One of my favorite things about living in the Washington, D.C., area is how many opportunities there are for quick road trips and weekend getaways. Whether it is a drive to the Virginia countryside, or hopping on a train and three hours later walking the streets of Manhattan, the options are endless for unique trips in every direction. This post is about the mentioned Virginia countryside and more specifically, Middleburg.
Middleburg is less than 50 miles from Washington, D.C., but the beauty of the rolling hills and farms at every turn makes you feel much further away. In less than an hour, you’re surrounded by farms, horses and vineyards. This town has had many famous guests – most notably, Jackie Kennedy who used to keep horses in Middleburg.
It has gained popularity in the wine industry with several vineyards close by. It’s also an old town. Very old. Another one of my favorite things about the D.C. area. The Red Fox Inn & Tavern (pictured above) has been in Middleburg since 1728! It was visited by George Washington when he was a young surveyor. In the Civil War, it was actually used as a hospital for the Confederates and served as the meeting place of JEB Stuart and John Mosby.
The JEB Stuart Room is still a part of the Inn and now serves as additional seating for the Tavern. This room also held a rare press conference for President John F. Kennedy. The Inn has housed many famous guests, from Elizabeth Taylor to Michael Jackson to Justin Bieber. Jackie Kennedy stayed often on her trips to town.
Now, I love history and historical buildings. But we all know the stories of buildings being a little “too” historical and not quite living up to the comfortable, modern features we’ve come to know and love in hotels today. So, I was a bit hesitant to stay at the Inn. I did some research and realized while the Inn does have “original” rooms above the Tavern restaurant, they also own a few other buildings in town (basically right next to the original), where they have larger suite accommodations. This fit the bill perfectly. Our suite was huge, right next to the original building, and looked over the main street. We were there on Easter weekend and a racing weekend, but they had a special we could take advantage of (buy one night, get the other 50% off). I felt the price point was average for hotels in the D.C. area. They also put a small bottle of Cava on ice with a birthday note for Josh. Not requested, but a lovely touch. Also, since they don’t provide coffee makers in your room, they deliver fresh coffee to you each morning at no additional cost. Sign me up! I wish more places did this! I never use those little coffee makers. Another perk: a fully cooked breakfast is included with your stay each morning in the Tavern!
We had a little time before our Tavern dinner reservation so we hopped across the street to King Street Oyster Bar, one of the most popular happy hour spots in town. They have a location in Leesburg as well, and it was just announced they will be opening in Washington, D.C. We shared a mixed dozen off of an impressive list. I like that this place ranks each oyster’s size, salinity and sweetness. I am a briny girl through and through so this was definitely helpful in placing orders. They had a great Happy Hour menu with everything listed (drinks and food) going for $5! It is definitely a well-known menu, the place was packed! We chose to just stick with oysters and drinks since we knew we were having dinner at the Tavern.
After making ourselves a little more presentable, we made our way down to the Tavern. It is everything you picture an old tavern to be: cozy, fireplaces, wood paneling. There was a mix of people dressed up and casual (we wore nice shirts and jeans) so you won’t feel out of place if you aren’t dressed up. We started off with a bottle of the 2014 Barboursville Octagon. We discovered Barboursville Vineyards on a prior weekend getaway to Charlottesville, Va. That area is also known for its vast wine country. Growing up in California, I am a bit of a wine snob, and I have never been impressed with Virginia red wines. Barboursville changed my mind, particularly their famous Octagon blend. It was nice to find this bottle and reminisce about a past trip we loved.
For Easter weekend the Inn had a set tasting menu of either three or four courses, and not at an astronomical price. We chose four courses. The restaurant was well-aware of Josh’s gluten allergy and went above and beyond to accommodate, checking with the chef and pointing out all of the items on the menu he could have. It made ordering very easy. Josh started off with the lobster bisque and I had the beet salad. Both were excellent beginnings, and Josh was quite excited to have bisque without fears of it being thickened with flour.
For Josh’s next course he chose oysters with a blood orange mignonette. He loved them! No problem eating more oysters after our pre-dinner oyster feast earlier. I chose the bacon and cornbread stuffed quail. The server had told me it was his favorite thing on the menu. I had never tried quail before but OMG. I could have eaten three of these! The bacon/cornbread mixture was not heavy, just the perfect addition, so you could taste the flavor of the quail. Highly recommend if this is on the regular menu while you’re there.
Moving on to our mains, Josh ordered the crispy duck and I ordered a ribeye special of the evening. The duck was excellent and had an Asian flare to it with the spicy plum sauce. My ribeye was HUGE. I initially thought the server said the steak was bone-in, so the 16 oz. mention didn’t worry me. Apparently, I misheard and it was boneless. Definitely could not finish the steak but it was delicious nonetheless.
Because Josh isn’t a big dessert person, and it was his birthday, the Tavern was more than willing to let him pick anything he wanted for his dessert (even if it wasn’t one of the four choices on the tasting menu). So he chose ice cream and I chose cheesecake. They even put a candle in it for him! Overall, we loved our experience at the Red Fox. Highly recommend!
We spent the next day wandering the streets of Middleburg. It is basically a one street small town, and if staying at the Red Fox, you don’t need to drive anywhere (unless you venture off to the wineries). The National Sporting Library & Museum is a few blocks from the Inn, and has history about the sporting culture in Middleburg as well as an art collection.
We continued our afternoon strolling and stopped in the Mt. Defiance Cidery & Distillery right across from the museum. They had a cozy tasting room and after we arrived, the place was full! We found that we liked the ciders but didn’t care much for the spirits they were distilling aside from a Pommeau they had. Pommeau is an apple brandy, similar to port but made from apples instead of grapes (called Calvados in the Normandy region of France). We bought a bottle of that and continued along.
We popped in to check out King Street again. There were rumors about their bloody mary and it was no joke! This came with an Old Bay-seasoned shrimp, fried oyster, bacon, olive and a pepper. It was a nice snack in a glass!
Another lodging option in Middleburg is the Salamander Resort. It sits back a bit from the main town, maybe a 10-15 minute walk. We had never been so we took the walk up to the resort. It’s a beautiful property – Southern and grandiose, with a price point to match. Because it was Easter weekend and also a weekend with horse racing, the place was extremely busy. After walking around, we ran into Cupcake, the miniature pony mascot of Salamander. We walked out to the resort’s stables and hung out with the horses a bit. The weather and views were breathtaking. The resort offers many amenities and has their own equestrian program. I felt it was a good getaway place if you don’t mind a bit of a walk into town. I think it would be the perfect place for a getaway with girlfriends as they have a well-known spa onsite.
We also visited the Red Horse Tavern – great outdoor seating on the main street. This place is definitely more of a dive bar spot with standard pub food. We just enjoyed sitting outside and people watching. La Hacienda is a relatively new Mexican restaurant on the main drag. While we didn’t eat anything, we did sample their chips and salsa and as a Southern California girl spoiled by Mexican food, I was impressed! I would definitely be interested in checking out more of their menu. We sat next to a couple who had eaten there two nights in a row! After returning to the Inn, wemade our way to the bar to check out the scene in our own spot. Aside from the Tavern restaurant, the Inn also has its own cozy pub with outdoor seating. There were a lot of people rolling in after the day’s races. We had a snack of lamb sausage and potatoes which came highly recommended by the bartender and it was excellent! We chatted with fellow patrons about the races and the spotting of Robert Duvall. Duvall lives about 15 minutes away from Middleburg, so he is seen often in town and at the racing events.
We spent the rest of the evening at the Pub before walking back across the street to the oyster bar one last time (the Pub closed at 9 p.m. and there was a Capitals playoff game to be watched). Then it was back to our quarters for our last night’s sleep.