We thought it would be fun to do a round-up of the places we frequent when we’re back home in Loudoun County, Virginia. These are the spots we start craving as we pack a bag to visit our parents and the places we’re eager to bring out-of-town guests. Our hometown favorites are a mix of genuinely good food, kitsch, and comfort. Thankfully, we’ve both already had two trips to Virginia this summer, or else writing this post would’ve had us dropping everything and making a beeline for California burritos and blueberry pancakes.
Laura’s Pick for Breakfast:
Purcellville Family Restaurant: Despite being named “Purcellville Family Restaurant” for years, most people call this place by its previous name, “Fran’s,” a few might call it “Artie’s,” and there are probably a couple of holdouts calling it “George’s.” Although the name and management have changed over the decades, the loyal following hasn’t wavered. It’s a seat-yourself, formica-and-linoleum dive that serves the best breakfast in Purcellville. Everyone can feel like a local here, where the waitresses are casual and no one minds if you read the paper at the table. On any given morning, you can spot teachers from Loudoun Valley High, bikers sweaty from a spin on the W&OD trail, old timers wishing they could still smoke at the table, and multi-generational families passing babies and ketchup. When I go, my standard order is 1 Blueberry with Meat (a blueberry pancake with a side of sausage). I’ll do two cakes if I’m ravenous. The cakes are as big as a face and loaded with fresh berries. The sausage is a craggy patty of seasoned, crumbly pork. A few good pours from that communal jug of Food Lion-brand syrup and I’m one happy local. 110 West Main St., Purcellville, Virginia, 20132
Jessica’s Pick for Mexican:
El Rancho Plus: El Rancho, known also as Tony’s, is easily the restaurant my family has eaten at and gotten takeout from the most of any in Purcellville. It’s been around since 1991, and I can still remember our first ever visit right after it opened, when the ground beef tacos–and the zippy background music–won me over completely. From the chips and salsa that arrive as soon as you sit down to the sopapillas the sweet waitresses bring at the end of a meal they’ve decided is celebratory, I love everything about eating at Tony’s. They have all the classics: tacos, burritos, enchiladas, chimichangas, fajitas, and some spiffy specials I’ve never been tempted to try but am sure are delicious. They also have some solid “American” options if one isn’t in the mood for Mexican and the occasional Greek special, a nod to Tony’s background, but I’d recommend sticking with the signature dishes. The food is maybe a touch old fashioned (the taco salad comes in a giant fried taco shell bowl), but I’d prefer to think of it as wonderfully consistent. Tony’s is always on my list of places to take out-of-town visitors, for the food, the incredibly kind service, and the birdbath margaritas, and a few years ago one of my Brooklyn girlfriends described it as “kind of like a fancier Taco Bell, and I totally mean that as a compliment.” My classic order is a California Burrito Supreme, a bean and beef burrito covered in chili con carne and cheese. Serious business, and oh so good. 101C South Maple Avenue, Purcellville, VA 20132
Laura’s Pick for Dinner:
Savoir Fare: I mentioned my aunt Joan Wolford’s restaurant in the post about spinach-gruyère dip, but I have to mention it again here because it’s number one on the hit list whenever I’m home. The restaurant is in the old Patterson Building in the weensy downtown of Round Hill, a few minutes west of Purcellville. The cozy space has two dining rooms in the front and a newly renovated bar area in the back. If we happen to be there on a Saturday night, we insist on sitting in the bar room—it’s closer to the live piano music, making it easier for certain members of my family to play Name That Tune. Chef Dan Fike runs the show most nights, though sometimes you might catch Joannie behind the stove. The menu changes with the seasons, which means I get to try something new just about every time I come home. A few of my past favorites have been the crab cakes, the filet, and the blackened grouper with fried green tomatoes. Ed’s also a huge Savoir Fare fan. He would eat one of everything if he could (he came pretty close last time with an order of creamy potato soup, a pear-parmesean salad, Chicken Cordon Bleu, and ice cream cake). In the dessert department, Katelynn Curles has a knack for outdoing herself with a constantly changing lineup of sweets. Her banana parfait reduced us to spoon-fighting each other for the last swipe of caramel and cream. Now that it’s summer, I have only two words: berry crisp. UPDATE: Sadly, Savoir Fare is no longer open as a restaurant, but it remains the best option for catering in Loudoun (the restaurant space is still a terrific option for hosting parties). Also, check the website to see if Savoir Fare’s food truck “C’est Bon” is serving dinner tonight! 1 West Loudoun Street, Round Hill, Virginia, 20141
Jessica’s Pick for Seafood:
Lowry’s Crab Shack: From the middle of elementary school right through college, my family took a vacation to North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina almost every summer. I looked forward to those trips all year long for the beach, the inevitably tacky-fabulous rental house decor, the family silliness, and the seafood. The closest I can get to that summer beach vacation feeling in landlocked Hamilton, VA is Lowry’s Crab Shack. Lowry’s started as a family-run farm stand, selling seasonal produce and seafood. Our family stuck mostly to the produce–they were my mother’s first stop when hunting for summer peaches–but happily switched over to seafood once the restaurant opened in 2007. The space itself is tiny, and if the weather isn’t nice enough to warrant sitting out on the patio with a beer I’d strongly recommend just getting carryout. I almost always go for the crabcake, the item by which I judge any seafood-heavy menu, and just right hushpuppy side. My dad loves the raw oysters and various fried seafood offerings, served either on their own or as part of an “admiral’s” (two sides) or “captain’s” (just one) platter. The menu also has a “landlubber” section for the seafood averse, and they do a brisk soft-serve ice cream business. The only thing missing to make it truly beachy, as my sister points out, is mini golf. 420 W Colonial Hwy, Hamilton, VA 20158
Magnolia’s at the Mill: We meet at Mags for a drink after family holiday events. We meet at Mags for lunch when we have a free afternoon. We meet at Mags for dessert when that’s the only chance we’ll get to see each other. If we’re there in the evening, it’s almost a guarantee we’ll see at least one person we knew in high school. The bar is big, the wine and beer lists are long, and the servers don’t mind if we linger over a drink or an individual key lime pie. The restaurant serves upscale American fare in a warmly lit restored mill in the historic west end of Purcellville. The food is good, but it’s the location, the people watching, and the space that has made this our go-to meet up spot for nearly 10 years. 198 North 21st Street, Purcellville, VA 20132
If you’re ever in Hamilton, Purcellville, or Round Hill, Virginia, we hope you get a chance to stop into one of these gems for a tasty small town experience.