"I have an Isa-belly," my buddy Troy said as he burped, rubbed his tummy and walked out of Isabel's restaurant this afternoon.
I have heard tale of this spectacular Latin-American lunch destination over the years, but because it is on a road to no place in particular, it took an assignment in nearby Crumpler for me to hunt it down.
Isabel Tome is the cafeteria's owner/chef/server. The building's ambiance is spartan, but is clean and the ethnic and savory home cooking exceeds anything found in the 5 surrounding counties.
It is that good.
Isabel cooks 3 meats and several sides dishes every day. When the food runs out, she closes her door. And I've heard the food is so good that it frequently runs out.
Locals eat here. For $8.50 you get your choice of 2 meats and 3 veggies and have access to the latin inspired salad and dessert bar. Drinks cost extra.
Rumor has it that Isabel is a retired transplant from southern Florida where she was a private chef for the wealthy. I have no clue if this is true, but as she was plating my chicken enchiladas, latin meatballs, black beans w/rice and boiled cabbage today, she smiled and talked with me about the spices in the food.
"If you don't like things hot, don't try the enchiladas. They aren't hot, but do have more heat than usual," she advised. She added an extra slice of pork tenderloin with burgundy sauce to my plate.
"You should try this" she winked.
It's obvious she enjoys pleasing patrons with her culinary talents.
Troy and I sat in a booth and in disbelief at our good fortune, stared at the plates.
In silence we contemplated our happiness at the simplicity of perfectly prepared food.
Then, we thanked god Isabel hadn't run out of food on the day of our visit.
What a bummer of suck that would have been...
Note: Google searches for Isabel's restaurant tend to be incorrect since she moved to a new space in 2008. Her restaurant is currently on Hwy 16N heading towards Mouth of Wilson, VA from Jefferson, NC, but is before Shatley Springs, NC.
My best directions are from Boone: Take Hwy. 221 towards W. Jefferson. Bypass W. Jefferson and take Hwy 88 past Jefferson (heading south & east). Past Jefferson, take Hwy 16N (on left). Go 3 miles and Isabel's will be on the right. The cafeteria hours are wonky. Most days she is open from 11-3 and she is open for dinner occasionally.
It is best to call to make sure she is open or to inquire about menu options.