Tag Archives: national road

Lone Star Restaurant: Classic Diner Food

On several recent research trips to the National Road, I have found myself eating at the Lone Star Restaurant. Located in Markleysburg Pennsylvania, this Lone Star was founded 65 years before the better known chain which bears the same moniker, and is more in the mold of a diner than a steakhouse. I first stopped in for breakfast in the middle of the week and was a bit concerned that there were only two other patrons seated. I prayed the lack of business wasn’t a reflection on the quality of food or service. A menu was presented and I immediately noticed country ham was listed, which is a bit unusual to see this far north. Not having enjoyed that southern specialty recently, I ordered it along with eggs (over easy) and home fries. The only regional specialty I noticed on the breakfast menu was buckwheat cakes which were available seasonally. While waiting for the meal, I took in the interior of the restaurant which had vintage stainless pedestal stools at the counter in alternating black and red tops. The floor tiles were a matching black and red and the red laminate counter showed evidence of the presence of many elbows over the years. The pie safe displayed a tempting array of house baked pies, but it was a bit early in the day for me to get into dessert. The food arrived in a flash, as you would expect with only two other patrons in the restaurant, and I noticed immediately that what they billed as country ham was in fact a thick ham steak. I was a bit disappointed that I was not going to get my country ham fix, but that feeling soon vanished as I dug into the meal. The ham was a REAL steak, nearly ½ inch thick with a nice marrow bone in the center, as opposed to the over process molded products many restaurants use. The eggs were perfectly cooked and exhibited no off-taste from “butter flavored” oil, nor were they marred by extraneous bits of carbonized food from an improperly cleaned grill. The massive mound of home fries filled the rest of the plate, and they were prepared with freshly cooked potatoes. My only complaint was the potatoes were not seasoned. Yes, I can add salt and pepper, but the judicious addition of seasoning in the kitchen is a much better option. As I paid my check, I noticed the restaurant offered fresh-baked sweet rolls for take out sales, but those would have to wait until I drop a few pounds. Overall, a very good breakfast, but I vowed to return to see if the Lone Star could repeat the performance when the restaurant was busier.

Lone Star Restaurant interior
Vintage counter stools at the Lone Star Restaurant

I next arrived at noon on a Saturday, and the Lone Star was much busier as I had expected. Every table in the restaurant was taken, but there were still seats at the counter. My goal this time was to determine whether the food was as “home style” as advertised and whether they could crank it out when busy. The second question was answered in the affirmative when my food arrived just as fast as it had on my first visit, even though the restaurant wasnearly full. I started with a cup of chicken noodle soup ($2.45) which was advertised as being made in-house, and it was. Although it was a basic preparation, the broth was well made and seasoned properly. All of the ingredients were well cooked, with my only complaint being that the soup could have been a bit hotter. I also ordered an egg salad sandwich ($2.95) with a side of pickled egg ($.60). I know, a side of egg with an egg sandwich? Well, I didn’t order them because they were complimentary, I ordered then as indicators of how the kitchen works. I confirmed the pickled egg was Amish style, being prepared with beets, and that the kitchen knows how to properly hard boil an egg (not as cut and dried as you think).

The egg salad sandwich was ordered as a test of freshness and service speed. Egg salad easily spoils and also has the property of picking up off odors from a refrigerator when it sits too long. I could tell by looking the salad was fresh, as the kitchen had used red onion in its preparation and there was no evidence of bleeding. This was confirmed by tasting, and I was pleased to notice the toast was warm indicating that the sandwich was served immediately after it was made. It doesn’t take long for cold egg salad to cool down warm toast. Cream Pie at the Lone Star RestaurantI topped the meal with a slice of Coconut Cream Pie ($2.75), long a staple of the diner trade. This version was as good as I’ve eaten, with the impossibly high meringue showing no signs of weeping and the clearly handmade crust exhibiting no sign of sogginess. Although there was nothing terribly interesting on the menu, The Lone Star Restaurant offers up solid comfort food at a fair price. To me it’s no surprise they have been in business for 90 years, and I have no doubt they’ll be there for many more if they just keep doing what they are doing.
Lone Star Restaurant on Urbanspoon

A Tale of Two Roads (Pt 1)

 

Allegheny front on the Lincoln HighwayThe predominate geological feature of Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands region is the chain of mountains known as the Alleghenies. As a part of the great Appalachian Mountain Range, the Alleghenies are oriented in a northeast to southwest direction and run for roughly 400 miles from north central Pennsylvania to south western Virginia. The eastern edge of this range rises sharply and in colonial days posed a formidable barrier to trade and travel with the region west of the mountains known as the Ohio Country. This economically important territory was claimed by both Great Britain and France and precipitated the French and Indian War, the colonist’s name for the North American theater of the Seven Years’ War.

 

Fort Duquense at The Forks of the OhioThe preeminent strategic location controlling access to the Ohio Country was The Forks of The Ohio, a triangle of land where the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers form the Ohio River. To control the rivers, in 1754 the French built Fort Duquense on this point of land (now Point State Park in Pittsburgh). To take this fort from the French, two expeditions were launched by the British, the result of which are two major east to west routes through the Allegheny Mountains.

 

The first of these two roads was begun in the spring of 1755 in reaction to the construction of Fort Duquense. The British army, commanded by General James Edward Braddock, along with Virginia militia, led by George Washington, constructed a road roughly along the route of Nemacolin’s Path, an old Indian trading trail. Starting at Fort Cumberland (present day Cumberland, Maryland), it wound through the mountains in a north westerly direction for 110 miles towards Fort Duquenese. On July 9, 1755 Braddock’s force of 1300 men crossed the  Monongahela and ran into a force of French and Indians estimated to number between 300 and 900 men. The outnumbered French with their Indian allies, fighting from the cover of the woods, steadily picked off the British who insisted on trying to form battle lines as if they were fighting on the plains of Europe. After several hours of battle, Braddock was shot off of his horse and the resistance collapsed. The British then retreated back along the road where Braddock died four days later. He was buried in the middle of the road, to keep the Indians from desecrating his body, not far from Fort Necessity where George Washington had been defeated the previous summer.

 

For the next several years, the main theater of war was in the north, but by 1758 the British were ready for another attempt at taking Fort Duquense. Under the command of Brigadier John Forbes, a new route was begun starting this time in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Forbes took the route of an earlier road (Burd’s Road) to the town of Bedford, where he veered to the north, following another old trading route known as the Raystown Path. Unlike Braddock, Forbes built several forts along the road to act as supply depots and garrisons. After one failed attempt to take Fort Duquense in September of 1758, Forbes finally took possession in November of that year when the French abandoned the fort. Forbes named the site Pittsburgh after Secretary of State William Pitt.

 

For the next 180 years, these two roads remained the major routes through the Laurel Highlands region. The Forbes Road became US RT 30, the famous Lincoln Highway and the Braddock Road the National Road or US RT 40. And although the construction of the Pennsylvania Turnpike lessened the importance of theses roads, they continue to offer a wealth of history, sights and food missed by those who take the super highway route.