Sunday, July 18, 2010

Soul Mountain Saves the Day

What do you do when the thermometer reads 95+, the sweating, singing pirate cuts out 20 minutes early from his free children's performance, and your kids are angry at the world from a lack of sleep? No, not the bar. We headed west to the Blue Ridge and enjoyed a tasty meal at Soul Mountain restaurant in Front Royal.

When we left the house, I actually had planned on only catching the second half of the singing pirate's show, based on my kids' attention span at a similar event. So
Ang and I were fairly irked when the dude in the soaked puffy shirt began his signature kick line with the kids on stage with more than 20 minutes left of his scheduled performance. The sun was roasting, all four of us were tired and hot, and the morning's plans were slipping down the porcelain slope like many other failed outings. Luckily, we were in a district park and the playground was new and just down the path from the amphitheater. After 15 minutes of conquering the volcano climbing wall, sliding, swinging, and saying hi to the turtles in the nearby pond, it was time to go. I overheard conversations from other parents in similar predicaments. "Come on, time to go. We don't have any sunblock." Apparently they were also victims of the singing pirates musical mutiny.

I love my oldest son, so I won't dwell on the walk up the hill to the parking lot. I will, however, give props to my 15-month-old for slogging up the slope unassisted. Once in the car, the situation was dire. Nemo on the DVD player and sippy cups full of cold milk bought us enough time to formulate a plan. We decided to take Hwy 66 West toward the mountains and leave the naptime battles for another day.

The short, one-hour drive to Front Royal was relaxing and a welcome break from our normal routine. We spotted our favorite apple orchard, Hartland, and a favorite winery, Naked Mountain. The hills got bigger, the traffic lessened, and the temperature dropped by a few degrees.

Front Royal is the northern access point to the Blue Ridge Parkway in Shenandoah National Park. The historic downtown is scenic and bustling with wine bars, a coffee shop, antique shops, a cheese and wine store, and other vendors catering to tourists and locals alike. East Main Street is anchored, though, by Soul Mountain, a quirky restaurant with a Caribbean menu.

Our second visit to Soul Mountain was just as enjoyable as the first, over two years ago. I love it when you can find a restaurant's owner toiling in the kitchen. That's the sign of a passionate chef. A wife/husband combo worked the floor as the server and bartender, respectively.

Natural light illuminated the seating area from the large glass windows, and reggae tunes played in the background as modern art mingled with tribal prints on the walls.
I was set to order a funky chicken wrap with a ginger sauce, but our waitress sold me on the special BBQ bacon burger of the day (see the pic; don't drool on your screen). The sandwich and krinkle-cut fries were flavorful and filling, but the little dollop of herbed orzo pasta salad made the plate.

People make a restaurant great, and there was no shortage of humans at Soul Mountain. Nearly every table was full by the time we asked for the bill - and they were almost all locals. A retired pediatrician approached us and shared some advice about raising boys - stop at two. Ha!

The friendly staff, personable patrons, ocean-themed restrooms, amazing menu, refreshing taps, and all around great vibe make Soul Mountain a must-stop oasis for Blue Ridge Parkway cruisers, hikers, locals, or exhausted refugee families from the D.C. suburbs.


  1. Hey, you forgot to mention the veg-friendly Spring Wrap w/ was delish! The kids sleeping on the drive home topped off the whole day! Angie