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Eating Our Way to South Carolina and Back
August 9, 2010
Early last Wednesday morning Wendy and I set out from St. James to attend a conference in Conway South Carolina.

Our first stop was the Cinnabon at the Molly Pitcher Service Area on the New Jersey Turnpike, where we paid $3.59 for a bag of Stix, which I found barely edible, though Wendy said they weren't so bad with tea. Her expectations were lower than mine.

Our first real meal was in the Cafe at Kimberton Village where we visited Alice in her garden and dropped off Hektor. We had the curried chicken salad with homemade bread and greens fresh from the garden, and bowl of cold cucumber soup. Our waiter was a young man, barely into his teens, named Bennie. Alice explained that the children who live in the village work for the community during the summer. It was a pleasant meal, reasonably priced.

We arrived in Richmond at around six, stopping for the night at the Best Western in Hopewell. The motel clerk recommended Rosa's Italian restaurant next door. Advertising itself as 'The Oldest Pizzeria in the Entire Tri-City Area', (Businesses on I-95 south of Fredericksburg are prone to the use of superlatives) Rosa's did well by us. I had a manhattan that was well worth the $5.25 we paid for it. Our waitress, Faye, recommended the pizza; so we split a small (actually large enough for two) pesto pizza, supplemented by salads and beer. The pizza was light and crispy, generously topped with fresh vegetables - broccoli, asparagus, and tomatoes. The tab came to $37.00.

We breakfasted on the complementary fare offered by the Hopewell Inn, which turned out to be lavish compared with the other motels we visited: cold cereal and milk, bananas and apples, hard boiled eggs, orange juice, tea and coffee, plus the standard munchkin cardboard muffins and grill-'em-yourself waffles. They offered a miniature 'sausage patty' on a biscuit. I'm not sure what it was, but when the lady at the next table put it in the microwave for a few minutes "to cook the grease out", it resolved into a puddle of black goo and a billow of acrid smoke.

We fared much better at lunch and dinner in Conway South Carolina. Armed with a map from the Visitor's Center, we stopped first at the Trestle, but when we found the waitress overwhelmed, we wandered down the street to Berni's Cafe, Home of the Spinach Cake. The place was empty, except for the waiter and the cook. Wendy had the spinach cake, and I went for the slow-cooked Angus steak sandwich on a hoagie with provolone. Both were exceptionally good. Best of all, our waiter poured us unlimited glasses of iced tea - a benefit we associate with Sammy T's in Fredericksburg. An enjoyable meal for less than $20.00. We were pleased to see another couple arrive before we left.

The high point of our southland tour was dinner at Rivertown Bistro in Conway, listed in Google as "The primier (sic) dining establishment of the northern South Carolina Coast". We arrived at seven and were seated promptly in an upscale lounge-like dining room. The Maker's Mark manhattan at $6.00 started the dinner off correctly. We selected two appetizers. Wendy had an eggplant stack - artfully constructed from a juicy sliced tomato layered with discs of breaded eggplant, and feta cheese, topped with a basil sauce. I chose the fried oyster salad - a bed of baby spinach leaves, topped with slices of hard-boiled egg, fried green tomatoes, and four plump breaded oysters, all dressed with a bacon vinaigrette. Just for fun, we added a plate of crispy and crunchy fried okra. With a glass each of the house white, the check was $55.00 for a perfectly enjoyable meal. We were disappointed when we went back Sunday to find it closed, as was the whole town (closed, that is, not disappointed).

We had our meals at the conference in the cafeteria where we mixed with the other attendees. Wendy loved the hot biscuits for breakfast. I laced them with gravy; she didn't. The grits were great. Salads and sandwiches, pasta, pizza, and similar fare got us through the next three days.

On Sunday, after discovering that the Bistro was closed, we decided to go into Myrtle Beach for seafood. Based on a tip from one of the conferees, we headed to Divine Fish House at Murrells Inlet. We were seated with a pleasant view of the inlet. Wendy ordered the snapper with roasted potatoes, and I chose the Inlet Carpet Bagger - two medallions of steak and fried oysters, with a Cajun sauce. All was going swimmingly until Wendy discovered a bug (fortunately dead) in her salad. When we told our waiter, Steve, he whisked away the uneaten portions of salad and more or less disappeared for the remainder of the meal. The food was good (except for the bug of course), but the service was second rate for an $82.00 check.

Monday morning found us heading back north. Since we were determined to make it as far as we could, we stopped at the Burger King off I-95 just north of Wilson NC. No need to describe the food there.

Evening found us in Edgewood Virginia, north of Baltimore, where the clerk recommended the Greek restaurant next door, the Piatsa. It was a strange place, almost deserted, in a room that seemed like an afterthought. We had salads. Wendy ordered the melitzanosalata - an eggplant dip - and I had a bowl of avgolemono soup, a chicken broth thick with rice and flavored with lemon. We were hungry enough that the food tasted good, though neither of us finished our dishes. The waitress, who seemed pleasant enough, disappeared for a half hour or so. The one thing that saved the meal was a large $5.00 martini. The $37.00 check seemed high for what we got.

Our last meal on the road was breakfast at the Station Bistro in Kimberton PA, next door to Alice's farm. The room was welcoming though overly air conditioned. The staff was friendly. I ordered fried eggs and bacon, which came with nice whole wheat toast. Wendy had the short stack of blueberry pancakes with tea, which she enjoyed. The bill came in at under $20.00, a true value.

It was a long way from the Cinnebon to the Rivertown Bistro, with an array of food, service and ambiance in between. The prices outside of New York make almost any meal (except the Stix) seem like a bargain, and wherever we went, the company was pleasant