Our Long Weekend in Virginia: Part 3

By our vacationing standards, it felt like Sunday had already been a busy and productive day by the time we returned to our hotel following our visit to the Civil War museum and brunch at Perly’s. But we still had another tourist stop and meal on the itinerary before packing it in for the evening and took care of the former when we headed back out to walk over to the Virginia state house, which was only a few blocks away from where we were staying.

As I alluded to in Part 1, the main reason we chose Richmond as a destination was our ongoing interest in visiting state capitols. Virginia’s is smaller than many, but it sits on beautiful grounds with other government buildings and the governor’s mansion. There are also several noteworthy statues on those grounds; the most spectacular being one of George Washington on horseback surrounded by statues of other important historical figures.

Virginia’s capitol
Another building on the state house grounds. I believe it’s a court house.
I have no idea if the governor was home.

We passed on a free optional tour of the portions of the capitol that are open to the public in favor of exploring on our own. The number and quality of the many statues and paintings that depict Virginia’s various historical figures and events of significance are spectacular. The old legislative chambers have been kept in beautiful condition.

The rotunda featured another full-sized statue of Washington at its center and busts of Lafayette and the commonwealth’s other presidents, not all of whom are shown below. As someone from the Philadelphia area, I have to acknowledge that no other state provided as many important figures during the nation’s earliest years as Virginia.

The capitol’s rotunda with G.W. front and center.
The Father of the Constitution
Those kids weren’t with us.
“Give me liberty or give me death!”
Sam Houston was originally from Virginia.
Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame.
Henry Clay, The Great Compromiser, was associated primarily with Kentucky, but he too was originally from Virginia.
The portraits are of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith.

This was unquestionably one of the most enjoyable experiences we’ve had at the various state houses we’ve visited.

It was nearly dinner time when we left the capitol and headed back to our hotel. 

While we didn’t suffer anything like the calamity that ruined our dinner plans Friday in Staunton, we decided to eat somewhere near the hotel rather than going anywhere that required driving. I’ve mentioned our vision issues that prevent us from doing much driving at night. But we had checked out promising-looking menus for two restaurants on the same block as the hotel, so we at least had decent options.

Having said that, I confess to being disappointed that we didn’t get to a highly-rated barbecue place I had lined up, but which would have required a drive to get to. In fact, after Friday’s dinner, I would say the fact that I didn’t have any barbecue while in Virginia was my next biggest disappointment on this trip. Another place in Fredericksburg that would have been a possibility is closed Mondays, which was the only day we’d be passing through that area.

In any event, The Tobacco Company Restaurant, which I had noticed online while doing pre-trip research, is directly across the street from the hotel and had a selection of steaks that looked particularly appealing to me. It had been a long time since I had a steak. They were one of the foods I gave up during my year-long cheesesteak project. I had been craving one for a while and was excited about the prospect of taking care of that itch. 

A view of the Tobacco Company Restaurant from in front of our hotel.

The restaurant goes back to 1977, but the building is much older than that and used to be an actual tobacco factory. 

They have a fine dining room – or possibly two – but it appeared that only the large bar area was open Sunday evening and we were directed to grab any table we like in that room with a promise that a server would be with us promptly. And so she was. 

After browsing the menu earlier, I knew I’d be getting either prime rib or a ribeye steak and went for the latter, in part because it came with bacon-accented cream spinach. I also ordered a cup of she-crab soup to start my meal.

My wife wasn’t up for a full meal and opted for a salad and a cheese-topped baked potato.  She also ordered a Lavender Bees Knees cocktail, which put her in an exceedingly good mood.

The bar area, where we sat and ate dinner. We grabbed a table by the windows in the back.
My wife’s Lavender Bees Knees

While my wife requested that both of her dishes be brought out together, I didn’t, so I was surprised when my soup and steak arrived at the same time. 

It turned out not to be a major issue, as it didn’t take me long to make it through the cup of soup, which was creamy and had a nice flavor. I don’t eat enough she-crab soup to say how it would stack up against other versions. 

The ribeye didn’t pack the intensity of flavor that comes with a good dry-aged steak, but it was more than good enough to satisfy that craving I mentioned. It was well seasoned, tender and cooked to medium-rare, just as I requested it.

But the highlight of my meal was the aforementioned creamed spinach. It’s a dish that I often find to be too rich at steakhouses, but it was absolutely perfect on this occasion. And the flavor of bacon shined through without being overly strong. 

My wife’s salad and semi-loaded baked potato
My she-crab soup
Ribeye with potatoes and bacon-accented creamed spinach

We were told there would be live music when we arrived at the restaurant and the small band got started just as we finished our meal. Their music was sort of a cross between jazz and pop. I was enjoying it, but after a few songs, we were ready to head back across the street for the night.

The night’s entertainment
A view of our hotel from in front of the restaurant

We checked out and headed north on I-95 in the direction of home around 10 a.m. Monday. My plan was for us to arrive at our meal stop in Fredericksburg around 11 and it went smoothly.

I learned of the Mason-Dixon Cafe from John Tanner’s blog, which I’ve mentioned here a couple times before, and chuckled when I first read his post. He mentions that it’s right next door to Carl’s Frozen Custard, which I’ve known of for years and stopped at in 2017 on the way back from North Carolina without taking any notice of the Cafe. 

Mason-Dixon’s lot was full when we arrived, but we found a spot on a nearby side street. The restaurant’s design is classic mid-20th century roadside America.

We were told there would be a wait for a table but were called up to be seated within a couple minutes of arriving.

Fredericksburg, Virginia
The view from the restaurant parking lot. We’d be heading to Carl’s soon enough.
The Mason-Dixon Cafe

Their menu featured a large list of both breakfast and lunch options. I opted for the former and ordered a Southern style biscuit with sausage gravy and a pair of over-medium eggs. My wife went the lunch route and ordered The Veggie sandwich, which came with very good sweet potato tots.

My wife went for The Veggie.
While I had a southern-style biscuit & gravy with a couple eggs.
We shared those sweet potato tots and both loved them.
The Veggie – obviously not ordered by me.
Biscuit & Gravy

I enjoyed the breakfast and the biscuit was wonderful, although I thought the gravy could have been a little thicker.

There was no thought of sticking around for dessert, as we were heading next door after our meal to sample Carl’s wonderful frozen custard.

Carl’s still makes its custard with old-school electro-freeze machines, which were much more common around the middle of the 20th century.

I remembered from my last visit that their strawberry custard is sensational and ordered a scoop of it on a sugar cone. My wife was going to get that, but has a thing about us placing identical orders and switched to vanilla. We each took a taste of each other’s cone and both were fantastic. The custard isn’t as dense as I’ve had at some other places, but the flavors are unimprovable. 

The custard is scooped like regular ice cream, but the staff at Carl’s are experts at making it look otherwise.

That’s all she wrote for this trip report. I’ll hopefully have another one for you before too many months have gone by. As always, thanks for reading.

Published by BZ Maestro

I live outside of Philadelphia and have been food-obsessed for as long as I can remember. After toying with the idea of starting a blog for a fairly long time, the extinction of a food-themed message board that I frequented for years prompted me to finally take action. Thank you for taking the time to check out what I've been up to - and eating. If you've enjoyed what you have read and seen, please consider clicking the "like" button and signing up as a follower.

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