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Leesburg's Lightfoot Cafe

j
Joe Oct 20, 2001 11:19 PM

Arguably the hottest restaurant in Loudoun County, certainly the hardest last minute reservation on a Saturday night we arrived at 8:30 for a 9:00PM reservation. This is a converted bank with a 30' ceiling and seating for 345. That's right. The promotional brochure at the hostess' stand said 345.

I have a theory about restaurants that seat more than 100. Or that seat more than 50. But 345. Well, in an earlier post I spent 45 minutes writing about Kinkead's Colvin Run Tavern. For this I think 2 minutes is sufficient. I would describe the food as upscale Hot Shoppes in a room that would be the absolute front runner in a contest for noisest dining room in the D. C. area. My guess is that people who go here have decided that food doesn't matter, only being seen at a restaurant that is currently "
in."

The food was atrociously bad. A filet we asked for medium rare came out well done. Halibut that spent three or four extra minutes under a broiler to be totally dried out. Fried green tomatoes that I've had in Birmingham at a restaurant legendary for them, here, were shamefully overcooked. The batter they were dipped in had actually turned brown from overcooking.

On a plus side this is a "neat" restaurant similar to the Yellow Brick Bank in Shepherdstown, WVA. The vault is located dead center in the middle of the dining room. It is located on King Street in the center of historic Leesburg, a really wonderful, romantic little 18th centrury town to walk around in.

I did notice that the desserts were "humongous:" as an example, carrot cake that was really a thick slab with several scoops of store bought ice cream. My guess is that the crowd they are playing to is easily impressed with this type of "uptown" restaurant caring little for the drive into D. C. or close in Fairfax County to sample something far superior for the price.

Zagat gives this a 23 for food. I would have placed the food rating at 17 or 18. Up the street the Tuscarora Mill delivers much better for the same price. My guess is that five years from now the Tuscarora Mill will still be around while the Lightfoot will be long gone.

In closing I have to say that throughout the meal my wife continued to chastize me for not reserving at a favorite of ours, Four and Twenty Blackbirds in Flint Hill about 25 miles away. This last restaurant is exemplary while Lightfoot needs a lot of work.

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  1. l
    Liz RE: Joe Oct 27, 2001 11:01 AM

    I have heard the same thing about the food at Lightfoot. A friend went there and ordered a steak rare. It came out well done and the servers argued with her that she ordered it that way. She loves rare meat so she would not have ordered it that way. She didn't eat it and they didn't offer to replace it, just took the full plate back to the kitchen and gave them the bill. It's disappointing because it's a neat little town and it could use a nice restaurant. I hear it's a beautiful building. But I probably won't make the trip to see it.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Liz
      b
      Bob W. RE: Liz Oct 27, 2001 08:07 PM

      I too am sorry to hear that Lightfoot doesn't seem to live up to the hype. We love heading west to eat.

      We had lunch a few years ago at Tuscarora Mill in Leesburg, which is a beloved establishment in the 'burg. I enjoyed my buffalo burger (Virginia is actually big bison country!) but Mrs. W. and my brother were not bowled over.

      I must confess that a few years ago we had not one but two nice Thanksgiving meals at the Green Tree in Leesburg. It's oh so corny but for the Turkey Day pigout very appropriate.

      We have tried several of the other places west of the DC megalopolis.

      Today we had supper at the Rail Stop in The Plains after some horseback riding at the Marriott Ranch. Overall, very good. I liked my scallop and chorizo skewer a lot. Mrs. W. and her friend both got the special pasta, which was linguini in a lobster cream sauce with crawfish. It could have used a bit more seasoning, but was loaded with crawfish and the pasta was cooked properly. For dessert the three of us shared a MASSIVE apple crisp. I had ordered a panna cotta but it fortunately never showed up.

      For those who haven't been to the Rail Stop since Bobby Duvall sold it, it's gone a bit more upscale.

      Across the street is the Farm Store. It's a little gourmet shop that is quite fabulous. They have a great line of spices. We found sichuan peppercorns, which I was not able to find at the big asian markets in fairfax.

      In Marshall (the town a few miles west of The Plains on route 55) is Frogs and Friends, a cozy French country restaurant. The food is classic more than nouvelle. IIRC, I had veal in calvados sauce.

      Up in Middleburg is the Black Coffee Bistro. They recently closed to expand, and should be reopening in early November. It's another cozy spot that is very popular with locals. (The tourists go to the Red Fox Inn, which we have enjoyed in the past and has sinfully rich peanut soup). The menu emphasizes seasonal ingredients.

      L'Auberge Provencale is a big ticket inn in White Post that also has wonderful French food. Not cheap at all; very good for a special occasion. Don't drive into the white post down the street; they recently replaced one that had survived for years.

      Ashby Inn in Paris: Very popular. Very good food that we thought fell just a skosh short of living up to the hype. Nice wine list.

      Some places we still haven't gotten to are:

      Bleu Rock Inn, Washington
      Flint Hill Public House, Flint Hill
      Four & Twenty Blackbirds, Flint Hill
      1763, Upperville
      It's About Thyme, Culpeper

      Any thoughts on these places?

      1. re: Bob W.
        l
        Liz RE: Bob W. Oct 27, 2001 09:38 PM

        I have not been to any of those places you asked about. However, I have heard good things about Le Fleur de Lis in Lovettsville, VA., especially the Sunday Brunch. Come on up to Frederick, we have great restaurants here and a fun downtown.

        1. re: Bob W.
          j
          Joe RE: Bob W. Oct 28, 2001 10:36 AM

          I've been to most of the restaurants you listed over the past three or four years as well as a number more that you haven't mentioned (i.e. Prince Michel, Willow Grove Inn, Graves Mountain Lodge among others). I, too, have enjoyed Tuscarora Mill which, by the way, has a wonderful wine list. Two other names merit a response.
          L'Auberge Provencial has a 27 food rating in Zagat and has long been given accolades in the D. C. press. For Thanksgiving three years ago my wife and I decided to go there. In past years we've had good experiences at the Dunkirk Inn in Maryland (now closed) and the Wayside Inn in Middletown which, I believe, now is under different ownership.
          L'Auberge was a tremendous disppointment starting with its farmhouse ambience. Simply, for us, there was nothing special. The food was good but nowhere near some of the others. I don't remember any particular dish but we vowed never to return. The two hundred that the meal cost, for us, is better spent elsewhere.
          Having said that one of our favorite restaurants is Four and Twenty Blackbirds in Flint Hill. Dollar for dollar this may be the best value in the entire D. C. area. The food is wonderful, honestly, 90 to 95% as good as The Inn at Little Washington but at 1/3 to 1/4 the price. Some of it is the equal. It is not sumptuous luxury, it does not pretend to be. But it is a warm, wonderful, comfortable dining room upstairs and downstairs, with stone and bricks, a different but equally comfortable ambience. For two with a modest bottle of wine this is still around $100 or less.
          The area of America that some of these restaurants are in, along with wineries (some of whom have incredible views of the rolling countryside and Mountains such as Linden and Oasis) and cottage farm industries is incredible. I actually believe that much of this is just about the equal of Tuscany. We are fortunate to live so close and take advantage of it. It is one of the great pleasures of life to explore, drink and dine in the Virginia countryside anytime of the year, but the fall is especially wondrous and beautiful.

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