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Trailblazers: Restaurant offers large portions for reasonable prices

By Ben Orcutt -- borcutt@nvdaily.com

Edwin and LuAnne England
Edwin and LuAnne England, of Ohio, stopped in Trailblazers Cafe, at 510 S. Royal Ave. in Front Royal, for a meal while on vacation. Dennis Grundman/Daily

Scott Williams, chef and manager of Trailblazers Cafe
Scott Williams, chef and manager of Trailblazers Cafe, prepares a loose meat sandwich. Dennis Grundman/Daily

Gary Kearney, owner of Trailblazers
Gary Kearney, owner of Trailblazers, chops some vegetables recently. Dennis Grundman/Daily

FRONT ROYAL -- If you're looking for an alternative to fast food at a low price, Trailblazers Cafe has a table waiting for you.

The new Front Royal eatery at 510 S. Royal Ave. has only been open for about four weeks but already is developing a loyal following, which includes Brandon McCreary, the owner of Weasel Creek Outfitters, which shares the same building as the restaurant.

"It's a great cafe," said McCreary, 35. "I love their food."

Edwin England, 44, and his wife, LuAnne, 45, of Westerville, Ohio, stopped by Trailblazers recently while on a trip to the Shenandoah Valley.

"We were looking for a local place that served American food," England said.

Mrs. England added that they wanted to find a restaurant that was "unique."

From the contented looks on their faces, Trailblazers, with its bright colors and cozy ambiance, seemed to fit the bill. The Englands both enjoyed a plate of pork ribs with two side dishes.

"It's good," England said. "It's well-cooked. It's spicy. Tasty potato salad cools it off."

A half rack of ribs with two sides goes for $10.95 and the quarter rack with two sides is $5.95.

"I got the macaroni and cheese and the cole slaw," Mrs. England added. "Very tasty unique flavors that really are comfort foods."

Bob and Annette Ensley, both 58, of Potomac Falls, visited Trailblazers with friends Sydney Herrmann, 80, and his wife, Coral, 74, from Australia.

"We were on the Skyline Drive and drove into the clouds and we turned around, came back and we said, 'Man, it's time to eat,'" Ensley said.

The quartet all got the pulled pork barbecue sandwich with chips and a soft drink for $4.95.

"We love pork," Herrmann said, noting the reasonable price and hefty portion of barbecue.

Mrs. Herrmann rated the cafe's atmosphere and food as "one hundred percent."

Scott Williams, 28, of Bentonville, is manager and chef for Trailblazers and knows a thing or two about preparing good food, having trained at the Denver Culinary Institute and further honing his skills in Mobile, Ala.

Williams didn't hesitate when asked about some of the customer favorites.

"Definitely my jalapeno bleu cheese burger," he said. "People really like that and my ribs, pulled pork. Pulled chicken's a pretty big seller too. I'm also reaching out to the vegetarians. They like my vegetarian wraps."

Business has been good, Williams said, especially on the weekends when more tourists stop by. Trailblazers also is trying to attract hikers coming off the Appalachian Trail looking for a hearty meal.

Gary Kearney, 38, owns Trailblazers and Soul Mountain Restaurant on Main Street as well. With Weasel Creek Outfitters headed back to its former location on Main Street, Kearney said Trailblazers may expand.

Kearney said the $4.95 daily lunch special, which includes a sandwich, chips and a drink, could be referred to as Trailblazers' "stimulus package."

"The whole idea is to catch folks and once they catch those flavors, the first thing in their minds is like, 'How can they do it for $4.95? It must be garbage or whatever,'" Kearney said. "They come in and their mind is blown at that time."

In addition to a menu that also includes seafood dishes, Trailblazers has some sandwiches that are appropriately named for the area and are priced at $5.99, with a drink and chips. There's the Appalachian, which comes with ham, turkey, roast beef and choice of cheese. Then there's the Shenandoah, which consists of roast beef and choice of cheese, and the Hogwallow, with ham and choice of cheese.

With the large portions, Williams offers a challenge to the hungry.

"If you come in here on an empty stomach, you're leaving full and you're gonna come back," he said.

That holds true for Warren County residents Marnie Stillman, 40, and her daughter, Carli, 17.

"We've passed it many times, but today we just decided to stop in and try it," Carli said. "I got the veggie burger and it is amazing and the cole slaw."

Carli said she "definitely" will be back, which her mom seconded.

"I got the Royalty," Marnie Stillman said. "It's roast beef, onions and cheese. It's excellent."

That's music to Williams and Kearney's ears.

"The price point that we're trying to keep is to get people to think of a healthy alternative to some of the fast food chains because everything we have here is made in-house," Kearney said. "It's a fresh product and it's a great price point for the lunch person. So it's a win-win situation for anyone that wants to come to Trailblazers and eat."

Trailblazers Cafe is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call 622-6909.



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