Elliot's restaurant might be your key to enjoying the Homestead A review of The Homestead
I was alarmed at the negative reviews, particularly the vomit story but our experience last weekend was very different. I do congratulate tripadvisor on publishing such blunt reviews and it's become my new favorite travel website.
We have fond memories of the Homestead from 20 yrs ago when we arrived there with a baby in tow, having fled the crummy Mountain Lake Hotel at Smith Mtn Lake in Va. We were treated like royalty from the moment we arrived. Our son was given a full crib in an adjoining room so that an employee could sit quietly in our room while he slept as we dined. His dinner was delivered by room service with great flourish- linens and silver.
How it's changed in the past 20 yrs: the setting and location are still magnificent- much more beautiful than the Greenbrier in W Va. According to the local newspaper, the current mgr is retiring after 10?yrs at the helm. He's employed by a corporation- Club Resorts? which purchased the Homestead from a family in 1991 or 1993. The corp has obviously spent vast sums. The grounds were spectacular. The indoor pool is now lovely surrounded by windows- it was depressing 20 yrs ago. The new outdoor pool is gorgeous- setting and poolside service could not have been better. At 5pm one day it was not at all crowded but on our last day around 2p most of the chaise lounges were full.
The breakfast buffet was enormous and extensive but I would only give it a "B" because of the mediocre breads and pastries. The hashbrowns also weren't good. Fish both days was dreadful- old and strong and dried out. My husband loved all the meats and sausages which I don't eat. Servers pouring OJ and coffee were plentiful and attentive.
Great expense has been spent on the public areas which have a wonderful old fashioned feel.
Our room with tax and service charge was around $300. The room was small, mattress OK, linens just OK- I don't think sheets were all cotton. Icky floral poly bedspread. Bathroom: very nice and roomy, updated with spotless tiles. We asked for a room with a porch beforehand and were given one- this was a special, redeeming feature- the porch was huge- could easily have accommodated two full beds. It had 2 chaise lounges, 2 chairs and 2 tables. The porch was a little dusty and the plaster walls seemed like they could have used a good scrubbing. Maid service was excellent but I do agree with the criticisms about lack of nightly turn down service. If I had kids in my room I would demand fresh towels and a clean up in the evening.
Because of the consistently negative reviews of the dining, we made reservations at a local restaurant, Elliott's, which is right next to Snead's Tavern in "downtown" Warm Springs- 1/2 block from the hotel. We had a fantastic meal that I would rank an "A+" - this is a place that I would eat at often if it were in my hometown. I discovered it by reading the Washingtonian Magazine- it garnered high praise in an issue a few yrs ago which I had saved. If we were going back, I would plan my stay around the days Elliott's is open. One drawback to Elliott's was the tight seating. Our party of 4 had to eat at a bar table and on bar stools but angled so that we sat across from each other. Tables of 2 or 6 were available but not 4. Sunday night we dined in Warm Springs at the Inn at Gristmill Square 10 miles away. The ambiance was lovely- Early American decor and candlelight. Food was just OK but perhaps better than the Homestead.
One of the highlights of our stay was taking the waters at the wonderfully funky and decrepit Jefferson Hot Springs bathhouse 5 mi away also owned by the Homestead. There's a separate bathhouse for men and women and most people swim in the nude. The attendant at the women's bath house instructed us as we entered not to speak. It was a delightfully meditative experience with floating "noodles", looking up at the sky and floating clouds. The men's bathhouse allowed talking!
We would definitely go back to the Homestead although the location is remote and it takes a long time to get there. The Greenbrier has better food but is a lot more expensive and even their fish isn't fresh enough to suit me.
Staff at the Homestead were very friendly and warm. According to the local paper, they lost all their Jamaican workers after visa restrictions following 9/11. Alot of the staff was very young- college aged. The dignified but friendly middle aged employees we remember from 20 yrs ago are mostly gone. Guests were friendly- the Homestead now hosts lots of conventions. Overall, a beautiful place with unintimidating guests and staff but needing an overhaul of their restaurants (although lunches at the Casino and Cottage Cafe were pretty good). Providing nightly turn down service should also be a priority.