Thursday, August 07, 2008
The Homestead: Gorgeous, but disappointing
An expensive, mediocre lunch at the Casino Club Restaurant lacked the resort's usual Southern hospitality.
Photos by D. Kostelni | Special to The Roanoke Times
The Homestead, founded around 1766, has hosted diplomats, royalty and presidents.
The chili at the Casino Club had a disappointing dry finish.
Recent Roanoke Times reviews
- Menu at Mikie;s 7th should delight locavores
- Southern delights on menu and buffet at Anna;s
- Restaurant review archive
The Homestead's Casino Club
- Where: 1766 Homestead Road, Hot Springs
- Menu: Classics with Southern influences
- Prices: Appetizers, soups and salads: $3.50 to $16.95; Entrees and sandwiches: $13.75 to $17.95
- Hours: Lunch: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (bar open until closing); Weekend dinner: 6 to 10 p.m.
- Soda products: Pepsi
- Alcohol? Full-service bar
- Plastic? All major credit cards accepted
- Smoking? No
- Takeout? Yes
- Delivery? No
- Reservations? Not required, but recommended
- Patio seating? Yes
- Wireless Internet? Yes
- Handicapped accessibility? The Blue Ridge Independent Living Center did not review this restaurant.
- Kid-friendly? Yes; children’s menu and high chairs available
- Vegetarian dishes? Upon request
- House-made desserts? Raspberry mousse tart and chocolate brownie
- Live music? Yes, including an August concert series under the stars
- Catering? Yes
- Banquet space? Yes
- Call: (540) 839-1766
- Net: thehomestead.com
A couple of weeks ago, my walking partner and I decided to go to The Homestead in Hot Springs for lunch. Neither of us had been there in several years, and we had read there was a new chef re-energizing their menus with modern interpretations of Southern cuisine, most especially new twists on classic Virginia flavors. We were eager to enjoy a feast.
Looking every bit the stately hotel it is, The Homestead presents a picture-postcard appearance with its beautiful red brick buildings and dramatic white columns set against the lush greenery of the Allegheny Mountains. The red-and-white color theme is carried out in the landscaping -- gigantic white hydrangea and small red petunias along walkways, garden paths and creek banks. This vivid floral motif creates a source of constant viewing pleasure.
A LITTLE HISTORY
Founded around 1766, about a decade before the Revolutionary War began, The Homestead became an immediate hit for people who enjoyed getting away from it all in the mountains and for those who came to "take the waters" in the springs. Through the centuries, the resort has hosted diplomats, royalty and presidents. Today, it's a gathering spot for golfers, skiers and anglers, as well as for vacationing families.
MEET THE NEW CHEF
Executive chef Rodger Martin comes to The Homestead with more than 25 years of professional experience at resorts and hotels throughout the United States. Martin is a certified chef with the American Culinary Federation and a member of the World Master Chefs Society, and his awards include a gold medal at the European Master Chef competition in 1993. As executive chef, Martin oversees all of the food preparation for The Homestead's dining venues, including the 1776 Grille, the Dining Room and the Casino Club Restaurant.
CASINO CLUB RESTAURANT
We ate lunch at the Casino Club, a freestanding building originally designed in 1895 for women's indoor badminton. It's located next to the first tee of the Old Course, and if you sit outside at an umbrella-shaded table, there are pretty views of the practice green and the lawn game area. No more outdoor tables were available on our visit, so the host ushered us inside to a table facing a picture window displaying a meticulously constructed, stone-lined creek bank with the beautiful white and red plantings following its grassy contours. We disregarded the room, painted in drab gray-green and outfitted with dark brown wicker furniture and tattered leather chairs with the stuffing popping out.
The one-page menu offers two soups, four entree salads, six sandwiches, three "favorites" and eight beverages. We ordered items that sounded as if they were in the "new Southern cuisine" category.
I opted for a cup of The Homestead's famous chili ($4.25) plus buttermilk fried Cornish game hen ($15.95) with delicious bacon-and-egg-garnished new potato salad and simply grated, but refreshing, two-melon slaw from the favorites list.
My friend originally ordered the beef tenderloin salad ($16.25), but when she requested rare meat, the server informed her that the "meat comes in already cooked, and it's all well-done." Instead, she decided on the traditional crab cake sandwich ($17.95) on a toasted kaiser roll with remoulade sauce and sweet potato fries.
OUR LUNCH EXPERIENCE
An unattractive tomato slice sitting on a rotten lettuce leaf depreciated a tasty crab cake, and the accompanying sweet potato fries arrived limp and not hot. The chili had a dry finish because the seasonings had not blended as one. Despite my fried Cornish hen looking unappealingly dark with meat tight to the bone and difficult to remove, nothing compared to the service staff ignoring us. Moreover, there were plenty of servers and busboys around the room, standing at attention and gazing above the seated guests.
We waited great lengths of time for more water, all the while looking for our meals to appear, followed by a prolonged period when our dishes required clearing. Finally, with our entree plates in hand, our server asked if we wanted "any more to eat." "Do you have dessert?" we queried. We received one dessert menu, asked about the pie of the day and learned there was only cheesecake, which we ordered. The cheesecake exemplified the memory of our lunch at The Homestead: a creamy blend with a tart and sweet balance.
THE BOTTOM LINE
To describe our experiences as disappointing minimizes the pervasive problems. Every bill has a 17 percent service charge and 5 percent tax added to it (our combined lunch bill totaled $55). Management fails itself as well as the staff, who are unable to convey the hospitality which defines The Homestead because they lack proper training. The mediocre, carelessly presented food and lack of service prove this point. It also shows indifference and lack of regard for the hotel's dining guests.
View Larger Map