This past weekend my wife and I had dinner in Old Town at Virtue Feed and Grain (I’ll use the acronym VFG the rest of the way). VFG is the latest in the Cathal and Mechelle Armstrong Alexandria empire, which also includes Majestic Cafe, the PX and Restaurant Eve.
The empire is growing because these folks know what they’re doing. VFG is a beautiful space for a restaurant. For years an Old Town landmark and Olsson’s book store, the Armstrongs started with a nice foundation with lots of space, wood and glass. Lots of wood remains, with attractive, long bars on both floors, low lighting and a fun yet relaxed vibe.
The menu is described as tradition tavern food of Ireland and here, done with much attention to detail of course. “Gastro-Pub” is another way its been described, and the fare tends to be very flavorful and hearty. Our dishes were that in spades and highly satisfying.
We went really pubby with a start of deviled eggs and fried mushrooms, both very well done. The eggs were pleasantly spicy, and the mushrooms were lightly fried and very plentiful. Our next course was more gastro, a cauliflower “salad” beautifully presented with diced ham, slivers of pecorino cheese and lightly drizzled with an aioli. Not your average dish and a big success.
The entrees continued to combine heartiness with high quality. My wife’s duck was very flavorful and excellent with crunchy hash browns. I had the braised lamb shoulder with parsnips, carrots and spinach and loved it, but could barely finish the plate. Believe me, I rarely can say that in a nice restaurant these days.
VFG is a lot more focused on craft beers than wine, and only offers a short list of reds. Despite that we found a nice accompaniment to the meal, a Martin Ray 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. From Sonoma, the wine had a fruity nose, lightish body and decent tannins to stand up to the food. Easy to drink by Cabernet standards, with a bit of cocoa on the finish. It was also very fairly priced, which might be a positive result of the restaurant favoring beer.
The upstairs at VFG has roughly the same layout but with a more fluid and loungey feel. There is also a large private area perfect for company happy hours and functions. When the weather is warmer there is ample seating on the deck, steps from the Potomac river.
The Armstrongs continue to put their mark on the Alexandria culinary scene. If you’ve liked their other properties, VFG should be right up your alley.
Christopher Parente is managing director and partner of Strategic Communications Group, a social media and public relations consultancy based in Silver Spring, Maryland and Tysons Corner, Virginia. He also publishes Work, Wine and Wheels, a top 100K web site in the United States as measured by Alexa, an online measurement company. You can follow Chris on LinkedIn or Twitter.