News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Eats: The Kenmore Inn
BY KURT RABIN
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
“So it’s basically salsa, right?” my wife said, looking up from her gazpacho. It was her first time trying the chilled Spanish soup. And sure enough, this version had a distinct salsa vibe. Along with the usual suspects—tomato, onion, bell pepper, cucumber—I detected lime and cilantro, and some heat from chilies, as well.
I told her that in every spoonful of good gazpacho, at least for me, there exists a vivid summer memory. By that measure, this was very good gazpacho, indeed—one that made me profoundly grateful to the reader who recommended I visit the restaurant at the Kenmore Inn in historic downtown.
There was a time when the inn’s food had a reputation for being somewhat iffy. But with the arrival of general manager–executive chef Jaqueline Hartman a year and a half ago, the inn’s New American cuisine now gets almost universally high marks, especially from online reviewers. In fact, the FLS reader had assured me the inn now has the culinary chops to rival the “big boys” of the Fredericksburg fine-dining scene, places like La Petite and Olde Towne.
Of course, the Kenmore Inn isn’t solely a restaurant. It’s a bed-and-breakfast, a wedding and celebration venue, a Sunday brunch spot, a pub with a largely local clientele and finally, a dining destination, one that people often overlook.
However, the only thing we overlooked on the inn’s sunken patio that night was its pleasantly gurgling water fountain. Somehow we lucked out, having chosen to dine out on one of the rare mild evenings amid a sultry summer heat wave. The patio’s well-tended foliage, with its garlands of tiny white lights, the illumination of the passing fireflies and the strains of the Great American Songbook on the outdoor speakers combined to create a perfectly idyllic setting. The effect was only enhanced when the only other diners, complaining of “getting eaten up by bugs,” headed to the dining room indoors just as the sun went down.
Feeling a little guilty for commandeering my partner’s gazpacho ($6), I shared my equally delightful coconut shrimp tempura with ginger–lime sauce appetizer ($8) with her. For entrees, I enjoyed lightly seared ahi tuna brushed with lime–wasabi glaze, served over wasabi mashed potatoes, with julienned carrots, zucchini and squash ($19). My wife had free-form handmade ravioli folded over a sauté of lump crabmeat and asparagus and served with a tarragon cream sauce ($16). The dishes’ preparation and presentation were both impeccable.
For dessert, we ordered slices of wonderfully creamy New York-style cheesecake and perfectly tart strawberry –rhubarb pie ($6.50 each).
Lest I give the impression that our evening at the inn was perfectly enchanting, I offer a few—OK, perhaps more than a few—quibbles. First, it wasn’t easy making dinner reservations over the phone (the person who takes reservations had, it seemed, stepped out). We had to prompt the server for bread (we were rewarded with lovely rosemary cheese biscuits). The menu termed my side item as “Julianne” instead of julienned vegetables. The server mistakenly identified the spice in the cream sauce as “tamarind” instead of tarragon. And at meal’s end, we were accidentally presented the wrong check and charged for three instead of two dinners.
Finally, as we left we noted that the charming sunken patio, scene of our romantic dinner, had become a hangout for a group of smokers and drinkers that had spilled out from the pub, where smoking is prohibited.
One online reviewer stated that you should eat at the Kenmore Inn for a “one-of-a-kind experience.” I can’t disagree with that. However, if reliability and consistency hold greater appeal for you than a surfeit of local charm, you might do well to stick with the “big boys,” at least for now.
What: Kenmore Inn restaurant
Address: 1200 Princess Anne St.
Info: 540/371-7622; kenmoreinn.com
Hours: Monday closed; Tuesday and Wednesday, 5:30-9:30 p.m.; Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 5:30-10:30 p.m.; Sunday: brunch only, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Prices: Appetizers: $8–$10; Soups and salads: $6–$12; Dinners: $14–$24; Beer, wine and mixed drinks are available.
The Scoop: Great food, moderately pricey but good value, indoor or patio seating available, on-street parking, reservations recommended.
Payment: Major credit cards are accepted.
Kurt Rabin: 540/374-5000