Royalty, presidents, movie stars, sports giants and Gen. Robert E. Lee have all traveled to The Greenbrier, the famous resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. In Lee’s day, everyone ate in the Main Dining Room. When he would enter the dining room after “The War Between the States,” he received standing ovations…when he just wanted to have a quiet dinner.
Now, The Greenbrier has a bunch of eating options – some very new – so that whether you are in the mood for classic glamour, a modern night out “on-the-town” style, casual sports bar, ethnic (Italian or sushi), or a eat-dessert-first meal, The Greenbrier has something to fit every whim – over a dozen choices. Non-registered guests are now welcome to eat at The Greenbrier, but reservations are recommended for dinner.
The Gourmet Shoppe is a place to get all kinds of kitchen equipment, including a groovy chef’s toque that I plan to wear for all kinds of meals. You can also grab some Route 11 potato chips there, chilled wines, coffee drinks, and coffee cakes. They do cooking demos with samples to try. This is also the place to pick up their famous cookbook.
The Forum, a wine bar and casual Italian eatery, is a cool new addition to the Greenbrier’s dining options. It’s in the main resort building, but since it’s near the retail area, they’ve chosen to let it be more casual. It bridges that lunch/casual dinner need. They serve diners homemade breads and focaccia, along with olives, so that’s value-added. Their coal-fired pizzas are crispy and flavorful with fresh herbs and unexpected cheeses.
Speaking of fresh, The Greenbrier Farm supplies all their restaurants with nearly all of their produce, including 23 varieties of veggies. It’s located on 40 acres and everything is grown naturally, with no chemicals. The produce has won prizes all on its own.
Prime 44 West is a fine dining steakhouse, but in a relaxed atmosphere. It honors NBA legend and WV native, Jerry West. It has some memorabilia, but in an absolutely tasteful way. Lighting is dimmed, but not furtive. If you go with friends or business associates, you won’t come off like you’re asking for their hand in marriage. It has a hominess about it, with super-gourmet offerings and “home-cooked” specialties – kind of like if you had a private chef who cooked a fine dinner with some of your guilty pleasures.
Mrs. Cathy Justice – wife of the new Greenbrier owner, Jim Justice – won the blue ribbon at the West Virginia State Fair (Best of Show) for her cornbread recipe. Just like in pioneer days, and totally Southern, too. It’s served in a cast iron pan. I was told that a little “secret” is that it has melted butter on top. YUM! It’s a hearty, slightly sweet bread that has a deep corn flavor.
They serve a salad composed of produce picked on that farm that day. It really makes a difference. Even places that are “farm to table” often serve things not picked that exact day. The flavors of the vegetables and fruits are much more pronounced than a typical restaurant salad.
For steaks at Prime 44 West, you can choose between wet-aged, dry-aged, and Kobe beef. They really make a very delicious, perfectly cooked and caramelized steak. There are all kinds of accent sauces you can order, but the black truffle butter is truly divine. It’ll be one of those things that you think of days later.
Sometimes, sides at steakhouses can be predictable, but not here. So you don’t have to choose between caramelized onions and mushrooms for your steak, they cook both together, with a variety of foraged mushrooms. This creates a very earthy combo. Their corn soufflé is topped with cheese, a great combo. I had suspected that their mac and cheese would be special, but it’s even better than that. Really, they should sell their sides frozen at the Gourmet Shoppe, at the airport, at the WV Welcome Centers, and at Tamarack (the state arts/crafts center). I’d have loaded up the trunk!
For dessert, go comfort-food style and dive into Karen West’s (Mrs. Jerry West) Italian Cream Cake with cream cheese and coconut icing. Yes, it’s rich and generous enough to split and goes so well with a hot cup of French press coffee. The cake part is a light spice cake type, and the icing is creamy and not overly sweet. You wish you could make cakes like that at home.
You can have breakfast in the Main Dining Room, which serves some of their cherished specialties, along with modern light choices and also, a wide-variety buffet. Lobster omelets with butter-poached lobster are a particularly decadent way to start the day, and they make their own apple-chicken sausage. A real old-school Greenbrier breakfast is The Sportsman – pan-fried WV brook trout, scrambled eggs, applewood smoked bacon and baby red potato home fries. It’s hearty, yet light enough to not feel loggy when you go out to play golf, tennis, swim, hike, or kayak.
For a classic, glamorous dinner, head to the Main Dining Room. The food is pure elegance, with amuse bouches and smoked chicken consommé that is light and warming at the same time (and packed also with the freshest, crisp farm veggies). It’s the place where you can create the whole Casablanca atmosphere in your real life, today. The maitre d’s, the chandeliers, combo band, elegant dance floor; they all go to make the place memorable.