Article By: Samantha Cronk
Photos By: Josh Triggs
Looking at Martinsburg’s newest fine dining restaurant, The Peppermill, it would be hard to image that just two years ago, the building was known as nothing more than an eyesore after partially burning in a fire and maintaining years of neglect. Now, The Peppermill stands ready to make its mark in the community again as the perfect spot for casual fine dining, live music, outdoor eating and an elegant night.
Martinsburg couple Dan and Lori Dulyea purchased the property in 2015 during an auction. While the two initially had different visions for the property, both agreed that the building’s history and importance to the community deserved to be restored from its dilapidated state. The property suffered a fire in 2009 and had sat vacant for six years before being purchased by the Dulyea’s.
“I think the building chose us. It’s one of those things that it was always in our mind, and we spoke about it many, many times before I drove by one day and saw a sign saying it was going up for action,” Dan said. “It was in terrible shape and it stunk. It was an eyesore with broken windows. But, I’m a visionary. As soon as I walked through, I could see it look just as it does today. I knew it would turn out like this.
”While for Dan the plan was always to return the property to its restaurant history, Lori initially had a different vision for the property.
“I did think he was crazy for wanting to do this,” she laughed. “I thought this would make a really lovely lawyers office or accounting office, just to fit in with the scenery. It was difficult for me. I couldn’t see what he could see.”
However, both readily agreed that they saw a need for a fine dining restaurant in Martinsburg, and after purchasing the property began a two-year journey toward renovating and opening The Peppermill. Fixing up the house was no small order, with every aspect of the home needing either replacement or repair.
It is easy to see the care and quality that went into remodeling the property before even stepping through the doors. Once inside, each part of the home is designed for its own purpose and atmosphere, from the casual fine dining one the first floor, to bar upstairs – called The Speakeasy – to the outdoor patio seating. In total, the restaurant can seat about 120 guests.
“We wanted to create something great for the community and work with the history already established here. We never would have been able to capture the customer base if that’s what we’d done. We’ve had to many people that tell us ‘we went there for our prom night or our rehearsal dinner.’ This property is near to a lot of the community’s heart. A lot of the community has memories about this building,” he said.
With as much care that went into rehabbing the home and redesigning it for the restaurant’s use, as much care went into choosing its chef. After nearly a year of searching, Dan and Lori hired Cody Sheppard as the executive chef.
In creating the menu, emphasis is placed on using fresh, local ingredients, as well as taking ingredients or dishes that are popular either locally or throughout the state and offering a new twist, such as the famed Hag-Mart sauce.
“The Hag-Mart was a staple back in its hay day by the Big Lots (in Martinsburg). Everyone talked about the hotdogs and the Hag-Mart hotdog sauce,” Cody said.
“We’re going to keep it seasonal, so we’ll flip the menu four times a year. But, sometimes I’ll get inspired and things will just pop up. The fillet, everyone enjoys that, so that’s something we’ll always have, but it will transform every season. I don’t like to be constrained and say we’re only one way, one style of cooking,” he said.
One aspect that Cody believes distinguishes the menu is the French style of cooking the protein, called the sous vid style, which means the meal’s protein is cooking with all its spices and herbs inside a vacuum sealed bag inside a water bath before being taken out of the bag to sear and serve. This style, Cody said, allows for extremely tender, flavorful meat while still cooking it to the guest’s preference.
The menu currently features lunch and dinner items as well as a dessert menu and a lounge menu filled with “odds and ends.” The restaurant will also sponsor special events like brunch and holiday celebrations, and will host private parties and events.
While the right chef and the right menu were crucial elements for The Peppermill’s success, Lori and Dan knew that the atmosphere, the detail and ability to offer something new to the community were equally important factors for the business.
At The Speakeasy bar on the second floor, guests are able to sample flights of wine, as well as wine pairing with truffles from local chocolatier DeFluri’s. In the summer, live music will be offered on the patio seating on Fridays and Saturdays. The restaurant offers a conference area with its own separate entrance for business meeting or professional lunches. During dinner, a white table cloth service is added to enhance the casual fine dining restaurant experience.
Also, the restaurant also uses and sells Riedel wine glasses, a German-engineered glass designed to compliment the flavor of the wine.
“You have to know what you are in order for the community to know what you are. You have to be able to carve your niche out. We’re 100 percent clear of who we are. We’re fine dining in Martinsburg,” Dan said.
While immensely proud of what they have accomplished in opening The Peppermill and providing a fine dining establishment in Martinsburg, Dan and Lori have planned for their partnership with Cody to one day evolve to selling the restaurant to the chef.
“The goal that we have is for, in 3 years from now, is to get the business to a level where Cody can purchase the business off of us. He wants to have his own restaurant, and we wanted to create a restaurant. It’s somewhat of a partnership that’s in the early stages. But, the goal is to work to that point where it can be his restaurant,” Dan said.
The Peppermill is located at 200 W. Burke Street in Martinsburg. Lunch and fine dining hours are Monday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; and Friday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. The Speakeasy Lounge is open Tuesday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday through Saturday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. The Peppermill can be reached at 304-901-5658 or through the website, thepeppermillmartinsburgwv.com. The restaurant is also on Facebook.