Skyline Drive, the 105-mile two-lane that threads through Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, offers boundless opportunities to hike, camp, bird-watch, and horseback ride in the splendor of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is possible to eat well at a National Park Service oasis along the limited-access road – try the Smithfield Ham Monte Cristo or the roast turkey with cornbread stuffing at Big Meadows Lodge at mile 51.2 – but when big appetite beckons, we head for one of the four entry/exit points and drive into the countryside for great Old Dominion eating.
Just off Highway 66 and ten minutes from the Front Royal terminus of the drive, The Apple House has been a landmark stop since the 1960s. If ever you doubted that Virginia is serious apple country, a visit to this little place is sure to clear things up. It’s not fancy; in fact, for many regular travelers it isn’t a restaurant at all, but rather a place to stock up on crunch-skinned apple butter donuts plastered with sugar. These are four-star donuts, radiating fruit flavor and delivering the incomparable luxury of fried dough. They are modest-sized and easy to eat by twos and threes – a great, albeit rather messy, car snack as well as coffee’s best friend.
You can eat on premises, and the vittles are good. Breakfast, served all day, includes a typical roster of eggs and flapjacks; and the pork barbecue at lunch is hickory smoked and satisfying. There are soups and salads and specialty sandwiches that range from BLTs to one-pound hamburgers. If you do have a meal here, save room for dessert. The next best things on the menu, after the apple-butter donut, are apple fritters – sugar-glazed and chockful of fruit – and a baked apple dumpling with caramel glaze.