By JIM ROSS ∙ firstname.lastname@example.org
JESSE — You could almost miss it if you're driving West Virginia 10 from Pineville to Oceana. It's there on the right, the place with the sign high above the road.
Once you're inside, it's like a trip back three or four decades. And that's the way the man who runs the Castle Rock Restaurant, Gerald Jackson, likes it.
"I'm a dinosaur when it comes to industry standards," he says.
By that he means he avoids prepackaged and processed food as much as he can. The bread, rolls, sub buns and pizza rolls are made back in the kitchen. So are the pies that are on display by the cash register.
A while back, the West Virginia Division of Tourism listed the Castle Rock Restaurant as one of the 101 Unique Places to Dine in West Virginia. It shared a place on the list along with better-known restaurants such as Roccos Ristorante in Ceredo, the Glen Ferris Inn, Baristas Café and Pub and Quinets Court Restaurant in New Martinsville and Savannahs and Fat Pattys in Huntington as destination places to eat.
The Division of Tourism described the Castle Rock Restaurant this way: "The pinto bean and cornbread dinner is absolutely fabulous. Castle Rock represents true cuisine of southern West Virginia."
Jackson said the designation surprised him when it came in the mail.
"I didn't know it. I received a letter and the documents hanging on the wall," he said.
Along with the homemade breads, Jackson brags on his restaurant's spaghetti chili and brown gravy.
His customers brag on the place, too.
"I ordered a pizza to take home. They've got the best pizza in the state," said Roger Smith of Pineville. "They make pinto beans and cornbread here. Man, it's great. They give you enough to fill you. You don't have to order seconds."
The family's first restaurant opened in Pineville in 1971. Jackson said his mother, Geraldine Jackson, wanted to open one in Jesse, so they did. She sold the Pineville location in 1997.
"It's a family business. Right now it's me, my mom and a couple of waitresses," he said.
"My mother is 75 and still working. She's got more stamina than I do."
Jackson says the community of Jesse used to be busier than it is now, and it's hard to predict when the restaurant will be busy.
He also says he grew up in the restaurant business, thanks to his mother. In high school, he would take 200 pounds of ground beef and make the hamburger patties, he says.
"I've been doing this since I was 12. On the weekends, Friday and Saturday nights, I was washing dishes."