It probably comes as no surprise to longtime Leesburg residents that Tuscarora Mill and Lightfoot both made Northern Virginia Magazine's list of the 50 Best Restaurants. Both are mainstays on the list. However, a relative newcomer to downtown Leesburg is also making its mark: For the second year in a row, The Wine Kitchen has also been singled out for its fare.
The Wine Kitchen is getting ready to celebrate its second anniversary this month. Owner Michael Mercer said locality is what makes The Wine Kitchen special.
"We really are truly local. Everything that we buy, we get from between 25 and 30 miles from us. We're also very affordable-- there isn't an item on our dinner menu over $18. We added a little niche that wasn't there... It's a small establishment, and the servers are really into it."
Tuscarora Mill has long been a Leesburg institution and has made many appearances on the "Best Restaurants List." When co-owner Kevin Malone credited the frequent nods to Tuskies' staff.
"Many of our staff have 10 -15 years or more with us," he said. "Three of our current employees were with us when we opened in 1985. But it is not longevity alone we value, it is excellence." He said staff continually take classes in service, beer, wine and food, and that they are encouraged to grow in their work.
Also no stranger to the Best Restaurant list is Lightfoot, which since 1999, has occupied the renovated People's Bank space on King Street. Although Lightfoot is known as a fine-dining establishment, co-owner and executive chef Ingrid Gustavson has been working to make her food accessible to everyone.
"Our biggest thing that we did in the past two years is we merged our lunch menu with our dinner menu," she said. "People constantly say, 'Lightfoot's expensive,' but if you come here during dinner now, you can get a $10 Chinatown salad... we wanted to give people more options, which really helped."
In addition to just having nice places to eat, Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce president Tony Howard says that being featured in Northern Virginia Magazine is important for another reason.
"A list like this helps promote fine business enterprises to people beyond the region... People can come and enjoy, taste and see, and it helps tell the Loudoun County story."
Of course, no restaurant review could be complete without some recommendations of what to try when you visit these restaurants.
- Michael Mercer, The Wine Kitchen
"There are fifteen items on [the menu] and we spend a lot of time with each one of them. What mood are you in? Do you want some comfort food? Do you want something light? Are you going to a movie after this and want room for popcorn? Do you want something that's different? Something like Chicken and Waffles with farm quail-- something you haven't had before. You could have a really good Coque Au Vin with a really heavy red wine sauce, mushrooms, onions and incredible mashed potatoes. "
- Kevin Malone, Tuscarora Mill
"We do a great job with lamb and also seafood. Pastas are always nice. I think our chef is is most creative at our monthly beer and wine dinners so that is always a great place to start."
- Ingrid Gustavson, Lightfoot
"[Lightfoot] is for people who are meat lovers, fish lovers, vegetarians, people who have food allergies; people who want gluten-free. I pretty much do anything for them that they need."
The hostess also gave an insider's tip: Ingrid does a grilled cheese of the day, but it's not on the menu, so ask your server. It's to die for.