ALEXANDRIA, VA – Six years ago, celebrity chef and local epicurean genius, Cathal Armstrong, the busy entrepreneur behind the Restaurant Eve (recently closed), Eammons Fish and Chips, Hummingbird and Kaliwa (at the City Wharf in DC), opened an amazing food emporium and cafe called Society Fair in the heart of Old Town.
The stylish and spacious “Wonka-like” space at 277 South Washington Street boasts takeaway entrees and baked treats made in-house that cannot be sourced anywhere else, in an environment that tickles the senses and makes customers beam with wonder and surprise at every turn.
Any day at around 4 am passersby will pick up the aroma of freshly made breads and cakes as the dozens of employees behind the scenes start baking, butchering and pulling together hundreds of masterfully prepared meals for the cold section, the meat and cheese counters and the front of the house bakery all reminiscent of a mini-Harrods in London.
About a year ago, Armstrong made public his plans to go in a different direction when he abruptly closed the shining star in his crown, Restaurant Eve, and turned the reins and sold Society Fair to Restaurant Eve chef, Dan Fisher and well-known sommelier, his partner and wife, Nadine Brown, who left her position at Charlie Palmer’s in DC to become General Manager. Larry Blevins, the incredible sous chef on site and familiar to customers for ages, also stayed aboard and the three have been a tightly efficient team, helping usher the business to its next phase without Armstrong.
Fisher, Brown, and Blevins all have the chops to pull off the project, but have been dealt a few devastating blows. As written on their new GoFundMe page, “2018 was a difficult year to say the least. We lost some amazing staff that went on to new opportunities. We lost our catering manager who went back to her old job. We lost our beloved butcher. It has taken us almost a year to rebuild our staff. In some cases,[it is] even better than it was before. Strong service minded employees. Truly hard-working people like Mo our market manager, and Omar who works the line and makes everyone lunch each day.
December and January with the government shutdown and record-breaking temperatures were like a final one-two punch. This is an unforgiving business at times, and we have made mistakes. Many mistakes over the years. But we believe we have a great product and [a lot of] good will left in the community and many more coconut cakes to share with the world.”