Directions: Out I-270 to Frederick, Md. West on Rte. 40.In Boonsboro, left onto Rte. 34 to Shepherdstown. Or, in Virginia, out Rte. 7 beyond Leesburg. Right on Rte. 9. In Kearneysville, right onto Rte. 480 and pick up Rte. 34 in Shepherdstown.
Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner; Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch, 3 to 10 p.m. for dinner; Sunday, noon to 9 p.m. for dinner. Closed Monday.
Price range: Lunch entrees, $3.95 to $6; dinner, $5.25 to $13.75.
Atmosphere: In an old mansion on a bluff overlooking the Potomac; mainly German cuisine.
Credit cards: Visa, Master Card, American Express, Carte Blanche.
Reservations: Recommended (and appreciated) on weekends.
Special facilities: Accessible to patrons in wheelchairs; booster and high chairs; children's menu; parking.
Going to West Virgnia for dinner seemed excessive. But we had heard pleasant things about the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown and, besides, it was only 85 minutes through some mighty nice countryside.
In fact, as we passed through farmlands, cool wooded foothills and small towns loaded with historical landmarks and antique stores, we were sorry we hadn't made a day of it. Shepherdstown is in the middle of Civil War territory, only minutes away from Antietam National Battlefield and Sharpsburg, Md., which has a museum with Antietam memorabilia.
Nearby Harper's Ferry -- the site of John Brown's raid in 1859 -- is full of historical lore. The Shenandoah and Potomac converge there, and you can climb any number of trails for a good view of the rivers or you can go rafting down them.
Or you can sit in the Harper Ferry's railroad station and watch for freight trains as they come steaming around of the mountain on the other side of the river.
Charles Town is close by. Ignore the raised eyebrows of friends and relatives and take your children to the races there. Kids under 12 go in free, and they can stand right down at the rail near the weigh-in station and winner's circle and watch the horses thunder by. Between races they can go to the paddock for a closer look at the entrants and to see the jockeys mount up for the next race. Minors cannot bet.
Or you can spend the day hiking in the Washington Monument State Park or swimming at the Greenbrier State Park. Even the Catoctin mountains are not far from Shepherdstown.
Unfortunately, our group of eight -- four adults and four children -- didn't do any of these things on our way to the Bavarian Inn. We arrived at twilight, just in time to see several young couples -- the girls in long, gauzy dresses and the young men in baby blue tuxedos -- move across the wide lawn and enter the inn for a pre-prom dinner.
The Bavarian Inn is southern-comfort in looks and atmosphere although it specializes in German cooking. Standing on a bluff overlooking the Potomac, it's in a stone mansion built half a century ago as a private home. Its furnishings are traditional -- oriental rugs, colonial print curtains and two huge fireplaces in the main dining room.
We were seated out at tables on a large flagstone terrace overlooking the river. Several small children played on the lawn and on a swing set behind the Inn.
The Bavarian Inn opened about 10 years ago, but its menu was changed considerably about three years ago under new management. Along with the German fare, it offers several American and French-type dishes. One of the inn's best appetizers is that old standby, marinated herring. In this case, it was served with a thin sour cream dressing and finely sliced onions and apples.
The homemade chicken broth would have been better with less salt. The salad plate included a good version of a sweet-and-sour German potato salad, along with sliced tomatoes and Boston lettuce. Or there were snails or smoked salmon for starters.
Entrees ran from $5.25 for German sausage to $13.75 for American lobster, with most dishes falling into the $7 and $8 category. Roast pheasant or scallops simmered in white wine were the evening's specials.
Two of the girls, both 13, had wiener schnitzel, $8.75, a veal cutlet which in this case was tender but with little flavor.
The 11-year-old ladies went out on a limb and had breaded, baked chicken, $6.75, the closest they could come to Kentucky Fried. In fact, it was very good, and serving it with remoulade, a mayonnaise sauce with a hint of mustard, added a whole new twist. The portions were huge.
Personally, I find the pale, whitish cast of veal sausage (weisswurst) unfortunate, but I like its mild flavor compared to some of the stronger German wursts. It went well with the Bavarian Inn's sauerkraut, which is appropriately pungent without being acidic.
The bratwurst, made with pork, is earthier and coarser in texture. It, too, was served with sauerkraut and with whipped potatoes which we suspected, with some surprise, were instant.
Other entrees included an exceptional sauerbraten, which was purported to have been marinated for seven days, frog legs, pork roast with dumplings and a shepherd's pie made with lamb.
Little children have a choice of hamburger or veal sausage platters for $3.25.
Desserts run from 95 cents to $1.50 for the apple strudel, which has a wonderful fresh, flaky pastry and is outstanding. So was a tantalizer called the Bavarian nut ball, a big wad of ice cream rolled in nuts and lathered with chocolate sauce.
We dawdled over coffee for a long time, and by the time we got home, it was late. Nobody minded. The trip was worth it.