Indulge at The White Dog Inn
by Deborah Haynes
Court and Tammye Van Clief are the proud owners of both The White Dog Inn and the white dog, for which the inn is named. Their Great Pyrenees, Skyy, even has a couple of dishes on the inn’s menu named after him.
The Van Cliefs, with Skyy’s help of course, opened The White Dog Inn in the summer of 2009. Located in historic Mathews Court House, the inn has enjoyed a rapid rise in popularity throughout the Middle Peninsula, Northern Neck and beyond. The welcoming and gracious entrance of the lovely old building beckons guests to make the inn their home for a night or more, or to simply relax for a while and enjoy some of the best food they will find anywhere.
Pass between the stately white columns and step onto the crisp black-and-white checkerboard floor of the front porch. Linger a while and settle into the comfortable black-and-white cushions on one of the inviting black wicker chairs or sofas. When you’re ready, open the front door and enter the foyer where you will be greeted and treated as family.
On a recent visit to The White Dog Inn for after-church Sunday brunch, my husband and I were seated in the front dining room, a sweet, sunny area with a dark-painted floor covered by an animal-print rug and furnished with marble-top tables and cafe chairs. The cream-colored walls were hung with the colorful paintings of Gloucester artist Deborah Jaouen. I was later told by inn employee Allie Bridge that this dining room is used as a “revolving gallery” of sorts, to showcase the work of area artists.
Our server, Eric Foster, came quickly to bring brunch menus and take our drink order. I decided to indulge in a mimosa, which was fruity and refreshing. My husband wanted a cup of The White Dog Inn’s good coffee and was charmed by the white china creamer in the shape of a dog that was set beside his cup and saucer.
We both started with salads, which turned out to be a decision we would not regret.
My husband chose the pear and blue cheese salad, which looked and tasted remarkable. I can’t describe it any better than the menu, which reads “pear poached in red wine, sliced and served on a bed of greens with Blue Cheese crumbles and our Sherry Dijon Vinaigrette.” A portion of walnuts was also on the plate and the combination of fruit, cheese and nuts, all complemented by the dressings, made for an amazing taste sensation.
I was eager to try the salad with the clever name— “Whistle Stop!! Mathews Courthouse.” I was not prepared for the artfully-presented dish (above) that was put before me, nor for the brilliant burst of flavor that followed from my first bite. Served atop a mix of field greens, breaded and lightly-fried green tomato slices were layered with rounds of mozzarella cheese and dressed with the inn’s own Sherry Dijon Vinaigrette. I’m sure I’ve never enjoyed a salad so much before in my life.
For my entree, I went with the Virginia Low Country Shrimp and Grits, which has become somewhat of a specialty of The White Dog Inn. Tasty stone-ground cheese grits combined with Surry ham red-eye gravy and chopped red bell pepper perfectly complemented the succulent sauteed shrimp on the dish.
My husband had to have the “Gus” Burger, a dish created at The White Spot restaurant in Charlottesville, just off the grounds of UVa where my husband went to college. The Van Cliefs used to live in Charlottesville and knew what a popular menu item this would turn out to be. The generous burger was topped with a hard-fried egg, cheddar cheese and long, crispy strips of Surry bacon. Nestled alongside the burger on the plate were lettuce, tomato, roasted potatoes and a fruit mix of strawberries, pineapple and grapes. This is a meal for any time of the day or night!
We couldn’t resist the chocolate bread pudding for dessert. Served warm from the oven and garnished with a dollop of whipped cream, the oh-so-moist “chocolate concoction” developed by owner Tammye Van Clief was a fine finish to a delicious brunch.
The White Dog Inn’s head chef, Julie Crabill, studied her craft in Hawaii and chef Stephen Soles has an extensive background in the metro-D.C. area. Rounding out the top-notch culinary team is lunch chef Chris Wrike, who gained restaurant experience in the Outer Banks. Together, this trio creates masterpiece meals and our compliments go to the chefs!
Before leaving, we wandered through the other downstairs areas of the inn to see the talents of the interior decorator, who is none other than Tammye Van Clief herself. We admired the teal-toned walls, polished wood floors and ship-shaped chandelier in the main dining room (below). A wide stairway covered with an animal print runner is the focal point of the bright, high-ceilinged foyer, and the cushy, comfy chairs and cozy table arrangements in the lounge/bar area invited us to stay a little longer. Mrs. Van Clief has created a bright and beautiful blend of the traditional and contemporary with an exciting eclectic edge.
We left The White Dog Inn with memories of a delightful dining experience and a wonderful Sunday afternoon.
If You Go
The White Dog Inn,
68 Church Street
Mathews Court House, Va.
Tuesday - Saturday:
Coffee House 7:30 - 11 a.m.;
Lunch 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.;
Dinner 5 - 9 p.m.
Brunch 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Prices from $4 – $19
Facebook White Dog Inn & check the photos tab for seasonal menus.
Did you know?
The building occupied by The White Dog Inn has come full circle. It was built as a hotel in the 1800s, used as a private dwelling for many years, most recently housed a day care center, and is now back to its originally intended use. See more fun facts at The White Dog Inn’s website.