After 14 years in Old Town, Alexandria, Restaurant Eve will likely close its doors. Chef/owner Cathal Armstrong says the finer dining restaurant—his flagship—is in need of a drastic revamp in both the physical space and concept at a time when his hospitality group is making major, costly expansions at DC’s Wharf development.
“It’s at the point where we need to reinvent it [Eve],” says Armstrong. “It’s in the cards that something will happen within the next few months, whether closing or relocating or some sugar daddy comes along and gives us a million dollars—but that scenario isn’t likely.”
Armstrong says he and wife Meshelle, who operate the Eat Good Food Group with business partner/barman Todd Thrasher, are eyeing DC locations for Restaurant Eve 2.0—possibly even the Wharf, where the hospitality group is currently consumed with two big projects: Kaliwa, a Filipino/Thai/Korean eatery that’s slated to open by late February, and Potomac Distilling Company, a forthcoming rum distillery and tiki bar.
“I started thinking about reinvention, and it was an exciting conversation for me,” says Armstrong. “What about the notion of doing something more luxury with Restaurant Eve? Or more casual? That’s very much in the dream state at the moment.”
Also in flux: casual sibling fish n’ chipper Eamonn’s, which Armstrong says they’re “reconceptualizing” into something entirely different in the coming months. The Armstrongs’ other Old Town venues—PX cocktail bar, Society Fair cafe and market, and the newest Hummingbird at the Indigo Hotel—aren’t headed for major changes.
“Restaurants run their course,” Armstrong says. “The population in Old Town also isn’t very transient. You have a certain number of years before you have to rethink it.”
Restaurant Eve has gone through several evolutions since the hyper-seasonal New American dining room debuted in 2004. It earned Armstrong a place on the national culinary map (honors include James Beard nominations and a place on Food & Wine best new chefs list) and spurred a cookbook, My Irish Table. What was once a divided fine dining tasting room and bistro has become one restaurant with a number of menu options, from prix-fixe to a la carte. He had also added a section of Asian dishes in preparation for Kaliwa.
So what if the aforementioned sugar daddy appears with enough money for a remodel?
“I would do it in Old Town if we had the money,” says Armstrong. “That building has a lot of soul in it. At the same time, we’re a business. It’s not just our love and passion. After 35 years in the restaurant industry, I’m still working 6 days a week, 15 hours a day. You put your heart and soul into something like that, it’s personal to you. But if the numbers don’t add up, something has to change.”