A jaunty blue sign on the south side of the Anthony Wayne Trail at the intersection of South Street in Waterville calls the attention of hungry passersby to the General's Chop House.
The general referred to is the Revolutionary War-era's Mad Anthony Wayne, and according to a fellow diner one evening, whatever “those professors” think, the site of the general's famous Fallen Timbers victory was right there underneath our tables. However that may be, the restaurant is a comfortably informal eatery serving food that is, I imagine, at least as good as that which the general and his troops enjoyed.
At first glance, one might mistake the squat brick building for a fast-food emporium, pushing pre-fabbed burgers and crisp fries across the counter at a stream of hurried customers. Nothing could be further from the truth. The kitchen responds to orders at a deliberate pace, and if you're in a hurry, the General's Chop House is not what you're looking for.
Daily specials, both appetizers and entrees, well worth noticing on the chalkboard by the entry or as the server recites them, are often different and attractive variations on the ordinary. One noon-hour special that caught my eye was Swedish meatballs on a bed of noodles. Though in principle a luncheon plate, it was more than enough to carry me through the afternoon, and the memory of the spicy meatballs and judiciously seasoned pasta lingered on.
What lends “special” to the specials, by the way, is the very short regular dinner menu: five beef, two pork, and two pasta dinners, in addition to a lone “lakefood” entr e: fillet of pickerel. A steak, medium rare, please, arrived a little way past medium, as it turned out. I declined the profusely apologetic proprietor's offer to replace it - after all, it takes rare talent to ruin good beef, and apart from the cooking, it was a very tender, tasty piece of meat.
Broccoli is in these days, but my serving was too heavily salted for my taste. The accompanying potato casserole, however, was truly satisfying.
Rather than ordering barbecued ribs on a subsequent Friday evening, I wanted to see whether perhaps the cook entertains some animosity toward beef and ordered the smaller serving of prime rib, slow roasted, I was assured, and sliced only when ordered. The cook is OK after all; it was as yummy a piece as I've ever had.
Of course, an appetizer special that preceded the prime rib had put me in a warm, friendly mood: five large, fresh-cooked shrimp on shaved ice, with a proper red sauce. I even enjoyed the broccoli - this time I salted my own - that again came with the beef.
Service is friendly and competent. There is a full bar with a basic wine list. Entry to the parking area (watch out for a sizeable circle of collapsed paving) is by either of two driveways off the side street.
Sitting by a window looking over State Rt. 25 (the rumble of heavy traffic is mercifully muted behind a well-insulated wall), my eye caught a highway sign pointing left, to Whitehouse, five miles up the road. It struck me that if you like to eat at the Whitehouse Inn, you'll like the General's as a junior copy of the plain, unvarnished style: generous servings of basic meat and vegetables.
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