In 1777, the Trustees of the Town of Bath, which was to become (more or less) Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, conveyed Lot #12 to a Captain John Swann of Washington County, Maryland. Today Lot 12 Public House restaurant occupies the stately house ensconced in the garden there, nestled on the hillside that rises above the town known for its spas and natural springs. It is, in this small town just two hours from Washington, DC, truly world class dining worthy of Business Insider's designation "best restaurant" in West Virginia. We take friends from DC and New York so that we can see the look of delighted surprise on their face when they realize such places exist where they'd least expect.
Ascend the stairs into the garden as evening falls in the warmer months, and you'll be quickly greeted by your first choice: "Out" on the wraparound porch to dine in the presence of chirping crickets and summer evening's breeze, or "In" to one of the most intimate dining experiences and cozy bars you've ever sipped wine in.
Through the handful of times I've been here over the years, I am always struck by the outrageously professional yet warm, refined yet authentic and truly genuine people scurrying through the house with the quiet grace so necessary to putting on such a high end dining experience. There's not an ounce of pretension to it, and there doesn't need to be. I can't imagine another place in 100 miles that comes close to matching what they've been building since Chef Damian Heath and wife Betsy opened their doors in 1999.
An eccentric artsy menu greets us when we sit down. It always makes me smile. I advocated for either the Grilled Quail or Prosciutto and Melon, but my wife and friends out voted me on the delicious Grilled Flatbread (fresh mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, basil, roasted garlic oil). We began with the Gruet Blanc de Noirs, and American sparkling wine that hails from New Mexico - clearly a normal pairing with West Virginia, right? For its part, the wine was a beautiful gold color, somewhat dry but very rich, a little tart that offered up wonderful lush apple cider depth in the finish... like drinking a sophisticated orchard.
Dinner choices -- and believe me, I've never not had tough choices here -- I gravitated to the Crisp Roasted Duck (rosemary potato cake, pear chutney, bourbon pan juices), Jerk Shrimp (mascarpone grits, applewood bacon cream sauce, molasses rum drizzle, micro greens), Grilled Hangar Steak (grilled potato, basil creme fraiche, garlic onion confit, chimichurri), and an out of this world swordfish special. I was not disappointed with the swordfish, nor was I disappointed that others at the table were willing to share their duck and their shrimp and their steak. I admit that wine selection was a bit challenging here, so we went with an Oregonian Pinot Noir that we knew would play exceedingly well with the duck. The most questionable pairing was with the Jerk Shrimp, but it seemed to work out.
Dessert was wholly unnecessary... so we had the fresh berry shortcake, whose austerity relative to the sweeter options was the perfect pairing to our white dessert wine whose specifics I cannot share with you because my snapshot of the menu was just too blurry in the low light. There was talk of cognac, and (unrelated) don't believe for an instant that I didn't toy with the idea of trying to order a full on dish of the house-made sorbet we'd been offered as a palate cleanser earlier in the evening.
A warm goodbye to Chantel, whose ten years serving Lot 12 guests is a testament to the kind of people you will find here, and we were off into the night, another set of friends wowed by what they discovered in Berkeley Springs.