How fresh and local is that dinner you're savoring inside The Red Hen? A farmer dropped off the kale that morning, a docent plucked the collards from the garden at the Stonewall Jackson House, the steak was raised down the road at Buffalo Creek, the ginger beer was made in-house and the strawberry shortcake? Created from scratch by the pastry chef.
As your taste buds will discover, "farm-to-table" is more than a culinary buzzword in Lexington. At The Red Hen, Haywood's and Taps, the short but robust menus change weekly based on what's newly available. At Southern Inn, Mano Taqueria, Pure Eats and Kind Roots Cafe, savor meats, cheeses, grains and desserts sourced regularly from Shenandoah Valley farms and mills.
Just look at those tomatoes and carrots! Bright, fresh, and flavor-packed. As local chefs will tell you, the Shenandoah Valley is unique when it comes to produce. The Valley's hills aren't well-suited to large-scale agricultural enterprises, but small family farms thrive on the rich soil. Dozens of small farms dot the landscape, and they sit within a range of micro-climates, which supports a variety of produce.
Tastes are richer on Lexington menus because the fruits and vegetables served are picked when ripe, not earlier, because they don't have far to travel. This homegrown produce sports an array of colors and shapes because it's not mass-engineered for conformity.
On Lexington menus look for produce from Paradox Farm, Sunflower Flats, Fox Ridge Farm, Stone House Farm, Three Rivers Farm and Polyface Farm, grains from Wade's Mill, and cheeseboards curated by Cheese to You and Mountain View Farm. For a list of Rockbridge County farms, visit www.rockbridgegrown.org.
Lexington is also unique because Valley-sourced meats can be butchered locally at Donald's Meat Processing, which keeps it fresh. All-natural burgers and steaks from Buffalo Creek Beef and chicken from Somerset Farm are favorites on local menus.
Chefs aren't snobs in Lexington. At their restaurants you're likely to find them chatting with customers about their meals. Look for Southern fare served with Southern hospitality, where the chefs are inspired by what's local and fresh. From the cocktails to the entrees to the made-from-scratch desserts, it’s all home-grown and original.
Creative food pairings drive the menus at Haywood’s and Taps, both found in The Georges Hotel. At Taps, the Buffalo Creek burger with pimiento cheese is plate-licking good. At longtime hotspot Southern Inn, the menu offers spiffed-up favorites from across the south. Local specialties include the sirloin steak from Buffalo Creek and shrimp with Wade's Mill cheese grits.
Authentic Italian cuisine takes the spotlight at Rocca’s, where the breezy patio overlooks the action on Main Street. Look for modern Latin fare at his casual eatery Mano Taqueria, where the burritos are stuffed with local meats and local produce. Seven homemade hot sauces line the counter. Another quick and tasty option is Kind Roots Cafe, located in the YMCA, specializing in all-natural vegan and vegetarian meals.