Full disclosure: I feel conflicted writing this positive review for the Majestic Cafe in Old Town Alexandria. Not because the restaurant doesn’t deserve the praise. It does. But it’s tough enough to get a reservation for dinner, particularly on the weekend. I may just be guaranteeing myself a spot on the sidewalk alongside all those tourists unable to score a table.
The Majestic touts itself as serving “American classics” that are “pure and simple.” A straightforward statement that, while true, doesn’t say enough about the wonderful food and service patrons have come to expect from The Majestic and its talented chef, Shannon Overmiller. The Majestic is part of the growing restaurant empire of Chef Cathal Armstrong, who hails from Dublin and, along with his wife, Meshelle, also owns Old Town’s Restaurant Eve, Eammon’s: A Dublin Chipper, Virtual Feed & Grain, and Society Fair. Overmiller worked under Cathal Armstrong at Restaurant Eve and shares his passion for sourcing local foods from the land and the sea.
Ingredients are important, of course, but what a chef does with those ingredients is the true test. On this score, The Majestic soars. We began our meal with two simple small plates—sauteed mushrooms with ramps and spring onions, and fettuccine carbonara with peas, bacon, Parmesan, and quail egg. For the uninitiated, a ramp is a cross between a leek and an onion. The pairing with the mushrooms was perfect, the ramps adding a slight crunch and tartness to the dish. The mushrooms, a beautiful carmel brown, were flavorful and not over cooked. Such a simple dish, but so often not prepared well. The Majestic’s version hit the mark.
We opted for fish dishes and congratulated ourselves on our choices. The note below the local blue catfish provided incentive: “A tasty way to save the local ecosystem. Make the right choice, it’s delicious!” And it was. The catfish was served with sauteéd chive flowers, squash blossoms, spring onions, sunchokes, scallion-ginger sauce. The fish was perfectly cooked and the sauce was spicy without being hot.
Our second choice was the soft shelled crabs, crispy and served with ramps, peas, fava beans, house cured bacon, Meyer lemon cream, pea shoots, and griddled olive bread. A seasonal favorite, this dish would have made a Maryland crab house proud.
Dessert? We couldn’t resist when we discovered coconut cake on the menu. This is coconut cake that could have come out of your grandmother’s kitchen. The slice was generous, more than enough for two people. Yet the cake was light, the frosting sprinkled with fresh coconut, sweet without being cloying. The perfect end to the meal.
Beside the food, the ambiance at The Majestic adds to the overall enjoyment of dining out. Servers are knowledgeable and efficient. And we must call out the elegant Schott Zwiesel glassware. Booths are comfortable and allow privacy and tables are spaced far enough apart for comfortable seating. The exterior neon sign, as well as furnishings in the dining room, harken back to another time when art deco design dominated and good food and good service went hand in hand. At The Majestic, those standards still prevail.
911 King Street