While traveling, one of the great pleasures is to find a restaurant that isn't exactly like all the brass and fern restaurants that seem to be multiplying like a plague of locusts across the country. A true local restaurant has far more character than your typical chain eating place. Usually the food in the local spots is freshly prepared with regional if not local ingredients. Dining in one of these newly found hot spot can be memorable if you pick the daily specials and if the real cook doesn't have the day off.
Sometimes these places, become successful and end up as local chains. Lupie's Cafe in Huntersville, NC is the second location for this Charlotte based chain. However, it does look and feel like it has been there forever in spite of just opening in 2002.
You either stumble upon these restaurants through pure luck, desperation, or a combination of the two. Probably most teenagers would rather die than be caught in one of these places, that is unless they're earning their own money. Usually what sets these home grown eateries apart is good food, reasonable prices, and they are where the locals tend to eat. Our youngest daughter, Katie, is a local in the Huntersville area so we were operating from inside information when we hit Lupie's there (Google Map) on Meatloaf Monday.
We started out with an order of "Throwdown Nachos and Chili" after we found out that they were out of wings. The chili was tasty and spicy with lots of meat.
Katie and Glenda, my wife, both had the meat loaf and agreed that they could have split one order, but that would have meant that I couldn't have enjoyed some of it and that Alex wouldn't have had a bed time snack. The huge serving of meat loaf was accompanied by a couple of sides, which in their case ended up being green beans and macaroni and cheese since Lupie's were already out of mashed potatoes.
In a small local restaurant, being out of something is always a good sign that something tastes pretty good. Alex and I both had burgers, which once we got the toppings we ordered straightened out, were very good. Mine even had a real slice of tomato.
Of course we finished the meal with the house dessert, banana pudding. You can fake a lot of things but you can't fake good banana pudding. If this had been warm and just from the oven it would have been one of food experiences you never forget, but that was just the fault of our timing not the pudding. My guess is that at the right time of day, that banana pudding is available to customers warm, but we'll have to do some serious research to nail that down. At $1.95, the banana pudding is lot better value than the near frozen piece of cheesecake that Glenda and I tried to share at local chain restaurant last night. We ended up bringing much of it home to thaw.
Lupie's is good food, and plenty of it at a reasonable price in an unpretentious but friendly atmosphere. It's just a short distance off of Interstate 77 at exit 23. It's across the road from the Huntersville Courthouse.
Unlike many local restaurants, Lupie's actually has a web site with their menu posted so you can see their nightly specials. I just hope the web site doesn't mean they're headed to so much success that the food will change.
I guess our next visit to Katie & Alex will have to be on a Thursday night so I can try their "Chicken & Dumplings." I'll go into that meal with no illusions that they will be able to touch either Glenda's or my late Mother's chicken & dumplings, but what's the harm in seeing how close they get to perfection.
If you enjoy restaurants like Lupie's and want to slip me some information on these spots in Virginia or North Carolina, I will be grateful and promise to swing by if at all possible, enjoy a meal and do a post if I catch your spot on the right day.
It's only in the last month that I've had to alter our time of leaving for our Beaufort, NC visits so we can swing by the Barbecue Joint in Chapel Hill which I mentioned at the end of my post, "Back to the mountains."
Of course most folks in the Roanoke Valley know about the fried chicken that I have chronicled in my post on the "Homeplace." The Homeplace is pretty big business and never seems to run out of their fried chicken so they're almost out of this category of small eating places by default but that doesn't mean the food isn't very good. I enjoy the meals there especially if I can sneak in before the crowds show up.
If you want real pan fried, not deep fried chicken, you'll have to head to the East Bend Dinette which I covered in "The Great Fried Chicken Trip." Just make certain you go on a Thursday and get there by 11 am or your chances of getting a piece of chicken are pretty slim.
I have also written about the Surry Diner along I77 near Dobson, NC. The Surry Diner is a good spot when you need a reasonably priced non fast food, breakfast, burger or hot dog on any day except Sunday. Of course if you really want a southern breakfast with country ham you need to visit the Cookhouse in Cornelius, NC. (See my post Country Ham)
Then of course my friend Bob will maintain that I have left out the best spot, Odell's on Highway 89 East on the way to Mount Airy, NC from I77. Odell's is home of the "Big Moe" and the famous "Hot Dog basket" which happens to be one of the great values still left on the planet, but Odell's is a subject for another post and another trip. Here's a link to a picture of an empty parking lot at Odell's. The only time you'll see that is on a Sunday, when of course they're closed.