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mktye

Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant, Historic (But Touristy), Traditional American On The Grounds Of Mount Vernon

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For some reason, the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant (yes, the place on the same property as the original George W.'s house) has become popular as a special-occasion venue in one of our social circles. And it was only a matter of time before it happened"¦ an invitation to a private party there.

I'd eaten at the Mount Vernon Inn only once before, nearly 10 years ago, when it was the only choice at hand (they now have a food court in addition to the more formal restaurant). All I can remember about that meal was that I ordered a pulled-pork sandwich (the memories of it are not fond) and the service was abysmal. But a lot has changed at Mount Vernon since that time, so I was hoping the restaurant had also been upgraded.

Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the case. Overall, the food certainly could have been worse, but it was generally flavorless and uninspired. There was also an issue with the salt "“ the prosciutto/asparagus/puff pastry appetizer was too salty even for me (a known salt-fiend) and other things (such as the baked, stuffed tomatoes) were totally devoid of salt.

We started the evening with appetizers:
The previously-mentioned Prosciutto/Asparagus/Puff pastry Combo;
Crab Dip (which had a disturbing viscosity) and House-made Crackers (too thick for my tastes and a bit soggy);
Quiche (I think that is was it was supposed to be, but it was surprisingly cold and tasteless);
Spanakopita (a crime against phyllo);
Beef satay (which I did not try because the meat was cut in too large of pieces to gracefully eat while standing with a drink in one hand and carrying on witty conversation);
Bacon-wrapped scallops (which were the best of the lot "“ all that could be tasted was the bacon, not a bad thing in this instance, and the scallops were not over-cooked).

From there we went into one of the dining rooms and sat down for their American Traditional Menu I:
Warm Goat Cheese & Field Green Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette (subbed last night with a syrupy raspberry vinaigrette);
Petite Filet Mignon with Crab Cake (no discernable spicing, with the predominant flavor being that of old crab)
or
Sliced Duck Breast (the duck was subbed with lamb) with Shrimp Sambal (Sambal? Where? all the shrimp tasted of was raw garlic);
Tomato Stuffed with Sautéed Garlic & Spinach (a perfectly baked tomato, but no salt and the spinach mixture was... yes, you guessed it, flavorless);
Duchess Potato (possibly piped out and baked when the mansion was new);
Homemade Breads and Colonial Cracker (served with stale butter);
Fresh Strawberries in a Chocolate Cup with Chambord Cream (so that is what that taste was "“ all I could tell last night was that it was not a flavor found in nature).

All washed down with Foxhorn Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay blink.gif (or, in our case, water).

What the meal really suffered from was lack of quality ingredients. With the exception of the tomatoes and the strawberries, nearly everything tasted old and stale (if it tasted of anything at all). The somewhat tragic part was that the food was technically cooked well "“ the meats to the appropriate degree of doneness, the scallops and shrimp were tender, the crab cake had very little filler and so on "“ so there is some talent at work there. Unfortunately, no one seems to be tasting any of the food before it leaves the kitchen (rwtye thinks it is intentional and they striving for innocuous and bland).

Luckily, the focus of the evening was the celebration of a milestone in the life of a dear friend. So, regardless of what we were served, it was a very enjoyable evening. Sometimes it is not all about the food. smile.gif

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American Traditional Menu I...

I love it that a menu so titled has things in it like "Champagne Vinaigrette," "Petite [sic] Filet Mignon," "Shrimp Sambal," "Duchess Potato," and "Chambord Cream." Thanks for taking one for the team, as well as for your friend.

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GW wouldn't have wanted it this way.

And what did guests eat? One visitor from New York recounts the following:

At dinner wine, porter and beer. After it we drank about three glasses... At dinner we had two pint globular decanters on table, after dinner large wine glasses. Port was brought in claret bottles ... Menu ... Leg boil[ed] pork, top; goose, bot; roast beef, round cold boil[ed] beef, mutton chops, hommony, cabbage, potatoes, pickles, fried tripe, onions ets. Table cloth wiped, mince pies, tarts, cheese; cloth of[f], port, madeira, two kinds nuts, apples, raisins. Three servants.

PS: I hear GW liked his peanut soup and hoe cakes a lot. Lost all his teeth at 57.

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PS: I hear GW liked his peanut soup and hoe cakes a lot. Lost all his teeth at 57.

MMMMmmm!!! love me some hoe cakes. My grandmother used to bake them for me when I was little. Makes a whole day happy.

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Well, in keeping with Rocks' desire to revisit some of the older threads, it turns out that I lunched today at the Mt. Vernon Inn with my bookclub. The service was good -- especially considering that it turns out that it was our waitress' first day working there. Her only bumble was that she served all the glasses to the left of the plate instead of the right, so a very easily remedied thing. The food was.....hmmm, what's the word I'm looking for?.......... meh. Probably the two best things at our table were the cornbread muffins, which were truly cornbread, neither sweet nor cakey, and the chestnut-peanut soup. The soup was quite tasty but served in a big mug and is really too rich and filling for such a large serving as an appetizer. Everything else on the menu was fancy fonts describing very pedestrian choices delivered by men in knickers: turkey pot pie, ham sandwich with chips, etc. My group had a good time because we enjoy each other's company, but very little was said about the food we were eating -- a lot of talk about food we should try at other places.

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My first HH at Mount Vernon Inn- the band was really good, Kevin Kline band, I thought it was too loud initially-lots of Billy Joel/Van Morrison. The food was great- crabcake w/ mango salsa, next to no filler, & Mornay chips, potato chips w/ bacon, tomato, Mornay sauce. Once I could hear the waiter, I ordered Port City Wit. It was an older crowd, but they were still dancing next to the toile wallpaper & checked curtains. The exec chef & F&B manager were front & center all night, I had fun trying to talk to all my friends. Looks like a great place to spend HH over the summer. Thank you to Leah, who picked up our tab, hope we can reciprocate.

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I had fun trying to talk to all my friends.

One of my pet peeves, right up there with Rachel Ray and drivers who are texting, is a restaurant that is so loud you can't converse with anyone. I'll check Mount Vernon Inn off my list of prospective restaurants to visit.

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They only have music the first Thursday of each month (just started this), all the other nights are quiet, I imagine.

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I attended a holiday reception at Mount Vernon last night. I am a bad guest- I received the postcard a few weeks ago, stuck it on the door because it has a picture of a camel in the snow (still trying to figure that out) & forgot about it. I noticed it yesterday, realized I hadn't RSVP'd, tried at the last minute to get some friends to join me (they're all busy), figured I'd pass, but then Lizzy said we should go (she noted the extra discount at the gift shop & figured she'd do some shopping).

For this sort of thing, I thought the food was above average-hot & cold hors d'oeuvres, wine & cider. Chicken on skewers, w/ a spicy sauce that looked mustardy, but didn't taste like mustard, crabcakes (that I thought were meatballs until I tasted them) better than lots of crabcakes I've had, cheese platters, strawberries dipped in chocolate.

I had some friends in town a few weeks ago, & we met at the Mt. Vernon Inn for lunch-pulled pork sandwich, club sandwich, & 2 shrimp & crab Louis salads, delicious & great service. & I went for a ladies' get together last week & was pleasantly surprised to find Forge Brewworks' Belgian Blonde on draft.

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I think we are eating there this weekend so glad to have this report.  That is Aladdin the camel!  He comes to Mount Vernon at Christmas because apparently just as a fun thing to do George Washington brought a camel to Mount Vernon for Christmas.  (MK now works for Mount Vernon, so I am learning WAY too much about George.)

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My dog, Taz, in his 'I love George' bandana, we donated to rescue dogs' kennel at MV. If I were a dog, I'd love to live at Mt. Vernon.- (& yes, that's Taz in my avatar, he's a poser).

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Thistle, Max is sporting that bandanna currently too! Apparently the new kennel is funded and they will be getting two more patrol dogs once the new kennel is up, which is good because they are getting more coyotes on the property.

Sadly, the MIL did not make it due to a flu strain not caught by the flu shot this year.  (She teaches preschool and really depends on that shot.)  But we had a fun night on the candlelight tour anyway.  I will say this tour definitely focuses more on people and less on the rooms, but it is fun and the blacksmith was really neat to watch at night as it is really dark in there during the day. We had dinner after our tour at the Inn.  We had two bottles of Whitehall Chardonnay with our dinner, and I was happy with the local selection of wine. We shared bites of the hoecake, which was like a savory pancake with Virginia ham, crab and hollandaise.  I thought the sauce was a little thick, but it tasted good.  Entrees came out pretty slowly, but it was fine since we were having a celebratory meal.  I had shrimp and grits.  The flavor was really great, but the grits had gotten a tad bit too thick, I think it was probably just sitting in the pass a little too long.  My Mom had the duck, which was really tasty, and very tender.    Matt and his sister both had the fried chicken, which looked awesome and he really liked it.  I didn't have a taste of the salmon or fish special, but everyone seemed to enjoy.  Certainly not like going to Central, but for a restaurant run by Mount Vernon I thought the food was better than one would think it was, and it's nice to have that option down there.

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In the meantime, the food at the Mt. Vernon Inn is not half bad.

Something changed at Mount Vernon Inn since mktye's first post (she wrote me before posting that, wondering whether or not to say anything at all - I urged her to speak her mind. She did so, reluctantly.)

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Admittedly, I go infrequently & at lunchtime, but I'm trying to figure out how to break it to my friend that they have removed the crab Louis salad from the menu. Maybe it will reappear in the spring.

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Something changed at Mount Vernon Inn since mktye's first post (she wrote me before posting that, wondering whether or not to say anything at all - I urged her to speak her mind. She did so, reluctantly.)

I forget when they did a bit of a redo, MK told me when it was, but I don't remember.  I believe that's when they took away the costumes for the servers, as well, which according to him were not optimal.

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So, I went to a farm to table dinner at Mount Vernon Friday night, and admittedly I am completely biased since 1. my ticket was comped 2. my husband works there.  BUT all that said, this was an amazing event and if you like Mount Vernon and are a foodie this would be something you would really enjoy.  The ticket price was $150, but unlike other special event dinner in this price range I felt you really got a lot for the price and would do it again even though I will have to pay for a future ticket.  First you started with cocktails and canapes in the upper garden.  They had a seasonal cocktail for the night, or a selection of wines and other drinks.  They had a cucumber topped with a tomato relish that was very much like salsa, except a bit sweeter and not spicy with Parmesan on top, biscuit with fig jam and got cheese and cornbread topped with roasted peppers.  Joe, one of the head gardeners gave a talk in both the upper garden and kitchen garden about what was growing there, the heritage of the seeds, their program and a answered a host of questions.  Right now they are finishing the harvest of summer vegetables and planting fall vegetables.  I wish any garden I ever had looked that amazing.  He discussed crop rotation during Washington's era and other inventions.  We could take cocktails through the gardens, which was really fun.

We then had a short mansion tour that included the dining room, kitchen, cellar and smoke house.  The docents for this tour were the docents that do the VIP tours and are really knowledgeable.  Additionally, the cellar is normally only open for the National Treasure tour or other VIP tour.  This part of the tour included a talk with the docents on preservation methods during that time, typical menus, etc.

Finally, we were escorted back to the Inn and went out on the back terrace which was tented and really beautiful.  We had wine pairings with each course.  We started with General Washington Pink Cuvee, which is from Early Mountain Vineyards.  The Sommelier talked about why they had chosen Early Mountain as the vineyard to carry the label for Mount Vernon. We had an amuse bouche of Jerusalem artichoke soup with Parmesan crisp.  Joe talked about what a sunchoke was, and that it was neither from Jerusalem or a member of the artichoke family.  The next course was a beet salad with crispy kale served with apple smoked bacon vinaigrette served with an Early Mountain Pinot Gris.  The beet in this dish was done really well, I wish I could replicate how delicate it tasted at home, the krispy kale reminded me of the fried spinach at Rasika in a good way, I really liked this dish.  Next up we had Crispy Skin Rockfish  becry sauce with flash fried mixed squash.  This was another dish I really liked, to get fish that spot on for the number of people at the dinner was really a real treat, the sauce and accompaniments just suported how good the fish was.  This dish was served with a Glen Manor Sauv Blanc.  I really liked the Glen Manor wine.  For the third course we had Beef Wellington with proscuitto, spinach, mushroom and boursin cheese.  Again, very impressed with the consistency of this dish, it arrived warm and was really a great dish on what was really one of the first fall feeling nights in the area.  The wine was Orin Swift's The Prisoner, apparently a very pricey bottle that Mount Vernon bought and cellared before Orin Swift left the winery.  I enjoyed the wine, but I must confess I am not good at telling the difference between say a $120 bottle of wine and $400 bottle of wine.  Last we had a really nice apple crisp a la mode with Marcel Martin Brut Cuvee Tete.  This was a really nice end to the meal and although not super creative, really well executed again.  All the wine pours were very generous, so although I will post a bunch of pictures when I get home, I forgot to take pictures of the last two courses, I blame the wine.

Overall, I just felt that this was a really great night, you had people who love history paired with foodies and it was just fun, we had really great company at our table.  And the level of food execution for this size of a group really impressed me.  I think the Inn under their new chef has really improved and is very good, but knowing they are capable of this, I want to do some of their other special dinners.  

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I'm liking the potential for some fine dining with a great view, in that vast culinary emptiness south of (Old Town) Alexandria....

Amen to that!  The Mt Vernon Inn has been improving lately too.  My wife and I stopped in for happy hour recently and had some good stuff.  We sat at the bar and the bar tender told us they have a new team (or new person) running the place and they're trying to raise the quality and bring in more people.

We had Mornay Chips topped with Mornay Sauce, bacon, tomatoes, & chives $5.00

Creole Mussel with creole sauce, white wine, & garlic butter served with grilled bread  $8.00

Filet Mignon Sliders with bleu cheese & caramelized onions  $10.00

 Everything was good with the mussels being the best.  I'd get them again in a heartbeat.

It's been ages since we've actually eaten a meal, but the new menus look much more appealing.

PS - I started writing this yesterday right after KN's post, but am just finishing it now!

ETA: It seems those other local food posts were removed and put somewhere else.  Oops.

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Tourist season is approaching, and even at 3:30 PM on a hot, sunny Tuesday, Mount Vernon had its share of crowds – although there was plenty of parking, and you could simply walk up and purchase a ticket ($20 for an adult), the line for the 3:50 PM tour of the mansion stretched to about 75 people – see the left of the photo:

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The mansion and grounds close at 5 PM, and 5:30 would be a really good time to visit the Mount Vernon Inn, although if you want table service as summer approaches, I strongly suggest calling for a reservation in advance.

Happy Hour at the restaurant runs daily until 7:30 PM for drinks, Tue-Fri until 7:30 PM for food (there’s a small bar, deep within its labyrinthian set of dining rooms), but Happy Hour here is no bargain – you can save a dollar, maybe two, on a limited subset of the dinner menu, and the drinks offered are no great shakes.

Surprisingly, however, Mount Vernon Inn has several bottles of liquor worth ordering: James E. Pepper 1776 Rye, Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon, Jameson Irish Whiskey, and most importantly, this is about the only place left in the world to find Rare Wine Company’s special bottling of George Washington Special Reserve Madeira (they used to have .500 ml bottles for sale in the gift shop; I’m not sure if any are left there, but they have it by the glass in the restaurant).

There are two things you should know about the Mount Vernon Inn restaurant: It’s better than it used to be (it used to be abysmal), but regardless of the improvement, it’s still essentially a food-service restaurant – if you can accept the latter, it’s a pleasant, quirky place to dine. Also, if you know a little about beverages, you can find something to drink here (e.g., the Broadbent Vinho Verde, a bracing, dry white wine from Portugal).

Beers, not so much, although I admit to enjoying an ice-cold goblet of their house draft ($6 at Happy Hour – I can’t remember which one it was, but I can remember which one it wasn’t: Devil’s Backbone Lager) after a hot day on the grounds, and before cobbling together a light dinner.

Mount Vernon Inn’s “signature dish” is The Inn’s Famous Virginia Peanut & Chestnut Soup ($7 for a bowl), with roasted peanuts and water chestnuts. Tasting primarily of peanut butter (not unlike many dishes from West Africa), the recipe for this highly promoted soup can be found here. To the best of my knowledge, you won’t find any chestnuts in this soup (although it does have water chestnuts, which aren't bad), and as for the margarine, well, just look the other way. If you enjoy peanut butter, this soup is a lot better than it looks (it looks horrific, but it isn’t).

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And the Caesar Salad ($10 for an entree portion) is better than it needs to be. Made with romaine lettuce, shaved Parmesan, house-made garlic-Parmesan croutons, and elegantly tossed in a house-made Caesar dressing, this salad was ordered solely because the ingredients looked inviting (that’s a polite word for “harmless”), and sure enough, this salad was as good as you could reasonably expect. Also, it’s relatively inexpensive – our server was kind enough to split it for us, and what you see here is only half of the salad.

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If you go to Mount Vernon, and you’re hungry, you’ll enjoy your meal at Mount Vernon Inn – the key is not to set your sights too high, and not to get your hopes up. As ugly as that soup may look, this was a very serviceable meal, and we left content and without too much strain on the wallet.

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It got better for a short period of time, and then the head chef left, and it went back to....   It now has a new chef/director, but that person is in charge of all the food service of all of Mt Vernon, they are working on revamping stuff, but the food court included and special events is a big project, as I eat there from time to time, crossing my fingers.  But they do serve a huge amount of people in a day.

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