Good Friends, Good Food

Good Friends, Good Food

At 10 on a Wednesday morning, CafŽ Panache, the newest restaurant in the Broadlands Village shopping center, is quiet. The sun pours in through the glass windows that surround the small dining and lounge area, bouncing off the mirror that stretches behind the gleaming bar. The restaurant is decorated in muted, earth tones with dark, wooden tables and chairs that belie the newness of the restaurant.

Owners Patrick McCluskey and Jeffrey Galkin walk through the room, answering the phone and taking the few moments between calls to talk about their restaurant.

"I wouldn't want to be anywhere else than sitting right here," McCluskey said. "It's in my blood. I love this business."

THE ROAD TO opening of CafŽ Panache started years before the village it resides in even existed. In 1991, McCluskey and Galkin were both working at the Market Street Bar and Grill in the Reston Hyatt, McCluskey as a waiter and Galkin as a sautŽ cook. The two stayed at the restaurant for years, McCluskey working up to ma”tre d'â and Galkin becoming the sous chef.

"It was a different approach to a hotel restaurant," Dianne Murphy, who worked with them at Market Street, said. "It was about making a restaurant entertainment for the people who ate there."

After leaving Market Street, McCluskey and Galkin went their separate ways.

GALKIN WORKED at Provence in Washington, D.C., until it closed down in 1998. During the summer of 1997, he had the opportunity to work as an apprentice to a restaurateur in the Bordeaux region of France.

Following the closing of Provence, Galkin worked at Ristorante Geranio in Alexandria and as an executive chef at a French restaurant in Great Falls. For five years, Galkin worked as the executive chef and food and beverage director at the Hidden Creek Country Club before moving to Ohio to become general manager at the Beckett Ridge Country Club.

AFTER LEAVING Market Street, McCluskey started working at the Lansdowne Country Club as an assistant manager. In the five years that he worked there, he worked as the general manager of the Lansdowne Grill, as the manager on duty for the hotel and as the director of security.

"Working as an evening manager was probably the best learning experience job I had," he said. "If someone is upset it is your responsibility to turn them around."

When McCluskey left Lansdowne he also left the restaurant industry all together. For four years, he worked at Federated Insurance, which, McCluskey said, helped him learn the business side of running a restaurant.

Realizing he missed restaurants, McCluskey left his job and went back to waiting tables.

"You have this tangible thing you can give someone and they will leave with a smile on their face," he said. "[With insurance], you are making a great deal of money, but it's not rewarding. At least it wasn't for me."

McCluskey learned that Galkin was working in Ohio after running into a mutual friend.

"Pat started calling me and saying he wanted open his own restaurant," Galkin said.

Happy with the idea of moving back to Virginia, Galkin and his family moved into Belmont, and the two men began to hunt for a location.

McCluskey was working at 321 Ashland when the restaurant closed, and the idea for CafŽ Panache was born.

"Both of our paths have lead us to this point," Galkin said. "To have the confidence to do this."

THE IDEA FOR the restaurant was simple: to create a neighborhood restaurant with food that would be unmatched in the area, Galkin said.

"They wanted to show that you don't have to drive to DC to get that quality of food," Murphy said. "Jeff makes everything fresh Ñ from the fish to the butchering, the meat Ñ it's all fresh."

Galkin is responsible for the food and the kitchen, while McCluskey takes care of the front of the house. CafŽ Panache's dining room seats 65, with 25 additional seats in the lounge area, so the owners are only working with a staff of 13, five in the kitchen and eight out front.

"This is a small, little family," Galkin said.

THE RESTAURANT'S menu consists of everything from a petite Caesar salad and a grilled half-pound sirloin burger to seared rare tuna and grilled portobello and arugula risotto. Galkin and McCluskey also included traditional children's foods on the menu.

"We encourage families," Galkin said. "We want it to be a place where you can bring your kids when you don't want to cook."

As the restaurant, and its staff, settles in, Galkin plans on introducing specials as well as altering the menu according to the season.

McCluskey said their vision was for a very comfortable, unpretentious restaurant where anyone can feel at home.

"We want to be not just for an anniversary or a special occasion," he said. "We want to be obtainable for those people that just want to go out to eat."

"Panache means style and spirit, and the dictionary definition of cafŽ is a small, unpretentious restaurant," Galkin said. "The name embodies what we are trying to achieve."