Ramble On

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Local and Family-owned in Front Royal

Turns out, an old friend from Berlin lives in Front Royal (hi Mike!), which, at about 2/3 of the way to Hawksbill Cabin, is a landmark of the trip. This is mainly because it is the end of the freeway portion of the drive, and the beginning of a bucolic transition that starts with suburban Front Royal neighborhoods perched on bluffs along the Shenandoah River, and gradually winds through the widening valley, opening up to a view framed by the Blue Ridge and Massanutten Mountain, and filled with its farms and forests.

There’s a couple of things we especially like about Front Royal – of course, there is the little hamburger stand Spelunkers right there on our route ( http://www.spelunkerscustard.com/ ) . If we are on the short turnaround weekend plan, we’ll stop here for a Saturday lunch, or if I am on one of my Park adventures and enter at the north entrance, I’ll grab a bite here before going in. People tell me the custard is great – looking at the website, I realized I’ve never tried it!

Since we’ve been going out, another business opened along the road in Front Royal that I like to stop at whenever the schedule permits – Two Fat Butchers. ( http://www.twofatbutchers.com/ - and see the photo). For the most part, I just pick up sausages for grilling when I am in the store – I get most of my steaks and beef cuts from the Burners' Trio Farms in Luray whenever I can. But sausage is certainly not everything they have at this place…and frankly, I think it’s worth a drive out to Front Royal from DC all on its own.

First of all, there is a great story here. The first time I stopped in, with my friend Chris, we met one of the butchers and talked about some of their values as a family-owned business. The butchers have more than 26 years of experience combined, and work in the evenings to prepare the inventory (and dress the bountiful deer that the local hunters bring in during the season). Their wives and families work in the store during opening hours, making for a refreshingly traditional arrangement that adds heaps of quality to the experience.

After our first impromptu visit, Chris was inspired and made an order – he chose the “Six Pack Attack,” recently advertised at $166.66, and including: six pounds each of ground chuck, chicken, link sausage, pork bone in chops, and roast, and six premium ¾ inch cut steaks. That’s most of a winter freezer load for a couple. What made this purchase even more memorable is that he scheduled pick up on the Saturday night after we did our Duncan Knob climb (a three-part review starts here: http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2009/03/weekend-hike-duncan-knob.html ).
He was supposed to pick up the meat before they closed at 6 pm; but we were just summiting – see photo – at 4:30. So shortly after I took this shot he called them and talked about the problem – we were four miles from the cars at that point – and they offered that someone would wait for him to come by for his pick up. He got there around 7:30 I guess, but that also just goes to show what family-run business values are.
As I am writing this, I have the store flyer and am checking out the winter freezer filler specials – one is half of a beef (150-175 pounds) and the other half a hog. There are some great cuts available in these packages and they seem pretty reasonable priced at $800.00 for the beef and $149.99 for the hog. And here on the back of the flyer is the deer processing offering in two options – standard and premium. Last year they processed so many local deer they had to stop accepting them before the season ended.
Family owned businesses and locally produced foods. Definitely something else to like about the Shenandoah Valley!

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