Virginia’s bucolic Rappahannock County is a culinary hotspot between restaurants like The Inn at Little Washington, its new casual cafe, and the lauded Three Blacksmiths. This summer, road-trippers can add Blue Rock in Washington (a.k.a. “Little Washington”) to the list of promising places to check out. The 80-acre, equestrian-themed inn has been undergoing an extensive renovation by new owner Nick Dowling, and will open later this summer with two dining options: a casual wine and beer tasting room, and full-service restaurant from former Pineapple & Pearls head chef Bin Lu.
It’s been a busy summer for Dowling, who operates commercial real estate projects in the Outer Bank, Bahamas, and beyond. The DC-based entrepreneur recently launched Vintage Yacht Charters, a new company with two luxury motor yachts on the Potomac River. Lu, who cooked at Bourbon Steak and CityZen before his last five years at the two-Michelin star Capitol Hill tasting room, is also designing menus and running catering operations for the boats. But Lu’s restaurant home will be Blue Rock, a historic farm that’s operated as an inn under different owners for the past 40-odd years. Dowling also brought on general manager Liz Carpenter from Middleburg’s Red Fox Inn.
When the revamped property reopens, the main inn house will have five guest rooms. Dowling describes the look by Leah Frankl of Lumber & Light and Lauren Elizabeth Design Studio as “casual and refined, nostalgic Americana” with an equestrian-chic vibe (think a Ralph Lauren ad brought to life). Surrounding green hills flank Blue Rock’s working horse stables and a large pond. The team plans to build more guests rooms after opening, as well as a walking path around the property and event space for weddings.
Lu will operate two different concepts. An all-day Tasting Room—think wine, not prix-fixe menus—takes cues from the surrounding vineyards with local and international wines, beers, and cocktails, plus a casual menu of cheese and charcuteries boards, seasonal plates, sandwiches, and a burger. Guests will be able to spread out on the lawn by the pond with blankets and picnic baskets, or around fire pits. The 50-seat restaurant with a large terrace patio will be open for dinner only. Lu plans to combine small share plates with appetizers and entrees, plus a few family-style portions like a whole roast chicken for two.
“Having worked at so many tasting menu-style restaurants, it’s nice to do bigger food,” says Lu. “I kind of love those restaurants where if you’re in the mood, you can have a steak and sides and a great California Cab. Or if you want to try a lot of different little plates, you can do that as well.”
Price-wise, the goal is to be much more casual than that other Little Washington restaurant—though Lu plans for smaller splurges like caviar or a dessert of Champagne sorbet. Room rates will depends on the night of the week and season, falling generally between $300 to $450. Stay tuned for an opening date.
Blue Rock. 12567 Lee Highway, Washington, VA