By Tim Ebner, EdibleDC
For decades, The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia, has been a mountainside resort where Washingtonians have gone to unwind for the weekend. This storied lodging is where many past presidents have stayed and played, as well as countless golfers, hikers, and spa enthusiasts, including American's original hot springs lover, Thomas Jefferson.
But now it promises to draw food lovers who want to relax and fuel up. In the last year or so, thanks to some chef shuffles and restaurant changes, The Homestead has upped its food program. Whether it’s fresh market produce, sourced from the Appalachian and Shenandoah regions, southern-inspired French cuisine, Virginia beer and wine, or a visit to The Homestead’s very own beehive, you’ll want to take time to see what all the buzz is about. Here are a few places to eat, drink, and stay while you’re visiting.
1. New Chef, Menu, and Gardens at The Homestead: The Homestead resort is focusing on local and sustainable food this summer, thanks to some new chefs, menus, and new gardens and a beehive. For dinner, put on your finest jacket because the setting is formal inside this majestic and soaring Main Dining Room. The menu features locally-sourced seafood, like Virginia oysters Rockefeller, crab salad, and Chesapeake rockfish, as well as farm-fresh favorites, like a morels and farm egg dish served on a bed of country grits. Virginia native Severin Nunn is the new and young talent—just 32 years old—behind several menu changes at The Homestead. He started last fall and brought with him a new and exciting culinary team. Prior to this, Nunn worked at the two-starred Michelin restaurant Guy Savoy, and he served stints working for Daniel Boulud and Alain Ducasse in New York and Las Vegas. Ultimately, it was his fondness for the Chesapeake region (he’s from Williamsburg) that brought him back to Virginia.
He’s one of the youngest executive chefs at The Homestead. Several of Nunn’s changes are focused around new gardens that are in the process of being developed. There’s the chef’s garden, featuring a selection of micro-greens, as well as an herb and spice garden, which produces garnishes for food and drinks served at the resort. But, Nunn says he’s most excited for the local honey coming from The Homestead's recently installed beehive.
2. Snack Local at Milk House Market: Just down the road from The Homestead sits your best bet for groceries and snacks, including coffee, wine, beer, deli sandwiches, and other assorted snacks, many of which are sourced from Virginia. And if it’s lunchtime, Milk House Market is your best bet. The deli counter serves sandwiches like The Yard Bird, a curried chicken salad sandwich, and The Old Dairy, a pimento cheese sandwich topped with fresh cucumbers and greens. It’s also one of the few place in town with farm-fresh groceries including local cheese and meats.
3. Southern-Influenced French Cuisine at Les Cochons d'Or: Chef Kyle Krieger and Sommelier Crystal Krieger are a husband-wife team running a French country restaurant adjacent to The Homestead (located on the Southside Village’s Main Street). Their love for food shows through in each dish-to-wine pairing—be sure to ask Crystal for direction of wine and cocktails as the menu changes seasonally. While the name, Les Cochons d'Or (aka The Golden Pigs), may imply French-haute cuisine, the menu is simply local and southern-inspired food. Stand out dishes include the braised veal sweetbreads, served on a bed of polenta with chive flowers, Virginia mountain trout, crusted in almond and served with a parsnips puree, and braised and grilled lamb shoulder. Almost every dish is cooked on a wood-fired grill, which adds a layer of smoky flavor.
4. New & Improved Snead's: This year Sam Snead’s Tavern got a facelift and menu change. It’s now an upscale steakhouse and bar called Snead’s 1912 Steak. At the helm, is Chef Mattie McGhee, who was previously with Bryan Voltaggio’s Range. One of the best dishes on the menu is the full-rack-of-ribs, which McGhee smokes out back.
Meanwhile, it’s nearly impossible to go anywhere in Hot Springs without overhearing the name Sam Snead. This famous PGA golfer was also one of the top golfers in the world for almost four decades. Snead spent a significant portion of his life at The Homestead. And this steakhouse and bar pays tribute to his career, including a display near the front door featuring all of his hole-in-one balls. If you’re at the bar, keep an eye out for Sam Snead Jr., who is a known-regular and also more than willing to tell you a story or two about his dad’s legacy.
5. Hidden Watering Hole: Just up the road in Warm Springs, sits the Inn at Gristmill Square. It’s home to one of the town’s best restaurants, Waterwheel Restaurant, but don’t miss out on the much smaller and hidden bar, Simon Kenton Pub. It’s a four-seat pub, located in what used to be the Mill’s main office. The menu features a selection of beers and wines, many of which hail from Virginia. And get there early. The bar has a no-reservations policy, making it hard to snag a seat, but you shouldn’t have any trouble if you time your visit when the bar opens at 5 p.m.
6. Presidential Cocktails at Homestead’s Lobby Bar: Sorry Camp David, Mar-a-Lago, and Martha’s Vineyard, the real place where presidents drink and unwind, at least in the history books, was at The Homestead’s Lobby Bar. Behind the bar are several portraits of the twenty-two presidents who have visited The Homestead, including Ronald Reagan, Woodrow Wilson, Dwight Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, and Richard Nixon. This is also the place to order up a traditional Manhattan. The bar serves four different varieties—with Bulleit rye, Woodford Reserve, Maker’s 46, or Crown Royal Black.
7. Cabin Comforts: Of course, not everyone wants to stay at The Homestead, and you’ll likely save a few bucks if you opt for a more moderately priced, off-resort option, including one of the many B&Bs or home rentals. The newest and best option for your stay is Natural Retreats, which rents rustic log cabins and homes, located just a few minutes south of The Homestead resort, in the Homestead Preserve. Cabins are serviced by Milk House Market for dine-in and delivery food service. And most rentals come with cooking amenities, including gas-range grills, gourmet kitchens, and outdoor fire pits, making it the perfect stay for an at-home cook.
Regardless of where you decide to stay, The Homestead and surrounding Hot Springs and Warm Springs region, have many new and exciting reasons to relax and refuel for a weekend away from Washington, D.C.