UPDATE: This restaurant is now called the New Freedom Rail Trail Cafe.
On a hot, sunny day in the small southern York County town of New Freedom, I don't fit the profile of the typical Railroad Café customer.
Most regulars are locals. The rest wear either spandex or some other breathable fabric. But upon escaping the heat, I was greeted by the restaurant's cool and cozy comfort.
"Sit wherever you'd like," called out owner and cook Rick Bazuine, cheerfully stating the obvious. For the moment, I was the only visitor.
A co-worker suggested this interesting spot next to the York County Heritage Rail Trail running through town. The 5-year-old locale occupies half of an old train station and can get quite busy during the lunch hour. It's also an oasis for weary bikers heading up or down the trail.
I arrived after the early afternoon bustle. A room-dividing wall separates the nook of a kitchen from the dining room. You can hear your food cook, and Bazuine and I continued our conversation while he whipped up my tuna steak salad. Sort of made me feel like a guest in someone's home, a comforting thought.
Bazuine emerged from the kitchen with one of the biggest hunks of tuna I've ever seen covering my bed of greens. Seared on a flat-iron grill, it had an attractive, orangish crust. The blend of lemon pepper and seasoning salt flavored the meat perfectly, but I thought it was a tad overcooked and without the pink center I prefer.
I selected a sweet raspberry vinaigrette, a nice complement for the seasoning of the tuna. The mix of greens went a little heavy on the iceberg lettuce, a pet peeve of mine. But the basic mix of vegetables tasted fresh, and Bazuine told me he buys his produce almost daily and mostly from local farms.
His eggs are local as well, which makes this a good time to mention the café's breakfast. Sadly, I did not get to try it, but it sounds intriguing. The Old Bay Omelet, in particular, caught my eye - lumps of crab meat seasoned with Old Bay and topped with American cheese.
The Café makes other omelets and all the breakfast staples. Best of all, they do it all day. And on Friday and Saturday nights from midnight to 3 a.m., the café offers Midnight Breakfast for the hungry bar crowd.
"People on the trail still wanted breakfast after (noon), so we decide to serve breakfast all day, and it's my favorite meal," Bazuine said.Halfway through my meal one of those bikers, a woman from Maryland, wandered in. Bazuine asked about her travels.
"We've had people from as far as California," he said later. "The real diehard bikers try every trail in the United States."
Cheap Eats is a biweekly column on local restaurants' meals for less than $10. Suggestions are welcome. Reach Wade Malcolm at 771-2101 or email@example.com.
If you go
LOCATION: New Freedom Railroad Cafe, 117 N. Front St. in New Freedom
WADE'S PICK: Tuna steak salad ($8.95)
HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
PRICE RANGE: $4.99 to $12.99
ACCEPTS: Cash and major credit card
KID'S MENU: hot dog, grilled cheese, chicken strips and French fries, peanut butter and jelly.