A duo of business and pleasure trips led me to the Greenbrier Valley twice over the past month, where I got to check out a couple of new restaurants and hit some old favorites at The Greenbrier, too.
My most exciting new discovery came at The Schoolhouse Hotel, which opened last year as not only the first boutique hotel in White Sulphur Springs, but also the first fully accessible hotel in the world.
Yes, IN THE WORLD.
The new deluxe hotel, so named because it’s inside the renovated circa 1912 building that used to house the town’s high school, features 30 unique guest rooms, an upscale restaurant, rooftop bar and meeting space.
A complete homage to the school that was here before it, rooms are named after high school classes like Home Ec and Shop, the gymnasium has been transformed into a ballroom and stage, the old basketball scoreboard hangs in the hotel’s fitness center and even the former school bell is on proud display.
The Schoolhouse Hotel achieved that aforementioned accessibility designation thanks to every private room and public space in the place exceeding ADA standards.
Literally every detail has been thoughtfully addressed, right down to the restaurant’s bar, where bartenders step down into a lowered workspace where they can be at eye level with a customer in a wheelchair who wishes to sit at the bar.
It really is a remarkable place and the food at its aptly named The Varsity Club is trying to make the grade as well. A group of 10 of us went for dinner, and with so many around the table we were able to try most dishes on the menu.
We started out with a charcuterie board of meats and cheeses, shrimp cocktail with candied lemon, and steamed mussels with garlic, lemon, white wine, butter and parsley.
We then enjoyed braised short ribs over roasted garlic whipped potatoes, fried chicken with country gravy, a giant thick-cut pork chop, rich seafood risotto and an unusual dish featuring a breaded ahi tuna steak served over house-made onion pasta that we all really dug, despite being unsure about the whole idea of breaded tuna going in.
Was it A+ food? No. But that’s definitely what they’re shooting for and a little more homework just might get them there.
IF YOU GO: The Varsity Club, 125 Schoolhouse Way in White Sulphur Springs, is open Monday-Friday for breakfast from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. It’s open daily for dinner from 5-9 p.m. and offers a Saturday-Sunday brunch from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. To learn more, call 304-536-0995, visit www.theschoolhousehotel.com/the-varsity-club or check out the restaurant’s Facebook page.
Big Flavors at Big Draft Brewing
While in White Sulphur Springs, I also popped in for a beer and a bite at Big Draft Brewing, the little town’s somewhat newish big restaurant and brewery right on Main Street.
Much more than beer-makers, Big Draft has gained a big local following thanks to a robust lineup of entertainment and special events paired with a fairly expansive menu of creative soups, salads, apps, sandwiches, burgers and dinner entrées.
A Sunday brunch menu also features hearty helpings of an Appalachian Eggs Benedict, biscuits and gravy, shrimp and grits, chicken and dumplings, mountain meatloaf, a fried pork chop and more.
I stopped by for lunch over the weekend to sample a luscious Banger Double IPA chased with a Love Puddle ESB English Pub Ale, which helped wash down a trio of smoky pulled-pork BBQ sliders topped with coleslaw, “bold” sauce and pickles.
Delicious, one and all.
This Cauliflower Takes the Cake
Despite all the good food I had in the Greenbrier Valley, I’d be lying if I said the culinary highlight of my weekend was anything other than … cauliflower.
I know, I know. Most people don’t even like the stuff – much less think of it as a veggie that can be elevated to a wow-worthy dish – but that’s exactly what they do at The Forum inside The Greenbrier.
Rather unceremoniously called “Cauliflower Bites,” or Bocconcini di Cavolfiore, this small cast-iron dish comes out with piping-hot roasted tri-color cauliflower bathed in a rich blend of Parmesan cheese, pepperoncini pepper aioli and fresh basil.
Creamy, earthy and so delicious, it’s truly a next-level dish.
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Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.