Open daily, breakfast 8:30-9:30, lunch 12:30-1:30 (except Sunday, 1-2:30), dinners 6:30-7:30. Reservations almost a necessity. Mastercharge and BankAmericard accepted Accessible by wheelchair.
Two hours from downtown Washington and only 20 minutes from rural Washington (the quaint Blue Ridge Mountain twon surveyed and laid out by the same namesake George), is the old-fashioned apple country inn, Graves Mountain Lodge.
After more than 50 years of taking in lodgers, it is still one of the more popular watering, or cidering, places for families our for a day of apple picking in the fall or just cruising country roads to admire the scenery.
The lodge serves three meals a day from April through November and also has a hilltop motel and cabins for guests who cannot bear to leave.
The dining room seats 200 at long tables, although 300 enjoyed the all-you-can-eat buffet when we went for Sunday lunch, including a dog who scavanged happily under the tables. Reservations are almost a necessity on weekends.
The lodge features pot-luck meals for some weeknight suppers but regulary serves trout on Friday, steak on Saturday and ham on Sunday. Sunday dinner is a fried chicken meal, accompanied like most meals by huge piles of fresh vegetables, which last week still included beans, tomatoes, corn pudding, potatoes, cole slaw, fresh rolls and of course - from theri orchards - an apple dish (baked apple) and an apple desert (apple cobbler with ice cream).
Waitresses in dungarees also maintained the apple butter supply and kept glasses and cups full of iced tea and coffee.
The meal was hot and hearty and almost everone in our three-family caravan overate. We were glad to get outside and head for the orchards for an afternoon of apple picking. However, those who preer to savor a meal from a rocking chair overlooking the Blue Ridges will find an ideal spot under the lodge eaves.
The Graves orchards will have pick-your-own days this year only during their annual apple harvest festival the weekends of October 8-9 and 15-16, when Brunswick stew, cornbread and various apple dishes and drinks are served outsoors all day ($2.50 a person).
We worked off our lunch at Mountain Green Orchards in nearby Washington, where you can pick your own apples seven days a week from Labor Day to November. We all enjoyed the ride to the orchards on a tractor-pulled wagon and used long apple pickers to quickly fill two bushels of early-ripening York and Delicious apples. Just as we overate we overpicked. Our pantry now bulges with bags and bowls of apples and my wife already wearies of cooking pies, cobblers, appleasauce and other dishes.
Ten other Virginia orchards also allow customers to picker their own apples until the end of October. A list is available from the Virginia Department of Agriculture, 203 N. Governor St., Richmond, 23209.
Our day devoted to apples was generally considered a success, despite the 200-mile, four-hour round trip, partly becasue one of our two boys brought a radio to listen t rock stations while the adults admired the senery.
Apples and cider generally are cheaper at the orchards ($5 a bushel and $1.50 a gallon) and Graves Mountain Lodge is reasonably priced, especially for families with hearty appetites.
Graves prices are $3.50 for weekday and Saturday lunches and $5.25 on Sundays. Dinners run from $5.25 to $7.95. Children under 10 pay half price. Our boys no longer qualify so the bill for four was $23.84 with tax and tip. Which included several second andat least one third helping.