While shopping along Washington Street in Lewisburg WV last weekend, I asked around about the perfect place for a nice meal for two later that evening. Since I had ridden 21 miles in the Wheels of Hope Bicycle Ride that morning (and Ron was still in the midst of his 85-mile ride at the time), I didn’t feel the need to be overly concerned about calories. I just burned a bunch off, right? Specifically, I inquired about Julian’s, the Tavern 1785 and Stardust Cafe. I was advised by the locals to make a reservation no matter which dining destination I chose. I received positive feedback about each restaurant with one shopkeeper stating “you can’t get a bad meal at any of our four restaurants”. (I figured Food & Friends was the unnamed fourth.)
The three restaurants I was considering had menus posted on a sign or window. I love that! So as I walked around taking photographs and stimulating the economy (I’m patriotic that way), I reviewed each menu and decided on Julian’s.
Julian’s is a little house turned restaurant on a side street off the main drag in downtown Lewisburg. Their menu was more varied than the others and featured dishes I thought Ron and I both would really enjoy - lots of seafood choices, some beef, some curry, some Italian. Entree prices averaged $22. I liked the casual look of the exterior landscaping – kind of wildflower-ish in a bohemian sort of way.
I called the restaurant, asking for the latest reservation time which turned out to be 8:15. Oh well. I kind of expected that after the nght before. We found out, after being turned away at multiple establishments, that people must not eat out past 9 pm in this quaint tlittle town. Not even on a weekend! My plan was to devour a meal at Food & Friends on Friday night and try someplace new on Saturday. I guess F&F will have to wait until my next visit to town.
We arrived at Julian’s right on time and were shown to a table immediately. The interior appeared to be divided into three small rooms but all patrons were seated in one. That bugs me. Especially when I am on a date. The decor was nice and simple with orange painted walls and rows of wine bottles lining the tops of the half-walls all around. The walls are covered in photographs of various people and places.
Peach-colored linen napkins were artfully folded and placed on a charger atop a round black faux marble table. Ron sat on one side on a padded bench with a throw pillow while I sat across from him in a chair comfortable enough for lingering. Our table was positioned very near the next four-top table which was postioned very near the next two- top. All the diners opposite me shared the same padded bench. It reminded me of the seating at Lola’s in South Hills.
Had the place been packed, I would have understood the close quarters. But as it was, the only diners were all crammed into this one room. Is it really too difficult for the waitstaff to trek into the next room to allow the patrons a more private dining experience? Especially when you’re dropping a C-note on dinner? You knew your conversation could be heard by everyone else because we could hear theirs.
Here’s what I learned from the conversation at the next table (Table Two), a table so close I could have touched it without getting out of my seat:
- The two women at Table Two were in a relationship
- One was from Austin, TX
- She has also lived in Anchorage, Alaska
- These two women were invited by the woman at the table next to them, Table Three, to view their entrees to help make a decision about what to order
- After the entrees arrived at Table Two, they were compared to the samples at Table Three
- The Texan was very upset that she received rice instead of polenta and that prompted the owner/chef to come out for a chat with her
- Either the husband at Table Three was irritated that his wife was involved in a conversation with these women at Table Two or relieved that he, himself, was no longer responsible for dinner banter
- Apparantly decaf coffee is what one orders in Texas when espresso is not available. Go figure.
I deftly talked Ron into a bottle of pinot noir – I was not familiar with Windy Hill but it was reasonably priced and I haven’t met too many wines I didn’t like. I learned that Windy Hill was no longer available but there was another pinot noir similarly priced that was even better. I exchanged a few sentences with our server about the bottles of wine sitting on the nearby ledge, recognizing the Perlat we had at SHM&C recently. I could tell Ron was really suffering, dying to roll his eyes.
Screw top cap and all, the Angeline Pinot Noir for $28 was wonderful! This dangerously smooth wine had great drinkability and a silky smooth finish. We both loved it. I will be looking for that one in a grocery store near home.
We were served a small dish of a beige-colored substance with carrot and celery sticks. Neither of us could place the flavors and we weren’t sure what type of dip/spread it was. So I asked. It was a pesto-garlic hummus. I liked it. Ron… not so much. The complimentary bread and butter was good but not over-the-top with infused flavors or special ingredients in the bread.
For my entree I chose scallops in garlic, honey and white wine, priced at $22. The oval dish also came with red bell peppers, mushrooms and rice which may have been a substitution for polenta, given the previously mentioned convo at the table next to us. Also, I received red onions cooked in sugar, red wine and balsamic served in a Chinese soup spoon and a side of cooked spinach.
I could taste all three named components of the broth my scallops were in – the sweetness of the honey, the garlic and the slight bite of the wine. Basmati rice covered the bottom of the dish, soaking up the juices. The scallops, nicely cooked, were rather small in size There were eight to ten scallops in my dish. I don’t mention that as a criticism, merely describing in deatil. I may have enjoyed the dish more if it had been served with pasta instead of rice. I don’t know how polenta could have been the intended accompaniment - with all that broth it would have surely become too runny. That’s just speculation as the menu did not specify what came with the scallops.
Also per my usual, I grabbed a bite of Ron’s salmon. You could definitely taste the horseradish and therefore, I did not care for it. His impressions follow.
Stephen, the Chef/owner, came around to greet all the diners and ask if the meal was alright. I saw him make these rounds twice. He was friendly with us on both visits. On his second trip ’round, Ron asked about the onions we suspected were prepared with Balsamic vinegar and were rewarded with the recipe. Ron, pressing his luck, also mentioned how much enjoyed the horseradish salmon. Score! another mini-cooking lesson. Ron’s already thinking of how he can turn that recipe into a caveman-approved dish. Flax seed meal in place of panko…
Restaurants really knew what they are doing when they invented the dessert tray. It’s so much more difficult to resist when the sweet somethings are staring at you with those puppy dog eyes, hoping you’ll take them home with you. I asked if the desserts were made in-house (one of my standard questions) and learned that all but the pecan pie and something else were indeed made on the premises. I selected a trifle of chocolate torte soaked in port, blueberries and mascarpone cheese served in a wine glass for $5. The combination of chocolate, port and mascarpone sounded too good to pass up. Indeed it was delicious. The chocolate torte was bittersweet and dark just the way I like it. The mascarpone had a slight tanginess. The blueberries were fresh and gently popped when I bit down on them. A very nice ending to a nice meal.
If you are wondering why there are no photos of the food, I took some with my iPhone which turned out too blurry to use. It was a very low-light situation. After reading a post on Serious Eats about the etiquette of taking photographs in restaurants, there was no way I was dragging out a camera with a flash. You’ll have to use your imaginations this time. Or, better yet, go there for yourself.
I would definitely recommend Julian’s. I wish I could give it three and a half forks but Daniel won’t let me. FOUR FORKS.
July 18, 2009 (Susan always likes to leave the date out)
We recently had a weekend in Lewisburg, W.Va. and got to take in some of the local dining establishments. I have a few complaints to lodge, which I’ll repeat on the appropriate reviews.
What I came away with from our trip is that this City does indeed sleep and it likes to be in bed at 9PM. We arrived in town around 9:00 on Friday Eve, and were able to make it downtown to the Historic area about 9:30. Well this is too late to eat, at least for the three locations we stopped at. I forget the exact names of the locations, but I do remember one was still advertising their food special on the sidewalk sign with chalk while promoting a cover charge for what I assume was maybe a band or something. (Editor’s note: we stopped at Food & Friends – closed at 9:00; we also stopped at Del Sol whose kitchen was closed but they were accepting a cover charge for the band Ron mentioned. I don’t remember stopping at another place. Tavern 1785 was right across the street and I think we just assumed it was also closed.)
So Friday, my dining experience was one of those ill referred to “Chains”, but because of the all too familiar experiences of said chains, we were off to the Neighborhood Bar and Grill because all the other neighborhood bar and grills seem to have shut down, or at least their grills were turned off.
Julian’s – was the one place I got to eat that was local. I have to say I enjoyed it tremendously. Part of this enjoyment is I’m sure due to the fact that I told Susan I did not want to see the bill.
The place is small inside, shockingly so because it appears huge from the outside. Is this a problem, not really. But arriving for our late dinner reservation (if one can call 8:15 late??) , there were several empty tables, so as usual I don’t feel I need to be seated in someone else’s lap. No I wasn’t literally seated in someone else’s lap, but I was seated close enough to overhear portions of their conversation that I’m sure they had wished I hadn’t. Again, this is only a problem because there were other private seats available.
The decor is Orange or yellow or goldenrod or some other similiar color, with hundreds of pictures. It reminded me more of Moroccan decor instead of Italian. Having never been to Morocco or Italy, I really don’t know what that decor should be so don’t take my advice at face value. Just assume that the decor is not offensive and all the pictures have frames.
The Menu was nice and professionally done. Laminated if I remember correctly. This implies to me that they don’t really shuffle their menu around a lot. That’s cool, as they know what they do and do it well in my opinion. Why fix it if it isn’t broke? The wine and beer list was lacking beer, but on further inspection it did not say “wine and beer list”, it simply said “wine list”. With the thousands of bottles of wine arranged on every horizontal surface, and the millions of corks stored in jugs and other containers I simply assumed that they do not offer beer and switched my drink pallet into wine mode.
Wine – our server was very well educated in wine, or she baffled me with bullshit. Unfortunately her knowledge came off as snobby and made me feel out of place to some degree. I’m sure this was not intentional on her part, but that’s what it was. She seemed to know her wine, and we ordered one off the list, and she was quick to point out one that wasn’t on the list that she felt we would rather have.
Now how does someone know that we would rather have a wine that isn’t on the list more so than the one already on the list??? Now if I was in New York at the late Windows on The World, I would probably think this person that doesn’t know me is matching my meal to the wine she is suggesting based on parameters at which I do not understand thus making me feel special. I’m not in New York as that city is just waking up, I’m in Lewisburg which is trying to go to bed. Thus I’m thinking they are simply out of the wine we ordered and simply disguising that fact by describing a substitute wine. Whichever the case I will give credit where credit is due – the wine was excellent. Either she new her wine or she has learned what is on the menu and what isn’t in stock and what would be a good substitute, and she deserves credit for a job well done. Now if we could just work on making me feel superior instead of inferior.
My food entree was horseradish crusted salmon at $22. I loved it. Liked it so much I’m going to try to replicate it. Informing our chatty chef/owner of this, he gladly sat down and told me how to make it. As he did with another item that Susan had on her plate.
My Salmon was cooked perfectly, the breading which I considered to be lightly breaded was crunchy. (he even explained how to make sure it stays crunchy during the cooking process). The horseradish was a great flavor that complimented the salmon. My rice was cooked perfectly but it was rice. My greens, tasted great and I don’t like greens.
Did I mention the Salmon was great, and the wine was great?
Now a few notes:
We had commenters say the chef is too chatty. I can definitely see how one may think that. However it didn’t come off as rude and obnoxious to me. However we were seated so close to the next couple that me and Susan had long since gave up our desires on privacy and tossed them out the window to where I thought about asking our neighboring diners to pass me some some salt and pepper. The chef I think was just being friendly and that simply must be his way of doing so. I liked it.
Susan had something in a dish on her plate that at first I thought was going to be sliced Olives. Dark Brown and organic… Susan wasn’t about to taste these, but I was game. Picking up a piece, I immediately made the comment that it kind of looks like a leech, while placing one on my arm in a mock grimmace. However that was the best tasting leech I’ve ever eaten, very sweet and fruity. Susan says she bets it’s a pickled onion, then I say no not pickled but marinated in Basalmic Vinegar. After talking with the chef, we were close, but they are cooked in red wine with basalmic vinegar. This to me was a definite highlight, because I would have never thought of this composition and was surprised it tasted so good.
Four Forks. I could be mean and give it Three Forks because they close at 9, but I’m feeling nice this morning.
Four ForksJulian’s 102 S Lafayette St
Lewisburg, WV 24901-1413 (304) 645-4145