Dude’s Drive-in, Christianburg, Virginia

Raise your hand if you can resist a place named Dude’s Drive In. Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? After a very good lunch at Due South, I drove across the gravel parking lot, crossed a street, and pulled into a space at Dude’s, perhaps 60 yards from my starting point, new personal record for time and distance between two lunches.

I’d seen the sign for Dude’s as I was looking for Due South.

It gnawed at my consciousness, such as it is, while I was eating at Due South. Much as I liked the tender smoky barbecue there, I just had to try Dude’s. So up I pulled at Dude’s. I perused the menu on the wall and made my decision. And obedient to the sign on the wall, I honked for service. I’m proud of that honk, by the way. It was as gentle as can be, actually caressing, an Alabama honk as opposed to a DC honk, which is a near relative of the New York City honk. My good friend Dale Leibach moved to South Carolina and had a heck of a time abandoning the DC honk. I almost got him one of these.

The carhop strolled over and I ordered a cheeseburger (a single) and a country ham and egg sandwich. She returned with my order and requested $10.10. That’s $10.10 for two sandwiches. I gave her a thousand dollars. Well, actually $15, but coming down from Washington, I was stunned by the price.

Here’s the burger, opened up. Not very pretty. Sometimes that great melting quality of American cheese backfires.

And here’s the country ham and egg, again, opened up to expose the country ham.

The cheeseburger came with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise, or so the carhop suggested, and I acceded. I really prefer mustard, pickle, and onion (see the outstanding burger at Winstead’s), but in reviewing places I like to accept each restaurant on its own terms, and eat the food the way they think it should be eaten. This wasn’t a great burger. I think a double would have had better balance, and I really do prefer mustard, pickle, and onion. Still, it did have an appealing flavor, and it was well worth the tariff.

The country ham and egg came on wheat toast. I think that was a mistake. Country ham should be served on a biscuit or, a biscuit being unobtainable, an English muffin. At last resort it can be served on any white bread or, perhaps even better, by itself, without any bread. The wheat bread really interferes. It adds a flavor that just doesn’t blend with the ham, and that’s a shame. The country ham itself was superb. It should have been treated as the star of the sandwich, the reason for having the sandwich in the first place. I’d also recommend a slice of American cheese (for its melting qualities) with the egg. Even with those quibbles, though, the country ham is a treasure, one that would carry any sandwich to excellence.

Should you stop here? Does a wild bear …. Sorry. Yes, you should. Every chance you get.


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3 thoughts on “Dude’s Drive-in, Christianburg, Virginia

  1. John,

    As long as you are travelling up and down 81, here is a dog-leg which you will not regret, if you do have not already delighted yourself at this one: Spelunker’s in Front Royal. What you want is their Cavern Burger with Cheese. Also try the Chicken Strips. Eat both while they are hot. I know, I know, chicken strips. Meh. Trust me on this.

    I live in the Western DC suburbs. I like Spelunker’s cheeseburgers enough that I drive all the way to Front Royal just for that, at least once a month.

    Warning: the burger is so juicy, you may need a bib.

    Also off the beaten path from Blacksburg/Christiansburg is Bootleg BBQ, which happens to have my favorite BBQ sauce, which I literally regard as a “sipping sauce”–sometimes used to enhance pedestrian pork, but more often just a nip straight from the bottle.

    Finally, in Roanoke, the Texas Tavern. Unique to both places is the Cheesy Western. You want to order it properly: “a Cheesy Western all the way”. Altho Lynchburg has a related business, the Texas Inn, with roughly the same menu, the Cheesy Western is an exceptional invention at both places. Again, I am more than happy to veer off I-81 to drive to downtown Roanoke for a Cheesy Western.

    Texas Tavern belongs in a museum of Ye Olde American Hamburger Joints. A place locked in time from 100 years ago.

    I can also tell you that trying to duplicate the CW on my own at home has proven to be an elusive dream. It’s tricky getting everything right, even though I did manage to duplicate their unique cabbage based relish.

    Happy travels.

    Harry Gilliam


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