The Anvil Restaurant

Greetings from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, home of what appears to be the worst restaurant reviews in any town I’ve ever visited.

M and I arrived here around 6:00pm after driving through some of the storms that were training this way. The bad storms must have been ahead of us as it was mostly some rain here and there along the PA Turnpike (I-76) and I-70. We left I-70 around Hagerstown, Maryland to take a back road to Harpers Ferry. It was apparent that strong storms must have moved through earlier leaving quite a bit of damage (lots of downed tree branches, trees, and debris on the road). The worst of it seemed to be around Antietam (the town which is south of the Antietam National Battlefield).

After checking into our hotel we decided to eat somewhere in Harpers Ferry. You might recall that during our last trip here we had trouble finding a place to eat because everything seemed to be closed — on a Friday night! We ended up at the Hilltop Hotel that time. It was the only place open and it seemed everyone in town was there at the time. We already knew we wouldn’t be eating there this time around as the place is undergoing extensive renovations and is currently closed.

After a drive up and down Washington Street where some of the restaurants are located, we decided on The Anvil Restaurant. If you’re ever in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, don’t eat at The Anvil Restaurant. I wish I’d read some of the online reviews before we set out for dinner.

M and I made the mistake of ordering the same dish. I point this out to be fair. It’s possible it’s the only bad dish on the menu. We both ordered the Shrimp & Artichokes. Here is the menu description:

Shrimp & Artichokes – Jumbo shrimp w/ fresh tomato, scallions
& balsamic vinegar tossed w/ pasta 17.95

The salads were small, but good. The rolls were warm and not bad. The entree was not at all what we were expecting. Instead of being tossed with balsamic vinegar, the pasta, shrimp, etc., were served in what tasted like the white wine sauce in which the mussels were steamed. There was a slight off flavor to the tomatoes, that sour, vinegary taste they get when they’ve been in the fridge for too long just before the mold starts growing.

To make matters worse, when we talked with the manager about it she made almost no effort to appease us in any way. We weren’t looking for a free meal. We weren’t rude. We told her that the dish was not what we were expecting based on the menu description, hazarding a guess that perhaps the chef used the wrong sauce? The manager (if she was indeed the manager) looked at us for a minute, and then responded with something like “that’s how the dish is made.”

Well, ok. How about asking the chef about it or something? No, I didn’t say that. Neither did M. M did ask her if she was familiar with balsamic vinegar and pointed out that the color of the sauce was not the dark color usually associated with balsamic vinegar. She said she was very familiar with it because they use it in their house dressing.

She eventually took our plates and said she’d talk to the chef about it.

We sat there for a while, waiting for her to come back. Or for somebody to come back. Even our waiter (who was new to the job and messed up several times while serving us, something we were more than willing to excuse since he barely spoke English and had obviously not be working there very long) had disappeared. The “manager” showed up again at the bar, never bothering to come back and speak to us about our meals. She eventually did have our waiter bring the check where we noticed she’d comped one of the meals.

That was all well and good. The thing is, it would have been nice if she’d apologized or something at some point and offered to see what was wrong with the meal. As I said earlier, we weren’t looking for a free meal. If it turned out the dish was prepared as they normally prepared it and we didn’t like it, then fine. That’s the chance you take when ordering out. You might not like everything you order. I would never expect them to give it to us free if it was simply a matter of taste.

The fact that she avoided us and did comp the meal makes me wonder what was wrong with it.

We have not had much luck finding food, especially good food, in Harpers Ferry. Judging from the online reviews I’ve read of several of the restaurants here, we’re not the only people experiencing that problem.

Tomorrow we’re going to try Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Some of the reviewers of Harpers Ferry restaurants recommend going there. It’s not far and apparently has a number of lovely restaurants where they care about food and service.