En Route to Inn at Little Washington
- KWynn Jun 14, 2009 07:56 PM
We're going to the IALW on Saturday evening for my 30th birthday and are staying overnight (at one of the nearby, more reasonably-priced B&B's instead of dropping a minimum of $750 on what I understand is a small, old room).
We'll be driving from DC on Saturday and wanted to have a leisurely drive out there, but on the way were hoping to stop somewhere cute and quaint for lunch. While I know that it will be a big meal Saturday night, our reservation isn't until 9 pm, so we'd like to grab a bite around noon or 1 to hold us over until dinner time. We don't need a huge meal but are looking for recommendations on the way for lunch and/or wineries. An added plus if it's a winery that serves lunch!
Oops! Sorry. I should have read your post a bit more carefully. In any event, I think that you'll love the dinner at the IALW. I've seen only a few complaints. I recall that our meal was divine.
We stayed at the Inn. Yes, indeed, it was expensive. But our suite was lovely. And the DINNER, WOW! FoiGras
I am not a fan of The Inn. I wrote this almost six years ago on our fourth visit to it over a 20 year period: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/168062 The Inn is beyond expensive: if you sit at one of two Chef's Tables in the kitchen on Saturday you are paying $178 prix fixe plus $450 per party (up to six) suppliment. Let's assume that four people are doing this. That's $290.50 per person prix fixe. With wine off of a list that may have the highest markup within 100 miles you are looking at over $100 a bottle (for two people) which now brings you to $691. With VA tax and 20% tip that's $876 per couple for dinner. If you do not sit in the kitchen the tab including a $100 bottle (which, again, is one of the cheaper bottles) is $456 + tax & 20% tip or $574 for two. Hope that you are not given one of the tables in a room, actually a hallway so narrow that you are forced to move your chair to allow their "cow" cheese cart to pass by.
On Saturday night a suite at The Inn has two suppliments for a total price with tax of $1186 per night. This is a "standard" suite, not one of the larger ones and there is a fair chance you will not be in the same building but will have to walk up the street to dinner.
I have a different standard for a $2000 + dinner and hotel room for one night than I do for, say, Komi (admittedly an entirely different experience). Or even Per Se. I expect at a minimum, a Michelin three star experience by European standards.
There was a James Beard House dinner at Maestro several years ago which included every D. C. area chef who had won a Beard Award, each preparing a dish. I thought that Patrick O'Connell's was the best of the night. Clearly, he has the talent to be among America's greatest chefs. He certainly has proven it time and time again. I also believe that Phyllis Richman's "official" retirement dinner was at The Inn-further confirmation of his excellence.
But four times I/we have gone and four times we have left disappointed. Note that what I wrote in the above link was the summer of '03. I said we would not return and we have not. I honestly hope that Kwynn has an extraordinary experience for her 30th birthday. But two anniversaries, a 40th birthday and a 50th birthday, all disappointments, are the reason that I type this.
To be fair on our last visit The Inn had been demoted to three stars by Tom Sietsema. Today, it is back up to four. The Inn is also the long standing Temple for haute celebrations with reams of reviews confirming the transcendental indulgence.
We have just not been so lucky.
I haven't been in over a year but I liked J's Gourmet in Front Royal for fresh sandwiches and they pack a nice picnic lunch. From the look of their web-site, they've remodeled and made it more upscale but it still looks like the same type of food.
The new name is element but the restaurant Apt 2g is still there.
On the way out, I like Naked Mountain vineyard in Markam. I like the wine (the whites mostly, though I'm not a big white wine person) but you can't beat the tasting room which has huge glass windows overlooking the mountain. They occasionally serve special meals but probably bigger than you want. Have fun at the IALW. I'd love to read the report.
Naked Mountain Vineyard
2747 Leeds Manor Rd, Markham, VA 22643
206 South Royal Avenue, Front Royal, VA
Thornton River Grille in Sperryville would be a very nice lunch spot. They are about 10 minutes from the IALW and have a great lunch and dinner menu. The weblink is www.thorntonrivergrille.com/. There are a few places in Sperryville to walk around and visit -- a few antique places, a nice pottery place and a gallery or two. I think there is also an ice cream place there to if you can do lunch, ice cream and then dinner at IALW all in the same day. Enjoy and report back on all your dining outings from the trip.
How about lunch at Foti's Restaurant in Warrenton? It's South of Little Washington, but not that far. Proprietors there are alumni of the staff at IALW. Hope you have a great dinner.
One of the advantages of staying at the Inn itself is that you seem to get the better tables with better spacing between diners (and the men get carnations to wear on their lapels). You also have the option of a great breakfast in the main dining room the next day. The disadvantage is that it is numbingly expensive.
Regardless of where you stay it's a wonderful place for a getaway celebration. I'm looking forward to a time when I'll have enough disposable income to take my wife there again (and stay there!)