Washington, Virginia

Driving out to rural Washington, Virginia? You might tour the grand estates of Monticello or Montpelier along the way. Or maybe stop at Luray Caverns or the Skyline Drive in scenic Shenandoah National Park. Perhaps even taste Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Franc, and local cheese on a deck overlooking vineyards. But whether you’re driving west from Washington, D.C. or through the Blue Ridge Mountains, everyone knows the real reason for your journey: dinner at The Inn at Little Washington.

Photo: The Inn at Little Washington
Photo: The Inn at Little Washington

For more than 30 years, Chef Patrick O’Connell has been applying French techniques to locally grown and raised food, serving farm-to-table cuisine long before the term existed. And the legendary Mid-Atlantic restaurant just keeps getting better and better.

Arrive early to tour the henhouse, the beehive, and the Field of Dreams, filled with micro greens, Hakurei turnips, and Penelope shelling peas. Deer might be eating apples from the trees on the grounds. Sip a glass of The Inn at Little Washington Cuvée while munching on truffle-shaved popcorn in the lounge before dinner. The location is a history buff’s dream: buildings from the 1700s that were surveyed by George Washington.

Photo: The Inn at Little Washington
Photo: The Inn at Little Washington

And finally, it’s time to eat. Start with a trio of beets or a quartet of Rappahannock River oysters. The deep wine list leans toward California and France, but going for local consistency, your Virginia Meritage breathes during your first course. Just-out-of-the-oven bread arrives. Soft-shell crab tempura and, eventually, a Jamison Farm rack of lamb follow. Little extras–chip and dip or shots of soup–appear in between each course. Servers seem to know what you need before you even think of it. And just when you think you can’t possible eat another bite, grandmother’s warm apple tart is set in front of you. Maybe just one, or a few, more bites.

You could easily settle the check and leave happy at this point. But one last surprise: an invitation to tour the kitchen and meet the chef.

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