Could Agnew Hunter Bahnson have imagined his historic mansion would become a restaurant? Doubt it. The surprise should be easier to take for current day family since Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar is one of the friendliest, most wonderfully refurbished, gorgeous, delicious places in Winston-Salem.
Sis and I had dinner at Spring House earlier this month, when they’d been open six short weeks. We could barely contain our oohs and aahs. They began as we approached the mansion
and continued as we were seated on a patio bordered by the mansion on one side, an herb garden on another, a lovely garden sporting beautiful blue lace hydrangeas on the third and on the forth, a fountain surrounded by inviting lounge seating.
Interesting “touches” were evident as soon as we walked in the door. Staff were dressed in white button-down dress shirts and black denim jeans. This was intentional on the part of Spring House owners. They explained it as one way they could help set a tone of “casual elegance”. They went on to say they wanted to offer a “fine dining experience at reasonable prices” and “beautiful but not intimidating ambiance.” Also noted, menus printed on premium, heavy card stock. Nice touch.
More oohs and aahs as each course was served. We thought we were done being impressed when our meal ended, but no. Chef Timothy Grandinetti and co-owner Lynette Matthews-Murphy were on hand and offered to give us a tour of the building – basement to attic! More about that later. Third co-owner Mr. Lynn Murphy was not at the restaurant that evening.
Spring House has so much going on, it’s hard to keep up: NC Tasting Menus, Library Bar, A Chef’s Table, Gourmet Brown Bag Lunches, Cooking Classes, Chef for-a-day, Weekly Specials (Family Style Tuesday, Low Country Suppers, Fresh Catch Fridays and Sparkling Saturdays). For the full picture, browse their website. See all menus here.
Evident throughout is a strong commitment to local producers and their products.
Sweetbreads are one of those things people have mixed feelings about, many times without knowing exactly what sweetbreads are. Chef Tim’s take, General Tso’s Crispy Lamb Sweetbreads ($11), served with sorghum scented bacon and hot mustard sauce was unique. It was also fabulous. Pretty much stole the show.
Spring House’s “Magnificent” Mushroom Soup (Cup $4, Bowl $6). Made with White Truffle (earthy, garlicky aroma and flavor) and served with a dollop of Fromage Blanc, a crostini and Chives floated. Touted as “magnificent”, we both had trouble getting through the pepper to the mushroom and truffle flavors. It’s a good soup, just didn’t have the deep mushroom flavors I was expecting.
Arugula, Red Onion and Roasted Beet salad ($8) brought the blush back to our meal. Red and yello beets, pickled red onion and pecan-crusted Goat Lady Chevre anchored Sugar Creek Farm fresh arugula drizzeled in a light, summery Citrus Truffle Vinaigrette.
Our palates were now ready for the next star of this meal: Foothills Brewing Ale Braised Carolina Bison Short Ribs ($26), served with Orange Cumin Carrots and Parsnip Puree. Am I too old (mature) to say, “OMG”? Too bad. OMG! The ribs were fall-apart tender. No need to bother with the massive steak knife delivered with this course. And flavorful? You can’t imagine.
In the past, I’ve mixed mashed parsnips with mashed potatoes, fearing a flavorless all-parsnips side. Wrong. It’s obviously all in the seasoning. And those carrots! Why oh why, Chef, did you only put two small specimens to a plate? They were cooked perfectly and had absorbed the orange cumin seasoning. Could have eaten many more.
Okay. So here’s the embarrassing part. We took one look at House’s dessert menu and ordered three out of the four. Yes, I know – ridiculous. We figured we’d share half of all three, then take home the other halves for later. You’ll notice I lost daylight as the evening wore on and had to rely on candlelight for dessert photos.
First up, Apple Almond Crisp ($6) arrived warm, in a cute mini-casserole, topped with house-made whipped cream and Rum Raisin Ice Cream, drizzled with Sorghum. Chef had layered the “crisp”, so it was in the middle and on the bottom. So good.
Listed on the menu as “…Carefully Packaged to Travel” (so you can bring it home as a Thank You), and new to both of us, “Babbysitter” Cake ($8). Spring House’s signature Flourless Chocolate Cake surrounding Hibiscus Cherry Infused Sweet Cream. Another star, nicely portioned. Call me when you’ve cut in to the cake with your fork and have taken your first bite. We’ll talk.
Regular readers will know I’m all about Bread Pudding. This version ($7), topped with Pecan and Brown Sugar Streusel Chocolate Kahlua Sauce comforted as bread pudding is wont to do. For those with lots of “room” after dinner, this generously portioned pudding is for you.
Our server was easily one of the best I’ve ever experienced. She had detailed answers to every question and was perfectly attentive without being overbearing.
We gave Chef Tim our compliments as he was making the rounds and mentioned how much we loved the mansion. It was then he offered the tour. And I’m not talking the Nickel tour.
My pictures didn’t do the multiple dining rooms throughout the mansion justice. You can see more photos, including some construction shots here.
Two that are acceptable are of the well-appointed conference room, unusual in a restaurant, and the dark-paneled library bar hung with original art “where conversations abound and drinking is elevated to an experience.”
No one will ever experience an uncomfortable temperature at Spring House. The HVAC system added to this building was more than impressive. We saw massive ductwork outside, in the basement, along with a prep kitchen as well as in the attic. This is how we got to the attic (laughs wickedly):
If you are anywhere near Winston-Salem or are able to plan a destination trip there, you really must dine at Spring House.
Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar
450 North Spring Street
Winston-Salem, NC 27101