Part sports bar, part pub, part video arcade (remember those?) and part gourmet sandwich shop, Virtue Feed and Grain will definitely appeal to at least one prominent diner — the chef of the place.
“I got to have somewhere to watch rugby,”says Cathal Armstrong, the four-star chef behind Restaurant Eve’s Tasting Room.
Armstrong just wrote the menu last week for Virtue, which is a good thing, because the two-story operation in Old Town Alexandria is scheduled to open May 25, the chef says.
The menu will have about 14 appetizers, 14 main dishes and seven sandwiches, including house-made corned beef. Other items will include pickled beets, kidneys braised in red wine, crab cakes, shad roe, oysters on the half shell, baked clams, cockles and mussels, and (I kid you not) a chili cheesedog. Armstrong got the idea for the last item when he attended a Super Bowl party hosted by Eve general manager and sommelier Todd Thrasher, who made a pot of chili and ordered organic sausages from a local butcher.
“That’s where you get some ideas,” Armstrong deadpans.
The chef is still debating about whether to add a hamburger to the menu. “The only disadvantage to doing a burger is it sells so much that you don’t sell anything else,” he says. “That’s the only reservation.”
Virtue, named for the old grain operation once housed in the historic building, plans to join the growing legion of beer emporiums. It will boast 24 or 25 beers on tap as well as an additional 40 to 60 bottles, Armstrong says. There will also be a small wine list and some “fun cocktails” from Thrasher.
“He’s working on them,” Armstrong says. “We still have a month to go.”
Aside from the food and drink, Virtue will offer a game room with a pool table, darts and three old-fashioned video machines, including Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Space Invaders. The place will sport a 100-inch TV along with seven other smaller tellies. Armstrong plans to open Virtue early when there’s a big soccer game on the tube, which means the establishment will occasionally have breakfast available.
But, given Armstrong’s ancestry, does the chef consider Virtue an Irish pub?
“I didn’t want to pigeonhole it into being Irish,” says Armstrong, noting that Virtue will draw upon Mid-Atlantic influences and even “The James Beard Cookbook.” “It is influence by Ireland, but it’s not an Irish pub.”
Virtue Feed and Grain will be located at 106 S. Union St. in the old Olsson’s Books location in Old Town.