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Tasty Tuesday: The Swinging Bridge keeps buffalo, southern charm on the menu

The town of Paint Bank has more buffalo than it does people, but its charm attracts many

PAINT BANK, Va. – Most of us, especially nowadays, crave the escape from the hustle and bustle. You can have that but also try something new by heading to The Swinging Bridge restaurant in Paint Bank.

The restaurant is in the back of the old general store with log cabin decor and incredible smells galore!

Manager Melissa Bellassai says, “People come out here to feel the hometown southern hospitality.”

The restaurant, she says, sees roughly ten times the town’s population in one weekend. Folks flock to this small mountain town from near and far.

“An hour and a half to two hours is what most people tell us it takes them to get here.”

Then, you have a board that shows where everyone has traveled from. People from Japan, Spain, Germany and Australia have come to sample Craig County’s finest. It’s partially because of the small-town charm, but it’s also because of the buffalo.

Bellassai says that even for those of us that call Virginia home, “Somebody that’s never had buffalo before, here’s your destination for that.”

The meat is good, but it’s also good for you. She says, “Buffalo is very lean. It’s a very lean meat with hardly any grease.”

That’s why folks like Jean Sarver travel from Giles County, but she says the meat has to be cooked right.

“It has to be cooked medium, and they know how to cook it,” says Sarver.

That’s where Tim Handy comes in. He’s been at The Swinging Bridge since the very beginning, slicing chips on the mandolin, deep frying rolls and grilling the buffalo to perfection.

Thinly sliced buffalo roast beef is the headliner for the Great White Buffalo Sandwich, topped with onion straws and homemade horseradish. Hand-cut sweet potato fries dipped in a concoction of cream cheese, cinnamon and brown sugar add a little flare for your sweet tooth.

The buffalo burger is perfection - a tender, sweeter version of your average burger. The Almost Famous Paint Bank Sub has chicken salad topped with bacon and cranberry sauce. It’s almost like Thanksgiving on a sandwich.

But this place isn’t just a restaurant, it’s an experience.

When you’re done eating, put your fork down, come upstairs and walk across the actual swinging bridge to either side of the year-round Christmas gift shop. And while the foliage this year is another selling point, Bellassai says you should just wait another month or so.

“If you ever come here at Christmas time, the place is decked out.”

For more on their specials, breakfast menu and all this “diamond in the rough” has to offer, be sure to click this link.

About the Author:

Meteorologist Chris Michaels is an American Meteorological Society (AMS) Certified Broadcaster, forecasting weather conditions in southwest Virginia on WSLS 10 News from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. weekdays on Virginia Today.