Tue 16 Dec 2008
In the Holy Trinity of Cathal Armstrong restaurants, The Majestic lies squarely in the center. Not as come-as-you-are casual as Eammon’s Dublin Chipper, not as high end as Restaurant Eve. Nope, The Majestic is essentially a dressed up diner offering classic American comfort food done well. Done really well, actually.
The Majestic is an adopted child of Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong, the husband and wife powerhouse behind Restaurant Eve, Eammon’s and PX. The restaurant originally opened in 1932 but passed through many hands and identities before being taken on by the Armstrongs and their team. I like what they’ve done with the place.
Like the pink beacon of their neon light, The Majestic extends a warm, casual welcome to all who cross its threshold. The space is long and narrow, with a cozy bar area and buttery yellow walls that warm up the long dining room. The ceiling is designed to disperse sound, so you don’t feel like you need to shout to be heard across the table even when the room is full. One of The Majestic’s best traits, though, (besides the food, which we’ll get to after the jump) is the kitchen. Situated at the end of the long, narrow restaurant, the kitchen is open with its staff on display. While this is a common trend in restaurants today, what makes The Majestic different is the smells. Unlike Central, for example, there is no glass shielding the kitchen staff from the diners. Walking into the dining room is like walking into grandma’s kitchen just before dinner is served. You may not be able to put your finger on exactly what smells so good, but you know it is familiar.
The environment and food attract Old Town locals and destination diners alike, as well as a few DC-style celebrities. At one dinner in November we shared the dining room with Virginia Sen. Mark Warner.
Our favorite menu items after the jump!
True to its promise, The Majestic serves up classic American fare with little fuss. And they aren’t joking about the ‘classic.’ You’ll find all mom’s favorites on the menu, like meatloaf and pork chops, alongside items from an earlier generation, like calf’s liver. The menu usually features a few simply prepared dishes Mom may not have tried at home, like whole grilled branzino, which I found succulent and perfectly seasoned. It also made for the entertainment of the evening as my dining partners were not nearly as comfortable as I was with my meal’s dead fish eyes staring back at them. (Be sure to order this if you are dining with children.) The meatloaf is as moist and dense as any I’ve had from a home kitchen. The Caesar salad is made tableside with flourish; you can watch each ingredient go into the mixing bowl and adjust amounts to your taste. Anchovies? Yes please. The ravioli – made in house, naturally – reflects the current season. I sampled a delicious butternut squash ravioli in November and an equally gorgeous ricotta and cauliflower ravioli in early December.
The down home theme intensifies on Sunday when the kitchen serves up “Nana’s Sunday Dinner.” Meals are served family style, designed to share and be passed around the table. This philosphy continues right into dessert which includes a whole pie. Dessert at the Majestic is nothing to sneeze at. Options are classic and hearty (Key Lime pie, anyone?), as are the portions. Order all you want but I recommend several forks for a single dish.
The Majestic is making a steady climb into our list of favorite restaurants. The familiar comfort food – who doesn’t need a little comforting these days? – and warm environment are the perfect antidote to cold nights in an uncertain world.