The Swinging Bridge: Paint Bank, VA
by Daniel M. Walker,
Paint Bank, is where heaven meets Virginia,” says Mikell
Ellison, manager of The Swinging Bridge Restaurant.
Indeed, the 40-mile drive west from Interstate 81 to Paint
Bank, located on highway 311, is one of the prettiest drives in Virginia.
“We don’t fit in any category,” says Mikell, “There’s nothing like us
Hidden away in the Allegheny Mountains’ Potts Valley, this
old railroad-town community recalls a time when hospitality was a way of
With The Swinging Bridge Restaurant, you’ll find a general
store, a gift shop with a year-round Christmas section, and a wild-game
The Depot Lodging offers accommodations from a
19th-century “Company House,” a log cabin, a cottage, and even a caboose.
Nearby fishing and hunting in both Virginia and West Virginia are popular
adventures for guests to enjoy.
This multi-faceted location also
features bluegrass music on Thursday evenings, and on the weekends, artisans
display their works in Tingler’s Mill, a historic grist mill renovated in
barbecue-lover's dream entree - a quarter
barbecued chicken and a rack of ribs; banana
In its promotional materials, The
Swinging Bridge Restaurant is described as a place where you’ll find “old
time Southern stick-to-your-ribs good cookin’ with a hillbilly gourmet
flare.” Visitors will find a real swinging bridge suspended above the
restaurant’s enormous stone fireplace.
The restaurant is known for its
buffalo dishes and the fresh vegetables grown at its own farm nearby. As
Mikell points out, “You never saw a fat Indian, because buffalo is 35
percent higher in protein and 65 percent lower in fat than chicken.”
Opening the menu, the entrée
titles caught my eye. For breakfast, you can dine on “French Toast with a
Drawl,” “Lighter than Air Flapjacks,” eggs and omelets your way, and, of
course, authentic Southern-style grits.
The signature sandwich for lunch
is “The Great White Buffalo Sandwich,” made with thin-sliced buffalo and
served on a hoagie bun, smothered with Swiss cheese with a light and creamy
horseradish sauce. This is served with Cindy’s onion strings and an onion
dipping sauce. Another unique lunch selection is “The Almost Famous Paint
Bank Sub,” served as a deep-fried bun loaded with chicken salad, bacon, and
topped with cranberry sauce.
restaurant's namesake swinging bridge, high
above its rustic fireplace.
I visited The Swinging Bridge for
dinner and found a menu featuring favorites such as rainbow trout, angus and
buffalo steaks, and grilled salmon. Two menu items really caught my eye. One
was “Carter’s Country Smothered & Covered Chicken,” a char-grilled chicken
breast covered with mozzarella cheese, smothered with caramelized onions and
topped with crispy bacon.
And on Fridays, The Swinging
Bridge special is barbecued baby-back ribs prepared outside on a grill that
looks like an old steam locomotive. As I arrived at The Swinging Bridge, I
followed the wonderful aroma to find Sweet Willie, the grill master, working
his magic with the ribs and chicken.
The bouquet of fresh mountain air
and rich grilling sauce combined with the sight of caramelized ribs smoking
hot on the grill left my menu selection no longer in doubt: a half-rack of
ribs and a quarter barbecued chicken. I complemented my entrees with
homemade applesauce and coleslaw. I also included the onion strings with
I was not disappointed! The ribs were fall-off-the-bone
tender, and Sweet Willie’s sauce was a grand blend of spices, brown sugar
and tomato base ... I think. As I often find when visiting recommended
restaurants, ingredients are a secret, and in this case, the sauce’s
composition is known only to Sweet Willie. What a great secret!!
I can’t leave my dinner discussion without mentioning a
special dessert. Being a Southern boy, I was raised on nanner puddin’. As
Mikell explains, and I agree, banana pudding often comes in a box and is
served with Cool Whip. By contrast, nanner puddin’ is made from scratch and
has a golden-brown meringue topping. There is as much difference between the
two as there is between living in the city and living in a little slice of
heaven. I highly recommend nanner puddin’ and a little slice of heaven any
I had received a number of emails from Cooperative Living
readers recommending The Swinging Bridge, and I would invite you to
experience the delicious food, shops, and lodging in Paint Bank. It’s where
heaven meets Virginia, and people gather to enjoy warm, old-fashioned
I’m always looking for interesting restaurants in
Virginia. Let me know about your favorite restaurant at