Our oldest is marvelous at picking perfect places to eat. Whenever we visit him, we always go to Flip in Edinboro, PA, for breakfast. This past trip, he even chose what we would each order: a Fat Plate for his mom (country-gravy over a whole host of yumminess including scrambled eggs) and a Johnny Smash for me. He also got a Johnny Smash---basically eggs, hash browns, cheese, and onions all smashed up together. My darling girl always has to order the cinnamon flips, too. These are like a heavy, cinnamon-y beignet.
We asked him also to choose dinner and, after sifting through the possibilities, decided we'd like Sprague Farm in Venango, PA. He warned us ahead of time that it wasn't going to be anything like what we might expect, but that it would be good. We pulled into the lot of what appeared to be a farmhouse with some gravel for parking and a bunch of cars also parked on the grass.
We followed Boot to a large barn, admiring chainsaw art (my favorite was a wonderful lion throne that looked fit for Aslan---or, at least, a Pevensie) and petting kitty cats. One gorgeous white cat was tucked beautifully underneath a bush. As we entered the barn, we heard live music drifting from the back. People inside Beerhalla (think Valhalla on earth, with beer) were drinking the house-made beers and wines and relaxing to the sounds of the band.
There is no formality whatsoever at Sprague's. Classmates of Boot's leaned over the balcony railing to shout a hello and little kids ran around. You find seats where you can---Boot says it's usually crammed with people, but the local fair was keeping people otherwise occupied and we were able to snag 3 stools at a rough-hewn counter. It was fun to look around and see all the random items displayed, from a stained glass window to a sign explaining that the cat and its housekeeper live there to an old tapestry depicting creatures from Indonesian mythology to old advertising signs. Eclectic is definitely the word!
You check out the whiteboard by the kitchen (called Bitchin' Kitchen), which closes at 8 or 8:30 on Saturdays. They'll have a few things listed---some sandwiches, maybe, some pizza, perhaps. Everything looked like something I'd be happy to eat, but the pizza from a wood-fired oven sounded best of all. I released all control of what I was going to eat to the others, offering to hold our seats while they ordered for us. Soon, we were all nomming on a basket of house-made cheese (cheddar and swiss, from the cows out back), meats (salami, pepperoni, and ham chunks, also from the farm, according to Boot), and warm, soft pieces of pretzel, all served with mustard for dipping. It was a terrific appetizer. We also shared one of the best Buffalo chicken pizzas I've had the pleasure to eat. Boot informed us that everything is made on the premises, with no artificial crap.
Oh, and for drinkers, you go up to the bar, which is the big window cut out next to the kitchen window and order what you want. You can have a mason jar of beer or jelly glass of wine for there or you can take a can of beer home. Boot had a rich porter called HellBender in honor of a giant salamander, while my wife opted for the grapefruit saison, which she loved enough to buy a big can of it to bring home with us. Boot chose the Niagara wine for me, since I'm not a beer guy, and it was lovely. A great night with my family!