It’s been almost a year since we last visited Roanoke and the Eshlemans’ Joseph Decuis Wagyu Farm.

This year, the Eshelmans introduced a new venue at their Joseph Decuis Restaurant, called “Blue Jeans, Burgers and Beer” night every Friday from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend.

So, Aug. 30th was the night for this special outdoor event where they serve grilled burgers, small plates and cold beer in their courtyard.

With our grandson Eli now working as a prep chef in Joseph Decuis’ kitchen, we were looking forward to seeing him and gobbling-down one of the Eshelmans’ fabulous Wagyu burgers from the cattle specially raised at their farm.

THE DOWNSIDE

Being nearly an hour drive from Lake Country, we decided to arrive early, and when we did, the two-block-long main drag was packed with cars. We expected a busy night and it truly was.

We were told an hour wait for the courtyard venue. That was a real downer. Who wants to wait an hour for a burger? So, we left our phone number in case an opening occurred earlier than expected, said hello to our grandson and contemplated our next maneuver.

THE UPSIDE

Across the street from the Joseph Decuis Restaurant is a great little joint called the Roanoke Village Inn. It’s been serving the Roanoke community for more than 70 years and is highly popular with the local crowd. Many come just for the early bird specials served from 4 to 6 p.m. every day. These specials are for smaller appetites and feature two fish choices, two chicken choices, ribs and sirloin steak. Each dinner comes with the choice of two sides and are less than $15, except the steak, which is $15.99.

Owners Jay and Jodie Geiger are also famous for their broiled haddock, hand-cut steaks and ribs. On Friday and Saturday, they feature prime rib — claimed to be the best around.

So, we headed over to check it out. Surprisingly, we were seated immediately at the only remaining open booth. Sweet! We and our two friends settled in and perused the menu. The ladies settled on shrimp, while the other friend ordered the barbecued pork chop. I’ve heard too much about the prime rib and went with that knowing that I couldn’t eat all of the 12-ounce portion.

The shrimp appetizer skewer was perfectly grilled. The thick chop was slathered with barbecue sauce and was hammered. My prime rib was a perfect medium-rare and the jus was fresh-made, not greasy, and served at the right temperature. It was more than enough, and the leftover was shared for dinner a couple days later.

Each dinner comes with your choice of two of the 17 side selections, and one of the more popular sides are the Lyonnaise potatoes. These are unique to the Village Inn and nearly everyone has to try them. Pan-fried crispy, the thinly sliced potato-onion concoction complemented the prime rib nicely. There were no leftover potatoes.

The Roanoke Village Inn was an excellent alternative on this night. We were able to eat and head home before dark. Halfway home we got the call that our table was ready at Joseph Decuis. It was over an hour and half after we arrived. We made the right choice and went away content.

This weekend is Roanoke’s annual Fall Festival, and their popular farmer’s market will be open today.

Oct. 12 is Renaissance in Roanoke. It’s the town’s annual outdoor art festival and attracts artists from near and far. The restaurants are always packed for these special events.

We’ll go back to Roanoke again soon. There’s unique shopping, the Joseph Decuis Emporium, which serves lunch and sells all things from the farm, a couple butcher shops and these two fine restaurants.

Also, just down the road is the Two EE’s Winery that has a large tasting room and some really fine wines.

Roanoke is a great place to take out-of-town guests. With all that this little burg has going-on, the trip is more than worthwhile.

Loren Shaum is an automation engineering consultant, retired pilot, author, home gardener and sometimes chef. He and Gayle reside in Syracuse. He can be contacted at comtec@kcaccess.com.

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