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Clear Spring Country Diner offers country cooking

June 17, 2011

By ANNE CHOVEY

Special to The Herald-Mail

The Clear Spring Country Diner's claim to fame, according to its Facebook page, is that they "treat you like family and are proud to serve you." That sounded to me like a good reason to stop in and see them.

I took Pap Ricka and Mack Aroni with me. Mack is the king of mashed potatoes and gravy and I thought that the diner would be perfect for him. The diner is located on the far side of Clear Spring going up Fairview Mountain on the western side of town. The scenery is gorgeous and unspoiled. It is exactly the place that you would expect to find a home-style cooking restaurant, perched on the side of the road.

We entered at the front of the building where there were a few tables and chairs and a counter for ordering as well as a big ice cream cooler. A lady seated at one of the tables indicated we could sit wherever we wanted to, but said the back dining room was probably the most comfortable.

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We walked to the right, past another room of tables and chairs into the back where several rows of booths lined the room. It was decorated in a country style with a dash of memorabilia tossed in.

Our waitress immediately came over and got our drink orders. She was very pleasant and friendly. We looked over the menu. There was an extensive breakfast menu, which made me sorry we were there for dinner. I think, actually, breakfast is my favorite meal to eat out.

But as we were there for dinner, I kept looking. There were many sandwich choices all very reasonably priced. Pizza was an option and I saw that they had fried chicken for takeout as well.

Pap is always the sub guy and so he immediately decided upon a turkey sub. Mack, as I suspected he would, settled upon the hot roast beef sandwich. I couldn't quite decide.

I really love an old-fashioned hamburger at diner-style restaurants, but I wanted a meal. There was a fish dinner in two sizes, which I also considered. But after much deliberation, I decided upon fried chicken.

Pap's mother made the best fried chicken in the world while my mother never made it at all. We have often discussed what made Pap's mother's chicken so delicious and have sought out replicas without much success. I was eager to see how the Country Diner's version measured up.

I got to pick two sides with my chicken. The first I saw that looked interesting was red beets. I also ordered the "side of the day," which was supposed to be potato salad. Unfortunately, it was sold out so I substituted mashed potatoes and gravy instead.

While we waited for our dinners, our waitress kept our drinks full. The wait was very long considering that there were not very many people in the diner. But this was not fast food and it was clear that everything was being made fresh for us rather than kept warm. At one point our waitress apologized for the wait to fill Pap's iced tea, but said she made a new pot for him.

Pap's sub arrived first. He had two large hoagie rolls on his plate that looked as if they had come out of the oven that morning.

The turkey was abundant and the lettuce and tomato fresh. Instead of the shaved, see-through turkey you often getat sandwich shops, this turkey was thick cut and substantial. Pap was pleased.

Mack got his hot roast beef sandwich after another short wait. The beef was sandwiched between two pieces of soft white bread, just as you imagine when you think of hot roast beef. The beef was tender and moist. And the whole thing was smothered in beef gravy. He had a large mound of mashed potatoes on the plate, so he was a happy boy.

My beets were in a small saucer and were pickled and cold. They were very tender and good. I too had a big pile of mashed potatoes but mine were covered in chicken gravy, of course. Pap and I have a debate going over what are the best mashed potatoes. He believes that great mashed potatoes need to have a couple of lumps in them so that you know they are made from scratch. I grew up on boxed mashed potatoes so I see the point. These potatoes were without a hint of a lump, but the flavor was good and the gravy quite tasty.

The chicken was piping hot, obviously right out of the fryer. I had ordered two pieces of dark meat and I know that means one of the pieces would be a leg. However, the other was a back not a thigh. It did not have very much meat on it, so I was pretty disappointed. The leg, on the other hand, was plump. Overall, Pap's mother's legacy will remain intact, but the Country Diner's chicken was a pleasant experience.

If you love home-style cooking, friendly service and a beautiful drive, Clear Spring Country Diner is the place for you.

Anne Chovey is a pseudonym for a Herald-Mail freelance writer who reviews restaurants anonymously to avoid special treatment.

Clear Spring Country Diner

11855 National Pike, Clear Spring

Phone: 301-842-0214

Hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Food: 3 out of five

Service: 3

Ambiance: 2   1/2

Value: 3

Overall: 3

Food: Home-style cooking

Bathrooms: Large and accessible. Could use a bit of an update.

Parking and handicapped accessibility: Parking is available in the lot in front of the restaurant.  No accessibility issues were noted.

No reservations are required.

Clear Spring Country Diner is on Facebook.

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