Society Fair gets a second chance

After Society Fair’s closing scare, the Alexandria retail shop and restaurant continue baking, butchering—and feeding their neighbors.

Photo by Rey Lopez

Society Fair, started by Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong (known for the now-shuttered Restaurant Eve), offered a little bit of everything to Old Town.

It’s part bistro, with a live demo kitchen for Friday nights and brunch; a catering operation (including hosting weddings); a bakery (baguettes, croissants and a killer egg-and-cheese biscuit sandwich for $4.50) with a wholesale business; a butcher shop (cures its own bacon); a gourmet retail shop (when you need pickled mussels); a wine shop (plenty of Virginia labels); and just a little bit of a bodega (eggs, bananas, onions). The vast cold case offers to-go dinners (lasagna, fried chicken, butter chicken, New Mexican pork stew), soups, soba noodles, olives and tubs of duck fat.

In 2017, Dan Fisher, a partner and the opening chef of Society Fair, with his wife Nadine Brown, a wine professional (formerly at Charlie Palmer Steak) took over the business, even though it already showed financial trouble. By February of this year, with the numbers still not working, Fisher’s dad stopped the payments keeping it afloat. The team started a crowdfunding campaign, and though they didn’t raise enough money to completely swing around, they stirred enough attention to get a reprieve from the landlord, love from the community and just a little more time to sell their famed coconut cake. // Society Fair: 277 S. Washington St., Alexandria

Shopkeeper Picks
Photo by Rey Lopez

Bolt Bottle Cold Brew Coffee, $5.99
Made in Alexandria, “it’s one thing people come in for, and it’s local,” says Brown.

Photo by Rey Lopez

Pimento Cheese, $6.99
Housemade with spicy chipotle, it “has a little bit of a kick to it,” says Brown.

Photo by Rey Lopez

Shrub District, $11.99
The vinegar-based cocktail mixer comes in flavors like blueberry basil and pineapple allspice. It’s a local product Brown likes to promote: “It’s small businesses helping each other out,” she says.

Photo by Rey Lopez

Blue Valley Viognier (Delaplane), $23
“It’s interesting, very bright, clean and true to the varietal,” says Brown. It’s also available by the glass in the bistro.

This post originally appeared in our April 2019 issue of the print magazine. Want more food content? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

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