EAT: Montpelier's Exchange Café
Now when visitors tour Montpelier, the historic home of James and Dolley Madison, they can also get a taste of another, if decidedly newer, Orange County landmark. That’s because chef Craig Hartman, proprietor of Gordonsville’s beloved BBQ Exchange restaurant, has collaborated with Montpelier to open Exchange Café in the historic site’s visitors center.
The café’s Virginia-centric menu includes a pork barbecue sandwich (of course), a ham biscuit with bacon-fig jam, an artisan cheese plate featuring three local cheeses, ice cream from Chaps in Charlottesville, and Shenandoah Joe coffee. And it gives props to the estate’s original famous hostess with Dolley Madison’s macaroni soup, a dish that the famously gracious first lady was known to serve at diplomatic functions at the White House.
“It is an honor to be affiliated with Montpelier,” says Hartman, who was the celebrated chef at Keswick Hall before he and wife Donna opened BBQ Exchange. “Our café at Montpelier fits the BBQ Exchange vision—cuisine, people, hospitality that embodies genteel Southern warmth and fits seamlessly with the history, culture, and art of Central Virginia.”
While mansion tours require tickets, the rest of Montpelier’s grounds (including picnic tables behind the visitors center) are open to the public free of charge, providing everyone with full access to Exchange Café.