Sperryville used to be a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it blip on Lee Highway, a turnoff rarely taken on the way to Shenandoah National Park or Luray Caverns. But over the past decade, it has become a destination, drawing gourmands looking to explore Rappahannock County’s vibrant food scene beyond the vaunted Inn at Little Washington.
The best way to get a sense of the town is to stroll along the Sperryville River Walk, which starts across the street from Happy Camper Equipment Co. (15 Main St.), where you can stock up on cooking gear for your next wilderness expedition—as well as on-trend outdoor clothing. The walk goes past reservation-only Three Blacksmiths (20 Main St.), where chef Jake Addeo, a recent transplant who previously helmed DC restaurants such as the Occidental and the late Bibiana, crafts an elegant tasting menu leaning heavily on local ingredients and classic European techniques. (It’s currently booked through mid-October.) Next up: cozy coffee shop Before & After (31 Main St.) for extra-strength espresso and tempting pastries.
Taking the bridge across the burbling Thornton River brings you to Headmaster’s Pub (12018 Lee Hwy.) for bar snacks and burgers plus an arcade packed with dinging, pinging vintage pinball machines. You’ll have to make a minor detour off the trail to hit Copper Fox Distillery (9 River Ln.), for a tour and tasting of its smoky applewood-aged whiskey, and Wild Roots Apothecary (4 River Ln.), which crafts botanical syrups for cocktails in flavors such as elderberry-lavender.
Refresh at the end of the 1⅓-mile walk with a wild-fermented sour beer at the cult brewery Pen Druid (3863 Sperryville Pike), boasting widescreen views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. If you’re there on a weekend, grab food from Sumac, a couple-run mobile wood-fired kitchen serving cheffy rustic fare.
On the other side of town, there’s solar-powered, zero-waste-focused Off the Grid (11692 Lee Hwy.), a vegetarian-friendly coffee shop that’s good for breakfast, lunch, or just a snack. In Luray, about a 20-minute drive away, Happy Mini Mart & Deli (822 E. Main St.) is an unexpected Nepali Indian takeout joint inside a gas station, where you can get plump chicken momo dumplings, triangular samosas packed with potatoes and peas, and rich dal makhani.
If you want to cook for yourself, you have access to plenty of high-quality ingredients. At Rappahannock Farmers Market (3863 Sperryville Pike), which runs on Saturdays, you’ll find artfully scored sourdoughs from micro-bakery Jackalope Ridge; Bean Hollow Grassfed’s beef, pork, and lamb; and a wealth of shroom varieties from Madison Mushrooms. Other notable stores that are open during the week: Roy’s Farm Market (64 Old Hollow Rd.)—brimming with recent harvests; pickles and preserves; dry goods; and homestyle fruit pies—and Sperryville Corner Store (3710 Sperryville Pike), a highbrow grocer with great cheese and charcuterie. The latter adjoins Francis, an intimate cocktail/wine bar, and the always-bustling Rappahannock Pizza Kitchen, which fires up sourdough-crusted rounds.
Where to Stay
Hopkins Ordinary (47 Main St.), a bed-and-breakfast—and brewery—at the center of the town’s main drag, offers thoughtfully appointed rooms from $219. They have porches—some boast wood stoves—and are perched above a brewing operation that supplies small-batch beers to the tasting room and biergarten.
Things to Do
Tackle Old Rag Mountain’s circuit trail (2577 Nethers Rd., Etlan), a grueling 9.4-mile, daylong hike to a peak with unforgettable panoramic views of forest and farmland. Then reward yourself with a stop at nearby Sharp Rock Vineyards (5 Sharp Rock Rd.), where you can re-lax outside or in the barn turned tasting room and toast your success with a glass of a cherry-forward Bordeaux blend or a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.
Icons by Connie Zheng.
This article appears in the May 2022 issue of Washingtonian.