This week’s Eating with Esquire took place at Talley’s Meat & Three in the Village Shopping Center at Three Chopt and Patterson. I initially heard about Talley’s through the William & Mary Alumni grapevine because one of the owners, Josh Bufford, is a grad of The College (you should all know I am immediately biased!). Then, my baby sister went to lunch there and she raved about it. My baby sis knows my eating proclivities and she has never led me astray, so her endorsement, plus the connection to The College made this a no-brainer for the next stop on the E.W.E. tour.
Place: Talley’s Meat & Three
Specialty: As the name implies, the Meat & Three – for the uninitiated, an M&T establishment is where you pick a meat from a list of choices, and then three sides from another list of choices. As this is a Southern thing, M&T’s usually also involve a choice of bread because why wouldn’t you have bread?!
As with my visit to Chiocca’s, my Pops was my partner-in-crime for this eating adventure. We went last Friday and the weather was cold and gray so both of us were looking for a rib-stickin’ meal. Talley’s did not disappoint. Here are the DEATS from our visit.
Drink: You’ll remember from last week that I have guidelines for the drink section. Unfortunately, Talley’s does not carry Dr. Pepper or Mr. Pibb so that was a little but of a bummer. However, they have root beer on tap, as well as Cheerwine. Now, I foolishly failed to include Cheerwine on the drink guideline list last week. If you’ve never tasted this sweet nectar, it is a cherry-flavored drink that hails from Salisbury, North Cackalacky. And they have one of my all-time favorite marketing taglines, “Born in the South. Raised in a glass.” That’s just A-plus. I love the stuff. So much so, I have a good friend from college who brings me some every time I see her. Having said all that, having Cheerwine on tap basically cancels out not having Dr. Pepper. Well played, Talley’s. Also, they had bottled Mexican Coke, which I of course had with my meal (and so did Pops). An all-around strong performance in the drink department.
Edibles: We sat down to eat, and like most places, Talley’s had a daily menu with specials and what not. Well, we happened to go in the day after Alan Rickman died (see my favorite Rickman characters here and here). To honor him, Talley’s daily specials all revolved around Alan Rickman characters, notably the Hans Gruber Yippie Ki-Yay Burger and the Defense Against the Dark Arts. The food could’ve been terrible and I would’ve raved about this place just because of the special menu. Awesome. As tempted as I was to get the Gruber Burger, I could not come to Talley’s Meat and Three and not go meat and three. One of the meat choices is the Cheerwine Smoked Brisket. Hmm, Cheerwine plus smoked brisket? Yep, I’ll have that. For my three sides, I chose the deviled eggs, mac ‘n cheese, and french fries, but it was very difficult not to choose fried okra or cheesy grits or cornbread stuffing. Really, I needed the meat and six. Finally, I chose Mimi’s jalapeno cornbread as my bread. They brought the plate out and the Hoover Dam broke on my tastebuds. It just looked delectable. The brisket was cooked perfectly and the Cheerwine reduction on top added a nice layer of sweetness to counter the saltiness of the rub on the brisket. The deviled eggs were topped with a candied bacon that made me wish there were more than the two that come with a standard side serving. I could’ve eaten a dozen. The mac ‘n cheese had this peppery bite to it that made me want a full bowl. I probably wouldn’t get the fries again – they were a little overcooked, which could have just been batch-dependent, but they were certainly the most underwhelming part of the meal. As for Mimi’s jalapeno cornbread, I need the recipe. Needed it yesterday. It would immediately elevate every bowl of chili you’ve ever eaten to another stratosphere. You got the heat from the jalapenos and the sugary bite from the bread – it was perfect. It is now my mission to try all of the meats, sides and breads before the end of 2016. Who’s coming with me?!
Atmosphere: My great-grandmother, Mom Bernice (pronounced BUR-niss), was, shall we say, frugal. She was tight. If we went over to her house as kids, she would tear a stick of gum in half, and then tear that half in half, and that was the amount of gum you had to chew. And we’re not talking these fancy, new-fangled gums like Trident Ice and Wintergreen where the flavor can last for like 20 minutes; I’m talking old-school, Wrigley’s Doublemint in the green packaging – two chews and all the flavor was gone. As you can imagine, for Mom Bernice, going out to eat was a luxury. If she went out to eat, it had to be some place special. Some place, as she would say, that had “atmosphere”. (It should be noted that she most famously described Lowery’s Restaurant in Tappahannock as having “atmosphere” so take that for what it’s worth).
Mom Bernice would love Talley’s. My understanding is that one of the inspirations for Talley’s concept were great memories on the family farm in rural Georgia. I grew up in a rural community and my Granny’s “friend”, Harold, (read, boyfriend) lived on a farm in an archetypal white-washed wood farmhouse. He’d take me squirrel hunting, let me get the eggs from the hens in the coop out back, and run all over the property. A country boy’s dream childhood. Funnily enough, he used to collect Coca-Cola figurines: the delivery truck, a mini-replica of a Coca-Cola freezer you’d see at an old general store, and miniature glass Coke bottles. You could put a penny in the freezer and one of the mini-Cokes would pop out. It was awesome. Maybe that’s why I love Mexican Cokes – subconscious memories of all the days I spent at Harold’s. Anyways, Harold’s front and back porches had those industrial, metal lights that could light up a city block. That’s what I envision when I think about being on the front porch or back porch down home, eating, and enjoying the company of loved ones. Each booth at Talley’s is lit by one of those back porch lights so it kind of gives you the feel that you’re just eating supper next to the screen door. It don’t get much better than that.
Transportation: As I mentioned above, Talley’s is in the Village Shopping Center and you can access it a number of ways. We just took Patterson the whole way, but you could ride down Three Chopt or get there pretty easily from 64 as well. It’s a stone’s throw from U of R, and if I was an undergrad there, Mom and Dad would be real unhappy with the credit card charges they’d be getting from Talley’s Meat & Three. There is ample parking becaue it is a vibrant shopping center so big thumbs up there.
Service: As part of server training at most good restaurants, the servers taste each dish on the menu. That way, they are equipped to advise their customers on what’s good and what their favorites are. You could tell that had taken place here. When my Pops asked, “What’s good here?”, our server immediately responded, “The Cheerwine Smoked Brisket is my favorite thing on the menu.” He then went on to tantalize us with the details of the Cheerwine reduction. Intimate knowledge of the menu and genuine retort to questions asked. Our drinks were never neglected and the food arrived timely and hot.
Final Verdict: If you don’t eat at Talley’s by the end of the week, I have completely failed with this post. Go there. Now. Bearded Barrister approved.