field trip: Harrisonburg

subjects: The Smokin' Pig & Klines
take-out vehicle: box and cup, respectively
cost: $5.21

My wife and I graduated from James Madison University way way back in 2002, and this past weekend we trekked back over the mountains to visit an old friend and wallow in a bit of nostalgia.

First stop: Bridgeforth Stadium—home of the JMU football team—where we met our friend (of ten years now...that's crazy) and watched the latter half of a football scrimmage. Yay football!

Second stop: D-Hall (or whatever it is they're calling it these days). I will say that it was fun to wander around and fill my plate with pizza and tater tots like I did 10 years ago, but then I sat down and looked around. I felt frickin' old. Now I know that I'm not that old—I'm still on the good side of 30—but seeing the hundreds of kids around me, I couldn't help but feel like I didn't quite belong there anymore. C'est la vie, I suppose.

Third stop: The Smokin' Pig. I am ashamed to admit it, but I never went to The Smokin' Pig until earlier this year. I'm even more ashamed to admit that I still haven't had their barbecue, but I can tell you this: their fried pickles are fantastic. Coated in a thick, salty, crunchy, dill-speckled batter, these pickle spears made me feel warm and happy inside. Why I didn't try these sooner, I'll never know, but they are truly wonderful things. Whenever I get around to trying it, their barbecue has quite the standard to meet.

Fourth stop: Kline's. Attached to The Smokin' Pig is the original Kline's Dairy Bar, probably the only place in Harrisonburg at which students and locals willingly commingle. Their frozen custard (not ice cream, there's a difference) is so good, I remember waiting at the back of a the long line, at night, in late November, shivering and being excited about it.

On this visit, I had something I'd never tried before: a banana/cake batter milkshake. My one criticism of the milkshake—which was good, don't get me wrong—was that, by the end, the cake batter flavor far outweighed the banana, and I like banana. Other than that, it was exactly what I remembered: smooth, creamy, fresh, and with just the right amount of sugar.

All in all, it was a good day in Harrisonburg. I still prefer living in Charlottesville, but there's a charm in the valley that isn't easily replicated. And, it turns out, the mix of fried pickles and nostalgia is a pretty powerful thing.

Maybe I'll be back to visit sooner rather than later.


  1. i've tried half a dozen other versions of fried pickles over the years and have never had anything even REMOTELY close to the gems offered by smokin' pig. i also agree with you about the charm of "the friendly city" and the surrounding foothills...feels like forever since i've been there but it's a relationship that allows me and the valley to pick up right where we left off :-)

  2. it's good these things are an hour away from me. i'd be one fat bastard if i could get these all the time.