The Inn at Little Washington
Mollie Cox Bryan
At The Inn at Little Washington, Chef Patrick O'Connell's locally inspired elegant cuisine may attract visitors from around the world but it is firmly rooted by countless Virginia farmers and producers.
Dining at the prestigious Inn at Little Washington is a life event—one to be planned and savored. Yet, for all of its opulence, the guiding principals behind it speak of simplicity and authenticity, of shaping local food into a refined elegance.
“The local food movement is not new for us. We’ve been working with local farmers and artisans since we started 30 years ago,” says Patrick O’Connell, the inn’s owner and chef, who is praised internationally for his innovative use of local products combined with sophisticated flair.
And an extraordinary flair it is. The inn’s awards include a long list of highly sought after kudos. Just two of these are the Mobil Travel Guide’s Five Stars for both the restaurant and the inn’s accommodations—the first such award in the guide’s history. It’s also the first inn ever to receive AAA’s Five Diamond award for both food and accommodations. Behind these myriad awards is the almost indescribable manner in which customers are transported into another, richer, lush, magical world upon entering the establishment.
“Our food is just one element in a large picture we use to transport people into a healing, comforting experience,” says O’Connell.
A Large Presence in Little Washington
The Inn at Little Washington is perfectly situated in an almost storybook-like setting, nearly smack in the middle of bucolic Washington, Virginia, with a population just under 200. The town is skirted by the Shenandoah National Park and sits a few miles from the Northern Virginia town of Warrenton, about an hour’s drive from Washington, D.C.
Fighting urban sprawl is not even an issue in “Little Washington,” which was formed in 1749 after being surveyed by a team that included a young George Washington. Because of the inn’s international success, the local economy is robust in the best of all possible ways—the establishment boosts local artists, contractors, and a variety of craftspeople, along with a substantial amount of local farmers, wineries, and cheesemakers. The inn’s recent expansion, spread over three blocks of the small town, includes an herbal cutting garden with apple trees and fountains. A new large room has a veranda with a sweeping, glorious view of Virginia’s mountains.“
This room is perfect for wedding receptions or rehearsal parties, any special event,” says Rachel Hayden, marketing manager at the inn for nine years.