OK, so it's probably not really classified as an actual "restaurant," because even though it has seats most people get takeout. So maybe it's a diner. Or a food stand, or a takeout place. I don't know. However you hight it (I've been teaching the Canterbury Tales over the last week so I'm dropping Middle English into conversation just to screw with everyone's head), the Eatery in the Carytown section of Richmond is just plain weird.
I went there last night with an old friend because we were reminiscing about some of Richmond's long-gone Chinese restaurants. China Chef, China Pearl, Suk Hing (yes, you read that right): thy names shall be great in the celestial moo shu. And Peking--that was the really schnitzy one near the Westhampton Theatre. It even had menus with little gold tassels and most of the spelling and grammar were somewhere approaching normality.
You see, I always forget that the Eatery counts as a Chinese restaurant. Apparently it started its life as a sub shop called Mr. Moe's, and the franchisee was a Chinese guy who just held on to the place when Mr. Moe's went toes up, so he kept on serving subs but added Chinese food to the menu.
Then over the years he added a few other things, like fried fish, burgers and fries, and sometimes barbecue. The end result is that pretty much anything the human race considers edible is occasionally available at the Eatery.
This is only part of the weird. The signage outside is pretty elderly and nothing about the exterior fits in with its ultrachic Carytown surroundings. The first thing you'll notice, walking in, is a 40s linoleum fouled-anchor design on the floor. While being confused by the vast menu of seemingly unrelated items, the patron will be further baffled by fruit-sherbet colored sets, orange/yellow/aluminum wallpaper from the 70s, and one wall with a not-especially-well-executed mural of cartoon pigs eating things. Each one is labelled with a different Eatery specialty. This is perhaps the weirdest thing. I promise that I'll take a picture of it because it just kind of doesn't make sense. I think you're meant to be looking down at the pigs from overhead because the ones at the bottom are upside down, like maybe they're seated around a table. Also I'm not clear about the choice of pigs--in this part of the country, that usually means "We Serve Barbecue" which they do, but not exclusively.
Should you discover, while waiting for your order, that you have to pee, you can also make a pit stop to honor your ancestors at the Taoist shrine that's set into the wall in the bathroom hallway.
The Eatery is pretty reliably good and cheap--refreshing, in a neighborhood full of ridiculously expensive food. Many Richmonders believe that if they eat there they'll get "the PTO-maine." This is beneficial in that it's never overcrowded and if you tell people you ate there, they'll think you're really scary and give you a wide berth. There are often sketchy characters in there (like me, after the bars close).
The Eatery also makes its own egg rolls completely "from scratch." I have observed vats of cabbage being prepared and dough being...um, dough-ified.
Just be careful of going to the Eatery if you've had a few. That damn mirrored wallpaper will do horrible things to you.