Not long ago I accepted an invitation from Dan Casey at the Roanoke Times to join him for some barbecue at the Coffee Pot on Brambleton Avenue. On one of the coldest evenings this winter in Roanoke, with snow still in spots, Dan showed up on his bicycle. His online story is true.
We quickly figured out that neither of us care very much for chain restaurants. My experience is that you can end up bored to death with the blandness of most restaurants with corporate headquarters. Once in a while you'll get something good, but you certainly can't count on it being memorable.
You can come close to duplicating the setting if not the food in any of four hundred places without the likelihood of finding anything different about the experience. The fact that the setting and the meal aren't unique makes the whole dining event a lot less remarkable.
I might have found some pretty tasty chicken strips in Texas Steakhouses or a great sirloin steak in a few Outbacks, but they all run together in my mind.
I can tell you that I remember very well the exceptional fried oysters that I had in T&W's Oyster House recently. It was a cold Saturday afternoon. As we got out of the car, I could smell wood smoke which turned out to be coming from one of their two big fireplaces which help to warm the dining rooms. They actually didn't have any oysters on the menu except a fried oyster sandwich. The waitress checked with the kitchen which said it was no problem cooking up an order of oysters.
As you can tell from the picture, T&W's is a little rustic, but the food is great. I'll remember eating barbecue at the Coffee Pot with Dan and enjoying those Saturday afternoon oysters at T&W's long after I forget about where I had that great steak at Outback.