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Busboy

Eating In and Around the Shenadoah Valley

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As a city kid I don't get out to the country much, but I'm not sure there's any countryside, anywhere, I like better than the mountains of western Virginia: Skyline Drive, the Shenadoah Valley, the Blue Ridge, the Allegheny Highlands and what have you. Particularly once you cross that invisible line where your DC plates become a curiosity to the locals and you start getting grits with your breakfast, rather than potatoes.

I don't have a lot to offer, yet, but hopefully others will chime in and, where possible, I'll link up to other relevant threads, like Carrot Top's concise introduction to Blacksburg, VA.

And this thread is mostly whining (most of it by me), but in between has some good tips in the Lexington area.

Just north of the Pink Cadillac diner mentioned in the thread above, between Lexington and Natural Bridge there's a roadside store that sells the best country ham I've ever eaten. Forget that tough stuff that has to be soaked overnight to get the salt down to a managable level, this stuff cuts like velvet and tastes like prosciutto's country cousin. The also sell side bacon, which we didn't like so much (but which is distinctive enough to merit sampling and well-made, just not too our taste. Probably go good in some greens), local produce and preserves, and "old fashioned hoop cheese." Well worth a stop. And I seen to recall that they ship.

Laynes 3905 S. Lee HWY (U.S. 11), (I-81 exit 180B) 6-1/2 miles south of Lexington and the same distance north of Natural Bridge. 540-463-7170.

Further north, anyone from the DC area motoring out towards Skyline Drive should consider taking the "back way" down 211, rather than blowing west on I-66, so that they can pick up picnic supplies (including a good selection of wine) and organic "Virginia Kobe" beef from Sunnyside Farms' reteail outlets, one in Sperryville (which also boasts other local produce vendors) and one in "Little" Washington. Details here.

The Sperryville location is, not to put too fine a point on it, a little tacky. But, if they need to add on the tourist trap stuff to support their other efforts, I'm all for it.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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In Flint Hill (sort of in between Front Royal and Little Washington) there's a little place called the Griffin Pub. It's in a perfect spot if you're ever out there touring any vineyards and tying on a good and healthy wine buzz. And Sweet Mary is it ever good.

The place is sort of an homage to traditional pubs in England and the menu reflects that. Only way, way better. The burgers are hand formed and cooked to perfection. If you request pink in the middle, by God there will be pink. They're served on locally baked buns that are so soft and chewy I get sort of emotional when I get down to the last bite. Same goes for the chicken sandwiches which are trimmed of any nasty chicken fat and grilled just right.

Bangers and mash are made with housemade sausages and homemade mashed potatoes. Guinness on tap? Oh yes. Several other brews from that area of the world as well but I forget their names.

I've stopped by three times while cruising wine country and each time the food has been outrageously good and reasonably priced.

By the by, Linden Vineyards out there is worth a trip. Great vino in a great setting.


<img src= "http://forums.egullet.com/uploads/photo-14279.gif"><p>You haven't had foie gras until you've had it in Big Piney, Wyoming...

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Busboy, your good deed of starting this thread has yielded results already! This weekend I'll be in the area Big Wyoming mentioned, and as he says. . .by God! I hope to try this place he has been kind enough to write in about! :biggrin:

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:biggrin: Then I'll have to stop in there too, for the food, Holly. And I'll give the

nice waitresses a shout out from ya.

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In Flint Hill (sort of in between Front Royal and Little Washington) there's a little place called the Griffin Pub.

I lovED the Griffin Pub. But I went a couple of weeks ago, and the food seemed to be a pale shadow of its former self. They still have a few good English beers on tap, like John Courage, so it's certainly worth the stop, but I can't say that it made me moist.

You can grab a bottle of HP sauce and cover up the mediocrity a bit though.


peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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I have experienced two of the worst meals ever at the Griffin Tavern. With Four and Twenty Blackbirds and the Public House so near why bother with mediocrity? The worst part of the meal (it was three weeks ago) the bill was more than either of the last two meals I had at the two aforementioned eateries. Don't bother with the Griffin Tavern... (IMHO)


"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully."

—George W. Bush in Saginaw, Mich., Sept. 29, 2000

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You guys are talking about the Griffin Tavern in Flint Hill, VA, right? Not some bizarro Griffin Tavern that I'm not aware of somewhere else that apparently sucks eggs?

Is it the Inn? No. But in the times I've been there they served simple food that you could tell had some care put into it instead of the slap-dash hurried mish-mash that you get here in the big city.

Also, they keep their keg beer damned cold. For a simple country person such as myself, that is a key point.


<img src= "http://forums.egullet.com/uploads/photo-14279.gif"><p>You haven't had foie gras until you've had it in Big Piney, Wyoming...

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I am told that Coleman's Restaurant, which used to be in the wide-place-in-the-road called Basye, VA, is or was good. I never ate there, but I looked at their menu once and it looked pretty ambitious. That could be good or bad. They recently relocated from Basye about a mile-and-a-half onto the Bryce Mountain Resort property. I haven't heard whether the new incarnation is supposed to be any good. (The nearest actual town to all of this is Mt. Jackson, VA, which is just north of New Market, somewhere in between Harrisonburg and Winchester.)

The best eating in the area, though, is what comes out of my kitchen when I'm in residence at Bryce Mountain, which unfortunately is not often enough. If you're planning to be in the area, though, PM me and maybe I'll meet you there and rustle you up a mess o' pork belly or some such.

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I have experienced two of the worst meals ever at the Griffin Tavern.  With Four and Twenty Blackbirds and the Public House so near why bother with mediocrity?  The worst part of the meal (it was three weeks ago) the bill was more than either of the last two meals I had at the two aforementioned eateries.  Don't bother with the Griffin Tavern... (IMHO)

We grabbed lunch last year -- carrying our 16 lbs of cherries from Cherries on Top -- at the Flint Hill Public House. It was very good. We got steak salads made with Sunnyside Beef and damn was that beef tender. IIRC dessert was quite good too.

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Let us not forget the Route 11 Potato Chip factory in Middletown, at the northern end of the Valley, featuring AYCE samples. :biggrin:

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When I think of the "Valley", I think of I- 81 and Rt 11 but was reminded this weekend that the Shenandoah Valley includes Clarke County, which lies just west of the Shenandoah River accessed by Rt 50.

So Emile, the nice french guy that owns the Antiques store in Boyce "un petit air du provence" and whose son owns L'Auberge Provencal in White Post, tells us to go eat lunch in Millwood (Rt 723, about 5 miles from Rt 50) at the Locke Country Store, says the food is really good.

He was right on (and by the amount of traffic at lunch, others apparently agreed). They serve deli-type sandwiches and chilled salads, cheeses and various baked goods. I'm not a fan of deli sandwiches and the like, but this food was really tasty.

Although they sell wine and beer, they have no license for on premises consumption. I suppose if you were discreet, you could pop a bottle of wine and picnic accross the street at the Mill, they have a couple of tables and a nice little lawn area :wink:

We picked up some stone ground blue corn meal and blue corn grits at the Mill afterwards. There are some other antique stores in Millwood as well.

Definitely worth a stop if your out that way.


Edited by bbq4meanytime (log)

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I'm partial to the nice wiatresses and good cooking at the Southern Kitchen in New Market.

This is the only place I hit this weekend in the intended trip to the "Shenandoah Valley" because with my usual disregard for geography, my real destination was actually about 100 miles beyond that! (Gettysburg, Harpers Ferry etc.)

I stopped in on the way back around lunchtime. About a mile past the exit, in an old-fashioned small town. The Southern Kitchen has a nice big sign of the 1950's type out front. . .almost kitsch-y but not overdone.

Same thing inside. Not a fancy menu. . .just reg'lar stuff. I was slightly hurried so I just ordered a BLT. The really interesting thing was the atmosphere. . .the decor was picture-perfect 1965 but again, not faked or overdone. . .it was just "there". And the atmosphere was the same. Families sat with amazingly well-behaved children and couples sat together that had been married for so long that they completely resembled each other.

What struck me was the total lack of angst.

There was no hurry in the air, yet no feeling of slowness either. There was no anything "in-your-face". It really felt like Eisenhower was still the president! (Well, I'm not "quite" that old but almost! :laugh: )

So very simple, easy, pleasant.

The sandwich was fine. . .it was exactly as it should have been for the place.

But the waitresses. . .yes. Here's the other wierd thing about that place.

I felt as if any one of those waitresses could have been picked up and transported to a fine-dining situation in a split second and they would have done a great job at it without missing a beat.

They were "there" at the right time without that "coffeepot in your face" sort of thing that happens so often. And many other small clues.

.....................................................

Ate the little lunch, paid the check, and was back on the highway within (gasp!) half an hour. And it felt. . .right, though rather amazing.

Thanks for the tip, Holly.

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I attended college in Staunton, and was surprised when I moved to the Washington area to find that people here refer to the Shenandoah as what I consider to be Washington suburbs! When I was in college in Staunton, and when I lived and worked in Lexington after graduation I don't remember thinking of the Shenandoah as extending much past Harrisonburg. It surprised me when I found out it was "officially" so close to DC.

That said, and if you want to drive further than an hour or so outside of Washington (which is WELL worth the extra gas), I would recommend White Star Mills in Staunton and The Southern Inn in Lexington. Both are quite wonderful. If you end up around those parts, I would also avoid The Depot in Staunton like the plague. It was, without a doubt, the worst meal of my life when I went back for a college reunion a few years back. Blah!

I worked at Lime Kiln theater in Lexington. I remember many Washington patrons that made a weekend out of seeing a play at Lime Kiln with dinner at The Southern Inn beforehand.

When I think of the "Valley", I think of I- 81 and Rt 11 but was reminded this weekend that the Shenandoah Valley includes Clarke County, which lies just west of the Shenandoah River accessed by Rt 50.

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I will second that motion that the Southern Inn is a good choice. I have found the Wilson Walker House to be good sometimes and terrible other times, but you can't beat their $5 lunch special (if they are still offering it). I also recommend stopping by Cocoa Mill Chocolates.. their truffles and snappers (turtles) are excellent.

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For those moving in and out of The Valley via Front Royale, the Washington Post gives new arrival "Apartment 2-G" two stars.

Review here.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Your mention of the Wilson Walker reminded me of another place that I forgot to mention. The Beverly in Staunton, on Beverly Street. They have the best burger that, to date (the Beverly Burger), I have ever had. I still have dreams about those burgers, and the college metabolism that let me eat them with impunity. The Beverly also has "high tea". I think it's on Wednesday afternoons. They have all kinds of Southern specialities (such as red velvet cake) as well as traditional English tea fare. And if it is hot outside, you can order your tea iced (especially if you lean more toward the red velvet cake than the scones). Back when I was in college -- TOO many years ago -- their tea was only about $5. I'm sure it's more now.

I do miss the Staunton/Lexington/Charlotteville area. It is a beautiful part of Virginia.

I will second that motion that the Southern Inn is a good choice. I have found the Wilson Walker House to be good sometimes and terrible other times, but you can't beat their $5 lunch special (if they are still offering it). I also recommend stopping by Cocoa Mill Chocolates.. their truffles and snappers (turtles) are excellent.

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It appears that the new near-Valley -- about 20 miles as the crow flies from Skyline Drive and a world away from DC -- hot spot is Culpeper, VA.

Last weekTom S. weighed in with three stars for Foti's . And today, the WaPo Food Section profiles 18 places that are making, apparently, Culpeper a gourmet hot-spot.

Personally, I always go into situations like this with low expectations. True gourment Meccas are few and far between, and small town food often seems better in comparison with the alternatives -- Food Lion and Appleby's -- than it does on an objective scale. I've had my heart broken.

However, the town looks well worth exploring and God knows it's pretty countryside down that way -- oh, and that countryside is dotted with wineries. I look forward to reading an eG follow-up or, perhaps, penning one myself.

Potential day-trippers should note that most establishments are closed Sundays.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Today we were en route to/from Charlottesville and thanks to the WashingtonPost.Com Food article set the

GPS to take us via Culpeper. The Frost Cafe was open for breakfast:

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It's bright and open w/fast friendly service.

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I regret not having gotten some pie to go, but they were all on china plates

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I had the two eggs over easy w/home fries & grits. Fresh, light and delicious.

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Coming back @ 3pm we stopped in Culpeper again to hit "It's About Thyme" but apparently it wasn't about time. The place was full while the front doors were locked. Some guy inside unlocked the doors to tell us dinner didn't start service till 5:30. Maybe another time...or not...


"Don't be afraid of flavor" -- Tyler Florence

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I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Here's another vote for the Southern Kitchen in New Market. To really experience the place you need to get their "signature" (not a word they would ever use!) dishes: the southern fried chicken and the peanut soup -- oh, and of course the salty country ham (they sell whole hams on the premises, too) with biscuits. And a merengue pie for dessert. I try to make it there at least once a month, preferably on the all-you-can-eat-chicken-wings night.

As has been noted, the waitresses are part of the comforting charm.

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Today we finally made it to It's About Thyme before they locked their doors at 3pm. I've passed their signs on Rt 29 for so long, I was determined to one day eat there.

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The service was unusually efficient (old european charm?) and they have lots of nice wines by the glass for $4.95.

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I might have sustained some internal damage from eating all this warm focaccia bread. I couldn't stop myself and they kept the refills coming.

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Hubby had the Penne w/Red Sauce:

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I had the Portabello Mushroom Sandwich. When it arrived, I was disappointed. It was not what I was expecting, open faced w/tons of mushrooms and had to be eaten w/a fork. At first I wished I'd ordered something else, but it was surprisingly delicious. Lots of good olive oil and the mushrooms were very clean & fresh. Really good quality.

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Now I just have to hit The Bavarian Chef one of these years...


"Don't be afraid of flavor" -- Tyler Florence

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I love going to Pearmund Cellars to for wine tastings, as well as fruit picking out in that area, so my SO and I have had a few occasions to try some eating around Flint hill and Sperryville:

Sunnyside Farms does have a great burger - I'm not a big burger-eater but they were excellent

Four and Twenty Blackbirds was less than stellar. We ate there in October 2005, and we really wanted to like it, too. The service was excellent, but we found half of the dishes to be inedible, the other half decently mediocre, and the bill wayy overpriced. I only ate there one time, so I can't say it wasn't an off night, but I was really disappointed.

The Epicurious Cow isn't a restaurant, but its a great little food shop right off the highway that sells great cheeses, wines, etc; they also make excellent sandwiches - http://www.epicuriouscow.com/

Please please please keep posting more info here - the more places to try the better!

And here's a link to an article (tho its 5 years old) called "The Gourmet Trail of Rappahanock" : http://www.farms-estates.com/fe/WashPost2.htm

e.t.a.: well, now that Sunnyside discontinued their beef program, you might need to ignore my comment on that :rolleyes:


Edited by LittleWing (log)

Eat.Drink.DC.

...dining in the district...

Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what's for lunch.

- Orson Welles

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I really think you need to give Four and Twenty another shot. It is really a fine place. Their menu completely changes often and some menus are better than others. It is hard to fathom, but Flint Hill has around 100 people living in it and 3 restaurants... I also adore the Public House. It has a fabulous wine list and great steaks. I would however skip the Griffin Tavern. Eshhhh. I've had better food from a vending machine. How does one screw up Fish and Chips?!?! :blink:


"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully."

—George W. Bush in Saginaw, Mich., Sept. 29, 2000

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Need More :biggrin:

We are leading a group of 7 from NJ to TN through the Valley onto the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We just have NO idea what time we will be anywhere or even, depending on rain ...what day

Last I heard our first stop-over will be the Front Royal area, then onto Natural Bridges/Roanoke then a dash to Knoxville

More yummies please

tracey


The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

My Webpage

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