Driving by you’ll almost miss this brick former railroad flop house on East Water Street until you see the C&O Pepsi Cola sign out front. You begin to wonder if this is the right place until you step inside the dark and intimate mezzanine area with its brick walls, hardwood floors and beamed ceilings. With light splashing on the wonderful artwork, the room is cozy and warm and other than the casual Bistro downstairs is my favorite of the five different rooms.
The restaurant has been a favorite of locals and visitors since 1976 and it is easy to understand why. It can be a wonderful special occasion destination in the cozy mezzanine room or a fun spot for a casual meal, a glass of wine or a late night snack in the Bistro. The people are nice, the service is excellent and the food is terrific. It is the restaurant most often mentioned by locals when you ask them for dining recommendations.
The menu changes frequently, but here’s a sampling: Rag Mountain Trout Almandine caramelized lemon, brown butter, toasted almonds and capers, Applewood Smoked Duck Breast with creamy risotto, sauce L’orange, Steak Chinoise, gruyere-thyme smashed potatoes, tamari-ginger pan sauce and scallions
For dessert there’s a wonderful cheese course where you select two cheeses that are served with grapes, apples and bread or try the “Coupe Maison” 3 scoops of vanilla bean with warm Belgian chocolate whipped cream and toasted almonds. So good.
There’s a lot of attention to detail that makes this a very satisfying experience; the breads are homemade and served hot, the drinks are made with freshly squeezed juices, the menus are hand written and much of what is served is sourced from local producers. They don’t just mail it in here.
The wine program is run by Elaine Futhey and it is great list for its quality, depth and very fair pricing. There’s a whimsy to the list that is fun, “wines to charm and intrigue you…” Most wines are under $50 or not far from it which makes it the best place in town to enjoy this many wonderful wines. There’s even a wine from Crete! Where? The restaurant has received the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for many years.
ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: High in the mezzanine area.
WHAT OTHERS SAY…
“…this unprepossessing brick front might make you think twice, but don’t be deterred, for this unusual setting has been home to acclaimed fare for more than 2 decades. From all appearances, the creaky floors in this charming old building were around in Jefferson’s day. Changing monthly, the menu is basically country French but ranges across the globe — from Thailand to New Mexico and Louisiana — for additional inspiration. Many patrons stop in the downstairs Bistro, a rustic setting of exposed brick and rough-hewn barn wood, while others proceed upstairs to a more formal venue or to the covered garden.” Frommer’s