Just such an incident happened just the other day. My dining partner’s friend told her about a new restaurant that had been open only a short while in the community of Sulphur Springs, and that we should try it the next chance we had.
The Filling Station & Creamery occupies a small building that was once a neighborhood market. There has been some extensive renovation to the building. The outside paint job is deep maroon and old gold with some tasteful signage advertising what can be found within. Just to make sure you know that the name of the place is the Filling Station, there are four old-timey gas pumps under the overhang across from the restaurant’s front door.
The interior of the Filling Station has two dining areas separated by a faux fireplace and chimney that sports a large flat-screen television. The closest dining area is colored a pastel yellow with white trim for the baseboards and chair rails, with three booths accommodating four diners each plus two tables with seating for four and six respectively. There is room for the checkout and order pick-up counter, and a small but efficient ice cream parlor and coffee shop operation. The furthest dining area has seating for another 30 patrons, with lots of antique gas station signage and an operating traffic light recumbent on top of the kid-favorite Claw game. The kitchen is just off the westernmost hallway, with access to the clean and tidy restrooms nearby. Having opened for business in March, the kitchen’s menu is still undergoing some changes.
For a start, there is talk of adding pizza to the menu, and the ice cream and coffee bar seem to change on a weekly basis. It is all part of proprietors’ Neil and Anne Church fine-tuning their plan for the Filling Station’s success, one that will be consistent on a daily basis.
Meat Loaf platter
My dining partner and I had stopped in for a late lunch and some light reconnaissance. At that time, I’d ordered from what the Filling Station folks call their “Full Service” platter. My platter was built around two thick slices of their home-style meat loaf ($10.99). I could include two side orders, (fried green tomatoes and fried okra in my case) along with some Texas toast and a drink, (mine was a glass of unsweetened iced tea.) Well, I was so pleased with the meal I’d ordered that I decided to order it on the supper trip with my friends, this time exchanging the fried green tomatoes for some pinto beans with chopped onions, and a big wedge of Filling Station cornbread instead of the Texas toast. The meat loaf was the Filling Station’s own blend of lean ground beef enhanced with a small amount of fried and chopped smoky-flavored bacon. Adding the pinto beans and chopped onions made a better accompaniment for the meat loaf than the so-so fried green tomatoes. I am a fan of properly cooked okra wherever and whenever I can get it, and the Filling Station makes some of the best ever.
My dining partner’s choice was also one of the Filling Station’s Full Service platters, being their boneless buttermilk and corn flake fried chicken ($10.99). My partner had never had chicken fried in a buttermilk and crushed corn flake coating before, but was very pleased with what was on her plate. The chicken breast was encased in an outer shell that was not only giving, but crunchy in the process. The coating itself contained a number of spices, some in liquid form, one being a teriyaki derivative, another had overtones of pepper sauce. The buttermilk dip gave the chicken an almost sharp cheese bite to the coating, but very subtle and layered in its presentation. The overall effect was as juicy and flavorful a piece of white meat chicken as my dining partner had ever enjoyed. I was treated to the spectacle of her breaking off flakes of the coating, popping them into her mouth and chewing with all the speculative deliberation of a master sommelier judging a new claret for membership in his wine cellar.
Roast Beef platter
Leaving my dining partner to her ruminations of spice and texture, I turned to my friend the Carnivore who, being sold on my choice of a Full Service platter selection, chose the roast beef ($10.99) with macaroni and cheese and green beans as his side orders. This epitome of the Filling Station Full Service meal featured a meaty of beef slow-roasted until very tender, then plated up with really cheesy macaroni and cheese and a noble gravy made the correct way, with pan drippings and flour and prolonged use of elbow grease in stirring over low heat. The beef was delicious, having a dreamy and smoky taste hovering at the back of the throat, and a note of hoisin showing up just at the finish. Even the green beans deserve notice, being cooked with smoked ham shavings added, instead of the usual, common wad of fatback. The ham’s pungent smoky enhancement complemented the “green” taste of the steamed green beans much better than fatback ever could.
Patty Melt & Onion Rings
Having left her calorie counter at home this trip, the Dieter gave her appetite a day off from all the fat-free good behavior it had, and picked the patty melt ($6.99) as her meal, together with a side order of fried onion rings. Two slices of Texas-style toast are the conveyance for a hand-patted quarter-pound of 100 percent ground beef, seasoned with the Filling Station’s proprietary spice blend, topped with a nice slice of American cheese and a quantity of grilled onions. Though the Dieter could have made it a double decker for just two bucks more, her opinion was that the single patty was enough for her. (This produced a snort and a chuckle from the Carnivore, who’s first Paleo Commandment is “Double. Always Double.”) As for the fried onion rings, they were the best the Dieter (and the rest of us) ever tasted.
Cheeseburger & French Fries
The Retiree wanted to test the kitchen’s ability to produce a memorable dish, one that was a common choice at most area restaurants. Our friend picked one of Filling Station’s classic cheeseburgers ($6.99) with a side order of French fries. Her classic cheeseburger started with a quarter pound of their 100 percent ground beef, then added a slice (or two?) of American cheese. Next came the offerings from the produce portion of the kitchen’s walk-in cooler” crisp cold lettuce, a slice of red, ripe tomato, and one of tear-causing white onion. Last was a squirt each of mayonnaise and mustard. Being a true burger fan, the Retiree had hers the proper way, cooked medium well and served with French fries instead of fried onion rings. After each of us had a taste, we all agreed it was, in the words of my dining partner, “darn good for a cheeseburger and fries.”
… and Ice Cream for Dessert
With the Filling Station’s creamery just steps away from our table, (yes, I could see that display case with its ice cream selections each leering suggestively all through our meal) where else would we go for our dessert course? I chose a waffle cone filled with one (big) scoop of their creamery’s Smoky Mountain Fudge ice cream ($2.99). The waffle cone presented to me was packed all the way down to the apex with rich dark chocolate ice cream shot through with chunks of dark and milk chocolate. In a word: luscious. My dining partner had a bowl of the creamery’s specialty flavor for the day, salted caramel cheesecake ($1.99). I don’t know who decided that salt (and sea salt at that) made the flavor of smooth, creamy caramel more intense, more focused, and just more dog-goned yummy, but I have one word to say to him. Delicious.
The Filling Station has a Box Lunch Special that runs Wednesday through Saturday each week. From 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. you can get one of their classic cheeseburgers, together with French fries and a drink for just $6, or you can order the day’s Blue Plate Special with a drink for the same price. The Filling Station folks dote on kids, letting every kid 12 and under eat free when an adult orders one of their “Full Service” entrées. The pulled pork platter is included here as well. Then there is the Friday Night Fish Fry; $12.99 for an all-you-can-eat feast of Alaskan whitefish or farm-raised catfish, hush puppies and a drink. With a menu as diverse and delicious as the current one supplied to their hungry patrons, the Filling Station is on its way to being not just a Sulphur Springs landmark, but one for the whole of the Tri-Cities.
As we were heading home, my friend the Retiree gave voice to what five full and happy diners were all thinking:
“We must come back.”
The Filling Station & Creamery gets a “Recommended” from the Mystery Diner
The Filling Station & Creamery
1301 Gray Station-Sulphur Springs Road
Tue-Fri 10:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sat 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sun 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Available on Facebook & social media
Cash and credit cards accepted