Inn at Little Washington Chef Will Fill His Socially Distanced Dining Room With Midcentury Mannequins

The three Michelin-starred destination will also have Marilyn Monroe masks.

Photograph courtesy of the Inn at Little Washington.

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.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.