Look closely at the crowd at The Valley Inn, and you’ll see there’s been a subtle shift. Yes, you’re still likely to see preppy moms, nattily dressed businessmen, and genteel ladies of a certain age. But there’s something else: a new generation of young adults in the bar and dining room, curious about this venerable old Baltimore County restaurant. Though we’d been once or twice in the past decade, we, too, wondered if its new owner, Ted Bauer—who also owns The Oregon Grille—would retain a semblance of the historic building’s storied past (dog races, swing bands, wicked mint juleps) or strive for something completely different.
It took almost three years to find out. The last owners of the one-time 1800s roadhouse were two generations of the Hatfield family, who operated the place from the 1920s, with the eccentric Bud Hatfield presiding over the place until Bauer took possession of the aging restaurant in 2011.
Then, last December, the renovated restaurant—officially in Lutherville but often cited as being in Brooklandville—re-opened in a carefully orchestrated evolution. First, drinks and a limited menu were served in the bar on weekends only; then, they were offered on a daily basis; and now, they’re also available in a handsome dining room with the list of appetizers, sandwiches, and entrees continuing to expand.
The décor reflects the restaurant’s previous reputation as a gathering place for Greenspring Valley’s horse folk. The subdued dining room has a thoroughbred-racing motif with artwork, jockey lamps, and accoutrements dispersed throughout a space that has two working gas fireplaces. The lively bar captures sporting interests, from golfing and fishing to horses and dogs. They are manly rooms in luxe woods that remind us of a hunt club.