McGaheysville. It's about 15 minutes off 81 on Route 33 (East.) I had the breakfast burrito; part of what made it good was the mole-ish sauce on top. My road trip partner had the Mountaineer, which included two eggs, bacon, grits and two pancakes. The grits were really creamy, like maybe they used actual cream in them. The pancakes were huge. Huge like the two of them could have been a meal in and of themselves. If you ask nicely, they'll give you your coffee refill in a to-go cup.

This is the second time I've been to Thunderbird. (The first was several years ago while in Harrisonburg for JMU Homecoming and Little Grill had about an hour wait.) Although I'm not sure I was the best judge of quality on that first visit, this second visit lived up to my memories of that first satisfying visit.

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Any updates?  I'm headed there in a few weeks with my husband for his 50th birthday (he chose this over our dinner reservations at MiniBar). There is some Jeep Jam he wants to attend, and go off roading.  Apparently there are trails somewhere out there.

In any event, we'll have dinner Friday (it will be a "first Friday" in the downtown area), and there is a blues band he wants to see at Clementine.  The Taco Truck sounds interesting for lunch on Saturday, although we may be eating from food trucks at the fairground, depending on how the Jeep thing goes.  We have dinner reservations at the Local Chop House, which looks intersting.

TIA.

---

Cuban Burger (DaRiv18)

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While touring the Route 11 potato chip factory with the family en route to North Carolina, I asked the owner for nearby lunch recommendations, and her first choice was Cuban Burger 23 miles south in Harrisonburg.  I ate the best Cubano that I have ever had, there. They source the bread from a fakery in Florida. My wife enjoyed a Cuban burger with friend beef/pork patty and a flank steak. Kids split a chop chop: Flank steak over black beans and rice with veggies. Go!

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Thank you for this very timely post!  We were able to stop by Cuban Burger last night and second your ringing endorsement.  Great Cuban, tasty burgers, huge portions.  The appetizers were particularly impressive, a giant plate of freshly and perfectly fried chicaronnes dusted with chili and served with a delicious red sauce for $6, the best yuca fritos we ever had served with an addictive green sauce, a huge and tasty kale salad generously topped with fried pork for $10.50.  This will be a mandatory stopover for any future trips through the area!

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Thank you for the recommendations for Cuban Burger.  On Sunday, I drove my son to the Goshen Boy Scout camp for 5 days of 10 mi. hikes and bad food.  We stopped in Harrisonburg on the way to get him a last decent meal for a while.  I had the Cuban sandwich (really delicious) and he had the vaca frita (fried steak with  onions, Swiss cheese, and a lime/garlic mayo- he loved it).

On the way back, I stopped at Kline's Dairy Bar downtown (E. Wolfe St.).  I don't know if they still use the Electro-Freeze machine that Joe H. had noted above but the frozen custard I had (peach) was smooth and delicious.

 

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We've eaten at Local Chop House several times (daughter use to go to camp outside Harrisonburg) and found it to be very good.  I would definitely head back again and have recommended it to many.  Dining in that area of VA is notoriously bad and this place stood out in a good way.

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