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Berkeley Springs, WV


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Lot 12 Public House is a diamond in the culinary rough of Berkeley Springs, which we visited this weekend. While touring the farmer's market off the main drag we met Chef Damian Heath and saw the enticing soups and sandwiches he was offering. We decided on the spot to have dinner at his restaurant the same evening.

Chef Heath is the son of two prominent artists and long-time residents of the town. His restaurant is in a beautifully restored house built in 1913 nestled just up the hills opposite the spa areas. We sat on the wraparound porch overlooking the valley and had a wonderful meal--one of those that make you say, "Thank God we discovered this place; now we know where to come next time we drive out here again." Everything was delicious and carefully prepared, from the drinks beforehand (which included an enticing cantaloupe martini) to the food itself. My wife and daughter shared two appetizers: toasted gnocchi with sautéed mushrooms and fried green tomatoes with mozzarella and almond pesto. The latter reminded me of something you might find at Buck's Fishing and Camping, and both stood out for the quality and freshness of the ingredients. I started off with a cucumber soup (which had caught my eye earlier at the market) judiciously flavored with creme fraiche, dill, and smoked salmon--nothing groundbreaking, to be sure, but perfectly prepared. Next I had a sautéed tilefish special garnished with baby corn and served with a potato puree. The puree was a bit anemic, but the fish was perfectly cooked and of excellent quality. My wife's main dish was pan-seared scallops with a Tuscan bread salad and a lemon-thyme vinaigrette. The scallops were done just right and the dish pleased in all other aspects as well. Dessert was also very good. As often is the case in areas relatively new to fine dining , the portion sizes are large--we would have been happy to pay the same amount for half the size. (Nonetheless, we did manage to finish everything!)

The wine list was surprisingly large and eclectic for a restaurant of this type and in this area, with a nice little selection of half-bottles. Service was gracious, welcoming, and efficient. All in all, Lot 12 is really a delightful place to eat--"worth a detour" as Michelin might say.

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We didn't make it to Lot 12 during our little Labor Day getaway, but we did have some very enjoyable meals in other local establishments.

Tari's was a pleasant spot to grab a meal at the bar after checking out what was going on at the Ice House arts center a few blocks away. We shared several items: Wild Woman Wings - meaty and with a nice kick; the tomato-arugula bisque with poached mozzarella - rich and full of fresh tomato flavor, we really enjoyed this; and a Filet Merlot - a generous filet mignon topped by a grilled portobello and a complementary merlot sauce. The +1 especially like this dish and the accompanying herb/garlic linguine, saying the steak was one of the best he's had in a while. Beyond the bar, which has several high-top and regular tables for seating, are two additional dining areas that feature the work of local artists. Tari (who opened the place in 1989) has turned things over to a long-time employee. It looks like the place is set for another 20 years of keeping locals and visitors well-fed in a comfortable and fun spot.

Panorama at the Peak was the setting for an unexpectedly good meal. The view alone from the overlook would be worth the short drive west on Route 9; the menu featuring lots of local meat and produce is an added bonus. As fans of Ayrshire Farm's meat and poultry, we were happy to see these products featured on the menu, along with a wide variety of other local products. We each started with a cup of soup - my Shitaake and Fresh Thyme was a beautiful blend of textures and flavors with leeks and lovage in the mix as well. The Ayrshire Red Bourbon Turkey and Summer Corn soup was full of turkey and, well... just too good for words!

Mains were a perfectly prepared pan-fried trout accompanied by fresh green beans and roasted potatoes and a beautiful 12 oz. bone-in pork chop served on house-made sauerkraut (with a sweet hint of apples) with a side of cold sliced (blanched) carrots dressed with a light lemon zest vinaigrette. Quality ingredients, simply and well prepared, at very reasonable prices, in a cozy setting, served by a friendly and professional staff - what's not to like!? The owner are former residents of Del Ray. The chef (who had only been there 3 days when we were there) is doing really nice work! I'd say it's worth a visit if you're in the area.

The Sunday morning (10-2) farmer's market had a nice selection of fruits, vegetables, eggs, plants, flowers, meats, salsas and hummus, along with some prepared items from Lot 12. Approx. 15 miles south of town, just opposite the state fish hatchery, pulled pork sandwiches at a little corner market made for a nice afternoon snack.

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We also had a very nice experience at Lot 12 this summer. The service was gracious and warm - and surprisingly well informed as to ingredients and course presentation. The recommendations by our server were spot on for the entrees and deserts. The wine and spirits choices are thoughtful (but limited) and are reasonably priced. The dining room is, well, a dining room in a restored Berkeley Springs "mansion" but it strikes the right balance - not too casual, not too stuffy.

In my opinion, Damian Heath is a creative and curious chef, especially with his seasonal choices and use of locally grown organic ingredients. This is by no means a Michelin star experience. That said, Lot 12 exceeded our expectations and we would definitely return when taking a soak in the hot springs in town.

BTW, I was surprised to learn that Coolfont has closed and is slated to be developed into a large scale community/resort. Don't see that happening any time soon with the real estate construction business in a tail spin.

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We had unusually good barbecue at Earth Dog Cafe last weekend. It is on Route 522, just south of Berkeley Springs State Park (where the springs are). The meats are smoked right outside the front door, and my brisket was quite good. The sides were good too. My wife raved about the baked beans, to such an extent that I didn't get any. Our friend claimed that the burger was good in a thick, lettuce-and-tomato, serviceable way.

We did take-out, and it took quite a while to get out the door. But that also gave us a chance to hang out in the very pleasant, friendly interior. We'll be back.

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On the other hand, if you are looking for the best option in that area, consider Lot 12. Damian, the chef, offers interesting twists on any number of dishes and streses use of local organic produce, fish and meats. Lot 12 is in Shep proper in a restored manse. Never had a mediocre experience there with multiple meals over the past ten years. Nice bar area also.

Are you perhaps thinking of Lot 12 in Berkeley Springs? That's a good bit farther to the west. Beautiful restored mansion and grounds, great seasonality, but I wasn't as impressed with our dishes...but that belongs in a different thread.

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Of course, it goes without saying Lot 12 is in Berkley Springs which is a hop, skip and a jump from Shephedstown and within the range of the poster's query. I have done the trip many times to/from Shepherstown and its approxy twenty minutes. My belief is Lot 12 is far and away the best in the area. But, heck, if you dig the Bavarian Inn glad to hear it. Personally, I would not go back.

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This thread hasn't had any updates in a while... Anybody been to Berkely Springs lately and impressed/unimpressed with anywhere in particular? My husband and I are Thinking of doing a quick jaunt there for a night soon... Unfortunately Lot 12 is closed in January and only open on the weekends... :-/.

For Bonus points - where to stay? Looking at Highlawn Inn or Manor House? Seems like most everything is in this vein...

Any other Berkely Springs tie bits?

Thanks! :-)

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I vote no on Highlawn Inn. It is old and musty. I stayed there a few years ago. I booked a king sized room overlooking the "back garden" which turned out to be a gravel parking lot. The king bed was 2 twins pushed together. It was late summer and there was an old noisy window AC unit which barely worked. The breakfast was completely forgettable--IHOP would be better. Don't do it.

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I've always wanted to stay here: Yellow Springs Run, but they have other properties listed if that one doesn't strike your fancy.

There are also a large number of rental cabins available through this site: http://www.berkeleyspringscottagerentals.com/. If you don't really like the cabin atmosphere, they have some in town options ranging from an apt to cottages to houses. This one always appealed to me, cute and it's on 2 fenced acres if you have a dog, with the bonus of a jacuzzi tub and a hot tub. ;)

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This thread hasn't had any updates in a while... Anybody been to Berkely Springs lately and impressed/unimpressed with anywhere in particular? My husband and I are Thinking of doing a quick jaunt there for a night soon... Unfortunately Lot 12 is closed in January and only open on the weekends... :-/.

For Bonus points - where to stay? Looking at Highlawn Inn or Manor House? Seems like most everything is in this vein...

Any other Berkely Springs tie bits?

Thanks! :-)

Did you end up going and if so, can you report back on any dining experiences? Anyone else have any recent experiences to share. I will be staying there for a week over the Christmas holiday and am looking for somewhere to eat on Christmas Day. Lot 12 is closed that day although I may try to convince my mom to go there on another night if it still holds up as worth making the effort for. Thanks.

ETA: Hmm, appears everything is closed on Christmas Eve/Day. Except for the restaurant in the Capacon Resort lodge, which I assume is crap.

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Not terribly recent, but I was there in April. I highly recommend Bella Mattina B&B - it's just a few minutes outside of town. It feels very secluded and the owners are really nice, long-time residents of the area.

We ate at Lot 12 and were satisfied, but not wowed. There was a very large private party dining at the same time, but quality really wasn't a problem. The main 'issue' was that there was just too much going on (for my liking) on the plate. Leaving an item or two off of each plate would have made the dishes 'cleaner' and let the featured ingredients shine.

Tari's was still a nice spot for a drink and snack at the bar, or something more substantial in the dining room. They catered the wedding party we were attending and did a great job with the food for that event.

Haven't been to Panorama at the Peak in a long time, but I assume that it's still one of the better spots in the area. They are open 2-7 pm on Christmas Eve.

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