At the French Hound, vintage beer posters and marigold-colored walls create a festive mood. Photograph by Michael Ventura
The Blackthorne Inn
10087John Mosby Hwy., Upperville; 540-592-3848
This restaurant in a historic home has cozy dining spaces and the pubby warmth you find so often in Ireland—not a surprise because it’s run by an Irish family, the O’Connors. The kitchen stretches beyond the Emerald Isle for inspiration, with dishes such as a luscious oyster stew with wild mushrooms, house-made duck pâté, perfectly seared scallops and trout, and nicely cooked lamb chops on a bed of lentils. The house-baked bread is excellent. Lunch and Sunday brunch entrées $10 to $15, dinner entrées $18 to $32.
6483 Main St., The Plains; 540-253-5456
The pastrami in the Reuben is house-made. So are the sausages and Ambroso’s roll for that old carny favorite sausage and peppers. Owner/chef Nick Forlano gets more elaborate at night with plates such as hanger steak with caramelized-onion/potato cake and pulled-veal sirloin with baby turnips and gnocchi. But with its ever-changing blackboard of specials and a wine bar facing the open kitchen, the mood at this market/cafe/wine shop is always relaxed. The Plains’ most famous local, actor Robert Duvall, is a fan. Lunch entrées $7.50 to $12, dinner entrées $16 to $29.
The French Hound
101 S. Madison St., Middleburg; 540-687-3018
Vintage French beer posters and Provençal-yellow walls make for an auberge-in-the-country backdrop. No surprise then that chef John-Gustin Burkitt spent time in the south of France, and his takes on classics ring true. Steak frites might sport a flatiron cut with intense red-wine-and-herb-infused butter or a French hanger steak with shallot-and-wine sauce. Fries are crisp and addictive. Other rave-worthy dishes: the duck confit with a lentil salad and the profiteroles, crisp puff pastry filled with ice cream and drizzled with dark-chocolate sauce. Lunch entrées $9.50 to $17, dinner entrées $20 to $34.
4244 Loudoun Ave., The Plains; 540-253-5501
At this restaurant from husband-and-wife team Lou and Lydia Patierno—graduates of the Culinary Institute of America—lots of care goes into the food: Virginia trout is smoked on-site, and gelato is spun in-house. In addition to a permanent menu, every night brings a long list of specials that might include local, peppery arugula with Gorgonzola and walnuts. The trappings both inside (rustic wood beams, hand-painted Italian pottery) and out (a shrub-ringed stone patio) bring to mind a European countryside restaurant. Dinner entrées $24.50 to $30.50, Sunday brunch entrées $14 to $22.
Goodstone Inn & Estate
36205 Snake Hill Rd., Middleburg; 877-219-4663
Palladian windows frame pastoral scenes, and plush Oriental rugs evoke the quiet luxury of an English manor. Still, the welcome at this inn restaurant is genial, and chef William Walden’s cooking is playful. A duo of salmon—one house-cured and pastrami-smoked—pairs well with spicy slivers of pickled cucumber. Soft-shell crab gets a stuffing of jumbo lump meat and a subtle saffron beurre blanc. For dessert, the not-too-sweet, not-too-thick house-made caramel sauce over a changing roster of ice creams is a grown-up take on an old favorite. Lunch entrées $12 to $22, dinner entrées $30 to $50, prix fixe Sunday brunch $49 for three courses and a glass of Champagne.
Hunter's Head Tavern
9048 John Mosby Hwy. (Rt. 50), Upperville; 540-592-9020
There’s a Colonial vibe at this 260-year-old home turned English pub with original log-cabin walls and mismatched antique wooden tables. Go for heritage pork loin with horseradish pan sauce or a dry-aged rib eye or burger, all from the Ayrshire Farm nearby. Robust pub fare includes shepherd’s pie with a blanket of buttery mashed potatoes, a boozy Welsh rarebit, and fish and chips made with the airiest of batters. Lunch entrées $10 to $18, dinner entrées $9 to $30, Sunday brunch entrées $10 to $16.
200 W. Washington St., Middleburg; 540-687-8011
This place falls into lots of categories: gourmet market, airy cafe, patio-lunch spot, prepared-food stop. On the shelves you’ll find high-end artisanal jams, Virginia hot sauce, local wines, baguettes, and home-cook splurges such as smoked salmon. The made-in-house options are overseen from afar by chef Todd Gray of Equinox in downtown DC, and the menu has the same seasonal, Mid-Atlantic sensibilities of his white-tablecloth restaurant. That means pan-seared jumbo-lump crabcakes, buttermilk-brined chicken for crispy tenders, and creamy mac and cheese. Sandwiches $6.95 to $13.99, to-go dinners $9.99 to $16.99.
This article appears in the June 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.