A Slice of Highlands
Before we get to the food, let me start by saying that I love stepping into Dusty’s.
In all my reviews in all these issues of Laurel, I’ve never used the L Word. I’ve reminisced about nearly-forgotten childhood flavors and sensations, rhapsodized about the possibilities offered by a chef’s daring feat of alchemy, and reveled in the chance discovery of a complex chain of molecules that had excited my tongue and lodged itself deep in my memory.
But Dusty’s, it’s in a spot all its own.
This is a slice of Highlands life that’s been effectively flensed from the landscape over the decades. From the outside, it looks like a general store that was built in the 1950s, the kind that would have gas pumps in front (which, in fact, there were until a few years ago).
Step inside, though, and it’s an uncalculated fall down the Rabbit Hole.
Sure, it has those long, narrow shelves that you’d have found in one of those nearly forgotten general stores, but even a cursory glance at their contents show that this place is an entirely different beast.
Dusty’s is full of stuff. Now it’s true you could find a can of Bud or a bag of chips or other convenience store staples, but you’d have to look hard to find them.
That’s because Dusty’s is jammed, cheek-to-jowl, with an astonishing selection of gourmet foodstuffs that you’d normally find in a tiny boutique grocery in the heart of a trendy urban area; strange drinks (Blueberry Soda, anyone?); and a deep wine selection with choices for an elegant dinner or a sun-splashed picnic – whoever’s Dusty’s wine buyer, he or she enjoys a refined palate and an obvious playfulness.
And the beer, lots and lots of beer, both foreign and doestic. This is the place if you’re serious about craft beers from caring, small breweries. There are stouts, pale ales, lagers, pilsners, porters, and hard ciders. It’s fun to assemble a sampler of these treasures and host a Beer Night.
And at the end of those narrow shelves lies one of the hallmarks of Dusty’s – the near-legendary butcher’s counter. The prime meats are hand-cut before your eyes. For this article, Tricia and I ordered a pair of Rib Eye Steaks and two handmade Cheese Stuffed Potatoes. The steaks were perfection and the potatoes, well, here are the ingredients – Potato, Cream Cheese, Cheddar Cheese, Seasoning, Milk, and Pepper. There’s something magnificent about that straightforward goodness, isn’t there?
And while we’re back at the Butcher’s Counter, you must pick up some Dusty’s Dogs.
I hear you right now, “Luke, they’re hot dogs, right? Hot dogs!? And aren’t they supposed to be bad for you?”
No, no, no! There’s nothing Oscar Meyer-y about these creations. You’re comparing Chihuahuas to St. Bernards! Dusty Dogs are bun-busters (seriously, you may want to pair them with a baguette) that are created right there at Dusty’s. There’s nothing bad about them. Don’t believe me? Check out Dr. Sue Aery’s column in this very issue of Laurel. Go now – I’ll wait for you.
See? Dr. Sue is practically ordering you to eat a Dusty Dog!
Of course, you can also order something from Dusty’s Deli, which serves from 11:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. Monday through Saturday. Kitty and Whitney serve up gourmet salads, paninis, and wraps that are made on the spot and bursting with flavor. I’m partial to The Dilly – a sourdough panini with ham, Jarlsberg cheese, dill pickles and mustard. Tricia cherishes the Cranberry Almond Crunch Salad, a concoction with blends romaine, almonds, chicken, dried cranberries, celery, onion, feta, with raspberry vinaigrette dressing. Both of these dishes are mini-celebrations. You can eat them at Dusty’s or take them on the go.
And while you’re back at the deli, you’ll certainly want to pick up Kitty and Whitney’s wickedly delicious desserts. There are cakes, brownies, cookies, and pies, all made on a daily basis. They are rich, sinful (although once again, I’d refer you back to Dr. Sue) and absolutely impossible to resist. You’re welcome to buy whatever they’ve baked for that day, or they’ll take your special order. It’s a wonderfully indulgent practice.
But there’s one more thing I want to mention about Dusty’s. And if you’re reading Laurel Magazine, you’ll get it. Tremendous as the food is, it’s the people who make the place. They’re warm, garrulous and caring about you and the community (even if you’re not a local). There’s always a gentle conversation to go along with your purchase or your meal. They’ll tell you about things the Chamber of Commerce won’t. They’ll tell you about themselves. They’ll tell you about yourself. There’s no way to quantify this and they don’t charge you for it, but it strikes me as something rare and precious.
Dusty’s is located at 493 Dillard Road. For orders or information, or even conversation, call (828) 526-2762.