Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Oasis Family Restaurant
15182 Geo Washington Memorial Highway, Saluda, VA

Review by Diana, VagBoy

If you think ethnically, there there can be no connection to the word "oasis" ... for one, the owners are Greek, but they don't serve Greek food. No, it's called "Oasis" because it's an unassuming squat building on the side of George Washington Memorial Highway (Rt 17), somewhere between Williamsburg, VA and Washington, DC. There isn't much on this highway, so if you need to stop to eat something, you will find an "oasis in the highway desert" ... get it?

Anyway, thankfully, the decor doesn't take advantage of the incongruous name. It looks like any other mom-and-pop diner, whitewashed and pink on the inside. There is a salad bar and buffet for popular nights, but it was late on Friday night when we stopped in, and the place was largely empty except for a few local people. Among them, I figured out, were owners of other diners in the area; that they would come here for food and company is telling. Mind you, it's probably one of the few places left that allows smoking, so maybe that's part of it.

Either way, they emphasize "mom the cook" a lot on the menu, stuff like "mom roasts this on the premises", or "mom stays busy in the kitchen and therefore some items may not be available." No, I don't think either statement makes too much sense, but it's homey enough.

There are standard offerings like southern favorites (fried chicken, meatloaf, ham, barbecue platter, etc.) and quasi-Italian (but actually American) offerings like spaghetti with variations on a meat sauce, parmagianas and lasagnas. There is also seafood, fried or broiled, and things like burgers, salads (including fried chicken salad), and sandwiches. That's about it — not a huge, Hellenic diner menu. Noted below each group of "dinners" is mention that the meals include "1 trip soup and salad bar."

They have a Friday and Saturday night special of prime rib roast, either "queen cut" for $12, or "king cut" for $15. You get a choice of potatoes as well as the trip to the soup/salad bar. The soup tonight was chicken and rice. The description included the claim, "[Mom] adds just the right amount of herbs and spices. It will make your mouth water." So we tried it.

You get a basket of southern-style dinner rolls (reminiscent of the White Castle burger bun -- that size and shape). The soup was overcooked (the rice grains had split) and they used canned broth as the base, but it was tasty and not a "stew" like many "homemade" soups tend to be. The salad bar had small amounts of things like cucumber slices, chopped eggs, grated cheese, olives, onions, beets ... everything was cold and fresh, like it'd been put out not long ago — not sitting around all day. That's good!

The prime rib steaks came out and they were cooked just as we asked and it came swimming in a pond of au jus. It was frankly a commercial jus, but it complemented the steak; as you cut it up and ate it, the jus seemed to soak up into the bits and season it. Just as well I didn't go for salt and pepper beforehand. To our surprise, we ate everything, the whole big meal!

The waitress was friendly but not overly familiar, which is a good thing ... some of these small places, the people want to chat with you and know everything about you, where you came from, what you're doing here, do you like it ... Back home, we call that "nosey stalker grilling." Happily, this was not the case here.

They are unusual in the south in having unsweeted iced tea on offer, so I didn't have to grumble about having to order hot tea and cup of ice to make this beverage at the table. The fries were served on a plate separate from the steak, so they didn't go all soggy in the jus pond.

The tab came out to $34 for the two of us for a huge steak and fixin's apiece, and were were happy and sated. The food was good, the service good, the value good. So if you find yourself on this stretch of desolate rural highway, look for the Oasis Family Diner, especially if you are here on a Friday or Saturday night. (Don't know what you'd be doing here on a Friday or Saturday night, but at least they give you a decent reason to be!)

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