The following review appears in The Washington Post’s 2017 Fall Dining Guide.
Field & Main
When he was studying at the Culinary Institute of America in the early 2000s, Neal Wavra imagined his ideal restaurant to be a relaxed, community-focused place where, as he says, “you’d see farmers dining next to you.” Field & Main is the restaurateur’s bricks-and-mortar reality, a cozy gathering place for local winemakers and other producers to eat unfussy food. Just a year old, the place hums along as if everyone has been pampering you for decades. Encouraged in part by an adventurous clientele, chef Anthony Nelson has broadened his menu to include more international accents — scallops might arrive in coconut broth — while shining a light on what’s seasonal. Summer’s chicken confit fit corn in both a salsa and grits tricked out with huitlacoche (a.k.a. corn smut). From the wood-burning oven exit such simple pleasures as a pork chop gussied up with Nelson’s all-purpose SMR sauce, a soy-mirin reduction shot through with foie gras puree. How rich! The can’t-miss dish, though, is a whole onion, softened in the hearth and stuffed with brie, brioche croutons and beef jus. Who knew French onion soup could be improved on — or polished off with a fork?
2 1/2 stars
Field & Main: 8369 W. Main St., Marshall, Va. 540-364-8166. fieldandmainrestaurant.com.
Prices: Mains $18-$40.
Sound check: 71 decibels / Must speak with raised voice.
The following review appeared in The Washington Post’s 2016 Fall Dining Guide.
New as of Labor Day, this rural restaurant already counts a fan club. Owners Neal and Star Wavra excel as hosts, Anthony Nelson cooks like a dream, and what’s not to like when some of the folks sharing the arty dining rooms happen to be purveyors? Consider that a tip to try a glass of red from the nearby RDV Vineyards or beef from Martin’s Farms in The Plains, Va. The latter benefits, as do so many dishes in this rambling structure, from a Nelson-designed wood-fired hearth. Other early draws include chicken-filled raviolo, salads built around grains, blushing roast beef and side dishes worthy of center stage (dig the garlicky potatoes). Next to the restaurant is a sandwich shop, Riccordino’s, serving memories from Wavra’s Chicago-area youth. Don’t even think of asking for ketchup on your hot dog.
The following was originally published Sept. 16, 2016.
Field & Main, reviewed: Hearth-warming, and nicely done
After a customer at Field & Main sings the praises of its sparkling green salad, the owner of the long-awaited restaurant in Marshall, Va., tells her the guy behind the salad’s dressing and the owner of Lindera Farms Vinegars, Daniel Liberson, “is right upstairs!”
The takeaway: Community connections are so strong here, some of what you eat or drink is bound to have come from someone sitting near you.
It’s been two years since Neal Wavra and his wife and business partner, Star, left the Ashby Inn in nearby Paris to begin plans for a rural restaurant that spoke to area residents. They found what they were looking for on Main Street in Marshall: a vacant two-story building that had been a tavern once, albeit in the late 1800s. Back then, says Neal Wavra, area roads ran “from the field to the main street.” Hence the name of the couple’s restaurant, which debuted just before Labor Day with 80 seats spread over multiple spare dining areas, including a kitchen counter.
The floors slant a bit. Simple linen curtains try to block out the sun. Since opening, Field & Main has grown artier, on the walls in particular. Already a hit with locals, the second-floor bar entertains patrons with more than good libations. On the wall is a life-size image of a sheep standing before the Blue Ridge Mountains, a scene enlarged from a photograph taken by Molly Peterson of Heritage Hollow Farms in Sperryville. (Her subject’s name is Brian.)
Field & Main taps the know-how of chef Anthony Nelson, a Colorado native who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 2004 with Neal Wavra and most recently cooked at the reputable Lockland Table in Nashville. I could make a meal of just the first courses, whimsies that include a risotto of sorghum berries, their faint sweetness set off with sauteed mushrooms and a drift of goat cheese, and fried julienned pig ear, treated like a Buffalo chicken wing with hot sauce, blue cheese and shaved celery. Sweet scallops atop lightly charred cabbage leaves bridge the haute and the humble. A shareable snack, creamed spinach dip is loose enough to suggest soup; intrigue comes by way of smoked butter in the spread, which is dropped off with fingers of flatbread. To retain the green’s essence, Nelson adds the spinach to the hot cream to order.
“From the Hearth” is a collection of entrees prepared in a 10-foot-wide hearth designed by the chef and fueled with oak, hickory and cherry woods. Although whole-roasted rockfish took on more char from the fire than ideal, every other ingredient I sampled from the hearth, including brined chicken, had benefited from its time there. The beef in particular makes extraordinary eating, be it blushing slices of roast beef or thick rib-eye steak, simply seasoned with salt and pepper. Both cuts come from Martin’s Beef in The Plains, Va., and are served with a soy-mirin sauce enriched with pureed foie gras — unnecessary, but heady.
Common side dishes reveal uncommon flair. Collard greens pick up heat from Sriracha and depth from bacon that has been hung over smoking grapevines. Desserts are basics done (mostly) right. Head for the cookie plate, then, rather than the bacon-maple-chocolate cake whose stiff frosting bends at the touch of a fork.
Table-hopping turns out to be as much an activity as chewing. Isn’t that Brian Noyes, the owner of Red Truck Bakery across the street? Elsewhere, winemaker Rutger de Vink of RdV Vineyards is shaking hands like a politician. When someone compliments Wavra on the beef, the host encourages the diner to meet its producer — sitting a dining room away.
To the side of the newcomer is another Wavra enterprise, Riccordino’s, a small sandwich shop that makes use of leftover parts from the restaurant’s whole-animal butchery and offers the kinds of basics Neal Wavra, a native of suburban Chicago, grew up eating. So there are sandwiches with meatballs, shaved beef and Italian sausage, as well as hot dogs, the Windy City’s great unifier. Vegetarian novelty comes by way of a whole cooked carrot, spiced with coriander and mustard and slipped into a bun.
The point? “We welcome all,” says Wavra. The way he sees it, “a $4 hot dog is within everyone’s reach.”