We finally did something that we’ve been meaning to do for a long time, visit Kenny’s Pizza & Subs in McCaysville, right across from the train station.
We don’t get to McCaysville much these days, except for driving through on the way back from the Mennonite market in Delano. But we’ve been looking at the sandwich sign outside for a long time – specials like grouper sandwich – and wondering, who is this guy and how is the food? When we’re headed back from the market, we’re usually not in the mood to stop anywhere, because we have all these incredible veggies in the coolers, and we want to get it home, fast. That may be about to change.
For some obscure reason, I was in the mood for a cheese steak, and there’s no one in Blue Ridge who does a good one, as far as I know. So … we made the drive. But not before calling them and asking if they do it on the flat grill. They do! It’s on! Turns out Kenny is from Vero Beach, and he moved here because Vero used to be a lot like Blue Ridge – small town, tourist destination – but it isn’t any more. He used to have a restaurant in Vero, and he told me when he first came, he was the guy who started Blue Jeans Pizza, in the old roller rink in Blue Ridge.
Long time readers know that I almost never mention a commercial establishment in my column, unless I really think it’s special. And those who know me personally know that I am one fussy dude when it comes to restaurants. There are about two places in Blue Ridge that I’ll even eat, the Brewery and Masseria. I’m also really narky about ingredients.
I liked the feel of the place, and I guessed it was a family operation. I was right. Kenny Pfund and his wife Char were working along with Sue, Kenny’s aunt. I gather that the two kids Keira (2) and Dakoda (10) are also around occasionally. Very friendly place. We got talking to a customer at the counter, and he recommended the grouper basket.
Prices are terrific, compared to Blue Ridge. The 16” large cheese pizza was on special for $7.00. This afternoon, we paid something like $14 for the 20”.
Here’s a link to their website, with the menu and some good photos of their offerings.
I was waiting for our cheese steak, and the place wasn’t busy yet, because the train hasn’t hit. And I see there’s stuff like shrimp and grouper basket on the menu. So I asked Kenny if the shrimp was wild, and he said it was. Then I asked if he was fobbing flounder off as grouper on the poor innocent locals – they do that on the coast all the time – for crying out loud. Kenny didn’t say a word, he just went and got it out of the fridge. It’s grouper. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was something to the effect that this was his connection to the town he grew up in.
So how was the cheese steak? Pretty doggone good. The only other one I like is the one at the View Grill at the golf course in Blairsville. They maybe get a little more char on it, which I like, but I’m betting I can get more if I ask for it. Value, preparation, and ingredients – Kenny’s, although I prefer to have the cheese under the tented roll on the grill instead of finished in the oven. But … when the train hits, the lunch rush must be heavy, so I’m not going to mark him down for it.
Danny Mellman is from Philly, and I keep nagging him to offer one, and he keeps playing it off, saying he might try it someday, it’s not the meat, it’s the bread, and he can’t get the bread.
While I was talking to him, I kept looking over at the pizza they had ready for slices, and I do believe I know a classic thin crust pizza when I see one. So we got a cheese pizza to take out for dinner. Kenny calls it “New York style,” but I think of it as the classic East Coast pizza. They sell slices, so they know how to do it just right to be finished in the oven. It was terrific. Took me back, and that doesn’t happen often.
If you aren’t into cheese steaks or classic thin crust pizzas, please forgive the rant. And I’m very aware that folks in Blue Ridge don’t go to Copperhill for dinner any more, now that Blue Ridge has beer. But, if you’re as nostalgic for some of these dishes as I am – I grew up in Pennsylvania, where I there are some pretty good cheese steaks, and not just down in Philly – and you don’t have a whole lot of objection to a good eggplant parm – lot of Italian folk in PA – you might want to give it a try.
If you’re from Florida, and you don’t get back much, you might give it try for seafood. We haven’t tried that yet, but you can bet we’re going to do that. As soon as I finish this column, I’m going to send it to one of my former buyers, who’s also from Pennsylvania. He judges restaurants on their cheesesteak and their pizza, so he needs to know about this place.
The place is small, but he tells me he’s looking for a bigger place. Might be a great place for takeout for some of you cabin renters.