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Apr 20, 2009 08:19 AM

Where to eat besides The Homestead in Hot Springs, VA

We've been going to The Homestead in early spring for the past 5 years. Can't wait, it's a beautiful place. This year we skipped dinner our second, and last, night. We're wondering if anyone has a suggestion for dinner next tuesday night, 30-45 min. or less, away, in all price range. I'd also be interested in any comments about The Homestead and/or The Geenbrier. Thanks, Henry

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  1. I think the food at the Greenbrier is more refined. I am sad that their tasting room only restaurant closed. In general I think the food is better. Especially the formal dining room. If you are willing to go that far Lewisburg, WV has some fun little restaurants, and nice antique shops and galleries too, I will try to look up the name of the good one we ate at.

    The only thing I really loved at the Homestead was the trio of custard that included a Lavender custard at 1789. The rest was ok, but very overpriced for what you get. I also think Sam Snead's is better than Sam Snead's at the Homestead. Their steaks and fish are good. Draper's Cafe is ok, but not as good as dinner at the main dining room or Sam Snead's at the Greenbrier.

    We were not whelmed by the food at the Homestead, it was good, but not wow. Also afternoon tea at the Greenbrier is a must, it is what afternoon tea at the Homestead used to be many many years ago before they charged for the accompaniments.

    1. These places are both a shell of their former grandeur. Years and years ago they catered to the wealthy families of Washington and Philly and beyond with dozens of amenities and reasonably good food. I recall when every place-setting at the Greenbrier's Main Dining Room was set with 10 -12 pieces of heavy, engraved silverware. Trout came from the local streams. Beef Wellington was made with a lard infused flaky crust. And (real?) turtle soup was ladled out of beautiful antique, bone china terrines.

      That model was broken 2 or 3 decades ago with the emergence of the Corporate Sponsored Event. Strategic Planning Meetings or Salesman Quota Acheivers Club for 200 to 400 guests became the standard of the day. All this revenue caused both Greenbrier and Homestead to neglect the individual guest, especially in the dining room, as so much profit was made off the buffets in the corporate conference rooms. The demand for casualness by the few remaining non-corporate guests killed the skillful service. Lack of demand reulted in a homogonized menu of Sysco based meals.

      They are still wonderful get-a-ways. The golf at Greenbrier (3 courses) is superior to Homestead. But Homestead has better shooting (sporting clays), and they have skiing. Both have a picuresque setting.

      But don't go to eat. While Greenbrier absolutely has the edge, and an ok meal can be had a both, the glory days of fine dining at either is long gone.

      1. You may want to post this on the South board.

        1. In the 45 minute time frame, I would suggest that the Greenbrier would be a very nice alternative, albeit the same grand-old high end tradition. (The Golf Club is less formal, arguably as good or better than Main Dining Room.) Decent food in downtown Lewisburg and some charm to the town, I'm forgetting the name of the one place -- but you will experience no culinary revelation there.
          Having spent probably two weeks total at the Homestead, and four months total at the Greenbrier over the years due to the "Corporate Sponsored Event" menace described here, I would agree that the Greenbrier has more refinement based on its independence and the culinary apprenticeship program there for decades, and the fact that executive chef Peter Timmons is still running the show. I could go on for thousands of words here about the tragedy of the decline of the Greenbrier (locked in labor disputes, Chapter 11, pending sale to Marriott, remoteness factor that turns off business travelers, etc.). But having gone with my family recently on personal travel, I still had a fabulous meal (albeit pricey) in the Main Dining Room.
          About four years ago, in search of attracting hipper clientele, the Greenbrier invested millions in creation of the Hemispheres restaurant and gutting of the old stodgy Tavern Room. They brought in Michael Voltaggio (brother of Michael) and gave him creative freedom. The short-lived result was gorgeous on all fronts -- an avant-garde menu, perfectly executed. But it was a financial disaster, with the turtle-soup and lard-laden Beef Wellington crowd revolted, and it never got the national press it deserved. So millions flushed down. Meanwhile, Michael is now running the kitchen(s) at the heralded Bazaar by Jose Andres, which received the first-ever four-star rating by the LA Times just last month and flipping 400+ seats three times every night.
          But I digress.
          One note -- stop off at Rowe's Country Buffet at the exit off I-81headed to the Homestead. Artery-clogging goodness at giveaway pricing.

          14 Replies
          1. re: jrwood1

            Hemisphere really was amazing. We were lucky to get to eat there while it was there. They had this dessert that was a sugar sphere with dessert inside that was so pretty you couldn't believe how good it tasted. And the bar they created to go with Hemisphere was so neat it is such a shame it didn't last. The moroccan carved wood theme in the bar down there was so cool. It is missed.

            We have spent a long time there growing up and are getting married right before the sale to Marriot :( I have a feeling it will never be the same.

            I think the place we ate here was called Julian's and it was good for Lewisburg, WV. There is also a little cafe near this great art gallery and I wish I could remember the name, they had good sandwiches and the gallery was really neat.

            1. re: ktmoomau

              Most of the comments on this post are fair as to Greenbrier, where we just spent a weekend with wife's family. We ate once in the main dining room at Greenbirer and had a lovely, lovely time with a broad range of ages and appetites (for both food and culinary inncovation). We weren't present for either the Greenbrier of decades past or the recent Hemispheres experience, but had a meal that would be a standout in Baltiimore (from which we hail) or even Washington. Smoked trout and crayfish pate, monkfish "osso buco", lamb w lobster risotto, and I could go on -- and a terrific bourgogne blanc for only $48.

              Don't get me wrong, you can (and will) spend a ton of money for both wine and food here -- in the main dining room and elsewhere. But you get a very high level of service (with the above-mentioned dozen item silver place settings) and some great food to boot.

              One nigfht we drove into Lewisburg and had a lovely meal at Julian's w owner Steve Jackendorff. I say "with" because he was a constant presence at our table to discuss wine and other items. This is a place with tasy and inexpensive food (a few entree items over $20) and an incredible wine list. How about a dozen Amarones in a smallish town in West Virginia? I doubt we would see this in DC or Baltimore any time soon. Wine prices were very fair to boot.

              The Greenbrier is not for the faint of heart or the mod-ish or even the remotely thrifty-- but if you are looking for a beautiful place with some excellent food and outrageous amenities (falconry, anyone?) nestled in God's country, come soon and come often, if you can afford it.

            2. re: jrwood1

              Thanks for the great write up. Very interesting to read.

              I will be curious what happens under Marriott ownership. While I am not at all familiar with the Hospitality Management business, I recall reading that the Greenbrier's staffing costs as a ratio of total costs was 2 to 3 times higher than similar resorts. I hope that is not their first savings target.

              I also recall touring the enormous underground "bunker". I wonder if they will ever find a useful purpose for that space.

              1. re: Pappy

                Thanks for the nice words, though I find the predicament of the Greenbrier to be very frustrating. For literally 95 years, my employer was a very large corporate client of the Greenbrier and we've had to move our meetings to the Broadmoor in Colorado because of the labor meltdown -- Manhattan-level wage scales and work rules in a remote area of West Virginia. Nonetheless, I'm an addict of the Greenbrier Clinic executive health plan and intend to keep going with my family as long as they're open, and, as I said, as long as Peter Timmons hangs in there as head chef, I know there'll be excellent meals to be had there.

                Glad to hear somebody besides me has those memories of Hemispheres and that miraculous sugar sphere! And you're right, ktmoomau, Julian's is that perfectly capable spot in Lewisburg.

                Pappy, I hope Marriott can indeed be successful (assuming the deal continues to move forward); their high-end management company certainly has some great properties and I'm sure they'll respect what remains magical about the Greenbrier. But from a food perspective, they'll face a conundrum. There is a fanatical audience of Greenbrier devotees who want all the traditional classics, transported to decades gone by. Yet that is an aging audience that alone cannot sustain a massive 6500-acre resort. Hemispheres in retrospect tried to push things too futuristically, like hurling Ferran Adria at a guest who just wants a hunk of bleeding red meat. But I'm not sure where the sweet spot is, between cutting edge and traditional. I just hope they find it -- and hold out hope that they will.
                As for the bunker ... not a Chowhound subject, but my personal belief is that it's back! (No further comment!)

                1. re: jrwood1

                  Manhattan-level wage scales ???? That's kind of a stretch.

                2. re: Pappy

                  If the Marriott Corp. takes over the Greenbriar, you can kiss the place goodbye. It'll become a standard place, i.e., CHAIN HOTEL. All of the grandness and civility will long be gone.

                  I haven't been to the GB in about 7 years, but according to what I am hearing, it has certainly diminished in its grandeur. Too bad. There are few places left any more that offer such lovely surroundings, great food and hospitality. FoiGras

                  1. re: FoiGras

                    Excuse me FoiGras, but you may recall that Marriott owns Ritz Carlton. I do not know how those corporate relationships work, and to what extent they could share management practices. But if they could make this a Ritz like facility, we may all be making reservations real soon.

                    I have been to many many Ritz Carlton resorts many many times. The food is only good if they have basically sub-let the dining room. But the service and the attention to detail throughout the organization is universally enviable, even for the Greenbrier.

                    1. re: Pappy

                      The level of service at the Greenbrier is really amazing, really it has held up through financial woes better than the Homestead, which you can see a lot of age, and the service has gone down, but the Greenbrier has continued to take good care of the rooms and offers impecable service. I do hope that continues. I am sure some things will change, I hope the personal service aspect however is maintained at a Greenbrier/ Ritz like level. We will continue to go if it does.

                      In fact that is one reason we are having our wedding there in a few weeks, the good food and excellent service. And they treat everyone really nicely whether you are there for dinner, or a week vacation. They will bring you hot rollers, make sure your clubs go to the club house and get to you when you need them, etc...

                      I believe Marriott will have to make some significant changes to make the resort viable but I really keep my fingers crossed that they realize they have to keep it special in so many ways to keep their base of customers. They can bring in some interesting food and hopefully some other up and coming 20-30 somethings will discover it too. If I could go to dinner there for one last night though, I would. I really love the grand dining room, and I really feel you don't quite feel as ripped off when you get the bill as at the Homestead. Although I was very impressed with the Homestead wine list and the that they had some nice VA wines too.

                      1. re: ktmoomau

                        Congratulations ktmoomau! Have a great time. I have hosted several private parties at diffenten locations at the Greenbrier (including Top Notch, which is wonderful) and they have always been a great success.

                        1. re: Pappy

                          Congratulations indeed; hard to pick a more beautiful spot and I'm sure they'll do a wonderful job for you. Three words of advice if the menu isn't already carved in granite: chocolate bread pudding.

                      2. re: Pappy

                        Pappy--I wasn't aware that Marriott owned the Ritz Carlton. Hubby and I stay at the Manalapan--Palm Beach Ritz during the winter months. Indeed, the service is impeccable, the rooms are very comfortable. We stay on the Club Floor and take advantage of the lovely treats of continental breakfast, lunches, afternoon teas, snacks and wines and evening desserts. The homemade cookies are to die for.

                        But, you are correct with regards to the Ritz dining rooms. The Manalapan's dining room is adequate. We usually dine elsewhere while in Florida. The Scottsdale, AZ dining room was okay as far as the food selections.

                        So, your observation is correct in that, if the hotel sub-lets their dining room, then the food is generally better. FoiGras

                        1. re: FoiGras

                          Lexington, VA is probably between 50min to 1 hr away and the Ren Hen is a superb restaurant. When we were at the Homestead and later at Fort Lewis Lodge we would take a trip into Lexington.

                          1. re: Jesco

                            Jesco, How was Fort Lewis Lodge? That looks like a neat place. Which room/cottage did you stay in? We were at the Homestead last week and meant to check it out but didn't have time. And of course, how was the food? Bath County VA is a beautiful place.

                            1. re: Henry Carroll

                              We enjoyed the experience, especially the quiet and seeing the area. We stayed in the Lodge which was nice and clean but not fancy or very modern. The meals were very good, i described them as solid. The husband usually grills a meat on the grill and the wife made some very good vegetables that were in season. Breakfast was better than the dinner. I think most people would enjoy going. Having drinks on the porch before the meal was also a nice touch.