Couple puts local growers’ best on center stage at Canal House Cafe
Salads made with roasted beets, apple slices, greens and local goat cheese. Slow-roasted local beef served atop cornbread. Soup bowls filled with simmered white beans, local sausage, house-made chicken stock, lentils and fresh herbs.
[cleeng_content id="823250591" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]The menu at Matthew and Laura Dimbylow’s Canal House Cafe features many of the same ingredients that might have been served up here in the early 1820s – back when the charming stone structure was brand-new to Harpers Ferry.
“There’s so much wonderful food grown and produced in this area,” explains Laura Dimbylow, who grew up in nearby Loudoun County, Va., and has worked in the restaurant business for more than 15 years. “We wanted to put together a menu that makes the most of that – delicious, awesome dishes that are as local as they possibly can be.”
Matthew Dimbylow, a native of England whose background is in retail management and design, said that while the local food movement sometimes is seen as elitist, the Canal House Cafe is all about making guests feel comfortable and catered to.
“We put together simple, creative dishes where the local ingredients shine,” Matthew said of the cafe, home to a warm, inviting dining room with exposed beams, wide-plank hardwood floors and seating for about 50.
The idea is to appeal to local residents as well as visitors, including hikers hungry as they take a break from the Appalachian Trial. “It’s not about being high-brow,” he said. “It’s about serving awesome food.”
The Dimbylows, parents of four who live in Lucketts, Va., have benefitted from working with experts, including consultant Elizabeth Gallery, the chef credited with making the Stone Soup Bistro into a Shepherdstown destination.
The Canal House Cafe made its official debut over the weekend. Thursday through Saturday, the eatery is from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., serving lunch and dinner with rotating seasonal entree specials, vegetarian and gluten-free options. The restaurant also is open 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays.
The couple has plans to create special events during the week, host bigger parties upstairs, schedule live music for weekends and offer “picnics to go” as the weather warms.
“We’re looking forward to being a part of this wonderful community,” Laura Dimbylow said.
The menu includes soups by the cup or bowl and served with warm bread as well as appetizers including house-made hummus and Southern-style pimento cheese spread.
Salad choices include a simple greens with dressing or the more elaborate Appalachian Trail (roasted beets, mixed greens, apples, toasted walnuts, local goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette) and Farm House Salad (roasted chicken, apple wood-smoked bacon, boiled egg, red onion, cucumber and tomatoes with ranch).
Canal House Cafe entrees include the Vegetable Plate (asparagus, Twin Oaks Jerk tofu, pineapple, black beans and rice), the Appalachian Trail (housemade albacore tuna salad with tapenade, lettuce, tomato and sprouts served on a sourdough baguette), the John Brown (an open-face pulled beef sandwich served on cornbread with pepper slaw) and Quiche of the Day made with farm-fresh eggs.
The restaurant’s side dishes include buttered noodles with butter and fresh Parmesan, black beans and rice, fresh greens with dressing and roasted potatoes with garlic aioli.
The lineup also includes a variety of desserts, including an assortment of fresh-baked cookies, a hot fudge brownie sundae, strawberry shortcake and, in a nod to Matthew Dimbylow’s English roots, sticky toffee pudding served with vanilla ice cream.
Want to go?
What: Canal House Cafe
Where: 1226 W. Washington St., Harpers Ferry
When: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
What else: The eatery has free WIFI but no liquor license; it’s BYOB
To know more: Call 304-535-2880 or go online to canalhousecafe.com