When autumn rolls around, we gather up the family and drive out to the country to buy straight-from-the-orchard apples and peaches. They are transformed into a dozen or so fruit pies that are frozen and then periodically retrieved from the freezer and baked - to the delight of our family and friends.
And so not long ago we headed out toward the Shenandoah Valley and Skyline Drive to see the fall foliage and to buy some fresh fruits. There are plenty of orchards on the way to Front Royal on Rte. 55, and because we had been fortunate enough to have lunch last summer at a delightful restaurant in that town, we decided to return there for dinner.
About 12 miles before reaching Front Royal, we stopped at a fruit stand to buy a peck of McIntosh apples. It took some diligent searching at other vendors, however, to find a peck of peaches as the season was nearly over.
Our shopping completed, we turned toward Front Royal in search of My Father's Moustache, a restaurant housed in a Victorian-style residence. We discovered the establishment more than a year ago on our way home from a visit to the caverns in nearby Luray. At that time, we cruised along South Royal Avenue until we spotted a brightly painted sign announcing the restaurant. There was also a picture of a gentleman sporting a handle-bar mustache.
Our second visit there was different from the first. Not only were we going to have dinner instead of lunch, but this time we were accompanied by our 9-month-old daughter. And it was raining heavily.
We were shown to a large table in a room decorated with turn-of-the-century-looking signs and knickknacks. The furniture looked old-fashioned, and may well have been antique, which reminded me of the sturdy old and serviceable chairs and tables still in use at the century-old Missouri farmhouse where my father grew up.
The highchair brought for the baby was also old, and it had been made without a tray. Our daughter immediately discovered that she could stand up in it and then leap for the table - and did so several times before our waitress brought a belt that we could strap around her. Although almost everything in the restaurant was old and well made, the belt was not, and the snap that held the buckle on the belt unfastened repeatedly.
The dinner menu is limited but good, and each entree price includes the salad bar and a baked potato. My husband decided to try the red snapper smothered in almonds for $6.75, an item on the standard bill of fare. I ordered prime rib au jus, medium rare, a dinner special for $8.75.
The children's menu consisted of chopped sirloin, $2.95, baked chicken, $2.75, and thinly sliced top round, $2.95. Our son selected the top round.
Soups of the day were florentine - spinach and rice in a light savory broth - and pumpernickel, which was a heartier stock with pumpernickel seeds simmered in it. Our baby likes spinach, and we ordered a cup of florentine for her, for 60 cents, and another for me. My husband tried the pumpernickel.
The salad fixings were laid out on trestles and dry sinks in adjoining room, which also had an old-fashioned gumball-machine that was a hit with the younger set. Along with the bacon chips, sliced onions, garbanzo beans, green onions and tomatoes that topped the lettuce, there were dressings that included a delicious blue cheese that was creamy and chunky.
The baby liked the florentine soup, and my husband said that his red snapper was good. My portion of roast beef was tender and extremely large - the piece of beef covered almost all the plate. My son's sliced round steak was thin and tasty, but because his broken left arm was in a cast, he found in difficult to cut the meat.
A guitar-playing singer was entertaining us when my husband returned from a short walk with our restless baby. She became transfixed as he gently sang and played. With more than a little encouragement from us, and others in the room, he sang several more songs. While our daughter stared intently at him I enjoyed a piece of lime pie, for $1, and coffee, 25 cents. We discovered later that the singer, Tim Battery, was a Londoner.
By the time we finished, we had become friendly with a nearby couple who had had the Maine lobster special. They said it was tender, tasty and large, and well worth the $10.95 price.
The remaining menu selections included top round au jus for $6.25, baked chicken for $5, filet mignon for $8.50 and New York strip steak for $6.95. Soup and salad bar only is $3.75.
Our total bill including tax was $23.92. Although we enjoyed the evening, I advise anyone with children as unpreditable as ours to try My Father's Moustache for lunch. Its cheery atmosphere and delicatessen-style sandwiches lend themselves to a less chaotic meal.
The luncheon menu featured 18 sandwiches on either rye, pumpernickel or white bread and ranged from $1 for either grilled cheese or cream cheese and olives to $2.50 for a reuben or french dip sandwiches. Club sandwiches are $2.25. Luncheon specials are available each day as is the soup and salad bar that costs $2.25.