From January 2006 100 Very Best Restaurants
THE SCENE. Can a destination restaurant also be a neighborhood hangout? That's the question Cathal Armstrong and Meshelle Armstrong seem to be asking with their ambitious Old Town restaurant, a stylish, softly lighted lair that brings together a bistro, a tasting room, and a bar under a single roof. So far, the crowds seem to be providing the answer. Neighborhood regulars drawn by sommelier Todd Thrasher's imaginative cocktails talk loudly in the bar while servers in the tasting room regale rapt foodies with stories of where the fish and cheeses come from.
WHAT YOU'LL LOVE. Armstrong is Irish, and his affinity for the earthy, lusty flavors of the countryside gives many of these dishes charm and distinctiveness. Don't be distracted by the Modern American feel of much of the menu–this is bold, personal cooking. A dedication to seasonal Virginia produce results in stellar fruits and vegetables.
WHAT YOU WON'T. Occasionally, the tasting room can feel stagey and stiff, despite the careful, attentive service.