11 April 2012
We are fortunate to live in an area that is beautiful, rural and filled with little history gems. Although Tavern on the Rail seems to be far away from it all (thirty plus miles from Fluvanna), it is worth the lovely drive to dine in the Tavern’s quirky atmosphere and eat home cooked food at a modest price.
The building where Tavern on the Rail is situated has a long history dating back to 1837 and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Originally built and used as a the Harris– Pointdexter Store and Depot for the newly constructed Virginia Central Railroad, the building was burned down during the Civil War and rebuilt over the old foundation in 1865. The store had several families of owners, many of whom had licenses to sell spirits as well as dry goods and other items.
In 2001, new owners Melody and Kenny Bowers carefully restored the building, with the help and craftsmanship of Melody’s father, a local native. They are only open three days a week as the population is so small, but they pull in customers from Lake Anna, weekend campers and surrounding counties.
This is another restaurant that begs to have the ambience described first. The parking lot for the Tavern is right up to the railroad tracks (with a fence keeping young ones off the tracks). If you are lucky, and we were, a train will pass by while you are dining, making your experience even more authentic. The dining room is up a short, wide flight of stairs. A handicap ramp and parking is located on the side of the building. When you walk in, you notice the old wood work on the floors, walls and ceiling. There are floor to ceiling book cases on the wall to the right filled with old knick knacks, memorabilia, dishes, toys, even boxes of cooking ingredients that I haven’t seen since I was a child.
My friends and I visited Tavern on the Rail on a Saturday afternoon and the place was jumping. First thing we noticed was a bride in a white gown and a groom in tails and another man in a tuxedo sitting at a table in the corner with several other more casually dressed people. In the adjoining room, a big party was going on and we thought they were all celebrating together. Not true. The couple was just married in a church nearby and was having their small wedding luncheon with some friends.
A much larger and more lively group was in the room next door, celebrating the birthday of Mrs. Bumpass, a long–time native and somewhat of a local celebrity. She was charming and several of us were introduced around as we passed through the room on the way to the ladies room (another quirky room to check out).
Let’s get to the food. It tasted homemade and was beautifully presented. The prices were surprisingly modest considering that the tables are set with linen tablecloths and napkins, the service is excellent and many of the ingredients are local. Here is a sampling of what we ordered:
Nancy and I enjoyed a cup of soup of the day, potato bacon soup at $2.95. It had depth of flavor and was rich without being too thick. The taste was mild, and the slice of country bacon added a little zest without being salty.
Our entries ranged from sandwiches to full entrees. Nancy C. ordered the Italian special melt for $6.95. She thought the salami, ham, and cheese sandwich served warm with tomato was absolutely delicious and the coleslaw that came as a side was the best she has ever had. Nancy A. had a very traditional southern sandwich, a poor boy at $7.95. The bread was crusty, the oysters golden brown and tender. Catherine enjoyed her Tavern hamburger at $6.95 which was not too large (quarter pound) and topped with lettuce, tomato and onion. She especially liked the sweet potato fries.
Myrna ordered the mile high meat loaf at $8.95 and the presentation was special. A tower consisting of two large slices of meatloaf on mashed potatoes, on Texas toast and the whole thing was topped off with gravy and onion rings. She thought the combination of flavors were great and large enough to have another meal from it the next day. I really enjoyed the liver and onions for $7.95, a favorite dish that I don’t make well at home. The liver was sliced thin and was really tender and the platter included tasty mashed potatoes and country string beans, which had a very mild bacon taste. There are quite a few sides available and you can add extra sides onto your lunch for $1.95 each. Side salads are just $2.95.
Of course, you know we were going to try the desserts. We chose two to share. The lemon crunch cake was moist, intensely lemony and described as fabulous by Nancy A. Catherine described the chocolate cake as dark chocolate, moist and dense with a little bit of icing – it was truly perfect. The desserts were $3.95 each and two of our ladies ordered another dessert to take home with them. All drinks including soda, coffee, and tea are refilled while you dine and are $1.95. The coffee is fresh and robust and the hot tea is served in charming china tea pots.
Tavern on the Rail
81 Tavern Road, Mineral
Open Thursday – Saturday
Lunch 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Dinner 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.