After Hours: Locked, loaded and ready to eat
June 21, 2006
ERISWELL — It’s that classic list of ingredients that many people look for in the perfect eating experience: fast service, hot food, ample seating and the sound of constant gunfire.
Maybe you’re just back from a particularly harrowing deployment and can’t choke down a meal without the accompanying pop of firearms. Perhaps no steak dinner tastes right without the aroma of burning gunpowder, or your appetite is hard to trigger without a clear shout of the word “Pull!”
For all these contingencies and more, the Lakenheath Country Club and Clay Target Centre has got you covered — by the muzzles of dozens of loaded shotguns.
Every Wednesday night, the popular shooting center across the street from the front gate of RAF Lakenheath keeps the grill open late for a midweek dining and shooting special, where people can come in, blast some clays with a 12-gauge and then top off with a steak and ale pie.
It’s the only night of the week the center serves food in the evening, and for the uninitiated in the target-shooting world, it’s an amusing little combo. Where else can you sit down for a hamburger and watch people nearby blaze away at flying targets?
For those interested in a Wednesday evening diversion there are two ways to enjoy the Country Club: as a participant or a spectator.
For those with a registered shotgun and license, there is a semi-formal tournament shooters can enter with two divisions, one for beginners and one for the regulars who rarely miss a “bird.” By law, the club cannot rent shotguns out to anyone, so you have to bring your own.
The cost for a round of 25 clays for nonmembers is 22 pounds, and those interested can enter the tournament by signing up for a score card, said Janet Bloomfield, who organizes the competition.
But shooting skeet is not a requirement to visit the restaurant at the club, where diners can pick from a small menu of hamburgers, steaks and a couple of specials, most recently the steak pie with potatoes and gravy or quiche Lorraine with salad.
That the food counter is normally referred to as the “snack bar” is evident when the meals arrive, however. Though the pie special looks appetizing, the 4.50-pound ribeye sandwich shows up as a flat, wet sheath of gray meat on a bun accompanied only by a couple of tomato wedges and leaves of lettuce with all the crispiness of damp newspaper.
It’s almost a shame to mention, because the cook is so friendly and accommodating (and fast), but your local golf course or bowling alley would likely out-compete the club kitchen for quality and variety.
The unique ambience, however, provides a different twist on your cheeseburger with curly fries. After shooting hours, the dining room doubles as the seating area for Usher’s, the pole and lap dancing club, and the outdoor tables are right next to a skeet range, allowing unrestricted views of shooters popping away at targets, which can be mesmerizing to watch.
The grill opens for dinner at 6 p.m., the staff is overwhelmingly friendly, and for those interested in a quick, cheap meal in a slightly different setting, the Lakenheath Country Club can provide.
Where else can you say to your spouse, “Grab your shotgun, honey, we’re going to dinner.”
Lakenheath Country Club
Location: Brandon Road, just opposite Gate 1 of RAF Lakenheath
Food: A grill menu with clubhouse staples, including burgers, steaks, hot sandwiches and steak and ale pie
Drinks: Canned sodas, water and bottled beverages, plus the bar, with a full range of England’s favorite beers
Ambience: Low-key country club atmosphere with friendly shooters and plenty of advice from skeet enthusiasts. One lone TV has the sports on screen above the bar.
Service: Friendly and easygoing