“Yes! Parking right in front!” Churpa exclaimed as I pulled Chuey alongside the curb in front of The Bluebird Cafe in Ukiah, California. At this point, we were already at risk of one or both of us descending into a hypoglycemic fit, but being extremely picky (and also creatures of habit), we held out for a place we knew served good food and beer on tap.
To our dismay, The Bluebird was closed. We sat in the van for a moment, gazing in silence at the lunch counter visible through the front window. We were both hungry and on the verge of cranky; ready to snap at one another for the slightest perceived affront. I pulled Chuey back onto Southbound 101 less than hopeful we would find a suitable place to eat before one of us snapped.
As we watched fast food joints, family style tex-mex restaurants, and gas station delis roll on by; our tummies rumbling and our blood sugar dropping precipitously; my principles began melting away.
“There’s a Wendy’s,” I thought. “I could eat a bacon cheeseburger.” But I kept it to myself, as I knew that the only thing worse than no meal for Churpa is a substandard meal. We rolled on, both struggling to keep the peace.
“What the hell! Why is it so hard to find decent food on the highway in the U.S.?” Churpa blurted as we passed yet another fast food joint. “Maybe we should try to get off the highway.”
As if by divine providence, we rolled past a plate, fork and knife sign pointing us off the highway two miles to a town called Cloverdale.
“Want to try it?” I asked.
“What do we have to lose? There’s bound to be a pub in the downtown.” Churpa replied.
As we rolled down Cloverdale Boulevard, our prospects looked dim. I was ready to pull over and run into the next gas station for a burrito or hot dog when Churpa pointed at a nondescript red building at the end of town.
“What’s that place?” she said, a hint of defeat in her voice.
I strained to read the sign: “The Railroad. . .Station. . .Bar and Grill. It says bar and grill. Let’s do it. If the food sucks, at least we can get a beer.” We pulled into the parking lot and nearly ran through the front door.
At first, I was dubious. Clean and well lit with several giant televisions over the bar, it had the atmosphere of a family restaurant, though several regulars sipped beers at the bar, and a cadre of ladies were enjoying martinis in the early afternoon. The beer selection was impressive, however, and I ordered a Racer 5 IPA, brewed in nearby Healdsburg. On the recommendation of our server, Churpa ordered a glass of wine, also from nearby Healdsburg.
Our server brought us menus, and I was happy to see their hamburgers were made with grass fed beef and came with a salad and fries for a decent price. Without hesitation, that’s what we ordered. When they came to the table, they were big, juicy, and perfectly cooked. The vinaigrette on the salad was just vinegar-y enough with a hint of orange and perfectly coated the greens (not iceburg lettuce, yay!). The fries were thick and not overdone. A delicious and satisfying meal that saved us from a horrible hypoglycemic meltdown. Thank you Railroad Station Bar and Grill!