|Virtue Feed & Grain interior|
The new Virtue Feed & Grain in Old Town Alexandria is an interesting place. The decor is killer. The chef’s credentials are impeccable. The drinks are unique. The food is a little better than okay.
I have to put a caveat on this. I was with six people. Three of us had the same entree. We did not order from “the weird stuff” section of the menu, which may be where the more adventurous food lies. We stuck with some pretty basic things on this pub food menu. But I expect elevated pub food from restaurateurs Meshelle and Cathal Armstrong, along with partner/mixologist Todd Thrasher, who brought us Restaurant Eve and The Majestic.
Let’s start with the decor. It’s worth a visit. Earthy, rustic, warm, and playful. The building used to be a feed house- hence the name. There is exposed brick and large open windows that peer onto the street below. There is a room with a pool table, video games, and darts. According to the website “the floors, walls, hand-crafted tabletops, and bar shelves are all constructed with period wood, each heralding from a unique past.”
If you can get past the noise, which may be a big if, Virtue Feed & Grain could be a nice place to relax especially if you are lucky enough to be seated on the big comfy couches or the bench swings. We had a nice big table in a corner with a lovely view of South Union Street.
My first decision at Virtue is probably the most difficult. What to drink? Our server is describing everything with such a fondness that I feel like whatever I order will insult the other drinks. My friends, who arrive early, have already had a turn at the bar and the pool table. They tried the mojito and said it was simply “bad.” “Even the bartender agreed, ” they say. Strike that. The server is surprised. I am too, as Todd Thrasher has a stellar reputation for his creations. Must be some deviation by the surly (according to my friends) bartender. I go with the green apple martini. My friend orders one of the hoptails (beer cocktails), which had I been a beer lover (or even liker) I would certainly have tried. I like the fresh, tart, green apple martini. It hits the spot. My friend likes his hoptail but is dismayed by the small size. On his second round he opts for a bottle of beer instead.
On to the food. We begin with the “Morsels and Tidbits” side of the menu. Buffalo wings are nicely crisped and have an appropriate amount of heat. But I am hoping for something to distinguish them from buffalo wings I’ve had everywhere and anywhere else, and this doesn’t happen.
|Virtue Feed & Grain chicken wings|
We also have stuffed potato skins and garlic mushrooms. The garlic mushrooms could use a little more crisp. The potatoes are just potatoes…perfectly ordinary. The quality of the food is starting to feel completely incongruous with the setting.
On to the “Vittles & Fare” section of the menu.Three of us order scallops with risotto. Points for the scallops being cooked perfectly, as is the risotto. The risotto is a touch too salty which may be due to some teensy flecks of bacon in it. The scallops are …for lack of a better word…fine. The virtues of the dish are somewhat lacking.
|Virtue Feed & Grain scallops and risotto|
One friend has Farm House chicken and chips, which he enjoys. The chicken is moist and tender. The kitchen is getting things right in preparation. It is the seasoning that is lackluster.
Two diners in our party are much happier with their food. My husband has rockfish with colcannon (mashed potatoes and kale), an Irish-inspired evening special. He loves the flavor of the fish, the sauce, and the accompanying colcannon. (I wish I had taken a bite, as it looks really good in his photo!)
|Virtue Feed & Grain rockfish|
Another friend is enthusiastic about his haddock chowder, which he has seen someone eating at the bar. It has a delicious smoky flavor. I know if I was a mussel-eater, I would have adored this dish. (No beer. No mussels for me. I may need to give these things another try some day).
|Virtue Feed & Grain haddock chowder|
Our check arrives in a mini burlap feedbag, which I must say I find adorable.
One curious thing about the menu selections is how heavy they are. I cannot warm up to the thought of macaroni and cheese or chicken pot pie on a hot summer night. I would be happy to try them in January, however. I am left feeling like I need another visit here before attaching a final rating. I believe there are undiscovered virtues in the food that I am not able to explore on this visit. I really, really want to like the food at Virtue Feed & Grain every bit as much as I like the feel of the place.
I realize with some delight that since we are in Alexandria, it is not out of the way to swing by Buzz Bakery.
I am already quite familiar with the virtues of the bakery that produces some of my very favorite cupcakes. I will not think about the fact that I was in the Clarendon location the previous evening after dining at Willow Restaurant. I absolutely should not eat another cupcake. But of course this does not stop me. In two visits I am able to sample the blueberry “pie” cupcake, peachy keen cupcake, and the berry lovely cupcake. I am unable to identify a favorite. They are each perfect in their own way- moist cake, not too sweet frosting, and fresh fruit in the middle. I wish there was a Buzz Bakery in Montgomery County or even in DC, but perhaps it is best for me that there is not.
It is important to note that Virtue Feed and Grain, of the EatGoodFood Group and Buzz Bakery, of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group (Birch & Barley, Rustico, Vermilion, among others) are two powerhouse restaurant groups that are making a significant impact on the quality of dining in the DC area. Their establishments are my kind of virtual reality.
Virtue Feed & Grain, 106 South Union Street, Alexandria, Va.
Buzz Bakery | Alexandria, 901 Slaters Lane