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Alexandria Food Emporium Society Fair Turns to Customers and Community for Help

Fresh, unique, and made on-site are the steady themes that bring customers back at Society Fair. (Photo: Society Fair)

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.

Hand-butchered fresh meats daily and special cuts always available at Society Fair. (Photo: Mary Wadland)
The kitchen is abuzz with fresh-baked breads, cakes and savory standbys for the takeaway entrees and upscale on site cafe. (Photo: Mary Wadland)

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.

The chandeliers and deep purple walls and black and white checked floors create a “Wonka world” inside Old Town Alexandria food emporium and cafe. (Photo: Mary Wadland)

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.”

The cakes at Society Fair are iconic for size and taste. (Photo: Society Fair)

The team has turned to the community and hopes that crowdfunding, which has saved other Mom and Pop businesses in town and nationwide, can come through for them too. Without funding, Society Fair says it will be forced to close its doors on February 6.

To make a donation and help save their gumbo and the “the big fat-ass” cakes, visit their GoFundMe page HERE.

A summer to go specialty is their fresh strawberry shortcake for two that comes with fresh biscuits, strawberries and real whipped cream. (Photo: Marry Wadland)

Society Fair

277 S. Washington Street

Alexandria, VA 22314

(703) 683-3247

Mary Wadland

Mary Wadland is the Publisher and Editor in Chief of The Zebra Press, founded by her in 2010. Originally from Delray Beach, Florida, Mary is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Hollins College in Roanoke, VA and has lived and worked in the Alexandria publishing community since 1987.

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