On a recent trip from the east coast of Virginia to the Midwest, travelling I-64, we stopped for lunch in Lewisburg, W.V. A small, historic town with a delightful Main Street, we parked near what looked to be an inviting restaurant. As I approached the front entrance, I read on the billboard that it was open only for dinner.
Undaunted, I asked of a passerby, “Where, in town would be a nice place to have lunch.” One of his recommendations was “Stella’s” on the next block. His description was that it was a “lovely gathering place with tasty food in an old house.” Worth exploring.
So, we drove around the block, found an illusive parking spot (apparently many others also found this a “lovely gathering place”) and walked up a bit of a hill to the “old house.” It was rather unassuming on the outside…. white, one story, front porch with Victorian trim, central front door. We went inside.
Well, where do I begin? We were ushered from the central entryway into a front room to a table by a small bay window with Jefferson (yes, Thomas) casement triple shutters, near a cozy fire. This room had four tables. (We couldn’t wait to see the other rooms.)
We were given a carte du jour (a new one everyday) of food choices that would either take a week to decide or the option to throw darts and enjoy the outcome. When we asked about the house, the waitress said that the owner was present and she would fetch her to tell the story.
My choice from the menu was a smoked turkey sandwich with pork belly, arugula, red onion, and cranberry and apple jam on the best crusty bread I have seen in quite a while. My travel buddy had the half and half… half a roast beef sandwich with a cup of soup du jour, which, today, was a 4-onion soup.
The owner came just as we were biting into this banquet on a bun and promised to return when we were through eating.
Well, the food was outrageous! My sandwich was so thick I questioned whether my jaw would unhinge to accommodate. The salad that accompanied was a combination of thinly sliced celeriac, shaved carrots, and slivers of red bell pepper in a soft vinaigrette. The soup (I was offered a taste) was velvety rich with the distinct flavor of a melange of onions. We finished off the meal sharing a decadent chocolate pot au crème. (And secretly knew we would not need an evening meal.)
The owner returned carrying a photo album of the restoration of the “old house” turned tea room. A one story, sort of American Gothic design to start with, she and her family purchased the decrepit house in 2010 with the intention of creating a restaurant in their mother’s memory. Her name was Alice Stella.
According to the picture book, it was a labor of love, indeed… saving some rooms, rebuilding others and adding new to the back. Much research kept the restoration pure with beautiful ceiling medallions and carved crown moldings. The décor in each dining room is historic, but the kitchen and the restrooms are all new and state of the art.
The other diners, now leaving, all stopped to chat with the owner… giving the impression that this was, indeed, a favorite gathering place. It was easy to see why.
We left having had one of the best lunches all week (and we had been in the land of good lunches) and feeling great about being privy to a family’s hopes and dreams come true.
If you are ever in the area…. I-64 east West Virginia, rather near the Greenbrier, drive the extra mile from exit 169 to Lewisburg and ask about Stella’s….. it is one block off Main Street, but not highly visible. You will be so glad you did.
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