Eating on the road: Finally, contentment

We’ve been striking out on restaurant meals on this trip. Maybe not strikeouts — more like infield grounders. In general, it’s been pretty meh.

Tonight, I was at least pleasantly surprised by our dinner choice, and on this trip, that counts for something.

We spent dinnertime wandering up and down the Downtown Mall of Charlottesville, Va., which is a shopping district unlike any I can think of, save for Colonial Williamsburg, albeit much larger. About six blocks are closed to traffic, leaving extra-wide, brick-surfaced pedestrian walkways, with lots of outdoor dining in the middle.

The restaurant choices are modern and sophisticated. We considered a French diner, a few modern brasseries, a Latin place with a promising menu and all kinds of fusion.

And then we considered our wallets and realized $25 entrees weren’t necessarily in the plans.

So instead of $28 for steak frites at one place, we dropped $28 total for the three of us at Eppie’s, which I thought would be a hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop, only to find that the menu started with jerk chicken.

And that’s where I started. Some decent jerk chicken, alongside black beans and mac-and-cheese, which I picked from about a dozen vegetarian sides. The chicken was still crispy despite no doubt being prepared earlier and reheated, the baked beans had the pronounced, bayleaf-strong signature of being slow-cooked, and the mac-and-cheese was perfectly fine — better than most I had. It was served with cornbread whose texture was custardy — I should have asked how they did that.

What I don’t need to know about is the banana pudding. As we were leaving, Julie noticed a cook in the open kitchen spooning yellow goop from a can of Big Foodservice Company-brand pudding. Yes, just like us, they occasionally resort to canned pudding.

They also repurpose their leftover chicken into “hand-pulled” curried chicken salad — one of my favorite tricks for dark-meat chicken. Julie had it atop a generous salad (also in the photo).

All in all, not a bad meal. And with our vacation at the midway point, hopefully it’s the start of better things ahead.

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