LOW MOOR — In a tree-lined cranny between the interstate and the railroad tracks in this little Alleghany County community sits a restaurant that is as much a secret to some as it is a stalwart to others.
The Cat & Owl Steak and Seafood House opened on Labor Day weekend in 1971 under the management of a 24-year-old Virginia Tech graduate named Bruce Proffitt. A 12-oz. filet mignon cost $6.95, the 24-oz. sirloin for two set customers back $9.95, and the restaurant’s signature banana fritters were 50 cents per order.
In the 40 years since, the prices are about the only aspect of the business that has changed much. Indeed, the Cat & Owl is the epitome of consistency.
In the mid-1990s, while I was studying at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College in Clifton Forge, Proffitt rescued me from a nightmare restaurant job by hiring me as a hostess. But that’s not why I’m writing this column; I’m writing it because of the Cat & Owl’s longevity, and because Proffitt, 64, and chef Scott Dew, 46, taught me enduring lessons about competent restaurant ownership and kitchen leadership.
Upon this twoscore anniversary, I received an email from Proffitt’s 25-year-old daughter, Courtney.
“Dad is so humble and focused on his day-to-day work that he wouldn’t think to seek that attention,” she wrote. “I’ll do it for him. Forty years is a huge milestone for a restaurant, especially when it’s a locally-owned, pricier place located in a county that has seen so many economic ups and downs since 1971.”
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