Travelogue: Char 19 in Monroe tough to beat

Summer vacation 2020 couldn’t have come at a better time to be perfectly honest. The pandemic had us stuck at home for three months, and we were ready to hit the road. Truth be told, we had this trip planned since before the year began — and my wife and I had lots of discussions about social responsibility in the midst of it all.

We decided that we’d be fine, and half a week in, it feels like the right decision.

For those wondering about a vacation in the midst of a pandemic, here’s what I can tell you: at least in the Deep South, everything is pretty much open although services, menus and hours may all be limited. Believe it or not, for us, the most masks we’ve seen have been at the Buc-ee’s in Denton, Texas, and the Walmart in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

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I’m not terribly tethered to the mask at this point. But if it makes the other person feel more comfortable, I’ll wear one.

Our first stop was in Monroe, Louisiana, or as a friend of mine from that state calls it, “Funroe.” Nice little city. As a college town (ULM), it reminded me quite a bit of Denton.

We stayed at a Hampton Inn, and the fitness center was closed due to COVID-19, so I walked 10-12 times around the building as I listened to CNN reports of the riots in Minneapolis. Something I’m trying to do on this vacation is to get my steps in!

And then we picked a spot for dinner, Char 19.

What attracted me to this restaurant is that I thought it was one of our best chances for me to get fish, something I wanted to eat a lot of on this trip. I like having the option of a steak (filet mignon) or fresh fish. And that’s what I had at Char 19, red snapper.

Given that I’m east of Oklahoma, Yuengling has been plentiful, and so it’s been my go-to. What struck me about the snapper is how flavorful the sauce was. Against the roasted potatoes and steamed vegetables, it was particularly tasty, as if the chef made it a point for all the seasonings to be hyper-compatible. A little buttery, a little salty but not too much.

While we waited for food, my wife and stepdaughter played a little Skip Bo. Games are a dinner tradition for us.

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The wife had the pasta primavera, and I got a bite of the chicken. Fantastic!

But not before we ordered some shrimp cocktail. This pre-dinner treat has become a staple for Kristi and me. If we see shrimp cocktail on the menu, we get it!

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And then given that we were just starting a week-long vacation, we splurged on a molten lava cake with vanilla ice cream. So yummy.

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Service was terrific, and they were all wearing masks. There wasn’t much of a crowd save for a Golden Girl telling all her post-70 dating secrets, particularly turning down a 66-year-old because of the glaring age difference.

What I’ll remember most about Char 19 though is that the great taste of the food was my lasting impression. Sometimes it’s the vibe, the service or the overall experience. However, all due credit to the chef: everything I tasted here was spot-on perfect, and if we lived in Funroe, we’d be regulars. Guarantee it!

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