Saturday, March 13, 2010

Eating On The Road - Day 7: Sausage Gravy & A 5-Way In Columbus

Ralphie and I are in the home stretch. Despite the chronic rain, we had a great time putting on the miles through West Virginia and Ohio today. We ditched the Ohio Turnpike to Nowhere's-Ville and decided to take the smaller state highways to take in more of the local color. Every 20-30 miles we went through a small town. Usually, there was something of interest awaiting us. Lots of antique and resale shops, some Amish country stores, as well as a lot of historical architecture. (Pictured: The "Special" at the Downtowner - Ripley, WV)

Our day began in a small town in West Virginia where we stayed the night, called Ripley (believe it or not!). We left the hotel in the morning and drove into the downtown area where we found a number of places to stop. The Bargain Barn Flea Market was first on the list, but we thought we should get a bite to eat before we got into the heavy junkin'. (Pictured: Graham Cracker Pie - sure, you can have dessert with breakfast.)

On Court Street, we sited "The Downtowner," a sweet little diner that looked full of locals, which is always a good sign. We parked and walked in. There was a long counter and about eight booths. Most of the restaurants we've stopped in on this trip had a counter, which I think is great, especially if you are eating alone.

We no sooner sat down than the waitress, Tiffany, came over to see what we wanted. We asked for coffee and looked at the menu. Ralph and I both ordered "The Special," which included two eggs, ham, bacon or sausage (here everyone gives you a choice of patties or links), hash browns or home fries, sausage gravy and toast or a biscuit plus coffee. Eat this breakfast every morning and they'll throw in a complimentary angioplasty. But, what the hell, we're still on vacation.

The breakfast came fast. It was awesome - and that sausage gravy was filled with big chunks of fried sausage. Dunking the biscuit in this gravy was a complete delight. So, while we were eating our breakfast and talking about the plans for the day, Ralph happened to notice the board behind the counter that listed some specials of the day, including the pies. One of them was a "Graham Cracker Pie." He asked me about it and I had never heard of this pie, so when the waitress came back to the table, he asked her what that pie was all about. She told us it had a graham cracker crust, was filled with a vanilla pudding with a Dream Whip top and graham cracker crumbs on top. Ralph looked at me and then looked at her. "We'll try a piece." (Pictured: Ralph outside the Downtowner, located on Court St. in downtown Ripley, WV)

The pie was everything we thought it would be and more. The buttery graham cracker crust held a creamy, almost custard-like vanilla filling and then a thick layer of whipped cream was put over that. I can't wait to make one of my own.

After making all of our stops in Ripley we hit the road and were soon in Ohio. The journey is half the fun. I'm so glad of having the luxury of time to make a trip like this. Sometimes, you just need to get in a plane and get somewhere. Other times, like this, it's great to take your time and stop everywhere you want to stop. Get out, walk around, talk to people, and get to know a place that you never heard of before. One stop was Logan Ohio, where we saw the last surviving American factory that makes washboards - yes, they still make washboards and they make them in Logan, Ohio!

(Pictured: The Columbus Washboard Company - our nation's last surviving manufactuer of washboards located in Logan, OH. On the building, the world's largest washboard!)

We made a lot of stops before we got to Columbus. The Town & Country, packed to the gills, chugged it's way north and before we got to Ohio's capital city, we saw a sign for Skyline Chili. Since it was dinner time anyways, we thought we had better stop. Neither Ralph nor I had been to a Skyline for years. The one we wandered upon seemed fairly new. It was bright, clean and not very busy. We sat down and a waitress was right over. After ordering our drinks, we drooled over the menu and thought about what we wanted. There were two things we wanted - a Skyline cheese coney dog and a five-way chili spaghetti, which is topped with Skyline chili, onions, beans and cheese. (Pictured - Skyline Coney Cheese Dog)

Skyline's founder was Greek. This has something to do with the wonderful way the chili is seasoned. It's spiced very differently from Detroit's coney island chili, which usually has chili powder and cumin in the mix. Skyline Chili seems to have a little cinnamon in it, and some other Mediterranean spices that elude me, but man is it delicious! Then they pile on the finely shredded cheddar cheese. I don't know how Mr. Skyline came up with the idea of putting his wonderful chili on top of pasta, but it's pure genius. (Pictured: Skyline Spaghetti - 5 way style, baby!!)

Tomorrow we will be back home, but I'm hoping for one or two more adventures before we get there. (A sign familar with folks in central and southern Ohio)

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