In 1985, the entire town of Clifton was designated a National Historic District, a result of its efforts to restore and preserve 62 charming Victorian buildings built between 1880 and 1910. Clifton’s population—264 people in 2019—gives you a sense of how small the place is, and yet it has a mighty collection of dining and shopping establishments. Plus, the town has claimed some notable residents: Jeff Arch wrote his famous screenplay for Sleepless in Seattle in Clifton. Theater legend Helen Hayes spent summers here. Today, you’ll see residents gathering in the town square and stopping by Clifton’s shops and restaurants. “The town attracts people interested in preserving the history and the community that’s there,” says Clifton Mayor Bill Holloway. Here’s how to check out all Clifton has to offer.
1. Trummer’s on Main isn’t just for special occasions, but every dinner and brunch there feels like a celebration. Inside what was once a historic hotel that hosted dignitaries and presidents, New York restaurateurs Stefan and Victoria Trummer have made this elegant restaurant into a destination. Executive Chef Daniel Perron focuses on sourcing local ingredients, and the European and Southern American dishes change with the seasons. Stefan, a nationally recognized mixologist, has built the largest wine program in Virginia. 7134 Main St.
2. Heather Taylor and Laura Jane Cohen, owners of Belle Jar Design, will show you how to mix old and new and will even get you started painting antique furniture. This Victorian house is packed with shabby-chic treasures, including Virginia- and Clifton-themed signs, crystal glassware, and Tiffany lamps. 7137 Main St.
3. The Main Street Pub & Clifton General Store is the Cheers of Clifton, where locals go for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or their evening revelry. This landmark, located at Clifton’s railroad crossing, has served the community for more than 75 years. Listen to live music while sampling a seasonal cocktail. We love the Instagram-worthy burgers and fries, which taste as good as they look. 7140 Main St.
4. Find a seat in a cozy corner of the Clifton Café and order their famous crêpes. Located inside a Victorian house with a sunny outdoor patio, the café also serves barista drinks, sandwiches, salads, dessert, wine, and local craft beer, too. 7144 Main St.
5. Connoisseurs relish the hand-picked collection of wine and beer at the Wine Attic. Owners Juan and Renée Navarro search the world to stock eclectic domestic and international flavors. Want to try beer from the frigid waters of Iceland? They’ve got it. We love the Rainbow Juice from Australia winery Gentle Folk. 7145 Main St., Ste. 2-A
6. Locally owned Trattoria Villagio is a bright and busy restaurant inspired by the cafes often found beside Roman train stations. Watch expert shuckers at the raw bar build the “Leaning Tower of Pisa.” Or linger inside the romantic patio painted with murals and strung with tea lights. We love the pasta dishes coated with silky sauces, especially the wine-infused tagliatelle Barolo. 7145 Main St.
7. A local family opened Peterson’s Ice Cream Depot, and the town is now a must-visit for ice cream lovers. Owner Tom Peterson, a former teacher, realized that to make the best ice cream, he needed to go to ice cream college. 7150 Main St.
8. The eco-forward merchandise at Virginia Mercantile will open your mind to new possibilities. Fancy a Swedish dish cloth that can be reused dozens of times? Prioritize buying local from a small business? If yes, take your own bag and bring home eco-friendly items like herbal eye pillows that can be loved for a long, long time. 12644-F Chapel Rd.
9. Handwoven metal, pearls, and glittering gems are featured in original designs by jewelry-maker Kate Baker. The skilled metallurgist of Kate Baker Designs crafts custom pieces, redesigns and repairs heirlooms, and sells brooches, necklaces, and earrings from her stunning collection. We are partial to her silver “nouveau byzantine” bracelets—feather-light, yet undeniably strong. 12644 Chapel Rd., Ste. D
10. Step inside Môtier French Pastry & Cuisine to drool over the confections and the aroma of fresh bread. This authentic French bakery is owned by a Parisian businessman-turned-chef who now makes his home in Clifton. Absolutely everything is prepared on premises. Menu highlights include Illy coffee, onion soup, crisp baguettes, and vanilla cannelé Bordelais. 12644 Chapel Rd.
Plan your visit for June 4 and hit the Clifton Caboose Twilight 5K and 1- Mile Fun Run. The family-friendly event starts in downtown Clifton and follows a scenic course that winds down a country road, past a horse farm. cliftonva.org