Visiting nearby mountain towns solely for the skiing is like eating just the whipped cream on an ice cream sundae: You’re not taking full advantage of everything within your grasp. Hilly landscapes make for year-round playgrounds thanks to scenic views, ample nature trails and slightly cooler temperatures than those found in D.C. during the oppressive summer months.
What’s more, these towns often have a unique country-meets-cosmopolitan culinary thumbprint, with traditional mom-and-pop cafes mingling with sleek restaurants intended to lure city folk passing through on their way to the slopes.
“A lot of people who drive through our town live in D.C. and have a second home in the mountains,” says Paul Yandura, co-owner of Lost River Trading Post, an artisanal market housed within an old feed store in Wardensville, W.Va. “We’re capitalizing on these high-end customers and giving them an authentic rural experience.”
In addition to Wardensville, we tracked down two other hillside getaways with diverse old-meets-new food scenes. Leave the skis at home and prepare to dig in.
Wardensville, West Virginia
101 miles from the White House
This teeny town with a population of roughly 270 is a frequent pit stop for people en route to Lost River, a popular backwoods escape 15 miles west. Wardensville’s burgeoning food scene is fast making it a destination of its own.
At the heart of revitalization efforts are Paul Yandura and his partner, Donald Hitchcock, former D.C. politicos who mentor local entrepreneurs and, in 2014, opened Lost River Trading Post (295 E. Main St.; 304-874-3300, lostrivertradingpost.com). The shop sells wares from more than 125 nearby artists, as well as espresso, from-scratch baked goods, and craft beer and wine.
Just as essential to Wardensville is Star Mercantile (14 Barley Lane; 304-874-3663), a family-owned gift shop and diner (with crazy good milkshakes) founded in 1906 as a dry-goods store.
On your way out of town, stop at Pembroke Springs Retreat (6238 Wardensville Grade, Star Tannery, Va.; 540-877-2600, pembrokesprings.com), a Japanese-inspired bed-and-breakfast 11 miles east. It’s situated on 175 acres of land and offers two large Japanese-style baths (ofuros) full of natural spring water heated to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, and a multi-course sushi feast on the weekend.
161 miles from the White House
Settled by German farmers in the early 1700s, Skippack has maintained its quaint European charm through the years. It’s located 6 miles from Spring Mountain Adventures (757 Spring Mount Road, Schwenksville, Pa.; 610-287-7900, springmountainadventures.com), a four-seasons ski resort, and 30 miles from Philadelphia. Here you’ll find plenty of art galleries, mom-and-pop antique shops and restaurants housed in former carriage houses.
What you won’t find are corporate franchises and traffic jams. “We don’t have a stoplight here, and we don’t have an Apple Store or a Starbucks,” says Craig Wolf, a longtime resident who, with his parents, runs Green Wolf’s Village Barn Shoppes, a market that houses a winery, an antique store, a woodworking studio and galleries (4010 Skippack Pike; 610- 584-6396, greenwolfsvillagebarn.com).
Among the more than a dozen restaurants are Parc Bistro, a French-meets-Italian fine dining spot with a wood-burning oven and strong martinis (4067 Skippack Pike; 610-584-1146, parcbistro.com), and Dutch Cottage Tavern, a casual watering hole where the chicken wings flow like water (1264 Bridge Road; 610-584-9961, thedutchcottagetavern.com).
The Grand Fromage is beloved for its extensive cheese and charcuterie selection, as well as its knowledgeable staff (3910 Skippack Pike; 610-584-5400, thegrandfromage.com).
Warm Springs, Virginia
214 miles from the White House
Warm Springs’ proximity to George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in the Appalachian Mountains means it attracts outdoorsy visitors year-round. And its location near the Shenandoah Valley, which is rich with farms, means it’s a hotbed of locally grown produce, much of which ends up on menus in town.
The Waterwheel Restaurant is one establishment that makes good use of the surrounding bounty. Housed in an old mill built in 1900, the American bistro is part of the Inn at Gristmill Square, a network of old cabins converted into hotel lodging (124 Old Mill Road; 540-839-2231, gristmillsquare.com).
Attention oenophiles: Head down into The Waterwheel’s wine cellar, where you can handpick your bottle and check out the mill’s (non-functioning) gears. “It’s more interactive than a traditional wine list,” says innkeeper John Loeffler of the experience. “It’s much more fun than sitting at the table and trying to pick from 300 bottles.”
Eat before or after a visit to Warm Springs’ claim to fame: the Jefferson Pools, a pair of natural warm springs (hence the town’s name) in which Thomas Jefferson is said to have steeped (11 Bath St.; 540-839-7741).
About 6 miles down the road in Hot Springs, you’ll come upon Country Cafe, a simple family-style spot with homemade pies (6156 Sam Snead Highway; 540-839-2111).
Other weekend getaway ideas for food lovers: