Redd’s Fueling Station takes its name from (a) the fact that it sits behind an actual gas station and convenience store (Sally’s By the SeaStore) and (b) the name of its owner and “Singing Bartender,” Helen “Redd” Vizard. She enjoys local and national renown as a performer, and wisely has secured herself a permanent venue to showcase her talents. And feed people.
My wife, our daughter Grace and I ate at Redd’s on a recent Tuesday night. Dinner is available every open night, but Redd sings on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, starting at around 6:30 PM. She also makes drinks (beer, wine and house special mixed drinks), takes and serves food orders, picks up checks, buses tables, and keeps everyone entertained. There’s someone else—the cook, in the kitchen—but that’s the staff, at least when we went there.
The restaurant is accessible by a ramp. There’s a small patio with seating. Inside is a main dining room, bar area, and bandstand (for open mic nights). There are about a dozen or so tables, four-tops mainly, a couch, and seats at the bar. The walls are decorated with cheeky (and occasionally risqué) posters, drink and food ads, sports and movie memorabilia, and multicolored lights.
Redd’s menu likewise veers toward comfort and satisfaction, with appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers, meat dishes, and sides. Redd told us about the night’s special, a Poor Man’s Shepherd’s Pie with ground beef and mashed potatoes, advised Grace on her options, and took a drink order. We were the first customers there, but that changed within minutes as diners drifted in. The majority appeared to be regulars. Redd also took reservations and questions over the phone, even advising callers about the size of the entrees (generous).
Starters include chips and salsa, guacamole, nachos with or without meat, and Devils on Horseback—bacon-wrapped, garlic-stuffed dates. We got those. There were nine, with a sweet dipping sauce. I figured they were too adventurous for Grace (a conservative diner), but she loved them—the transformative power of bacon. They are sweet, savory, salty and just right with a drink.
For the main course, we had our choice of salads with shrimp or chicken options, including a classic wedge with blue cheese and bacon that sounded good. There’s a fried green tomato BLT, beef burger, a sort of deconstructed jalapeño popper burger (topped with pickled jalapeños and cream cheese), mac and cheese with smoked gouda and bacon, beef brisket or chicken tacos, “Moo Moo” brisket with gravy, short or long racks of back ribs, and meatloaf.
My wife got the brisket tacos, Grace got a child’s portion of the mac and cheese (Redd promised her she’d like it), and I ordered the meatloaf.
As we waited for the food, Redd got the singing started, explaining her policy on requests. There’s a “menu” of song titles on the tables, pens and post-its. Requests are written on Post-Its and attached to cash—the amount is up to the dinner, though certain artists and titles cost more—and submitted to Redd as she works the room. Music and backup vocals come from a prerecorded device at the bar.
I chose “One for My Baby,” my favorite Johnny Mercer-Frank Sinatra standard. My wife chose the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann” for Grace, and somebody picked “You’re Just Too Good to Be True” and “At Last,” which pleased my wife. It was an older crowd, not afraid to do a little dancing (“The dance floor is where you find it,” was Redd’s advice).
Redd kept up the pace, doing about five things at once. Our food arrived. My wife’s tacos were overflowing with sweet and spicy strands of beef, tomatoes, and a corn and cucumber salad. Grace ate about a third of her mac and cheese and took the rest home. It’s smoky, loaded with cheese and bacon, and has a crunchy breadcrumb topping. I’m no fan of mac and cheese, but I had several “tastes” of it.
My tender meatloaf (a huge chunk) had crispy edges, and the crisp roasted potatoes and sautéed yellow squash and onions were the perfect side to a high-class homestyle feast.
The menu lists a brownie and ice cream dessert, but we were full, and it was a school night. Grace was the only kid in the place. Redd was very solicitous of her, and even gave her a little peck goodbye. Thanks for your kindness, Ms. Redd. It did not go unrecorded.
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