The Surry Diner is just off Interstate Highway 77 at exit 93 in, well, Surry County NC, with a Dobson NC address. At that exit, if you’re seeking a winery, you may take the exit and two right turns to head to nearby Shelton Vineyards. Or if you need a very, very comfortable place to stay for the night, the Hampton Inn & Suites, more of an upscale Hampton Inn, is also on the right as is what I bill as the most beautiful and classiest Dairy Queen ever with its granite counter tops, though the Blizzards taste no different there as they do at some of the run-down DQs I’ve encountered.
But, if you desire a bit more local atmosphere and delicious food served in record time at prices that rival any fast-food joint, look left across Zephyr Road from those shiny buildings, look behind the CITGO gas stop, and find the Surry Diner. It’s nestled just to the left of the Surry Inn, nowhere near the accommodations as the Hampton. The Surry Diner is a local attraction that the site-seer must experience.
Yesterday was a business travel day for me and just after noon, I found myself at exit 93 and remembered the Surry Diner from a trip through there two years ago and a previous visit for dinner. Dinner at the Diner! I’ve always wanted to say that. Not sure why. The Dinner at the Diner included a country ham sandwich, fries and water. Dessert—a Butterfinger Blizzard—was across the street at Dairy Queen as I walked back to the Hampton for the evening and a visit to the wine bar in the lobby. Only Shelton wines there.
So, Monday, while driving north on my way to Mount Airy after a morning meeting in Statesville, I approached exit 93 and made the turn to the right. A few hundred feet later, I turned left into the drive that guided me to the Surry Diner. A few trucks and cars were in the gravel and paved lot, and inside there were maybe 10 patrons, or regulars as someone from Dobson might say. There were also about five people in the kitchen and a couple of wait-ladies.
After finding a booth seat in a corner and a copy of a two-day old newspaper to pass the time between ordering and eating, the waitress handed me the “specials” sheet while placing the standard menu on the table further away from my eyes. Across the top of the specials menu was written: “Meat, your choice of two sides, roll or cornbread and drink, $4.50.”
The sides list was extensive and included a variety of what someone in these parts may refer to as “country cookin’.” And there were four meats: Pot Roast with Whole Potatoes; Barbeque Chicken (which was really chicken barbeque such as pork barbeque); roasted turkey; and baked ham. When told the potatoes with the pot roast were not considered one of the two sides, I chose the pot roast and added green beans and slaw as my sides. Cornbread. Sweet tea.
My wait-lady smiled and said it would be just a minute. I started to open the newspaper when I realized she was returning to the table with lunch. It all looked good and smelled delicious. After a moment to study the plate, I went right for the green beans to confirm what I suspected. Cooked in bacon grease. Just like Mom used to make. The best. Cooked just short enough to keep some of the consistency but long enough to melt in your mouth with very little chewing.
The rest of the meal was good, too! The gravy from the pot roast was not the brown thick kind. It was somewhat clear and natural and invited the cornbread for a dip. Nice combination. The slaw was a little runny but using a fork instead of the spoon resolved that inconvenience.
The pot roast was tender and tasty and, especially since I am trying to drop a few pounds and since I still had to drive to another appointment and then home, was just the right amount for a lunch. The only disappointment may have been the whole potatoes which were larger than new potatoes and void of skin. Still, tasty and a nice touch to the meal. And, the sweet tea was, well, typical sweet tea, not too sweet, but a reason many of the locals do not enjoy the wonderful dry wines of the Yadkin Valley wineries.
At check out, at the counter in front of the kitchen where all the delicous food was being prepared, the total bill, with tax, was $4.68. I tipped $2.00, feeling generous, especially when 15% was less than 75-cents and 20% just a dollar. Neither seemed to be the right amount. I believe the wait-lady shared some of her fortune with the cooks.
This time, dessert was not across the street at Dairy Queen. Nor did I try whatever selections were available at the Surry Diner. I didn’t even ask so as to not be tempted. I wanted to savor the wonder mix of tastes of that meal as I returned to I-77 and found my way to Mount Airy for the next meeting.
“If you had been here a little earlier I’d have taken you to lunch,” my appointment said upon my arrival.
“Thanks, but I stopped at the Surry Diner,” I told him.
“Wish I could have joined you. That was a better choice,” he said.
Yes, it was. That’s exit 93, Interstate 77 in North Carolina. The Surry Diner. Next time you’re through that way, don’t pass by without stopping for a meal, the atmosphere and the experience.
As a way to support the North Carolina wine industry, do two things:
--Visit North Carolina vineyards and wineries. It's an enjoyable outing, especially if you use the time to learn more about NC grapes and wine production.
--Also take North Carolina wine out to dinner. This is your chance to showcase some really good North Carolina wines. Next time you're headed out to dinner, call ahead and ask if you may bring your own bottle of wine. Many restaurants allow it and will charge a small corkage fee. And be sure to show the wine to the restaurant manager and encourage it to be added to the wine list.
--To find NC wine in your area, go to VisitNCWine.com or the NC Winegrowers Association or several other websites (Google is a good place to start).