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.

15 Comments on “The Anvil Restaurant”

  1. […] Original post by Life in the Bogs […]

  2. biz says:

    bummer. I’m usually a really patient and forgiving customer, and you sound the same way, so it stinks when you get such crappy service. that’s what really gets to me… when the service makes no compensation for bad food. hmph.

    hope the trip is going well aside from dinner 🙂 you’re missed!

  3. david says:

    you will have a hard time choosing from all the great places to eat in shepherdstown. stone soup, press room, yellow brick, and the three onion are some of my favorites.

  4. English Nutter says:

    Oh, I won’t eat there then.
    Stoopid sucky manager.

  5. Aaron says:

    This is hilarious…I was there the day after you! I’m from Indiana and stopped in Harpers Ferry on June 5th on the way to a wedding in Virginia. We stayed at a hotel just outside of town, and they recommended the Anvil for dinner.

    Anyway, when we showed up around 8:30 there were only a few other people in the restaurant. When looking over the menu I was kinda of shocked by the prices. I was just about to settle on a burger when our friendly waitress told us there was a steak special for $12.95. It came with a house salad, fries or potato, and 12 oz sirloin. All other steaks on the menu $20 dollars or more. My Dad and I both ordered the steak special medium rare, and my mom got the crab cake sandwich.

    The bread they served before the meal was really good as was the blue cheese dressing on my house salad. I was happy to find the salad was made with mixed greens as opposed to iceberg lettuce. The lightly seasoned steaks were good, if a little dry. The fries were good but the side of broccoli I ordered was over cooked. My Mom seemed to like the Crab Cake sandwich served on a croissant…but it was quite expensive at $11.95.

    Overall, I enjoyed the meal but I feel quite lucky we were there on a Thursday night. Without the special I would have been very disappointed. The prices are really high and the menu is limited. Next time I’m in Harper’s Ferry you will find me dining somewhere else…unless it happens to be a Thursday.

  6. Robin says:

    Aaron: I was surprised by the prices, too. I’m glad your experience was better than ours. 🙂

  7. kay turner says:

    I don’t quite understand the problems that you have mentioned. I have been going to The Anvil for over 20 years and the food and service is always good. As every place can have their problems from time to time, I have been there when they were unstaffed and still had reasonable service and always good food and plenty of it. It is family owned and operated and I take offense to anyone saying not to eat there! After 23 years in business, they must be doing something right!
    It sounds like you want something for nothing and if you complain, it is free is the new thing! Bash someone and get it free!
    Shame on you for bashing them after you got the meal for free!

  8. Robin says:

    I doubt you’ll come back to read my response (or even bother to read it all since you obviously didn’t read my post in its entirety or understand what you read), but I’ll post it anyhow.

    Go back and read it again. I mention several times that we were not looking for a free meal.

    That was the whole point, Kay. We weren’t looking for something free. We were asking them to acknowledge that the food we were served was not as described on the menu. Not even close. It was barely edible and the meal we got for free went pretty much uneaten except for the first few bites. Neither of us ate our meals. I don’t expect something for nothing, nor do I complain just to get something free. On the other hand, even though we were more than willing to pay for it, why should we pay for something we didn’t eat because it tasted bad??

    We were then ignored after we did mention the problem until the check was brought to us. I’m complaining about the lack of service as well as the poor quality of food. And if you’d do a little research, you’d find we’re not the only customers with similar complaints.

    I’m glad your experience with The Anvil has been better than ours. Everybody has bad nights. Perhaps this was one of their bad nights. Whatever the case, the manager or bartender or whatever she was did a poor job and I have every right to say so.

    I’ve worked in the service industry, Kay. I would never have treated a customer with such disdain by not only ignoring the complaint, but ignoring them. Had the manager come back to us and said that she talked with the chef and this is how the dish is made, we’d have chalked it up to bad ordering on our part and left it at that, certainly with NO expectation of getting a free meal.

    Shame on YOU for bashing me in what was either a deliberate misunderstanding or a failure to read what I wrote.

  9. […] in June, while visiting Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, I wrote a post about The Anvil Restaurant. It was not a good review as our experience wasn’t particularly […]

  10. Kay says:

    I did READ your response and still think you are being very hard on someone and trying to hurt their business. Why would you wish to bash someone that you got a free meal from!
    I too have worked in the hospitality business all of my adult life and understand that some days are better than others!
    If you don’t like the service or the meal don’t go back but it is extremely harsh to try to ruin someone else and the business they have worked for over such a minor thing.
    I personally know the owners and they are some of the best people I have ever known. They lost their son in a car accident and have sponsored a golf tournament in his memory since and donated over $250,000. to the community in the last few years. They are very community minded and would do almost anything for someone in need. They certainly do not deserve your total lack of respect for them or their business without their change to correct or defend themselves.
    I sincerely doubt this is your ONLY bad experience at any restuarant and expect that you got that meal FREE too!
    I still maintain, SHAME on you. You owe them an apology for bashing them without a chance to respond.

  11. Robin says:


    I’m very sorry for their loss and it’s wonderful that the owners are community minded.

    However, that wasn’t the point, Kay. Perhaps you should visit TripAdvisor and other websites that rate restaurants and read the reviews of The Anvil Restaurant. The complaints are quite similar to mine. And those websites get more visitors than mine. I don’t believe a review on my blog will ruin ANYONE’s business. My blog is set up for family and friends. While it’s true I do get other visitors (such as yourself), they are few and far between.

    I’m not bashing the owners. I’m bashing the service we received. Worse yet, I find that the owner(s) are bashing those who dare to complain about being treated poorly by their management. It is not a one-time event. I’m not the only one complaining about it.

    Please go out and read the other reviews online. I can understand your reasoning — and your bashing of me — if this was something that only happened to me and I was the only person on the entire internet who wrote about it. But it makes no sense in view of the fact that other people have complained about the same lack of service. You might also keep in mind that not everyone who has had problems with the Anvil writes about it so there may well be others who will not go back, who will tell their friends and family, etc., but they won’t be available for you to criticize since they’re not writing publicly about it.

    I honestly don’t see what the free meal has to do with anything. I didn’t ask for a free meal and would have paid for it even though it went uneaten. You keep throwing that out there like the red-herring it is, designed to distract from what the real problem is.

    You may not believe this, but it’s true: It IS the first time I’ve complained about a meal because I’m not the type to complain. It embarrasses me to have to complain about anything, and I generally avoid it at all costs.

    You are correct, though, in that I have had one other free meal (read my recent post about it). Still and all, I don’t see what that has to do with the whole point of my review: Being ignored by the manager when we dared to suggest that the meal wasn’t what we were expecting. How arrogant is that?? How would YOU react to such a situation?

    Think about that for a minute or two. Suppose you’ve just eaten at a restaurant where you don’t know the owner(s). Suppose the food you ordered wasn’t as described in the menu. Suppose the taste wasn’t very good. Suppose you asked to speak with a manager. Suppose the manager took a while to come to your table. Suppose that manager then stood there and glared at you while you tried to politely explain that the meal wasn’t what you expected (especially for the price level involved). Suppose, after you stammered your way through trying to explain this while being glared at, that the response was “that’s how we make it.” Suppose you then try to explain further because you’re not sure the manager is getting it. Suppose you continue to be glared at, get a “I know what it is” in a nasty tone of voice response, and then the manager says in that same tone of voice “do you want me to take these plates away?”

    Then suppose the manager takes the food away and then NOBODY comes back to your table for a good 10 minutes or so. Suppose you sit there, wondering what to do, and hoping they’ll at least bring the check so you can pay and get the heck out of there because by this time you just want the entire experience to be over.

    How would you feel?

    If I were the owner of a restaurant that received a bad review, here is what I would do:

    1. Apologize. Perhaps offer an explanation for what happened, if there is an explanation.

    2. Assure the customer that such treatment will not happen again.

    3. Ask the customer to return if/when they’re in town again, and give me a chance to show them that I can do better.

    But then again, I would have prevented the bad review BEFORE it happened by establishing good customer service standards so that when people leave my restaurant, they leave happy or, at the very least, satisfied. Because if I can’t do that much, then I don’t belong in a service oriented business.

    Since no apology for the bad service or bad attitude of the manager was ever or has ever been offered, I see no reason why my review, such as it is, shouldn’t stand. The only thing I will retract is the suggestion that people don’t eat there. The only reason I think I should retract it is because it’s not up to me to say where people should and shouldn’t eat. Let them experience and decide for themselves, and then write their own review if they’re so inclined.

  12. Robin says:

    One other thought…

    The owner(s) could have stopped by at any time, just as you did, to do as you suggested (“to correct or defend themselves”). This post has been quietly sitting here since June 4. As of this date, they’ve chosen not to do so (unless you are the same Kay who posted at TripAdvisor, in which case, you’ve chosen not to do so as the owner, but that could be a wrong assumption on my part).

    They also could have emailed me (my email address is posted in the sidebar) to correct or defend themselves if they didn’t wish to do so publicly (although it would seem to me they’d want to do so publicly just to be seen as someone willing to correct a problem).

    In response to this:

    “You owe them an apology for bashing them without a chance to respond.”

    They, or their management representative, had EVERY chance to respond the night we ate dinner in their establishment. They chose not to. They certainly made us sit there long enough waiting for some kind, any kind, of response.

    It was that, more than anything else, that prompted me to write this post in the first place.

  13. […] (because it was one of two posts I’ve had Freshly Pressed) and that my most controversial was The Anvil Restaurant (you’ll have to scroll down to the comments on that one to find out why).  As for most […]

  14. cfbookchick says:

    You go get ’em, Tiger! I too have worked in the service industry, and still do as a librarian and I can not abide poor customer service. That, more than any bad dish or product, will keep me out of an establishment. I learned a long time ago that if you serve someone poorly, they will tell everyone they know a whole lot faster than they will talk about good service and that you should treat your patrons with the same service you would personally expect to receive.
    Great post, Robin!

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