I see no reason to bury the lede on this one; there is a very good chance that the single best restaurant in the state is tucked away in an old Victorian home in Berkeley Springs.
The county seat of Morgan County has long served as a retreat for residents of Baltimore and DC and it is a beautifully quaint small town. Back in 1998 local chef Damian Heath decided to return home after stints in Charleston, South Carolina and the outer banks. He opened Lot 12 with his wife Betsy in an old home just a few blocks from the spa. Missy and I finally made it there this past weekend when we had dinner with my parents. My only regret is that it took us far too long to get there.
After a manhattan made from Old Scout rye, we started with an order of BLT bruschetta for the table, a special starter for the evening. This took two pieces of toasted freshly-baked french bread and topped them with applewood smoked bacon, microgreens (making it a BMT?), and cherry tomatoes. There was a nice aioli tying everything together.
This was only good if you like BLTs. Of course, who doesn’t like a BLT? A great start. (Missy thinks this was better than any BLT she’s ever had.)
I then moved to a soup that won an award for Chef Heath at the Atlanta Wine and Food fesitval, his watermelon gazpacho. Start with a traditional gazpacho (nice), add pureed watermelon to the base (for an initial sweet start to the soup), some charred vidalia (texture and sweetness), feta cheese (a bit of creamy texture and salt) and jalapeno cilanto oil (for a finishing kick). It was like having a bowl of gazpacho with the brightness setting upped 100%.
You can see the jalapeno cilantro oil glistening on top.
After a mango sorbet intermezzo, we moved to the entrees. I had the crisp roasted duck:
That is a rosemary potato cake underneath the duck leg and a bath of pear chutney. The duck’s skin crackled and played off the pear’s sweetness. The potato cake was brittle and crisp on the edges, but light and fluffy inside. The entree has been described as “life-changing duck” and I can see why. The only downside is that I may not want to order duck anywhere else.
Missy went with the strip steak with creamy mashed potatoes, chimichurri, herb butter, tomato & charred onion relish, and balsamic:
The cut was enormous, but perfectly cooked and aged. The accompanying flavors enhanced the steak and the potatoes complemented the entire dish.
My dad went for one of the specials, Asian-style short ribs in a hoisin sauce spiked with lemongrass and scallion mashed potatoes:
Sorry for the long-range shot there. The beef was falling off the bone and the sauce was reminisent of a great SE-Asian meal.
Lastly, but like they say, not least, my mom ordered the seared scallops which were served in a sweet corn cream sauce with lump crab and bell peppers, over fettuccine:
The scallops were sweet and delicate, yet still seemed to shine through the subtle sauce.
The tomatoes were pefect, but the star was the brussel sprouts. And, yes, that is a sentence I never thought I would type. Missy, the carnivore, said afterward she would have been perfectly happy with a big plate of these two vegetables.
I finished with a strawberry shortcake of sweet biscuits, anglaise, coulis, and whipped cream:
Best strawberry shortcake I’ve ever had; the biscuits were barely sweet, which made the dish satifying without being cloying. My dad orderd the amaretto bread pudding:
Service was attentative, but this is a place for a long meal. We sat down around 5:45 and left at 8:45. Entrees are around $30, which frankly is a bargain for food this good. The wine list is top flight. Our dinner, including tip, drinks, and dessert was about $75 a person. I don’t regret a penny of that. Check our their website at http://lot12.com/.
Is it Unique?
Since it might be the best place in the state, yes. I will need to revisit before I say that for certain, so if anyone is game for a visit let me know. But Lot 12’s committment to fresh (Chef Damian will pick herbs from his front yard right before the meal) shines. Lot 12 can stand up with restaurants in any city, anywhere. No West Virginian “foodie” should miss it.