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Innkeeping Now Is McDaniel's Bailiwick

New owner plans to put fresh face on historic property.

At least one person will enjoy Bonnie McDaniel's new remodeling project. "My husband's happy because it won't cost him money anymore," McDaniel said.

Her new project is "freshening up" the Bailiwick Inn, located at 4023 Chain Bridge Road in Fairfax, which she has owned since October. Owning an inn, said McDaniel, has always been a dream. "It's been evolving to this point."

"I think it's great," said Fairfax resident Mary Caprino of the changes. Caprino has visited the Inn several times, and her daughter works there.

McDaniel grew up in Florida but now lives in Fairfax City where she and her husband have renovated a house. She has published a book, "In the Eye of the Storm," and is a contributor on a local television news station.

Some of the changes to the Inn will be cosmetic, but other changes will be more noticeable. "Bonnie's got all of these new ideas," said Will Dodge, who has worked at the Inn for more than five years. "She doesn't want to completely change things; she wants to build on them."

For example, the Inn will feature a new gourmet dessert and gift shop, which will have a separate entrance from the Inn. "It's actually a continuation of a dessert business I already have," McDaniel said. The Inn will host a high tea on Tuesdays and Sundays from 3:30-5 p.m., and it will sell its own line of about 15 teas.

McDaniel has some changes in mind for the hotel business, as well. One room that had been serving as a guest room is being renovated to become a private dining room, and another will be used to accommodate the expansion of the kitchen. In total, the number of guest rooms — named after famous Virginians — will drop from 14 to 10.

McDaniel has renamed the restaurant "Christina's" in honor of her daughter, a student at Howard University. She hopes to have a set of doors, which now overlook a rear courtyard, become the restaurant entrance, to draw more guests who are not staying at the Inn. She also has plans to begin a Sunday brunch and hopes to start it before the end of the year.

THE HEAD CHEF, Nicholas Cool, has been with the Bailiwick for 2 1/2 years, and he will remain at his post. Cool's favorite thing to eat is a sandwich — he uses at least five ingredients per sandwich. His favorite thing to cook is "anything I haven't cooked before," he said.

Cool described his cuisine as playful twists on classic dishes. For example, instead of a standard surf and turf of lobster and filet mignon, he might serve foie gras and tuna. "I also use some of the lesser known sauces," he said. The menu will likely change seasonally, Cool said.

The decor in the dining room will also change, McDaniel said. During a trip to the White House, she was greatly impressed with the gold tones of the dining room there. "We're going to get a gold dining room," she said of the Inn.

The addition of the doors, McDaniel hopes, will contribute to making general use of the garden and terrace in the rear of the Inn. The brick-walled courtyard had wrought-iron seating and tables and a water feature, which helps give the area a rustic feel, even though it is in the heart of downtown.

McDaniel wants to capitalize on this by allowing the area to be even more open than it already is. Additionally, an upstairs sitting room will expand to include a porch for outside relaxation. "I want to make use of every part of the Inn," she said.