Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Carter's Courthouse Cafe

224 N. Main Street                                                                     
Hopewell, VA 23860
(804) 458-3874
Sunday and Monday:  6:30am to 3pm
Tuesday- Saturday: 6:30am-8pm                

A work assignment offered me an opportunity to begin my culinary expedition in the “Food Desert” that is Hopewell. I had high hopes that my inaugural would showcase a beautiful oasis in the down trodden city.  So as soon as my lunch break came I set out to find this hidden food haven.
 For most of my life I was under the misguided assumption that the only two places worthwhile eating at in Hopewell was Hardees’s and of course Quick Lunch.  My brother and mother recently enlightened me with a tale of a lunch excursion of their own at a little restaurant in the middle of town, Carter’s Courthouse Café.  Because of my trust in my brother’s palate and my love of alliteration I decided that this would make for a wonderful maiden luncheon.
Carter’s Courthouse Café is centrally located in downtown Hopewell directly across from the Municipal Building.  The restaurant has excellent parking with a huge lot right next to the building. Inside Carter’s looks like a T.G.I Friday’s that went shopping at an antique store. Although the air conditioner was broken, the use of well placed fans made it very comfortable.  There was more than enough room and seats for a gathering of almost any size.
The menu at Carter’s Courthouse Café was very impressive and if you could not find what you want on the menu I was told to ask and you might get what you’re really craving. The menu consisted of a large variety of breakfast foods that are served all day, a wide array of all sorts of sandwiches, and everything else from fried fish and crab cakes to steaks and pasta. The standout menu item was the Courthouse Challenge. You have 30 minutes to eat 3 pancakes the size of your plate, homefries, two eggs, and a 16oz porterhouse steak. If you do, it’s free. If you don’t, it’s $19.99. Either way it is a good deal.  I was all set to take the challenge but with an almost full workday left and the waitress warning me that “It’s really big” I chose to take the challenge another day.
I decided to start off with the green beans fries, $4.95. Served with a heaping bowl of ranch, they were exceptional, crispy and noticeably freshly made. After a lot of contemplating, I ordered the Courthouse Surf and Turf; a crab cake, catch of the day and an 8oz rib eye for $14.99. I ordered it without the fish and they took a dollar off of the price. The plate came with two sides; I chose onion rings and coleslaw. With the kitchen out in the open behind the front counter I was able to watch my meal be freshly prepared to order. I did not have to wait long before I received my order.
Already on a high because of the green bean fries, my plate looked delicious when served.  A pan fried crab cake nestled next to a char grilled steak and a tall stack of golden deep fried onion rings with a side of coleslaw.  While obviously full of the crab; the crab cake tasted kind of bland although perfectly cooked.  The crab cake was lightly fried on each side with a very soft center. After a few bites of crab cake I turned my attention to the 8oz rib eye.  The steak was a bit more medium than medium rare but still very juicy and tender. Unfortunately, the char on the steak, although pretty, was overwhelming and took complete control of the steak’s flavor. I am not a large fan of steak sauce because I’d rather taste the meat and not the sauce, but I had to use A-1 to overcome the charred flavor of the steak.  The thick cut onion rings were the highlight of the plate. They were fried until golden brown and very crispy. These did not come frozen in a bag like so many other restaurants.  The coleslaw was the long thick cut style not the fine cut mushy version. It was homemade and a good combination of crunchy and creamy.
                At just over $20 for an appetizer and surf and turf my meal at Carter’s Courthouse Café was a very well priced.  It was very filling and certain items were extremely tasty but overall I was not amazed with the meal.  But, I have to chalk this up to my own ignorance for ordering a steak and crab cakes at a café known for its breakfast and sandwiches.  Although I was not overly impressed with the surf and turf, with such a large menu and tasty sounding dishes I do plan on returning to Carter’s Courthouse Café and trying something different. I recommend that you do the same, but stick to the breakfast and sandwiches.

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