Royalty, Presidents, movie stars, sports giants and Gen. Robert E. Lee have all traveled to The Greenbrier, the famous resort in White Sulphur Springs, WV. 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 glamor, 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. I was very happy to be able to sample some of their specialties! White Sulphur Springs has been known for centuries for its water, so it’s one place where I definitely insist on the tap water.
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.
After 6:30 in the Main Dining Room and Prime 44, jackets are required for men, as well as after 7 in the casino area. “Casual resortwear” (collared shirts, preppy!) is fine for Sam Snead’s at the Golf Club, The Forum, etc. There are some super-casual options for lunch by the various pools where you can wear your bathing suit.
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 foccacia, along with olives, so that’s value-added. Their pizzas are coal-fired — “Coal! It’s what keeps the lights on.” Ah, a WV sayin’. Their coal-fired pizzas are crispy, unlike some others, 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 steakhouse that’s fine dining, 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’s got a homey-ness about it! How so? Well, they have super-gourmet offerings with “home-cooked” specialties. . . kind of like if you had a private chef who cooked a fine dinner with some of your guilty pleasures.
You can start out with some hard-core Southern traditional cocktails, like the original mint julep in a frosted cold silver julep cup and fresh mint. They also have a number of sophisticated alcohol-free cocktails, so you can indulge without, well, indulging.
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 things 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 veggies 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. . . 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 souffle 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!
They’re not solely about the red meat, though. West Virginia is very famous for their brook trout, which Prime 44 West cooks with citrus fruits, WV wild ramps, and Marcona almonds. It’s mild, yet meaty, and very tasty on a summer night.
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.
If it’s been a while since you’ve been to The Greenbrier, you’ll find Draper’s located downstairs near the casino. They serve super-Southern faves along with ice cream until 5 am! It’s named after the famous interior decorator Dorothy Draper, who revamped The Greenbrier after WWII. She put color into the world! Her protege’, Carleton Varney (you may have seen his products on HSN), has freshened her original work and has the Cafe Carleton named after him. He’s pretty much phone call #1 I will make after I win the lottery, to come and redecorate my life.
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. They make their own apple-chicken sausage, which has a tender texture. 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, kayak, etc. The buffet has a nice selection, including gorgeous berries and other fresh fruit. If you don’t order the uber-famous Greenbrier Peach for dessert at night, you can do it in a way with their peach sauce for pancakes. You are offered your choice of several newspapers at breakfast.
The Greenbrier does its own candy making on site. The selections change with trends in candy eating, but currently they are making truffles and salty-sweet combos like the outrageously tempting pretzel with caramel and chocolate coatings.
For a classic, glamorous dinner, head to the Main Dining Room. It’s the place where you can create the whole Casablanca atmosphere in your real life, today. The maitres d’s, the chandeliers, combo band, elegant dance floor . . . they all go to make the place memorable. The food is pure elegance, with amuse bouches, smoked chicken consomme’ that is light and warming at the same time (and packed also with the freshest, crispest farm veggies), and more. We know soft-shell crab here in Baltimore, but they do theirs with fresh salad greens and fruits. Light and unexpected! Their plated entrees like veal and lobster with risotto and more farm-fresh veggies are perfectly composed (and was that a sweetbread as “garnish”? Whoa! So gourmet). Certainly, you can’t beat it as a birthday destination!
Cathy Justice’s (Best of Show) Blue Ribbon Cornbread Recipe
1 cup Yellow Cornmeal
1 cup All Purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Teas. baking powder
1/2 teas. baking soda
1/16 teas. salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg – slightly beaten
3/4 canola oil
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees
2. Prepare an 8″ x 8″ oiled pan
3. Mix all dry ingredients
4. Add liquids
5. Stir softly to mix
6. Bake for 30 minutes
300 West Main Street
White Sulphur Springs, WV 24986