The Inn at Little Washington is quite famous in the DC area. It’s not actually in DC, but about an hour and a half outside it in the tiny town of Washington, Virginia – and yet it often appears at the top of the DC area’s best restaurants lists. It’s so good that everyone says it’s worth the drive.
My parents went there awhile ago for the first time and have been raving about it ever since – not only for the food but for the amazing service and attention to detail – so when they suggested that the four of us plus Matt’s parents spend a night out there together, clearly Matt and I were on board. We decided Mother’s Day weekend would be the perfect time to visit and have been looking forward to it ever since!
The Inn at Little Washington’s award-winning head chef and owner, Patrick O’Connell, is just as famous as the Inn itself. He was not classically trained as a chef, but began his training at fifteen when he worked at a restaurant after school in DC. In 1978, he (along with his former partner) opened the Inn at Little Washington in an old abandoned gas station in Washington, the sparsely populated village of less than 300 residents. Three weeks later, a food critic for the Washington Star visited the Inn for dinner and was blown away. He returned the next week and was just as impressed, so he introduced himself to Patrick and asked him if he was ready for what would come if he published his review. “I am going to write a story about you that is going to change your life,” he said. “You are going to need to hire someone full time just to answer your phone!” In April, 1978, John Rosson’s article was printed, proclaiming the Inn at Little Washington “the best restaurant within 150 miles of Washington D.C.” And the rest is history.
The Inn as it is today has 28 rooms, in the main house as well as a number of smaller houses also on the grounds, and is a great mix of elegant, charming, and welcoming. A true cozy country Inn!
The grounds were lovely, too.
I especially loved the little walking trail they have, featuring views of their chicken coop, garden (they grow a lot of their own seasonal produce), and a llama – yes, a llama – who has the honor of guarding the sheep. Apparently it’s hard work – he had his front feet in a water basin. Lol!
Matt and I drove out on Saturday afternoon; when we arrived, we met up with his parents and enjoyed the complementary afternoon tea that overnight guests of the Inn receive. Don’t mind if we do!
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the shops in “town” (which is basically just one street) – there’s a mix of independent shops and those owned by the Inn, all of which were lovely.
A little while later, after the arrival of my parents, the six of us headed for a pre-dinner drink in the courtyard of the Inn. The weather was perfect! (Also, perfect occasion to bust out my new Stitch Fix dress!)
We all had champagne and the staff also brought us some popcorn to enjoy – which was seriously the best popcorn I’ve ever had in my life. They shaved fresh parmesan cheese and black truffles on top of it. SO GOOD.
Then it was time for dinner! Having heard everyone I know who has been here rave about their food for years, I was extremely pumped.
The way dinner works at the Inn is you pick one of three (two regular, one vegetarian) tasting menus, with the option to add on wine pairings as well if you like (we did). Then, you sit back and enjoy!
Each course is a small taste, and dinner is a long, leisurely affair, so while you leave full, you aren’t completely stuffed. The menus change daily and incorporate seasonal and local cuisine. Since it was my first visit, our waiter suggested I go with the “Enduring Classics” tasting menu (on the left below). Sounded good to me!
An article a few years ago stated that the Inn’s staff “discreetly tries to detect and record the emotional state of each person in a dinner party on a scale of 1 to 10. Their goal is to get you up to at least a “9” before the night’s end. This simple rating system allows the staff at The Inn to make very subtle adjustments to service throughout the night—so that even someone who arrives for dinner in a serious funk will likely wind up walking on country air before the night is through.” Amazing, right? Everyone was extremely nice and attentive without being overbearing.
As for the food, it was wonderful. Fresh, flavorful, and unique, with some really interesting flavor combinations and beautiful presentation, too. Matt’s dad, who is a big foodie and quite the chef himself, as you’ll remember from our epic Thanksgiving/Christmas feasts in Pittsburgh, was in heaven. 🙂
Everything was wonderful, but two of the courses in particular really stood out to me. The first was Herb Crusted Lamb Carpaccio with Caesar Salad Ice Cream (!!) – yes, Caesar salad ice cream. Isn’t that cool? So creative!
I also especially loved the Pan Seared Rockfish with Braised Bok Choy. It had an amazing sweet and sour sauce with it – so good!
As for dessert, I stuck with classics: a bowl of berries and a little taste of strawberry rhubarb crisp. Yum, yum!
Since Matt’s dad loves cooking, the staff asked if we would like to pop back into the kitchen after our meal to meet the chef/owner and to check out the space. Well, okay! Here I am with Patrick O’Connell and some fresh, local morel mushrooms which were featured in our dinner.
As you can imagine, we all slept quite well after such a lovely evening! On Sunday morning, we had breakfast at the Inn before parting ways. They start you off with a flight of juices – delicious!
As well as yogurt and berries for the table.
As for my meal, I asked for a tiny stack (that stack looks big but was about the size of my palm – it’s a salad plate) of the cottage cheese pancakes and some scrambled eggs and bacon. Perfect fuel for our beautiful hike later that day!
It was a great end to a wonderful stay with our families! I’m already dreaming of going back. 🙂 The Inn at Little Washington is certainly not cheap, but if you are in the DC area and looking to celebrate something special, I highly recommend it!
What’s the most amazing hotel/restaurant you’ve been to?