We can’t deny it…downtown Harrisonburg has some good eats and on multiple occasions, I find that the hardest decision I have to make all weekend is choosing where to eat out. Should I go for the eclectic burger joint, the bar with 50 beers on tap, Asian fusion, or a groovy acai smoothie? Amongst these diverse and trendy options, there are also some wonderful classic choices, namely the Joshua Wilton House. This nationally acclaimed bed-and-breakfast and fine dining restaurant is full of classy vibes and values deeply rooted in tradition. One step through the door and you’ll realize why the Joshua Wilton House brings our town so much pride.
Joshua Wilton settled in Harrisonburg shortly after the Civil War. He was a successful and wealthy man who was the president of First Virginia Bank and even provided this area of the Shenandoah Valley with electricity. He built his home in 1888, a stunning and intricate work of architecture, and he and his family resided there for 40 years (followed by the Shank family who also lived there for 40 years). In 1988, the Moore family took over the home, refurbished it, added a kitchen and patio, and created a restaurant and bed and breakfast. It was not until 2004 that the current owners (Ann Marie Coe, Mark Newsome, and Sean Pugh) purchased the business and turned it into the amazing establishment it is today.
Today, the Joshua Wilton House offers one of the most premium dining experiences in the Shenandoah Valley and the state of Virginia. “We want customers to take in the entire dining experience and enjoy the high quality and creativity of the food and the great service,” Ann Marie says. The inn also has five luxurious guest rooms for those looking for a special retreat from the everyday. A visit not only provides for a relaxing getaway but a chance to be a part of history; see the original floors, staircase, fireplaces, stained glass, and mantles; and indulge in the Victorian atmosphere.
Although the home is rich in history, the cuisine is sophisticated and modern. The executive chef, Mark Newsome, is the mastermind behind the innovative menus, and the key to his dishes’ success are the ingredients. “Mark has been a part of the local food movement before it became popular. He takes the great ingredients that local farmers provide to us and enhances them even further with his culinary talents and beautiful plate presentation,” says Ann Marie. The menu changes seasonally and sometimes even weekly or daily depending on the fresh ingredients that are delivered. And to top off the meal, pastry chef Shawn Richard creates artful, intricate, and often seasonal desserts on the menu.
The restaurant is even beginning to incorporate more modern ideas into their menus. Chef Mark is experimenting with adding tasting menus and finds it to be very popular in the culinary world because of the chance it provides for diners to try so many of a restaurant’s offerings. “They are usually four-, five-, or six-course meals,” says Ann Marie. “It’s great because it feels like a present being given to you with every plate.” They also offer Prix-fixe, multi-course menus for special events like Valentine’s Day (there will be chocolate), Easter, and Mother’s Day. And finally, they are now offering great deals during the week. You just have to “like” Joshua Wilton House on Facebook for access to deals like “Wilton Wednesday,” which features an appetizer and wine or microbrew for only $12.
Ann Marie and the rest of the staff at the Joshua Wilton House are proud to be a part of the Harrisonburg community and especially appreciate all of the hard work of local farmers. They are proud of the connection they have been able to develop with the agricultural community and are passionate about bringing this relationship to the wider Harrisonburg community through their menus and dishes. They are also members of the Downtown Dining Alliance and collaborate with other restaurants to make downtown Harrisonburg THE dining destination in Virginia.
Check out their website for up-to-date dinner and dessert menus, as well as their Facebook page for weekly specials. With so many occasions to celebrate during the spring season, why not treat yourself and celebrate at Joshua Wilton House!
Katie George was the HDR Promotions Intern for fall of 2011. She is a senior Media Arts & Design major at James Madison University.
Unless otherwise noted, all photographs © 2012 Katie George