An Early Look at the New Evening Star Cafe

Tonight, the neighborhood restaurant reveals its revamped dining room and trophy-lined back bar, plus a new menu of Southern-souled dishes from chef Jim Jeffords.

Shrimp and grits at Evening Star Cafe. Photographs by Jeff Martin

There’s a grilled sausage dish on the new menu at Evening Star Cafe in Alexandria called Moultrie Sausage. It’s named for the Georgia hometown of executive chef Jim Jeffords—though the pork sausage in Moultrie is never eaten with house-made spaetzle, and is rarely, if ever, topped with salade frisée. Sometimes it’s topped with syrup, but that, Jeffords says, is something you’ll never see on one of his menus.

The chef explains that his dishes, which debut tonight when Evening Star reopens after a month of renovation, represent the food he’s always dreamed of cooking: Southern in soul, but tweaked with the fine-dining details he’s learned from toiling in fancier kitchens like CityZen, where he’s worked for the past four years. He’s also cooking up traditional Southern shrimp and grits, featuring shrimp marinated in shallots, red pepper flakes, and garlic and served over grits cooked with garlic and cheese. Okra and cherry tomatoes are also involved. That recipe is inspired by his hometown, too—but, says Jeffords, pointing at a fastidiously plated sample, “Growing up, it never looked like that.”

On the evening before the reopening, the lanky chef had folded himself into one of the brand-new, plushly upholstered banquettes that now bifurcate the dining room, adding an additional ten seats for a total of 60. The renovation, which included the restaurant’s kitchen, attached bar the Majestic Lounge, and a second lounge upstairs called No. 9, was a collaboration between Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s Michael Babin and Catherine Hailey of Hailey Designs.

Familiar names from Evening Star’s sister restaurants collaborated closely on the project: The Majestic’s beer taps—which are set up inside antique GE refrigerators painted orange, silver, and robin’s egg blue—were chosen by Greg Engert of Churchkey and Birch & Barley. Engert’s coworker, pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac, consulted with Jeffords on the dessert menu, which will include an apple cobbler for two (you order it at the beginning of the meal, and it’s baked fresh), and—get this—a deep-fried fluffernutter sandwich rolled in frosted flakes, deep fried, and served with banana ice cream. MacIsaac has also trained a dedicated breadmaker; a Birch & Barley–esque bread board will feature cornbread and sweet potato biscuits. Coffee geeks will be psyched to see that MadCap Coffee, the Grand Rapids roaster that is planning to open a shop in DC next year, has been charged with the java program at Evening Star. Owner Trevor Corlett has trained the staff on the proper service for single-origin pour-overs; Neighborhood Restaurant group plans to offer MadCap in all its restaurants in days to come. The project also created an adjoining entrance between Evening Star and neighboring wine shop Planet Wine. Any bottle available for retail can be uncorked and drunk at the restaurant.

Evening Star Cafe and the Majestic reopen tonight at 5:30. Brunch service at the cafe will start after the holidays. Lounge No. 9 is still under renovation and will open “in a few weeks,” according to a company rep.

Evening Star Cafe. 2000 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria, VA; 703-549-5051. Check Web site for hours.