A selection of cheeses on a wooden board with rustic bread in a basket and wine glasses.

Winner of many accolades, the Inn at Little Washington Restaurant is top-notch experience. Photo © Christopher Dorobek, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

One of the premier dining destinations in Virginia is the famous Inn at Little Washington Restaurant (309 Middle St., Washington, 540/675-3800). This extremely high-end restaurant is renowned for its incredible food, scenery, and service. Located in the town of Washington, between Front Royal and Luray and not far off Routes 211 and 522, the inn sits on a historic street that hasn’t changed much since George Washington himself named the town roads in 1749 (he was only 17 at the time).

Guests at the chef’s tables can watch the action in the inn’s stunning kitchen.The inn was founded in 1978 and the main building (where the restaurant is) occupies the space of a former garage, dance hall, and general store. Since then, it has grown into a campus of sorts, that includes many additional properties in the village (some dating back to the 1700s) and offers 17 guest rooms, the Claiborne House (a 3,600-square-foot cottage), a Cutting Garden (where fresh herbs and vegetables are grown), a walking path, a ballroom, and a gift shop.

The inn describes itself as an “unassuming dark blue building festooned with flags on the corner of Middle and Main Streets.” This may be true, but once you step inside and see the crackling fire and tables adorned with silver and crystal, you will know you’ve entered a very special restaurant that is notorious for its exquisite food. Not only do they purchase food from local farmers, but the inn also has its own gardens and orchards. Main course selections can include items such as pan-roasted Maine lobster, juniper-crusted venison loin, and seared rare tuna crusted with mustard seeds, while desserts may offer choices such as a southern butter pecan ice cream sandwich, lemon-meringue tartlet with toasted pistachios, or cocoa nib napoleon with caramelized bananas.

Dinner reservations are accepted up to a year in advance. Prices vary during holidays and special events, but are generally $158 per person Monday through Thursday, $168 per person on Friday and Sunday, and $188 per person on Saturday. These prices do not include beverages, tax, or gratuity. Two chef’s tables are also available and can accommodate up to six guests at each. These tables can be reserved any night of the week and carry the following surcharges: Monday through Thursday $375 per table, Friday and Sunday $475 per table, and Saturday $575 per table. Guests at the chef’s tables can watch the action in the inn’s stunning kitchen. Not only is the food preparation a sight to behold, but the kitchen, with its hand-painted tiles and a huge Vulcan range, is an attraction on its own.

Accommodations at the inn include 18 guest rooms, suites, and cottages ($510-2,650 per night). All are located on the inn’s campus and are luxurious masterpieces designed by a stage and set designer from London. Many of the furnishings were purchased in England.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Virginia & Maryland.