News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Eats: The Light Well In Orange
BY KURT RABIN
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
When considering a restaurant review, context is everything. Readers are well advised to take into account exactly where a reviewer is coming from—or in the case of our visit to the Light Well in Orange, where we’d just been.
You see, my wife and I were returning home to Fredericksburg from a three-day stay in another Civil War town. You know how some places are said to roll up their sidewalks at 5 p.m.? Well, I’m not sure if Appomattox ever unrolls its sidewalks in the first place.
Fact is, we cut our planned weeklong vacation there short, because after visiting historic Appomattox Court House and the new Museum of the Confederacy, we felt as if we’d run out of places to sightsee. Plus, it’s hard to shop till you drop (as their downtown signs encourage) in a one-block retail district. There was also the matter of the lean number of decent dining choices offered.
Appomattox is billed as a town of reuniting, of reconciliation. However, my wife and I could never reconcile ourselves to the fact that when it came time to eat out, there were only two viable options: an Italian (“best stick to the pizza”) place and a Chinese (“the buffet really isn’t bad”) place.
Compared with Appomattox, Orange, where we arrived at lunchtime on our way home, felt like a teeming metropolis. And the Light Well, featuring contemporary American food and serving as a community gathering place, called out to us like a beacon in the night.
One could reasonably append “concert venue/art gallery/cultural center” to the Light Well Coffee/Kitchen/Tavern name, because the eatery fulfills all of those functions. For example, that evening the movie “The Last Waltz” was scheduled to be shown in honor of Levon Helm, who had recently died.
The pleasing interior of the Light Well, which opened in December 2010 after a complete remodeling of its space, features a high stamped-tin ceiling, thin wood-slat flooring, visible ductwork and hanging globe lamps, as well as the work of local artists adorning its walls.
My wife ordered a hamburger ($9) made from locally raised, grass-fed beef, with Swiss cheese and bistro sauce on a challah roll. She took a bite, breathed a sigh of relief and said, “This place feels like an oasis!” Her side of roasted new and sweet potatoes with sea salt and rosemary ($2.50) was both light and savory.
I got the soup du jour ($6), roasted red-pepper crab, which was nicely seasoned, along with a satisfying balsamic-marinated portobello mushroom and herbed cream cheese on rye with roasted Roma tomatoes ($8). I chose for a side a light, fluffy, fresh-tasting couscous salad ($2.50) served chilled with feta and herbs.
In truth, both the burger and mushroom might have spent a tad too long on the grill, but, happy as we both were to again be eating good ol’ New American Cuisine, we weren’t about to quibble.
For dessert we both enjoyed drinks featuring the robust java of Orange’s own Orange County Coffee Roasters, along with a scrumptious slice of cake ($4). Both the bourbon and Death by Chocolate confections were Bundt-style cakes, and each was garnished with thin-sliced fresh strawberry.
When we look back on our visit to the Light Well, we’ll be tempted to call it the Lighthouse, so ably did it illuminate our path back home, back to civilization as we have come to know it.
What: The Light Well Coffee/Kitchen/Tavern
Address: 110 E. Main St., Orange
Info: 540/661-0004; thelightwell.com
Hours: Monday and Tuesday, closed; Wednesday and Thursday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 7 a.m. to midnight; Saturday, 8 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Prices: Sides: $2.50; Soup: $5–$6; Sandwiches/wraps: $6–$11; Children’s menu: $4–$5
The Scoop: Family-friendly, good service, good food, on-street parking
Payment: Major credit cards are accepted.
Kurt Rabin: 540/374-5000