Weekly Dining Round-up

2009 August 1
tags: ,
by Chuck Shotton

Lowrys_CrabThis week’s round-up includes two Hamilton establishments that are related. First, we stopped for lunch at Lowry’s at Wayside Seafood Market and have good things to report. When Lowry’s opened about 2 years ago, it was a bit of a surprise when fans of the old Planet Wayside first drove by to see what was now in its place. Long gone were the Planet’s funky dining room, outdoor deck, and the ancient rest stop “facilities” that were held over from its old life as a traveler’s rest area on old Rt. 7. In its place was a brand new building serving cooked to order seafood, with a full selection of fresh fish and shellfish in a great market setting.

lowrys2Lowry’s now sports indoor and outdoor seating, live music on the weekends, and is the only place you’ll likely find within 40 miles to get a bushel of steamed blue crabs to pick. The lunch crowd was impressive, with the indoor seating filled and overflowing into the outdoor area by noon. The daily specials included several “salad” sandwiches with sides, including crab, seafood, tuna, chicken, and egg salad for around $6. We decided to order from the regular menu, putting the kitchen’s blue crab acumen to the test by ordering the Crab Ball Basket and the Softshell Sandwich.

The Basket came with four big balls of seasoned backfin crab meat, a couple of hushpuppies, and a choice of side dish which was cinnamon applesauce in our case. The crab balls are just smaller versions of the crabcake elsewhere on the menu and were nicely spiced with large pieces of crab and a minimum amount of filler to hold it all together. As usual, the hushpuppies were nice and crispy, with a light texture that would have gone well with a little butter. While tasty, the applesauce could have done with a lot less cinnamon, which made it a bit bitter.

lowrys1The softshell sandwich was served with lettuce, tomato, and tartar sauce on a buttered and toasted bun, with a side of Lowry’s signature waffle-cut fries. The crab was a nice size, bigger than the bun could hold, and was very lightly breaded and cooked just so. Having grown up in Hampton Roads, one can be a bit snobby about one’s crabs. For a landlocked seafood shop at the foot of the Blue Ridge, Lowry’s does softshells better than most places I’ve dined at within a stone’s throw of the Chesapeake or Atlantic.

Our lunch with drinks and two entrees was about $25. That seems the norm for most sit-down lunch places in our area now, but still seems a bit high to my out-of-date dining sensibilities. Regardless, Lowry’s is a great place to head if you have a desire for some good seafood for lunch or dinner, or for some fresh fish to take home and cook. It should still be one of the more popular destinations for bikers on the W&OD with live music outside on the weekend, and it’s a great place to bring the kids, too. And nothing beats being able to drive a few miles to dump a basket of crabs on the table and whack away with a hammer for a weekend afternoon meal with friends. Lowry’s is at 420 West Colonial Highway (old Rt. 7), just west of downtown Hamilton at the old Planet Wayside Location.

Hamilton-General-Store-ExteriorOur second stop for the week was just a few blocks east of Lowry’s (52A West Colonial Highway) at the Hamilton General Store, which is owned and operated by the same family that runs Lowry’s. Wanting to find a bit of dessert to top off the seafood lunch, we pulled into Hamilton’s take on the classic small town general store. Much like its peers in Bluemont, Aldie, or Waterford, this is a classic general store, with local produce, organic meat, eggs, and dairy products, big jars of candy, freezers of ice cream, and the usual grocery items you might need in a pinch. Obviously the focus is on local producers, with everything from heirloom tomatoes to hand made candies for sale. The store would be an awesome destination for the family wanting a quick weekend outing. Leaving Leesburg along Dry Mill Rd. takes you on a nice, scenic 15 minute ride through neighboring horse farms and vineyards, the Loudoun Co. fairgrounds, and scenic little Hamilton. It’s certainly worth the short drive from Leesburg for a quick time warp to the early 20th century.

Finally, a quick update about one of our favorites. Thai Pan, the little Thai restaurant next to the Liberty gas station, recently received their beer and wine license. So now you can have a nice glass of wine or a Thai beer with your dinner. Enjoy!

Here’s a map to Lowry’s and the Hamilton General Store:

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