A Hidden Gem in Toano - Dudley's Farmhouse Grille

Generally our area is not a food Mecca.  We have a few shining stars, but Newport News and environs are not normally  an area one would think of for fine dining with a few exceptions (Circa 1918, Trellis, Fat Canary...) Even more so Toano, a town near Williamsburg which is best known as the home of the Williamsburg Pottery Factory, but my daughter, who certainly can qualify as a foodie was looking for a new place to have dinner for her birthday and stumbled upon some positive reviews for Dudley's Farmhouse Grille. Since we were  looking for a nice place for dinner, and I love trying new places to share with readers, we made a reservation for 5:30 on a Saturday, and prepared for a dining experience.

Our server took this photo-birthday girl Bridget, Molly, me and Gavin
Toano is a good 30 minutes from our house, but the drive was pleasant on a coolish October evening, We arrived  a tad early and found that Dudley's was indeed a farmhouse, converted to a restaurant.offering indoor seating for 40 and outdoor seating when the elements permit.  The outdoor seating area featured a lovely garden and outdoor heaters to keep outdoor diners warm.  When we arrived, we were the first diners in the restaurant, and we were warmly welcomed, and seated at a nice table near the staircase.  My husband immediately commented that he hoped that the lack of a crowd did not indicate the quality of the food., but his concerns were brushed aside as our server came to take our drink and appetizer orders.  In preparing to go to Dudley's we had accessed their menu online so that we could each choose something we wanted, and get a chance to taste a variety of the offerings there.

This foie gras app was heaven!
We decided to order two appetizers to share- the foie gras with caramelized apples, bourbon raisins and savory maple cream and the wild boar sausage with fire roasted peppers and onions.  All but my youngest tried the foie gras and declared it "amazing", every tiny morsel was consumed, the foie gras was perfectly prepared and the fruit and cream were a perfect complement to its richness.  The wild boar sausage was spicy and delicious, but we all wished there had been more of the peppers and onions since we all shared, and the flavor really highlighted the spice and texture of the sausage. My husband also ordered a glass of their house wine, a Coastal Vines Merlot, which he really enjoyed.  We ordered our entrees- the elk loin wrapped in Edwards bacon and served with Surry sausage and curried carrot puree for my husband, the Steak Rossini Dudley's style for the birthday girl, the Maryland crabcakes for my younger daughter, and I had the pan-seared squab. Dudley's offers a variety of game dishes and our server was very helpful (she tried to steer my husband toward ordering his elk medium-rare, but he insisted on medium-well, a decision he regretted later).

This Steak Rossini tasted even better than it looked!
Here I have to stop and say something about the dining environment at Dudley's.  The restaurant is intimate without feeling cramped, the walls are adorned with art and prints that are also for sale, allowing the owner to showcase local artists and to change the scenery for diners. Service was warm and attentive, without the pretentiousness that is often evident at fine dining establishments, one of the servers, not even our own, offered to take a picture of the four of us when she saw us snapping photos. Water glasses and iced teas were filled promptly, used silverware removed smoothly and without missing a beat. Warm rolls and butter tasted as good as they smelled.

As we consumed our appetizers, the restaurant slowly filled up, and it was evident that many of the diners were regulars since the staff addressed them by first name, asking about children and knowing their "regular" favorites. Twice during the evening Chef James Kennedy circulated the room, speaking with diners at every table, asking what had been ordered or making recommendations. Clearly Chef James enjoys the interaction with his customers almost as much as cooking.

Once our entrees arrived, we were wowed - Bridget's steak was a center cut filet mignon rubbed with porcini mushroom dust, served on a portobello cap stuffed with garlic spinach and topped with foie gras and a demi glace; Gavin's elk loin was served with a side that everyone loved but was a mystery until we found from our server that they were curried carrots, and they had such a unique and different flavor. My twin squab were served with  this carrot puree as well with a saute of barley and fresh corn that was simple but amazing. Molly's crabcakes were large and delicious with some roasted potatoes and served with a red pepper remoulade. The portions were generous and the side provided a subtle complement on the plate that highlighted the flavors of the entree. Everyone was delighted with their choices, and we all had a taste of each other's.  My husband was wowed by the birthday girl's Steak Rossini- he said the aged beef just melted in your mouth.

Loved this Key lime pie - made in house at Dudley's
Even though we were stuffed my husband and I decided to select two desserts so we could see for ourselves if  Chef James' magic touch with food extended to his desserts.  Many of the desserts were made in house including the key lime pie which I ordered. The crust was crisp and just sweet enough to counter the tart lime filling that was smooth and creamy.  My husband chose a chocolate mousse type cake (sorry, we both forgot the name!) that was rich and dark with just a hint of sweetness. As an aficionado of dark chocolate, it was the perfect choice.

Dudley's is a bit pricey but the food is out of the ordinary and very high quality, and portions are large.  The atmosphere is charming and homey and the service is warm and attentive and not pretentious. If you have the opportunity, I would recommend heading off the beaten path and giving Dudley's a try- you won't be sorry!


Kate Shrop said…
That dessert looks great!
wow, those foods look delicious.
Time for lunch now :)
Zoe said…
Ahhh..you would have to mention key lime pie when I'm on a diet. LOL.

I'll bet it was delish.. it sounds so good. I'd love one with a coffee right about now!
auntiesfrybread said…
Awesome stuff
You actually placed right stuff on the table.
This turned out amazing. So good and colorful, nutritious and easy. My whole family loved these! Thanks, for posting!
delicious food ^____^
soditech said…
Every time i come here i see something very new
salad recipes said…
delicious food ))
juicing recipes said…
Oh I became hungry.
But I'm on diet.
thanks for shear your idea with us.
skin care said…
wow, you have very nice blog, I'm so impresses.
Deborah Dowd said…
Kate- It was really delicious- the right balance of sweet and tart!
Blogging Guides - I know, just looking at these pics again make me hungry!
Zoe- Sorry, I feel your pain- I am dieting now too.
Auntiesfrybread-They were food artists at Dudley's.
Recipe- Thanks- it was a great meal
Georgian- It was fabulous!
Soditech - Thanks I try!
Salad-It was a great way to celebrate!
Juicing - Dieting is the trend this time of year!
Skin - Thanks for the kind words!
Love the food! You’re amazing. This menu is fantastic, It sure will help everyone who’s looking for a perfect menu like this. Thank you for sharing this recipe. Keep posting!