A few weeks ago, the Inn at Little Washington sent out an email blast announcing that the luxury Rappahannock County destination would be reopening for dinner on May 15. Then Virginia governor Ralph Northam threw a hitch into chef Patrick O’Connell‘s plans: Diners can sit outside only for “phase one” of the reopening, and those patios can be filled only to 50 percent capacity. The al fresco mandate wouldn’t work for the Inn’s lavish three-Michelin-star property, so they hopefully pushed the debut to May 29. But the 50-percent-empty thing? O’Connell has a plan.
Instead of letting tables sit vacant, the whimsical chef plans to outfit his dining rooms with mannequins. That’s right, life-size human dolls—kind of like that scene in Home Alone when Kevin throws a mannequin holiday party to fool the burglars. The chef (who majored in drama in college) has been working with Shirlington’s Signature Theatre to get the faux humans costumed in 1940s-era garb. Servers will be instructed to pour them wine and to ask them about their evening. Here’s hoping the actual diners don’t have any doll phobias.