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Riverside Lunch.

Back during the Paleolithic Period, I worked as a secretary to an otolaryngologist in a hospital. Fancy term for an ear, nose, and throat guy. And none of this “administrative assistant” bullshit, I was a secretary. I took dictation, made coffee, ran useless errands, and generally made sure he was where he was supposed to be when he was supposed to be there.

It was a thankless job. He ran the place like a fiddle-playing Nero, and the department administrator had a Napoleon complex. Two tyrants does not a happy workplace make. The highlight of my day was when my workmate Cathy and I headed over to the Skull and Bones for lunch. Now Cathy was a lifer, a real Joan Holloway, and she’d secretaried in the same hospital since she was 19. Now she was in her 60’s, which meant she’d done time in every department that ever existed, and knew the dirt on everyone. She knew what days the cafeteria chicken salad was fresh, and what times to avoid the ER. Which doctor was sleeping with who, who was drunk most of the time, and who was the real deal, an angel put here on earth to save people. A bottomless pit of useful information. Sometimes her daughter, also named Cathy, would join us, the two of them smoking like chimneys, laughing deep, raspy laughs as they gossiped and joked. I adored them.

I also adored the Skull and Bones. A real lunch joint. All the coffee cups and diner plates were ringed in red, the waitresses were surly and wore uniforms, and you could buy and olive and cream cheese sandwich for $1.75. While service might be surly, it was dynamite fast. We’d sit down at 12:07 and have our meals in front of us by 12:12, leaving us more than 45 minutes to relax, eat, smoke, and dish before heading back to the trenches. When they tore down the Skull and Bones, replacing it with a McDonald’s, I was crushed.

I bring all this up because back this summer* when Jennifer Marley, the lovely and talented blogger of Cville Field Notes, invited me out for lunch we ended up at Riverside Lunch. The minute I walked in, saw the cops and firemen chowing down, then looked at the menu lit up on the wall, fond memories came flooding back. It wasn’t the Skull and Bones, but it was pretty damn close.

Jennifer got a burger, and I (having just had a patty melt the night before) decided on the BLT. I’ve since learned Riverside is famous for their “flat burgers” and feel kinda stupid I didn’t order one. Guess I’ll just have to go back. Often. Because the food at Riverside is one helluva place for some fried greasy goodness. My BLT on wheat was PERFECT. Huge chunks of dark green romaine jabbed up next to huge slabs of crispy bacon overhanging the bread. Lots of mayo, lots of crunch, lots of grease, lots of yum. Ditto the basket of fries we shared on the waitress’s recommendation. Good thing too, because this was a HUGE portion. Took the remainder home (also on the waitress’s recommendation), and made delicious homefries the next day with some peppers and onions.

Speaking of the waitress, she was a doll. Gum-chewing, chatty-Cathy friendly. Loved her. Even when Jennifer and I hogged her table for almost 2 hours gabbing she didn’t mind, just kept refilling our iced teas. Asking whether we liked the food and whether we’d ever been in before. Real small-town greasy spoon diner talk. My kinda people.

And yes, Jennifer and I talked for almost 2 hours because she’s great! Her and her boyfriend just moved to Charlottesville, and her blog, Cville Field Notes, is a blow-by-blow, day-to-day experience of our fair ‘ville from a newbie’s perspective. Her breakdown of the Craig’s List listings alone are howlingly funny.

Her boyfriend has just launched Potter’s Craft Cider, soon to be found in every store near you. Great news for this food writer, who just happens to be obsessed with hard cider and always wonders why we don’t have more local brands.. . . I mean, we are an APPLE state after all. Not just grapes growin’ here you know.

We talked and talked, then talked some more. And as we left, making plans for cocktails and cider sometime soon, and I saw the humongous line of Harleys in the parking lot, I knew I’d be back. I hear their onion rings are outta this world…

*I am woefully late, once again, on this blog musing slash review of my time with Jennifer. To her I apologize. I blame old age memory loss, as I wrote this a while ago, and just discovered the draft on my desktop. Published to coincide with the debut of Potter’s Craft Hard Cider THIS WEEK. So there’s that :D

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