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Best Bite - Center Valley Grocery

Thanks for tuning in once again to Best Bite - the blog where we tell you about the best food we’ve tasted in the River Valley area. I’m Jason Lowe, and before I get too deep into this week’s feature I want to tell you briefly about myself, and why I like to write blogs about food. It’s pertinent to the featured Bite this week, and it’ll give you a baseline for understanding why I’ve chosen Center Valley Grocery for this post.

Food has always been a monumental part of my life. That seems obvious, right? Food is important to literally everyone. We all have to eat to survive, but my survival has been linked with food in a much different way. I was raised in a healthy, happy home - filled with much laughter, encouragement, and love. My parents were always there for me to offer a helping hand or a positive influence. My brother has been my life-long friend and shadow. We were a tight-knit group, and although there are several factors that kept us close, the two things that stand out more than anything are music and food. When I went through hard times, I turned to those things for comfort and support.

The morning my mom passed away - I had just spent the entire previous night singing to her in the hospital. The night before that? I read aloud the recipes I found in her notebooks. We talked about good food and how special it is to “put a little love in it.” Mom told me that you can have all of the best ingredients in the world, but if there’s no love in the food, the flavor is meaningless. It’s meaningless. Not that it’s not present, or that it doesn’t taste good. Without love, flavor is meaningless - just a self-serving, singular experience that comes and goes like a grain of salt on the tongue. I took that to heart, and in the 12 years she’s been gone I’ve never forgotten those words. Good food requires a little bit of love. It truly does make all the difference. It’s the difference between a cheeseburger from McDonalds and a cheeseburger from our featured Bite. There really is no comparison. We call them both a “cheeseburger”, but one is made entirely different from the other. From all the rest.

You can always tell when someone doesn’t really give a shit about their food, their restaurant, their business. And when I say they don’t give a shit, it doesn’t mean they don’t care at all. It just means that they’re not “in love” with what they’re doing. It shows. Hard. You can probably think of at least 5 restaurants right now that could use a little love shown in what they do. So enough about “love”. Let’s talk about what is quite possibly the best cheeseburger in town. Let’s talk about Center Valley Grocery.

Yes, Center Valley Grocery is technically a “gas station”, but it’s more of a gathering place than just another gas station. We’re all familiar with typical gas station food. You walk up to the front counter and stare deeply into the abyss that is the food warmer. It’s usually stocked with various fried items - chicken strips, taquitos, chimichangas, and that….thing? And of course, what greasy food warmer would be complete without a selection of over-fried tater wedges that have hardened into little slivers of tree bark and shoe leather? At some point we have to give them credit, at least the attendant had time to throw the frozen tenders into the fryer. But is it made with love? Well…not usually. I think you get my point. Most gas station food sucks. It’s just a snack to get us by until dinner, but not at Center Valley Grocery. Not a’tall.

You won’t find pre-cooked chicken strips roasting under a heat lamp. Nor will you find dried out tater wedges, nor will you find 3-day old fried pies. You will however find two things that make for a pretty great food experience:

  1. People who care.

  2. Freshly-prepared food.

I always call-in my order on my way to the gas station. They answer promptly, and if you like being called “hon” in a way that makes you feel warm and comfy, this is the place for you. When I arrive to pick up my order, I instantly feel right at home. Each one of the ladies at CVG are long-timers, what with it being a family-owned business and all. And that’s how you get treated, like family.

The burger itself isn’t some fancy Wagyu blend. There are no “artisanal” breads or toppings here. It’s just fresh, simple, and delicious. Every burger is seasoned and cooked to perfection, with those little crispy parts on the edges of the patty - a great sign of a well-loved flat-top grill, and a much-experienced love-infuser doing the cooking. Each bite gets better and better, thanks in part to the even distribution of condiments and toppings. Again, a true sign that someone actually cares about what they’re making. When it tastes like something mom would’ve made, how can you go wrong?

There are a lot of outstanding burgers in our area. Major shout-outs to CJ’s and Daddy’s Smackin’ Wings just to name a couple. While I can say a lot about why this burger has won the top spot for me in the River Valley, I think you have to try it for yourself to truly appreciate just how stellar it is. Call ahead and order a double. Maybe get a little daring and ask for fresh jalapeños too. I promise it will not disappoint. I also highly recommend that you get a large sweet tea (just make sure to ask for the crushed ice).

Center Valley Grocery also features many other foods on their menu. The chili is homemade, the grilled chicken salad is a healthy tummy-filler, and the onion rings always give me “the warm and fuzzies”. Try everything and let me know what you think!



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