My husband is from Lynchburg, Virginia, which is hardly the culinary capital of the world. Our visits here usually include dinner at a local Chinese restaurant, which is mediocre at best. But on a recent visit we decided to take some advice from Pamela Redmond Satran in her 2009 Washington Post article about “Fine, Funky Lynchburg, Va.” I had really not experienced this side of the town, so I was more than willing to check out some of the places described. I’m particularly looking forward to a restaurant she raves about.
The writer calls Bull Branch one of her “favorite restaurants on earth.” She goes on to say “Like Lynchburg itself, it’s that perfect blend of casual and sophisticated, elegant and honky-tonk.” Say no more. I decide this is the perfect place to go with my husband and my 80 year old mother-in-law.
At first glance I am somewhat horrified. The floors are grungy, the ceiling paint is peeling, the chairs don’t match, and the menus are a little worn. It’s also loud, which is not ideal for my hard-of-hearing mother-in-law. I’m wondering if someone at The Washington Post owed this writer a favor. But then I start getting used to the decor. My mother-in-law on the other hand can’t stop describing the room as ungapatchka, which according to www.urbandictionary.com is “a Yiddish word that describes the overly ornate, busy, ridiculously over-decorated, and garnished to the point of distaste.”
|Bull Branch interior|
But then the food starts to arrive. And it’s really not bad. In fact, it’s pretty good. I have lamb and fig kabobs with couscous. The lamb is a tad overcooked for my taste, but it is a nice combination of sweet and spice.
|lamb kabob at Bull Branch|
My husband has a North African fish tagine which features green olives, currants, and a tomato broth with red pepper. He describes it as flavorful and tangy.
|fish tagine at Bull Branch|
My mother-in-law is not so fond of her salmon, which she finds somewhat bland, but she is quite enthusiastic about the accompanying sweet potatoes.
|salmon at Bull Branch|
My husband and I end up liking our meal, although service is a little slow and while eclectic, the atmosphere is a little too run down to be cool. But it’s nice to branch out on a visit to his home town. My mother-in-law…she’s not quite feeling it. I have a funny feeling that next time we’re here, we’ll be back to that reliable Chinese restaurant.
Bull Branch, 109 11th Street, Lynchburg, Va.
My rating (on a 1-5 scale): 3.4