Lunch is now served

George Washington Hotel Manager David Cavallaro, above, said the hotel's new George's Foods and Spirits restaurant features a new bar area, expanded staff and a more affordable menu. The restaurant replaces the Dancing Goat, and now serves lunch as well as dinner. Henry Culvyhouse/Daily

WINCHESTER — The restaurant attached to The George Washington Hotel has undergone a radical re-branding.

The Dancing Goat, located at 103 E. Piccadilly St., shuttered its doors Jan. 1 and reopened in late February as George’s Foods and Spirits, a tavern-style restaurant themed around the nation’s first president.

“It’s part of the history of George Washington, both the restaurant and the hotel,” said David Cavallaro, the hotel’s general manager. “All the different prints in here with George are not all war related, it’s tidbits people might not always know.”

But it’s not just a matter of laying some new brick work, changing the sign, adding a fireplace or opening a new bar area. The re-branding effort also includes quicker serving times, a more affordable menu and a completely new and expanded staff.

Cavallaro said the changes have resulted in something unheard of at the Dancing Goat: a lunch crowd.

Susan Ritenour shows off a plate of fish tacos at the new George's Foods and Spirits restaurant. Henry Culvyhouse/Daily

“We’ve always been breakfast, lunch and dinner, but lunch is the only area we never were able to capture,” Cavallaro said. “I think with a more diverse menu, quicker ticket times and a more casual atmosphere is really paying off.”

Part of that success can be attributed to Stephanie Ritenour, the restaurant’s new manager, Cavallaro said. Ritenour has 35 years of experience in the restaurant industry, running her catering service when she was young and working for corporate and high-end restaurants in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

“We’ve never had anyone close to the talent Stephanie has running this restaurant,” Cavallaro said. “We’re extremely lucky to have her on board.”

The restaurant was supposed to reopen in time for Valentine’s Day, however staffing issues delayed the effort, such as the head chef quitting unexpectedly. Ritenour said the “kinks” from opening is an ongoing process.

“It doesn’t happen overnight, it doesn’t happen in a month, we’re lucky if it happens in three to six months in this industry,” Ritenour said. “We are still going to be tweaking our kitchen staff, tweaking our service staff.”

Ritenour said one of the main challenges is managing a young staff.

“Our younger folks who come in, it’s difficult to get an element that you know will mesh well and flow well with the customers,” Ritenour said. “Therefore, we supervisors need to be very involved in what’s happening in the kitchen and on the floor … I feel confident we will have a perfect team.”

Cavallaro added, “We’re not experiencing any challenges that any other restaurant is experiencing in downtown Winchester or anywhere else. There’s challenges with getting the right mix of people.”

The affordable menu, expanded from one page to four, with the most expensive meal being $22.95, does not mean the steaks, sandwiches, burgers and pork loins are lacking in quality or quantity, Ritenour said.

“We did not sacrifice any kind of portion size and we are making things from scratch, with an in house pastry chef making deserts,” she said. “We have a talented team back there with great drive and energy.”

In keeping with the Washington theme, the drink menu was altered, with signature cocktails such as The Hessian, Sherry Cocktail and The Boston Tea Party and six craft beers on tap. Ritenour said alcohol offerings have been a big hit with the customers.

“We’re trying to up our game and push the bar a little bit with some of our wines,” Ritenour said. “Our guests have very selective tastes, so we try and make sure we are accommodating … they’re the reason we change up some things.”

Part of that includes offering samples of beer or wine, four small cups for $10 served on a wooden paddle. Ritenour said the restaurant would launch some sampling parties, food and wine pairings, as well as promotional events such as a St. Patrick’s Day bash this Tuesday.

Cavallaro said while there is still work to be done, the increased revenue from the restaurant has made it an asset for The George Washington Hotel’s business model.

“Before, this was more of an amenity to our guests, but now this restaurant is on it’s way to becoming a revenue generator,” Cavallaro said.“This is an award-winning hotel and I hope this restaurant will be a reflection of that.”

George’s Spirits is located at 103 E. Piccadilly St. and is open seven days a week from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Food is served from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., while drinks are available from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or