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Posted March 4, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Dancing Goat: Restaurant claims its own image from adjacent hotel
By Preston Knight -- Daily Staff Writer
WINCHESTER -- Self awareness of the company you keep usually goes a long way toward your ability to obtain and maintain the reputation you desire.
For the Dancing Goat restaurant, this is about its closest friend, the George Washington Hotel. When the 1924 building, at 103 E. Piccadilly St., reopened in April with all of its unique style -- the indoor pool has columns in it -- the eatery came with it. The Dancing Goat, though, cuts its relationship off with the hotel there.
For every stately, prestigious and elegant quality George Washington offers, the restaurant seeks to counter with something vibrant, fun, lively and exciting, said Yolande Lacan, the hotel's director of operations. Getting the public to realize this has been the Dancing Goat's reoccurring issue.
"We didn't want it to be one of those old hotel restaurants," Lacan said during lunch Saturday. "You'll find a completely different identity for the restaurant than what is upstairs [at the hotel]."
All of the assumptions one might have about the Dancing Goat because of its connection to the George Washington should be scrapped. If you think you can't find an entree in the $10-$20 range, you're wrong. If you think you can't find a seat unless you're wearing a suit and tie, you're off the mark. And if you think lunch or dinner here is only for special occasions, that could not be further from the truth.
Virtually every aspect of the Dancing Goat serves to squash your assumptions. Bright yellow and mossy green are featured colors, and vibrant paintings by local artists, including Don Black, a Shenandoah University professor, adorn the walls. A wooden floor brings more noise, offering an active feel, Lacan said.
Then there's the noise brought by music. During lunch, it's common to find reggae, country, French, German, Spanish and other genres playing, Lacan said. On Saturday, a hit from Rascal Flatts was soon followed by a Latin jam, making you feel as if you were in an authentic Mexican restaurant. At dinner, Lacan said instrumental music is more common.
The layout of the restaurant, particularly the bar, helps take away any concerns a patron may have of being overwhelmed by fanciness, too. While there are no televisions at the bar, the kitchen behind it is open for viewing, leaving no secrets.
Even the place's name itself is hardly intimidating. Since the goat is a patron of the traveler and the arts, the name made sense, Lacan said.
"Everyone remembers the goat," she said. "Not everyone remembers the dancing."
Being that it is a restaurant, though, the Dancing Goat's food is the important aspect. It goes a long way to making you feel casual, too.
During lunch, from a grilled flat bread appetizer that can be eaten by hand to the signature fish and chips platter -- the chips being fresh cut French fries, just like those you find at county fairs -- the restaurant offers plenty of items that hardly make the establishment seem as if it is promoting itself as the definition of extravagant.
Courtney Loreg, the chef de cuisine, said the Dancing Goat seeks to provide local flavors and local foods. She was recruited from Portland, Maine, by head chef Rannae Hamlet to work in Winchester, her first experience with the region. The two went to culinary school together in New England.
Hamlet's path to Winchester included a stop in Baltimore's inner harbor, Lacan said. Hamlet, a Barbuda native, became a master at making crab cakes, she said.
"He thought he knew how to make a crab cake," Lacan said. "[In Baltimore], he quickly learned he didn't know how to make a crab cake. ... Now, he's at the top of his game."
Sure enough, the crab cake sandwich, available for $14 at lunch, is plump and complemented perfectly by a tangy tartar sauce made from a preserved Meyer lemon and no sign of pickles.
Loreg also makes several types of homemade ice creams. Flavors offered Saturday included chocolate espresso, peanut butter swirl, yogurt almond sorbet and a rich vanilla that Lacan deems "deadly."
If you're looking for fine dining, the Dancing Goat certainly can offer that. The dinner menu includes grilled Maine scallops ($27), slow braised lamb shank ($29), seared duck breast ($28) and a dry-aged New York strip steak ($36), dried for the Dancing Goat by local business Butcher's Choice for 60 days.
"It enhances the flavor," Loreg said.
The wine list includes about 80 selections with a little more than 20 available by the glass, from American wineries to some in Chile, Argentina and elsewhere. Prices for bottles range from $30 to $205.
Nearly a year into its existence, the Dancing Goat is still trying to reach all types of clientele. As soon as everyone realizes once and for all that the George Washington Hotel is a different entity altogether -- the restaurant's address, 138 N. Cameron St., is even different -- the Dancing Goat should have the reputation it seeks.
"We've surprised a lot of people," Lacan said. "We're not quite what everybody was expecting."
The Dancing Goat is open 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Reservations are not required but recommended by calling 771-2727.
Contact Preston Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org
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