Washington, D.C. Day Trip: Clifton, Virginia Food Tour
Where to eat in the historic, charming town
Escape Washington, D.C.'s hustle and bustle with a short day trip to the countryside in Clifton, Va. Just a 40-minute drive from Washington, D.C., the tiny town (as of the 2010 census, only 282 people live here) feels worlds away from the chaos of the city.
Clifton was once the hunting grounds for Native Americans, and a railroad track ran through the town during the Civil War. More recently, the screenplay for Sleepless in Seattle was written on the street in town where so many dining gems lie.
After traveling on a winding, hilly road past looming mansions and vast expanses of greenery, you’ll arrive on Main Street. Park by the old railroad car, and get ready to explore.
If you’re looking for a casual dining experience with the locals, check out The Main Street Pub. This haunt offers traditional bar food like chicken wings and burgers, but rounds out their selection with wraps, salads, sandwiches, and soups. It also serves six beers on tap, bottled beer, and wines by the bottle or glass. Plus, this place is easy on your wallet — the most expensive item are the Chesapeake jumbo lump crabcakes for $17.99.
The Clifton Café provides lighter fare in an equally relaxed setting. The small menu includes espresso, coffee, tea, and iced beverages along with sandwiches, soup, bagels, breakfast pastries, but the savory and sweet crêpes are must-trys. The options range from "Doris’s Danish" (melted butter, powdered sugar, and white chocolate) to "Julie’s Fetish" (spinach and feta).
Housed inside what was an historic hotel dating back to 1869, Trummer’s on Main is one of the area’s best formal restaurants. It offers a wine tasting room, bar and lounge, and a dining room, but what really makes it stand out is its creative menu, which deviates from typical small-town fare. First plates include smoked salmon and citrus salad served with cucumber, orange and mint; and egg yolk ravioli with bacon purée and Parmesan froth. Main dishes range from oven-roasted and honey-glazed pork shoulder paired with plum wine pineapple, bay leaf crumble, and sweet potato to seared big-eye tuna served with celery root purée, Pink Lady apple, and American caviar. The menu changes daily and a tasting menu is available every night, but call ahead if you plan to order the tasting menu.
Open from March to mid-November, Peterson’s Ice Cream Depot is a charming, not-to-be-missed ice cream parlor. It’s easy to pass right by it, but look for the sandwich board sign outfront. From there, walk down a small path lined on one side with a wooden fence draped with lights. The creamy, made-in-house flavors rotate weekly, but you can always find chocolate and vanilla on the menu. Order plain ice cream or have it served as a malt, shake, float, sundae, sandwiched between two cookies, or dressed with toppings including candy, fruit, nuts, and syrup. For those seeking a savory snack, Peterson’s also serves french fries, specialty hot dogs, nachos, salads, and chicken tenders. On some nights, they also host live musicians. Check the website or the weather to ensure they’re open before you go; they close in inclement weather or whenever the temperature drops below 50 degrees.
Teresa Tobat is the Washington, D.C. Travel city editor for The Daily Meal. Follow her tweets @ttobat88.