A Bit of Bavaria in West Virginia

The German-themed Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, W.Va., features 73 four-diamond rooms in buildings around this 1932 stone house.
The German-themed Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, W.Va., features 73 four-diamond rooms in buildings around this 1932 stone house. (Bavarian Inn)
Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Even before building Bavarian-style chalets on a bluff over the Potomac in West Virginia, Erwin Asam of Munich must have felt at home.

The mountains are vaguely Bavarian. Shepherdstown, where Asam opened the Bavarian Inn and Lodge, has a deeply rooted German immigrant history. Its original name in 1762 was Mecklenburg and its main thoroughfare is still called German Street.

Asam added enough German touches to his 12-acre property to perpetrate a grand illusion: that you've crossed a continent, rather than a state line an hour or so from Washington.

The 73 rooms in the inn, rated four diamonds by AAA, are spacious and decorated with antiques, and many include a whirlpool, fireplace and four-poster bed. They are scattered among adjoining three-story buildings that each have a German name, like Schwarzwald Haus or Bodensee.

The main building, a 1932 stone mansion, houses the Rathskeller, a traditional German beer house in the basement, with a wood-beam ceiling and shelves on stucco walls that hold steins.

The restaurant upstairs spreads through three very different rooms: an Old Europe library; a traditional Bavarian hunt room (my favorite) with stone walls, a massive fireplace, antler chandelier and wild game trophies on the wall; and the Potomac Room, a more modern space with windows overlooking the river.

The 25-page wine list includes bottles from every area of Germany. (The inn has won a Wine Spectator's award five years running.) The Chateau Margaux may go for $1,200, but there's plenty for $20 or less.

On our wintery visit, a wild game menu had been added by Chef Rich Hoffman, who trained at the Greenbrier. But I skipped right past the grilled quail, rabbit sausage, venison osso buco and such and went straight to the Bavarian entries. The Huehnerbrust mit Spaetzle -- chicken breast and handmade noodles with truffles -- was tempting. But in the end I settled on an expertly prepared sauerbraten with potato dumplings and red cabbage.

After a dessert of Black Forest cake and a visit to the Rathskeller, my it's-Saturday-maybe- I'm-in-Germany illusion was complete.

-- Cindy Loose

The Bavarian Inn (on Route 3 in Shepherdstown, W.Va., 304-876-2551,http://www.bavarianinnwv.com) is about 65 miles from Washington. On weekends and holidays, rates for a double range from $135 to $195, $295 for a suite. Dinner entrees range from $20 to $38.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company