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Warrenton


Kibbee Nayee
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Lady Kibbee and I are headed to the countryside this weekend to enjoy some wineries and generally get out of town for a few days. This Board is light on Warrenton information, so I did some research and made some plans to dine at Claire's at the Depot and maybe Smoky Joe's, Black Bear or Mojitos and Tapas....obviously, I'll post some results, but I'm open to any suggestions from those who know the area.

Yes, I'm aware of the Ashby Inn about 25 miles away, but I was hoping to avoid driving 25 miles after inevitably consuming a few glasses of wine....

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Lady Kibbee and I are headed to the countryside this weekend to enjoy some wineries and generally get out of town for a few days. This Board is light on Warrenton information, so I did some research and made some plans to dine at Claire's at the Depot and maybe Smoky Joe's, Black Bear or Mojitos and Tapas....obviously, I'll post some results, but I'm open to any suggestions from those who know the area.

Yes, I'm aware of the Ashby Inn about 25 miles away, but I was hoping to avoid driving 25 miles after inevitably consuming a few glasses of wine....

I think that's about it, in my old home town. Which, small as it is, is too big (and the biggest and most central town in too wealthy a county) for this to be the case.

Some people like McMahons, an all-too-typical faux Irish pub. Some people say the best restaurant in town is the goddam cafeteria in the hospital. (I am not kidding, I have been told this more than once) Though Western Sizzlin has its adherents...

I wish DR.com poster rappahannock would open another joint, only in Warrenton instead of Flint Hill this time...hope John will think about it...or that somebody would rip off the RTS concept and bring it out to the boonies where it would KILL (given one can't imagine Himself being happy way out there)

Seriously, when I'm back in town my folks will go to 1) Rail Stop in The Plains 2) Hunter's Head in Upperville 3) grill room at the country club. They think (we disagree) that Claire's is too pricey. Left to our own devices, my wife and I will go to Black Bear or Mojitos y Tapas. First three options are roughly 8, 15, and 7 miles out of town. Last two are merely ok to good. Claire's is good to pretty good but I can't get my parents to go, and when they're not with us we drink in an amount (copious) and style (craft beer for me, margaritas or greyhounds for her) more appropriate for Black Bear than Claire's...so Black Bear is the default.

There IS a new seafood place called Twisted Sister in the old Ben & Mary's building about 2 miles north of town on US 17. Dad said they didn't have a liquor license, yet, last time I was there (2d week of October). You might check on that...

Surely there's a fortune to be made there...

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I really hate to do this, but at this moment, I believe that the best Cuban restaurant within 50-60 miles of the DC metropolitan area is Mojitos y Tapas in Warrenton. I was mildly blown away by this place tonight, and I really can't recall a better Cuban meal anywhere in the DC area....and I will return tomorrow for a Cubano for lunch. And many times thereafter....

It's in a large strip mall on the eastern edge of Warrenton, and the decor inside is nicely done. It has the feel of a Cuban-Latino environment, with a lively bar in the middle of a small seating area, and an upstairs hacienda looking seating area. The chairs are of a braided design, adding a nice touch, and everything looks like you've stepped into the real deal.

The menu is extensive and I really wish I could explore it in more detail. I set the menu aside and went with the eponymous mojitos and tapas. I had two of the original mojitos off the lengthy mojitos menu, and the four tapas that Lady Kibbee and I enjoyed were the spicy mussel tapa, pulpo (octopus) a la Gallega, scallops in paprika and lechon (pork) asado. These were absolutely spectacular. The octopus came in a bowl with a garlic-oil sauce and potatoes cooked to perfection, and I could have ordered two or three servings. The scallops were fresh and moist with a spicy crust of paprika. The spicy mussels were about eight or so large, juicy mussels covered in a spicy tomato sauce, and really tasty. The lechon asado was about the best rendition of pork I've had in a long time, flecked with onions and parsley, and really very good. I really can't say there was a flaw in any of the dishes.

Of course, service was a bit slow, and the bar was somewhat raucous on a Friday night, so I at least have a few negatives to report....

I'm trying not to rave too much, but this is really good Cuban food in a nice setting at good prices. It is close enough to northern Virginia to justify a quick trip to the country when a hankering for quality Cuban food cannot be sated with the standard fare available to us in the DC area. I'm looking forward to returning for a Cubano tomorrow, after which I will have formed a more solid opinion.

UPDATE -- Returned today for the Cubano sandwich, and it was very good. I can't truly say it was better than any Cubano in the DC area -- there was one at Acadiana as a special that was about as good, but it trounces anything I've tried at Cuba Libre or Fast Gourmet, for example. The bread was perfectly pressed, and the ham and Swiss cheese inside were very nicely warm, balanced against the briny crunch of the pickle. The pork looked like the pieces of pork that otherwise ends up as lechon asado, but this was a darned good sandwich. I swapped the side of fries for the plantains, and I'm glad I did. Crisply sweet on the outside and almost creamy on the inside, they were very good.

Best Cuban restaurant in our extended area, and by the way, all tapas on Tuesdays are $5 each....

CONTINUING WITH THE WARRENTON REPORT -- Lady Kibbee and I dined at Claire's at the Depot in Warrenton this evening, and it was absolutely excellent. It reminded us of a really good Old Town Alexandria restaurant, which is coincidental because Executive Chef and Owner Claire Lamborne is from Alexandria. She purchased this beautiful little spot in 2004 at the old train station, and I am told it only recently reopened after a renovation to the bar area. It is simply a beautiful dining destination. The menu itself is inviting....She-Crab soup is a specialty, but I went with tonight's special of Mushroom Soup, and Lady Kibbee enjoyed a delectable little Southwestern Caesar with house-made spicy croutons. Lady Kibbee went with the menu's Seared Ahi Tuna, and I went with the special of 16 oz. Cowboy Rib-eye. Both entrees were extremely good, with many of the ingredients, like the mushrooms and the salad greens, locally sourced. Everything was cooked to perfection from a kitchen that obviously knows what it's doing. Claire's at the Depot is easily the destination restaurant of Warrenton, and worth a detour of you're nearby. Service was an A+. Total bill with drinks, tax, and a generous tip was $120 (pre-tax total was about $89).

Afterwards, we went to the nearby Black Bear Bistro for a few drinks, and we bumped into some locals who understand food at the downstairs bar. Although we didn't eat at the Black Bear, we watched the dishes go by and we chatted with the couple who were dining at the bar on some of their favorites. Next time I'm in Warrenton, put me down for the Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Granny's Mac n' Cheese, as well as the very meaty Pork Ribs. Both looked spectacular and my mouth was watering even after Claire's filled me up! And passing dishes like the Crab Gnocchi and the Filet Mignon looked succulent. I'll not that the Black Bear has some of the most reasonable prices you can imagine, with most entrees in the $15-20 range. Again, I didn't eat there this time, but I will next time!

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