The East Mountain Grill
Ain’t no mountain high enough
By Jennifer Wohletz
I have this tradition I engage in at the close of every semester (yes, I am still a lowly collegian) where I watch The Man from Snowy River in my underpants. It started out as a joke, but after months of midterms, finals, ass-kissing, no sleep and a jackpile of bad coffee, I came to realize that relaxation comes in many forms. And besides, who wouldn’t want to do an Ed Bundy on the couch and watch men doing man things. And mountains are just cool.
I put my ritual on hold this time in order to do some mountain trekking of my own, in real time. Now, for the record, I was a firm believer in the theory that the world is flat, and that it drops off sharply after Tramway, so my trip out to the vast netherlands of Edgewood to review the East Mountain Grill was truly a sublime effort, sans only a sherpa and a sleeping bag.
I and my mountain-climbing Honda spanned long distances, blew a good 10 bucks worth of gas and inched around rocky corridors, narrowly escaping danger at every turn (not really, unless you count being boxed in by semi-trucks from Wal-Mart). After what seemed like an endless journey, I discovered my destination nestled in a modest strip mall next to the John Brooks supermarket. I staggered from my car, dazed by the bright sunshine and the idea that I was finally, at great long last, going to get some decent trail grub.
The mountain-dwelling natives were friendly, and I was greeted by a tall glass of sweet tea to wash down the trail dust. There was only one thing I could do now—order a chicken fried steak to assert my womanliness. The salad ($.99 with an entrée) that came first was your typical fare, but the homemade green chile ranch got far less credit on the menu than it deserved. It was slightly thin in consistency--a sign of being house-prepared--tangy and warm with both red and green chile. I would have named it “East Mountain ranch dressing,” or some more exalted title, because it was durn good stuff.
Tossing back the greens first, I decided to explore my surroundings, as any mountain girl would naturally do. The restaurant is spacious and utilizes a business-savvy approach to spatial allocation: the three-tiered dining room. In the back there is a dining room for large groups, nice and quiet and slightly partitioned from the others; in the middle, there is a family friendly room with plenty of space in between tables; and, in the front, a diner-style area with booths and an island to showcase their full Starbucks espresso setup. They’ve also got ice cream, shakes and sundaes to pull in the singles, daters and hanger-outers.
My tummy was a-rumblin’ by the time I sat back down, and my supper was timely. The chicken-fried dinner ($8.50, your choice of chicken or steak) was an ode to mountain appetites everywhere, because the portions of hot, mashed red potatoes, plump sweet corn, hand-battered beef steak and thick milk gravy was practically hanging off the plate. The true test of a good chicken-fried anything is cutting into it: The meat was juicy and gave way to my hunting (table) knife.
Much like the man from Snowy River, I gazed with longing and some regret at the horses (entrées) that got away. Owners Mark and Carol Lowry (true mountain people in the own right) own and operate the place with a small staff, and Mark—I’ll call him “Mountain Mark,” as befits his status—chooses the menu items himself. With such table-heavy delights as nachos New Mexico ($4.50, or add $1 for chicken or beef), made with natural-cut potato chips, and the grill platter ($7.99, $8.99 or $9.99) with your choice of hand-cut sirloin, chicken breast or hamburger steak and two sides, there’s no shame in bustin’ your best Wranglers. The house special is the East Mountain thunder burger ($6.99) which is a hamburger infused with green chile and cheese, battered, deep-fried and served on a sourdough bun with lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion.
“I know this guy who orders it with cheese and bacon,” said Mountain Mark, with the smile of a man who knows what trailblazers really want.
The East Mountain Grill also offers a hearty breakfast menu including the staff fave “Cowboy” breakfast burrito smothered in sausage gravy and cheese, a Sunday brunch from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., daily and “early bird” specials, and a hefty menu for the little ’uns.
As with any trail stop, I eventually had to say goodbye and ride off into the sunset. This leads me to my only gripe with the place, which is: Too many trips out there and my saddle-bumming ass is going to end up at LoanMax to pay for gas. But on the drive home, I found an added bonus. The scenery is really breathtaking, and the view made me remember why it’s a good thing to blaze outta town every once and again. Unfortunately, my day of being a mountain girl was over way too soon, but I can still look forward to my afternoon at the cabin, underpants and all, watching a Snowy River boy grow a beard, round up some horses and get the girl. Fat and content, I’ll live to ride another day.
The Alibi Recommends:
IBC cream soda/vanilla ice cream float
Homemade soup du jour
The East Mountain thunder burger (arteries, schmarteries)
Fudgy wudgy cake
The East Mountain Grill, 150 Hwy. 344 (1.3 miles north on Hwy. 344) in Edgewood, 281-9111; Hours: Tues.–Sat. 7 a.m–8 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m.–2 p.m., closed Mondays. No smoking, credit cards accepted, espresso bar, catering, large parties, Sunday brunch.
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