Hotel Tavern checks into West Jefferson
To say The Hotel Tavern in downtown West Jefferson has somewhat of a forgotten, yet illustrious, history would be an understatement.
The unsuspecting and recently renovated restaurant and bar is located in the bottom half of the old West Jefferson Hotel, which is one of the town’s oldest standing structures.
Unlike most buildings along Jefferson Avenue, the main drag in the downtown district, the hotel and restaurant, by inclusion, faces the rear section of town overlooking the Backstreet and where the Virginia Creeper railroad ran until the 1970s.
Located in the former Brickstone Pizza space, the tavern is slowly expanding its menu items to offer more upscale entrees, while still retaining Americana favorites, such as pizza and hamburgers, owner Sherman Lyle said.
With each passing day, the tavern adds a new menu item to entice patrons to return for new flavors and spices from the culinary talents of Lyle’s staff.
The flavorful entrees emerged somewhat slowly and contradict traditional tavern fare.
Lyle began with maple-glazed pork chops and mashed potatoes, before boldly fusing a Hawaiian pineapple-marinated rib-eye.
He added more zest with fettuccini Alfredo topped with grilled shrimp. The tavern also offers a full bar with beer, wine and liquor. “We’ve been very happy with the sale and the response in the community,” Lyle said.
The improvements to the menu have not been the only accentuations and revamps Lyle has made since opening the tavern’s doors July 3, which was just in time for West Jefferson’s annual Christmas in July celebration.
Lyle’s team of contractors tore off four layers of plaster and two layers of outdated wallpaper that covered the building’s brick interior.
“Those bricks where handmade in 1915 and carried down here by hand from where they were made in the baseball field behind the library,” Lyle said.
While sprucing up the tavern and taking care of some much needed renovations, Lyle’s staff stumbled upon a pile of slightly charred and rustic planks that a contractor deemed as black walnut upon shedding the wood’s top layers.
The men theorized the wood likely survived the 1916 hotel fire because it was stored in a dug out space beneath the building.
Today, those very pieces of wood that might have been headed to the scrap yard comprise the tavern’s bar.
With history of the town in mind, Lyle also went about hanging photographs in the tavern that depicted life in Ashe Country from the 1920s to the 1950s. “We wanted to accentuate the history of the building and county,” Lyle said.
Lyle said his dedication to quality of service is also apparent in the tavern’s staff. Of the more than 300 people he interviewed, 40 were hired. “We wanted a talented staff that could execute the menu,” he said.
Lyle said he also redid the restaurant’s rear-facing patio section, making it the only one of its kind in downtown West Jefferson.
By adding a stage, tavern patrons can also enjoy live bluegrass music with their spirits.
“Our tagline is classic comfort and cheer,” Lyle said. “We wanted it to feel ‘tavernish,’ yet not pretentious.”
The Hotel Tavern is located at 5 W. Main St. in downtown West Jefferson. For more information, call (336) 846-2121.
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