Duck confit? Check. Craft burgers? Check. Pan-seared scallops atop golden raisin puree? They have that, too. West Virginia’s Greenbrier Valley continues to mature into a varied and more refined destination-dining spot.
A decade ago, you may have stumbled upon a couple of standard restaurants or one of the town’s two popular bakeries, but today foodies have a number of creative and modern options from which to choose.
Located in the rolling, pastoral hills of the Allegheny Mountains, Greenbrier Valley’s history dates back to the 1700s, when visitors would travel to The Old White Resort, now The Greenbrier, to “take the waters” and enjoy the highly sought after sulphur springs, which gave rise to luxurious resorts along the Virginia and West Virginia border. The resorts attracted guests with refined palates, providing a springboard for a delectable culinary history that laid the groundwork for today’s impressive dining scene.
— Tony Juker, Del Sol Cantina and Grille
“The restaurants have been trending more toward an urban feel, offering cuisines typically not found in such a small rural area,” says Tony Juker as he shakes up one of his signature drinks—The Angry Margarita—at his downtown Latin bistro Del Sol Cantina and Grille.
Juker should know. He opened the Del Sol Cafe and Market back in 1994, when dining options were limited. In 2005, he reopened the doors to a more fully realized restaurant, Del Sol Cantina and Grille, which serves up Latin cuisine with a bistro flair that features favorites such as the Vera Cruz—pan-seared cod in a Latin tomato sauce with capers, onions and green olives—and other craft tacos and specialties. Handcrafted cocktails and local brews are also on the menu.
In fact, just up the road you’ll find Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company's state-of-the-art brewing facility. Inspired by West Virginia legends and mythical creatures, each handcrafted brew has been meticulously concocted to highlight flavors profiles that appeal to different tastes. David Kucera, a managing partner, says that finding the right brewmaster has made all the difference.
“We really enjoy how Greenbrier Valley restaurants fold local craft brews into their menu,” mentions David Kucera with Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company. The French Goat chef has a reputation for pairing the brewery's ales with a seasonally relevant menu. One notable pairing was the brewery’s award-winning Wild Trail Pale Ale with potato and cauliflower soup, crisp pork belly and fried parsley.
“I don't think I've ever experienced our Wild Trail tasting that good. The saltiness of the pork changed its whole profile. It was ridiculous. I think I had a tear in my eye it was so amazing.”
— David Kucera, Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company
The newest arrival to the Greenbrier Valley's craft spirit scene is Hawk Knob Cider & Mead, founded by partners Josh Bennet and Will Lewis. Bennett, in his trademark cowboy hat, says that the company tries to source most everything from West Virginia. Their Appalachian Classic Hard Cider is born of a blend of 100% Greenbrier Valley-grown apples, composed of more than 14 varieties. The full-bodied flavor has a bright finish and drinks more like a fine wine than your standard store-bought ciders. In fact, just like the aforementioned brews, many local chefs are having a lot of fun pairing the ciders, which also include an elderberry-infused version and a wild-fermented hard cider.
Toward the east end of Washington Street in downtown Lewisburg, you’ll find The Livery Tavern, an upscale eatery with a warm and inviting interior of exposed reclaimed beams, a handcrafted black walnut bar, solid oak plank floors and curtained booths. John Hirt, The Livery’s owner says the area’s culinary history led him to develop a menu that paid homage to the rich agricultural heritage of the Greenbrier Valley.
“We present Old World-styled recipes and techniques combined with New World, avant-garde plating and presentations."
— John Hirt, The Livery Tavern
“Since fresh local ingredients are always available for our menu, we select the highest quality products available to us from West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. We like to stay as local as we possibly can, just as they might have done in Old World Tuscany.”
To that end, The Livery serves up favorites such as diced pork belly served with sautéed Brussels sprouts in a balsamic reduction. Hirt, whose sister Nancy manages the restaurant, notes that people come from all over to experience their Livery Tavern Caesar Salad. “We combine fresh romaine with flash deep-fried, shaved Brussels sprouts and roasted pine nuts, along with homemade Caesar dressing. People drive for miles to come and enjoy it.”
Just a short 10-minute drive east on the historic Midland Trail, The Greenbrier resort is home to multiple restaurants, ranging from bar and grill offerings to the iconic Main Dining Room, which has been serving guests for more than 100 years. The Main Dining Room’s white-clothed atmosphere is the epitome of grand Southern dining and requires attire fitting of the occasion. While the resort’s other creative outlets, such as The Forum or Draper’s (named after the hotel’s famous interior designer Dorothy Draper) offer a slightly more relaxed welcome with just as much style.
“Guests today want to know more about the food they are consuming,” says Executive Chef Bryan Skelding, also a graduate of the resort’s well-respected and demanding Apprenticeship Program, first founded in 1957 by Hermann G. Rusch. “They want to know the source, the farming methods and the processing practices. Culinary curiosity is a good thing because at The Greenbrier, we take great pride in the quality of our ingredients. The modern-day Greenbrier culinary experience is about ingredient-driven recipes that guests love.”
— Executive Chef Bryan Skelding, The Greenbrier
With an eclectic culinary collective of fresh, flavorful and just plain melt-in-your-mouth, the Greenbrier Valley's dining landscape is fast becoming the reason to travel. Any way you slice it, the rolling mountains and lush valleys that have been attracting visitors for centuries, continue to invite guests to embrace the beauty of its landscape, explore its unique story and indulge in a meal with friends.