Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ralph's Great Divide

On a recommendation from someone at Amy’s church, we decided to try Ralph’s Great Divide for lunch today. It’s one of those places you probably have to be told about, or else you’re just going to drive right by it every time and never stop. It’s on New York Street, just before you pass under the highway and then over the railroad tracks. Their website says that they are located in historic Lockerbie Square, but that’s pushing it. Technically, yes, but if you’re thinking of those big, historic houses and brick streets, those are on the other side of New York Street and a bit west of Davidson.

We were seated in a tiny part of the dining room just inside the front door, close enough to the entrance that we could feel the rush of cold air every time someone came in or went out; but the lunch rush was pretty much over, so the door didn’t open and close too much. It’s a smoking place, and the smell of stale cigarettes actually made me vaguely nostalgic for my grandmother’s house in Columbus, so close was the smell to that of her kitchen. The bar, and what appeared to be a larger dining area, were inside to the left of where we were.

The lunch menu is mostly club sandwiches, burgers, and ham sandwiches made with Dave’s Bourbon Baked ham, described as “Slow Baked Pit Ham with Bourbon and Spices” on the menu. I tried the Lucy ($7.99), a ham and swiss sandwich on grilled rye. The rye bread was nicely grilled, crunchy but not explosive, and the portion of ham was quite generous; but the cheese was sweaty more than melted, and didn’t contribute much to the flavor of the sandwich. Amy had the Frenchie ($7.49), a burger topped with creamy brandy and peppercorn sauce and smoked cheddar cheese. Again, the flavor of the cheese was obscured, this time by the rich sauce (though it was admirably peppery). She chose plain old potato chips for a side, but I had the pickled beets - something you don’t see offered as a side in too many places. They were perfectly adequate, but probably came out of a can. Same with the cream of tomato soup, which was hot and satisfying on a cold afternoon, but in no way unique.

Steak, chicken, and seafood entrées round out the dinner menu, but seem somewhat overpriced for a place that has a naked woman carved out of wood mounted on the wall over one of the tables. (It was mounted over the table we sat at, in fact, but I didn’t notice it until I stood up to leave. If Shaquille O’Neal had been sitting at that table, he would have dashed his brains out on her breasts when he stood up to leave.) Probably this knickknack was once mounted on a small boat of some kind, but these kinds of things always seem to wind up on walls at restaurants.

Generally speaking, it was a perfectly fine lunch in a quirky little mom-and-pop place. Their chili was supposedly remarked upon once by Bon Appétit magazine, so a return trip to sample that dish might be in order; but better sandwiches can be had elsewhere, and it’s over-21 only, so we won’t be able to take Jackson. We don’t get the chance to go out for lunch without the little guy very often, and Old Point Tavern is just a few blocks away—which makes the odds pretty slim that this one will ever make it into what passes for our regular rotation.

743 East New York Street

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