Dining in Grove

Yesterday, Sunday, January 30th, around 4:45pm, Miss Addie Alexander and I took off on an adventure to find another side of Williamsburg – a place we’d never been, and a place that would reveal to us something, anything, that we did not know about this place in which we reside.  When Addie picked me up, our discussion first fell to something along the lines of “well, OK, where do you want to go?”  It was liberating to be able apply my love of the unknown to an academic assignment, and to know that wherever we went, whatever we did, we would be doing the assignment “right.”  After all, there are no wrong answers in exploring.

Initially, we came up with several general ideas about the kind of place we might want to visit.  We thought of restaurants and churches, mostly, places where some of the essentials of human life, to many people, are expressed and enjoyed.  We also decided that we wanted to get out of the tourist bubble of William and Mary and Colonial Williamsburg.  With these thoughts in mind, we drove down Lafayette, past the very edge of CW, past some very empty-looking hotels, to the little community of Grove.  My boyfriend had done some work out there last year for the WDP, and under his approximate driving directions, we headed into the unknown.

The first thing that I noticed about the community of Grove, right along the side of 60 East, was that the houses have a very different character than those in the Williamsburg with which I am more familiar, not only because of their architectural style and occasional state of disrepair, but because of the juxtaposition of old and new.  We passed by condemned buildings, crumbling at their foundations, burnt out buildings, just sitting there, and then, suddenly, a brand new development of yard-less cookie cutter houses, internally compressed and externally squished by a trailer park and vacant industrial buildings.

To add to the strangeness of these crisp little homes, the road that ran through the middle of them was called “Algonquin.”  Poor Algonquins, murdered, decimated, and relegated to the street name of a twenty-first century sub-division.  In a way, the street reminded me of the frontier-style Taco Bell, a remnant of history manifest in a simple and unimposing homage.

After driving around for a while, Addie and I decided to venture in to a little sports bar and restaurant on the side of route 60, just past the Grove Christian Outreach Center.  I have to admit, I was a little nervous at first, due to the presence of a somewhat intoxicated man peering out the window and following our approach.  Despite the fleeting moment of hesitation that our on-looker caused, Addie and I ventured inside.  The place was dark, a little dingy, with the faint aromas of cigarettes and friend chicken – but also, a perhaps most importantly, the place was warm and friendly.

Sitting at the bar, with the glow of the kitchen as our primary light source, the two of us ordered Budweiser on draft (the only option), and a big plate of nachos.  Addie, who is a vegetarian, asked what would come on the nachos.  “Cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, green peppers, onion…you know, usual things,” replied the thin and tough woman behind the counter.  When the nachos arrived, they were covered, in addition to the ingredients that had previously been listed off, in dark colored morsels – ground beef.  I guess the bar tender assumed ground beef to be an essential part of nachos, perhaps as essential as the tortilla chips, and that therefore there would be no need to mention it.  The cultural attitudes towards food, and especially towards the consumption of meat, were immediately apparent, especially in juxtaposition to the knowledge regarding and acceptance of vegetarianism present in the “college town” portion of Williamsburg.

As we munched on our nachos (one of us more reserved in her munching than the other), people passed in and out of the bar.  Everyone there seemed to know each other – Addie and I were the odd ones out.  And sure enough, as we were finishing up our new meal, a new waitress approached us, remarked that she hadn’t seen us before, and asked where we were from.  She seemed genuinely interested, and also genuinely sincere in her hope that we would come back soon.  The woman, who had a strong accent (from some Southeast-Asian language that I could not discern), said she’s worked in the little restaurant for fifteen years.  A true local, I thought, despite my suspicion that she may have immigrated to the United States from another country.  The encounter left me feeling distinctly welcome, distinctly different, and distinctly satisfied.

Walking back to the car through relatively warm winter air, I was happy with our visit.  After driving back through Grove in the darkness, and back up Lafayette, Addie and I stopped off at the Bloom on Richmond Rd.  I went from a place I’d never been to a place I go several times a week.  I traveled from ground beef back to soymilk and Greek-strained yogurt.


About

The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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