The Hilltop House Hotel restaurant overlooking the Shenandoah River had about 20 minutes notice that the presidential motorcade would arrive there at about 12:30 p.m.
In addition to the usual 25-person lunch crowd, the staff had to accommodate more than 100 security officers and media representatives.
Only two waitresses were working, so everyone at the hotel, including Hall, was pressed into service.
"It was a total surprise to us. We were quite short-handed," he said.
Both the president and vice president ate crab cakes, said Hall, who lives in Harpers Ferry.
The rest of the entourage ate from the restaurant's fried chicken buffet.
Harpers Ferry residents Gloria Fuller and Herbert Howard had a reservation at the restaurant.
"The president decided to join us," said Fuller, who owns the Log House Bed and Breakfast in Harpers Ferry.
All roads leading to the Hilltop House Hotel were blocked to traffic, but Fuller and Howard said security officers let them through.
After eating, Clinton shook hands with all 17 people on staff and stopped to chat with about a dozen guests.
Then, he and Gore got into a silver Chevy Silverado, which took them to their waiting helicopters.