Atmosphere: A setup for Bonnie and Clyde.
Hours: Lunch, Monday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m.; dinner, seven days a week, 5:30 to 10 p.m.; Sunday brunch, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Price range: Lunch, $2.95 to $4.95; dinner, $6.95 to $10.95; brunch, $2.95 to $8.95.
Credit cards: Accepts major credit cards.
Special facilities: On-street parking; booths for families with very young children.
Directions: From Maryland and the District: Beltway/495 to 270 to Frederick; west on 340 to Harpers Ferry. A few miles beyond Harpers Ferry turn right on Route 230 to Shepherdstown. From Virginia: Take Route 7 or Route 15 to Leesburg. Go west on Route 7 to Route 9 then follow Route 9 through Charles Town to Route 480. Take 480 through Kearneysville to Shepherdstown.
Shepherdstown is one of those quiet, quaint, out-of-the-way, country towns that natives try to keep a secret. Ten miles from Harpers Ferry and five miles from the Antietam battlefields, Shepherdstown is near the Potomac on a section of land where Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia boundaries are confusing.
Driving up Route 230 from Harpers Ferry in search of Shepherdstown and lunch, we bumped up and down rural hills, and passed farms, grazing cows, old houses and grassy meadows. Our first sighting of our destination was a railroad crossing and O'Hurley's General Store, a delightful shop crammed with new and old things.
The heart of Shepherdstown--the crossroads of German and Princess streets--is two blocks beyond O'Hurley's. There are craft and antique stores, a luncheonette called Betty's and, on the corner of German and Princess streets, a yellow brick bank. But the building is no longer yellow (the bricks have been painted red) nor is it a bank.
It is now the Yellow Brick Bank Restaurant, which carries its 1930s art deco origins off with considerable charm, elan and good taste. Inside the front door, with its etched glass panels, we passed the bank vault, complete with a combination lock the size of a basketball. The vault is now the wine cellar.
The back room of the Yellow Brick Bank--in an area where the bank manager once had his office--has a luncheonette ambiance. In fact, the booths that line the room were taken from a now-defunct drugstore luncheonette. This is the area where families with small children will feel most comfortable.
The main dining room is where the tellers once sat, where customers made deposits and where, if this were a movie set, you'd expect to see Bonnie and Clyde burst through the door. The teller booths have, of course, been replaced with tables, plants and life-sized 1930s advertising posters.
Yellow Brick Bank's menu is every bit as inviting as its setting. Arriving on a Sunday at 2:30 in the afternoon, we were hoping for lunch and found, instead, that the brunch menu was in effect. But our waitress promised the kitchen wouldn't be rigid, that children who preferred hamburger (a lunch item) to eggs Florentine, baked Brie with almonds, creamed chipped beef or french toast certainly could be accommodated.
Our party of nine--two families and a family friend--tried a wide variety of dishes: hamburgers with bacon and a choice of cheeses ($3.50); homemade biscuit with country ham ($2.95); homemade biscuit with potatoes ($1.25); caesar salad ($3.50); spinach salad with bacon and mushrooms ($2.95); french toast with bacon and maple syrup ($3.95); freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juice ($1.25 a glass); homemade brownies with ice cream ($2.95); and dishes of fresh strawberries coated with brown sugar ($2.50 a serving). There wasn't a loser in the bunch.
The biscuits had the heavy, dense texture that it takes a country kitchen to produce. The country ham was not so salty that we didn't all enjoy tasting it. The salads were exquisitely fresh and dressed with a pleasant, tangy dressing. The french toast was properly soaked in egg with a soft inside and a delicately crisp exterior.
The freshly squeezed juices were a particular treat, although the one complaint we had was that there was too much ice.
Dinner is a more sophisticated and expensive meal. For youngsters, hamburgers are usually available. There are also pastas and crepes ($6.95), a wonderful London broil marinated in ginger and soy sauce ($8.95) and veal, duck, chicken and fish dishes in the $8.95 to $10.95 price range.
Desserts, which are available at all meals, are sinful. The brownie with ice cream and homemade hot fudge ($2.95) is rich enough to satisfy a month's worth of chocolate cravings. Those who opt to skip the brownie can have a hot fudge sundae ($2.50), which comes with a tiny pewter pitcher filled with a supply of hot, hot fudge.
The tab for our lunch/brunch for nine came to $51.40, including one screwdriver, several side orders of biscuits and bagels, constant refills of coffee cups and tax. The share for our family of four was $23.95 including tax.