I’ve been curious what’s going on at the Valley Inn and talked to two friends into joining me for lunch there on Thursday, 4/24/14. We arrived around 1 pm and the first thing that I noticed was that there were 50+ cars in the parking lot. Walking inside, I noticed that a good number of the pub/lounge area tables were filled. We were seated in the new dining room; interestingly, I’d say about 3/4 of the space is dedicated to booths. The room is handsome and wood paneled (My friends who had eaten in the dining room in the past reported thoughthat it looks nothing now like what they remembered.) Despite how handsome the paneling is, there is only one small window in the dining room which left it feeling somewhat enclosed despite how big the room is (stretching the width of the old stone house that you drive pass on Falls Road)
For what its worth, most of the customers in the dining room and lounge appeared to be 50+ years old. The decor in the dining room is very “horse race-y” with all of the extensive decoration dealing with horse racing (include lamps on the table featuring a jockey!) For the record, during our lunch we made a point of inquiring whether the Valley Inn had a web site or presence on Facebook – the answer from multiple people was that they didn’t; both parties we asked responded that the restaurant was still in transition and it was premature to make a commitment online. (Personally with the Valley Inn having been open now going on several months and noting that the current menu is not all that radically different from the menu when they first open, the rationale for not having a web presence seemed pretty dubious to me)
Here’s a photo of the current luncheon menu (which was quite similar to the menu that I had encountered back in early February in the lounge):
I ordered the “Field n Stream Chef” salad ($14) with blue cheese dressing mixed in the salad. My friend Marty decided to have the “Chicken Salad Wrap” ($12) and JT opted to be “good” and went with the Grilled Vegetable Stack ($14)
It was a good 20+ minute wait before our food arrived. JT’s and my ice tea glasses were empty at this point and we had to ask our server for a refill. (Despite seeing perhaps 4+ servers buzzing around the dining room, service seem stretched and our server would seem to disappear from the dining room for 10-15 minutes stretches.)
My salad was good sized although it struck me that the server has explicitly asked me whether I wanted the dressing mixed in with the salad or “on the side”; I had specified “mixed in” yet … the salad arrived with dressing on the side (I’ll note that the portion of dressing was double what I’m used to receiving in this kind of situation and the blue cheese dressing was delicious with chunks of real blue cheese in it). As in the menu description, there was a small pile of lump crab meat, 4 “rolls” of prosciutto, a few cherry tomatoes, some chopped olive , sliced red onion and several big pieces of the spanish “Valdron” blue cheese on a bed of chopped romaine. I enjoyed my salad and thought that it was worth $14.
Marty was really pleased by his chicken salad wrap which was served with a small mound of cole slaw. He thought it was very tasty and liked the addition of “craisins” (dried cranberries) and slivers of carrot. He was also tickled by how they served his decaf coffee in a glass mug on top of a china plate.
JT’s stacked vegetables include sauteed zucchini, Portobello mushrooms, red peppers, squash, and red onions tossed with a balsamic reduction. JT praised it (though we could tell it’s not easy being as good as he had been with meal selection! <Wink>) I would have assumed that with an order of salad and the stacked vegetables that our server would have at least offered some bread or rolls; while we didn’t explicitly ask for the bread or rolls, it would have been a nice touch if they had been offered to us.
After we finished our meal, we waited another good 15 minutes for our server to re-appear. By that point, our lunch had stretched out to going on 3 pm and we decided to forgo any dessert. I’ll note that the prices of the desserts ranging from $7 to $9 ($9 for some ice cream? Geez!) Here’s a photo of the reverse side of the menu with drink prices as well as desserts:
When we got our check and added up the tallies, we found that our lunch with entree and soft drink and tax/tip – no liquor, no appetizer, no dessert – ran us $20 apiece. While we all enjoyed our lunch and thought that the dining room was handsome, we thought that service was slow.
We also asked to see a dinner menu (our server forgot about this and we had to ask a second time). The dinner menu is quite similar to the luncheon menu; $12 options like the Chicken Salad Wrap and a Hamburger are available for the same price at dinner; the number of entree/”plates” is more than double what’s available on the luncheon menu with prices for these ranging from $15 for a “Mini Meatloaf” to $38 for an 8 oz filet with fries.
If you’re concerned with cost of dining at the Valley Inn, it’s good to know if you’re careful with what you order, you omit appetizer and dessert and you drink water instead of a soft drink, wine or cocktail, you can eat a meal with tax and tip for about $15. On the other hand, add an $8-$15 appetizer and $7-$9 dessert and just a $3 soft drink to a $12 main course and you could easily start talking about the cost of your meal approaching $40. How well the new Valley Inn succeeds as being a successful “Greenspring Valley Rendezvous” as suggested on the menu may depend on how many folks can regularly afford a $30-$60 meal and not regard it as a “special ocassion” extravagance.