Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - 62

F L AV O R S

IN A WATER-THEMED DINING ROOM

Rain Serves a Flood of Flavor
The food at this Abingdon, Virginia, eatery is as beautiful as the art on the walls.
By FRED & JILL SAUCEMAN | Photos by FRED SAUCEMAN

"W

hen local farmers park their trucks here in
the back and open them up, the tomatoes
look like little gems," says Ben Carroll,
owner and chef of a restaurant called Rain.
That Abingdon, Virginia, parking lot
was once the home of a car wash. Now it's
the site of a culinary mecca.
Rain is celebrating 10 years in business this year,
guided by Carroll's philosophy of getting the very best
products available and doing as little to them as possible. In midsummer, that may mean a salad using up to
15 different varieties of tomatoes grown by local farmer
Tamara McNaughton, with only a simple garnish and a
vinaigrette dressing.
"The tomato showcases itself," says Carroll. "Tamara
grows tiny little orange ones that are sweeter than a
grape."
That philosophy of profound simplicity is reflected in
the name of the restaurant. Carroll didn't want a lengthy
"bar and grill" moniker. Instead, he used the middle
name of his daughter Melissa, who is now a student at

62

BLUERIDGECOUNTRY.COM

Virginia Tech. "It's an ode to her-one word, very simple
and clear. It's something we could build a theme around."
Carroll hired a former high school classmate, master
woodworker and musician Ben Smith, to build what started out to be a simple shelf for liquor bottles next to the
bar. But the Rain theme inspired a work of art.
"The posts are shaped like water running down a
windshield," Carroll says. "The side posts are carved into
extended raindrop shapes. They connect shelves that are
carved with ripples underneath them to look like puddles of water. They're half circles, so with them sitting up
against the mirror, it creates a full circle effect."
Carroll was born in Utah and spent his earliest years
in Arizona, where his family lived next to a Navajo reservation. His exposure to Native American culture is the
source of some of his strongest food memories. He recalls
the ceremonial roasting of lamb and goat and the unforgettable flavors of fry bread and beans cooked with lard.
Occasionally at Rain, to remember those times, Carroll
will offer Navajo tacos topped with lamb green chili as a
lunch or late-night special.


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Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020

Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - Intro
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - Cover1
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - Cover2
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - 3
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Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - Cover3
Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2020 - Cover4
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