Travel Guide VA: Restaurant Memories from My 2011 Visit to Manassas

In July of 2011, I went to Manassas, Virginia with my friend Jeff to cover a Civil War film premiere for my other blog. It was a wonderful event, but the trip itself was less than stellar. We were hit with oppressive heat of 110 degrees and just seemed to have bad luck from start to finish. At the time, all I could remember was wishing I could go home. I was sweaty and plastered to the seat of his car. It made even the enjoyable moments hard to get through. Looking back on it, there was actually a lot of humor, some of which involved restaurants. I still remember them like they were yesterday and I also blogged as everything was happening to us day by day. Below are my restaurant memories from Manassas:

Murphy’s Law was in effect for us immediately. Between the heat, the traffic, and just about everything else, we struggled to get this trip off to a good start. Well, for that reason, it was fitting that we ate at the Philly Tavern in Old Town Manassas that first night. The experience was strange—not awful, just strange. We looked at the menu online at the hotel before we left, which was pretty big and had a lot of good selections. When we arrived, we found that they had switched to a one page menu in order to handle the supposedly massive crowd that was going to overtake their establishment that weekend due to the 150th anniversary of First Manassas. Whatever. When the waitress took my order, I asked for a grilled chicken Caesar salad. She then proceeded to stare at me for what seemed like ten seconds, before bopping her head up and down to write the order. She said, puzzled, “I don’t know why I had to think about that.”

The food was alright. There was plenty of chicken on my dish but it felt like strips of rubber. Jeff’s pasta had come with a piece of garlic bread, which looked great. Actually, it was the best looking thing we saw all night. I thought I could get one too. I flagged down the nearest waitress, because ours had disappeared, and asked for this monumental favor. A piece of garlic bread. She too stared at me for multiple seconds before nodding, never saying anything. Two minutes later, our waitress emerged from oblivion and said with a snarky attitude, “You asked for garlic bread?” to which I said yes. She walked away without saying anything. It was now getting awkward. I didn’t want it for free—what’s the problem? 20 minutes later, when the meal was at completion, the elusive piece of bread with butter and garlic powder arrived. I wondered if they had to knead the dough in order to make it. Before I left, I went to use the restroom. As I was washing my hands, I just happened to turn sideways and notice that there was a hole in the door. After looking at that, then at the toilet, I realized if you sat down to take a dump and looked through the hole, you could see a family of four eating their dinner…and maybe they could see you.

The next morning, we went to the Jukebox Diner on Sudley Road. We knew there was going to be trouble when we walked in and saw the eating area the size of a football field had only two tables taken, us being the third. There was also a sign on their front door reading, “Training Mode”, and that the official opening was not for a few weeks. Surprisingly, even in this stage, the food was excellent. I remember it being one of the best Eggs Benedict I’ve ever had. However, once again, the service was just a little strange. Being that there were three waitresses working and only three tables, the one we had was watching us like a hawk. She kept coming over and talking to us, which would have been great, but this was the morning of the premiere, and that is where our thoughts were. She kept telling me how the coffee was so good. Trying to sell me on the quality. But I was already on my second cup with no complaints. I was asked three times in a row, without drawing a breath in machine-gun style speed, “Do you like the coffee?” I replied, “It’s very good.” She then went on to tell us that it is the same coffee they serve at the Ritz Carlton.

Later on, Jeff and I were trying to place her accent, because it did not sound regional. We figured we would ask her. This is where the quote of the century occurs. This is the quote that put the exclamation point on our trip. This endearing set of words will be handed down into posterity for generations to analyze. I asked her, “Were you born here?” She thought for a quick second before answering in a matter-of-fact tone, “Well, actually, I was born at a hospital.” Was she joking? Being sarcastic? No. How do I know this? Because she went on to explain how her mother almost gave birth on the interstate while en route to said hospital. It was fitting a few moments later when we paid the check and asked for singles back as change that we were awarded a five dollar bill.

One more thing had to happen in a restaurant, because shit like this happens in three’s. This is not something major, but it is noteworthy because it had never happened to me  in my entire life before or nearly six years later. We were eating dinner after the premiere on our last night at a Denny’s a little before midnight. It was the only restaurant open in that sleepy town. The place was packed and even though we asked for a table since we were looking at three empty ones, we were still taken to a booth. It was when the waitress brought our food that it happened. Maybe it is a regular occurrence that has just eluded me, I do not know. When she placed our food down on the table, she hiccupped, right in our faces. Hiccupped! I just started laughing because I was delirious with heat exhaustion by that point. I cackled rather loudly, come to think of it.

Finally, it is worthy to take note of the amount of 7/11’s in the area. No joke, there is probably one on every single street corner and shopping complex. There are so many 7/11 convenience stores that there is actually one corner with two right next to each other, one with gas pumps and the other without. It was like a vortex that could cause the end of the world. Walk out of one 7/11 and right into another. Boom. Fire and destruction. Surely this must be an episode of The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling himself could not craft the shit that Jeff and I were blistered with over those three days six years ago. As Jeff so elegantly noted, “You can’t swing a dead cat down here without hitting a 7/11.”

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