The team that brought you Les Cochon d’Or in Hot Springs, VA has recently rolled out their newest hotspot—Snead’s 1912 Steak. The restaurant space itself has long been a staple of the Hot Springs dining scene, but now has a new energy behind it.
“Jack Snead would occasionally convince me to walk around the restaurant and he’d ask, ‘What would you do with this space?’” says Chef Kyle Krieger, a partner in the project, as well as next door at Les Cochon d’Or where he also serves as chef. “I kept telling him, ‘It feels like a steakhouse, Jack.’”
When the lease came up for renewal, The Kriegers and Loefflers, owners of the Grist Mill and also partners at Les Cochon d’Or, took the leap and signed the paperwork. But this time, they added yet another culinary couple.
The building itself was built in 1912, originally as a bank. The Homestead Resort had a lease with the Snead family for 34 years.
“We felt it needed just a little TLC and it would be an amazing place to come,” says Crystal Krieger, head sommelier at Les Cochon d’Or and partner at Snead’s 1912 Steak. “We want it to be a destination restaurant.”
A little “TLC” turned into a full-scale project led by contractor Robert Hill—removing the boards nailed over the windows, completely gutting the kitchen, and adding a completely new bar upstairs. The wiring was so frayed that much of the building got new electrical. “We would be working down here and all the sudden hear the contractors cussing up in the ceiling,” jokes Kyle, saying exposed wires created a bit of an issue at first.
“We want to make Hot Springs as a whole a viable dining destination,” says Crystal. “We feel our new team consisting of our new Sommelier Austin Farina and Chef Mattie McGhee are just the tipping point of what this community is about to become. We’re exceptionally excited about bringing a new steakhouse concept to Hot Springs. Snead’s Tavern was known for their steaks at one time so we wanted to go back and showcase what people loved about it. Snead’s 1912 Steak has a rich history and we are proud to now be part of that history.”
Today, Snead 1912 Steak exudes a lodge-like vibe with a large gas fireplace downstairs in a stone hearth. Exposed beams throughout were reclaimed from an old barn in Georgia, while the floors are heart pine, having been refinished for the opening. Painted pine wainscoting is found throughout the upper level where you’ll find the new bar with white leather seating and cozy booths original to the building.
Artifacts from Sam Snead’s estate adorn the pine walls, along with hickory clubs, hole-in-one balls, scorecards and other Snead memorabilia. The old vault for the original bank has been turned into a wine cave, its geared door looking like something straight out of a steampunk drawing.
Chef Mattie McGhee exudes a cheery optimism when you first meet him—Americana tattoo along his left arm with old school rolled sleeves, pinched and tucked, and a Pomade shiny coif. His pedigree runs directly through the acclaimed Greenbrier Apprentice program, just like the Kriegers, the Loefflers, and his mentor Rich Rosendale.
A New Jersey native, McGhee started working at a local hotel restaurant at an early age, where he fell in love with the industry. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America he externed at a resort in Florida with recent Greenbrier Alums Kyle Krieger and Mike Voltaggio. From there he headed to the Greenbrier Apprenticeship program, at their direction, and then later cheffed at the Waldorf Astoria, The Modern, Range (with Brian Voltaggio), and most recently as part of the team that designed and opened the restaurant at the recently renovated Watergate hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.
Last year, just before he began looking for another chef to work with, the phone rang. It was Kyle Krieger.
“Kyle wanted me to at least come down and listen to their vision,” Mattie says. “My wife was pregnant at the time and we were already looking for a change. Having worked at The Greenbrier I already loved the mountains. We came down and I knew right away we wanted to do this. John and Kate and Kyle and Crystal have really made it happen here so we are honored to be doing this with them.”
“Mattie’s one of the best chefs I know,” says Chef Kyle. “He’s been through the fire and knows what it takes to make exceptionally great food. I consider him a friend and colleague.”
McGhee’s progressive American style brings a refined touch to steakhouse classics at Snead’s. The meat cuts are not for the faint of heart—bone-in strip, porterhouse, tomahawk, and bavette (a flavorful cut somewhere between the flank and sirloin).
While the entrees are reserved for the formal dining area downstairs, the upstairs lounge menu features all of the small plates, salads and sandwiches.
Included among the favorites is McGhee’s playful take on fish and chips—sugar toads. Sugar toads are essentially Chesapeake Bay puffer fish, deep fried with vertebrae still intact. The dense vertebrae means you can grab them by the “head” and tail and “attack them like a chicken wing,” says the chef. The dish is served with fried potatoes and Brussels sprouts and features three condiments: ramp vinegar, house remoulade, and lemons.
There is also the corn and crab bisque, which offers lump blue crab, confit potatoes and blue cheese, as well as duck wings tossed in an Asian barbecue sauce. Slow smoked and then grilled, the wings are then stacked with housemade pickles in a formation that resembles the ancient Japanese art of Ikebana, or flower sculpture. The Ahi Tuna comes with a delicious olive gremolata, which pairs perfect with the flavors of chile and onion power and the puff black rice garnish.
The fried green tomatoes are a huge hit, with burrata, Virginia ham and green goddess dressing.
“We didn’t want to do the same old caprese salad that every other steakhouse does, with their out-of-season tomatoes,” smiles Chef Kyle. “So this is our take.”
One of the most popular steak cuts, the Porterhouse steak, is served with a horseradish soufflé potato, charred ramps and watercress. Chef McGhee says that in order to really have the cuts of meat speak for themselves they do very little in terms of flavoring or sauces. “The steaks are cooked over white and red oak, finished with a five peppercorn blend and JQ Dickinson salt,” he says. “Just these elements themselves create a lot of flavor for the steak.”
Mattie’s wife, Celia, an accomplished pastry chef herself who worked for the iconic Daniel Boulud when the two met in New York City, serves as Snead 1912 Steak’s pastry chef.
Her delightful crème brulee is a buttermilk custard topped with sliced strawberries, strawberry rhubarb, and oatmeal streusel. The Chocolate Cherry Brownie Sundae is built with chunks of brownies and topped with Luxardo cherries with a golf tee holding them together.
“Our diners seem to gravitate towards different menu items everyday,” says Crystal. “Our guests are in love with the whole experience.”
“Our lounge areas got a complete makeover,” she adds. “The cocktail, beer and wine list are tremendously different, with the wine list developed directly with Chef McGee’s menu.”
The restaurant features a large outdoor dining area on the second level that is sure to be a hit in warm weather. The fantastic view features the Homestead Resort right across the street, which you can enjoy along with the casual lounge menu. “It’s a menu that reflects food that everyone loves to eat on an everyday basis,” says Chef McGhee.
“If my dad were alive he would be so proud of what the restaurant has become,” says Jack Snead, son of legendary Sam Snead, the restaurant’s namesake.
“I think the food is just exceptional,” he adds. “This has been a great job by a real team of people.”
The partners already have an understanding of Hot Springs, says Crystal. “We have the Waterwheel Restaurant which has been here for over 45 years, which John and Kate have really made shine. It is a more upscale traditional fine dining venue. Then, Les Cochon D’Or is our other upscale restaurant—the hip American French spot which Kyle and myself have put on the map. Now we have Snead’s 1912 Steak and it’s going to be Virginia’s Premier Steakhouse.”
While reservations are definitely recommended for the dining room (the restaurant is serving over 100 people a night already on weekends) the lounge and bar areas are first-come, first-serve. To learn more about Snead 1912 Steak, visit the website at: www.sneads1912.com