Dining with Dan

Gas & Grub

One-Stop Fill-'er-Ups


by Daniel M. Walker, Contributing Writer


Dan Walker

“Fire up the ol’ Chevy, Nelly ... we’re commencin’ to set out on a road trip. We’re gonna hunt across Virginny for places a feller can gas up and chow down!”

Decades ago, it was not uncommon to find some uncommonly good food at a roadside gas station. The question I set out to answer on this adventure was, “Can you still fill your gas tank and enjoy something better than a ‘hot pocket’ in one stop?” As you travel across Virginia, consider these three combination gas station/restaurants for some good grub on the go.

Tuggle’s Gap Restaurant

At milepost 165.2 on the Blue Ridge Parkway sits Tuggles Gap, a restaurant, motel, and gas station that is a popular stop for Parkway travelers. In fact, Tuggle’s Gap owner Cheri Baker can stand in the restaurant’s front door and overlook the scenic byway. Cheri serves breakfast all day, as well as lunch and dinner. Along with local favorites, she also offers some Southwestern entrees. Since I rarely have an opportunity to try Southwest food, I thought I would sample her enchilada. I found that with this dish, as it is with French food, the sauce makes all the difference. Cheri’s Southwest sauce was full of flavor and bold without being overly spicy. And before leaving, be sure to try her Tuggle’s Gap Chocolate Pie. 3351 Parkway Ln. S, Floyd, VA 24091, (540) 745-3402.

Nottoway Restaurant

Nottoway Restaurant is located at exit 39 off Interstate 85 between Petersburg and South Hill. Nottoway is another combination gas station, motel, and restaurant. It has been a tradition with my family for over 30 years to stop at this long-lived establishment when traveling I-85. We always seem to arrange our travel time to include a lunch or dinner at Nottoway’s. Over the years the meals have been consistently good. At our last visit, I had a country ham steak, while my wife and grandkids feasted on Nottoway’s well-known Southern fried chicken. Another dish I often get, and rarely find elsewhere, is the grilled, chopped veal with brown country gravy. Also acting as magnets to pull travelers off the interstate are Nottoway’s fantastic yeast rolls and their chocolate meringue pie. Nottoway Restaurant is truly a blue-plate legend. 20316 Boydton Plank Rd., Warfield, VA 23889, (804) 478-7875.

Sting-Ray’s Restaurant

Now, having traversed almost the entire state of Virginia, my last combination gas station and restaurant is Sting-Ray’s, which is located near the north end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and Cape Charles on the Eastern Shore. And while my backside is a bit road-weary, the destination is well worth the trip.

Sting-Ray’s is one of those seafood restaurants where local fishermen bring their catch right up to the back door, so you know it doesn’t come any fresher! Combine fresh seafood with the natural cooking talents of Mary “Mac” Ray, Sting-Ray’s remarkable 74-year-old cook, and you know you are in for an awesome treat.

Sting-Ray’s manager, Russell Moore, recommended the Virginia Crab Imperial, which was seasoned with Smithfield country ham. I also ordered a couple of sweet potato biscuits with country ham. As side dishes, I had sweet potatoes, stewed tomatoes, and collard greens. My wife, a native of Virginia and a true collards expert, pronounced them exceptional.

I asked Russell the secret of his success. His reply: “While we get a lot of summer traffic from vacation travelers, it’s the support and patronage of our local customers that keeps us going. They know good seafood, so, if we’re not good, they’re not going to come. Second, the people from the ‘shore’ have been hit hard by the recession. Because of this, we try to keep all our entrees below $10.99.” Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 26507 Lankford Hwy., Cape Charles, VA 23310, (757) 331-1541.

My on-site taste research proves that there are still some gas stations in Virginia where you can find really good food. And, just like years ago, kudos to these restaurants for maintaining a strong connection with the community. Be of good cheer, bon appétit and let me know about your favorite “vittles” palace at dwalker123@comcast.net.


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