The Eddy Pub (Saxapahaw, NC)

photo courtesy of flickr

Having made the trek twice out to the wonderfully quirky and delicious Saxapahaw General Store (see reviews here and here), I’ve been excited to try their newer, more formalized restaurant, the Eddy Pub.  Both continue to generate plenty of buzz – see the recent NYTimes article about the town here.  But whereas the former lacks any ambience (being literally within a gas station), the latter offers a more refined gastropub dining experience.

To begin with, the space is lovely.  A sign just inside the massive door encourages you to “seat yourself, make a friend”.  Saxapahaw is a small community, and you definitely feel as though you’re part of it at the Eddy.  Seating is a hodgepodge of thrift store furniture and regular wood tables and chairs; a small bookshelf adds to the casual coffeeshop-like feel.  It’s as much a gathering place for a beer with friends as it is a typical dining room.  Indeed, a sizeable portion of the space is occupied by the bar.  In the evening, the place is cozy with very dim lighting, but I imagine that during the day the large windows and inviting deck (pictured above, perched high overlooking the river) make the restaurant feel rather expansive.  Either way, it packs an awful lot of charm, and it’s a very pleasant spot to eat a meal.

The menu is generally similar to that down at the general store, with a heavy focus on local meat and produce.  It changes frequently, but some dishes, like a burger, or fish & chips, appear to be mainstays.  Many entrees feature “mashers” (mashed potatoes) alongside a protein and vegetable side.  My wife selected the burger ($12) with farmhouse cheddar, Dijon, and mango chutney.  The burger comes with potato salad or fries, and when asked which she preferred, the server simply said “it depends who is making [the potato salad]”, offering no further elaboration.  Fries it was.  I went with the stuffed chicken breast ($18), which featured “house made white wine rosemary sausage & mushroom stuffing”, a squash gratin, and, of course, mashers).

As with our experiences at the general store, the food took a good while to emerge from the kitchen.  The burger patty was deeply charred and crusty, although the inside turned out to be remarkably closer to medium.  But the main downfall of the burger was the overwhelming amount of horseradish (an element unfortunately not mentioned in the menu description).  Even for fans of char-grilled burgers or horseradish, it was a bit much.  My wife didn’t enjoy it, though she thought the cheese was excellent.  The fries were pretty standard.  My chicken dish was equally disappointing.  The meat was cooked fairly well, but the tucked-under-the-skin stuffing was barely present, adding little to the dish.  The squash gratin was crippled by under-seasoning and what tasted like canned bread crumbs.  The best part of my meal was the creamy, garlicky mashed potatoes.  Overall, it was a bland and uninspiring dinner.  Interestingly, my plate also featured a large unidentified chunk (crouton??) of charred material.  Both portions were massive.

While we love the town, the general store, and the setting and vibe of the Eddy Pub, on our next visit we’ll be dining down at the gas station.

Saxapahaw General Store (Revisited)

Saturday evening we drove back out to Saxapahaw.  It was a perfect day for a lovely drive in the country.  The gas station/general store/restaurant was bustling when we arrived around 6pm.  They had a great menu scrawled on the chalkboard – coconut braised pork shoulder with fried bananas, braised local short ribs with mashed potatoes, local beef & pork meatloaf, walnut-crusted trout, and so on.  It’s true farm-to-table eating, as everything is sourced locally and sustainably, and just about everything is made in-house in the tiny kitchen behind the counter.  After surveying the menu, we walked up the sidewalk to the new sit-down restaurant and bar adjacent to the gas station.  It’s called The Eddy.  A massive wooden door leads you into a beautiful sun-lit space.  It’s small but cozy and very inviting – all rustic wood tables and chairs, complete with a bar and nice patio.  I perused the menu, which offered similarly delicious-sounding items and prices (roughly $12-18), with a few additions like pork carnitas.  The looks of the fresh bread on the tables and the promise of full table service were tempting, but it was crowded, and we walked back down to the gas station and placed our orders down there.  I went with a rock shrimp “pad thai” and my wife chose a duxelle stuffed chicken dish with mashed potatoes and green beans (both $12).  As we experienced on our previous visit (see post here), it can take a long time to get your food.  My wife’s arrived as a giant chicken leg with a delectable mushroom mixture tucked up under the golden skin, all resting on a bed of the potatoes and some brown gravy.  Mine was a much simpler bowl of noodles, but it was loaded with shrimp and topped with sesame seeds and peanuts.  It was spicy and filling, and the noodles were nicely cooked, but the dish probably could have benefited from more cilantro.  The chicken dish was also very good but wasn’t served hot enough.  That was kind of surprising considering how long we had to wait for the food.  As I observed on our first visit, everything was flawlessly seasoned.  In the end, it was richly satisfying food and a superb value considering the quality of the ingredients and the execution.  We ate it all up and vowed to return again.