As cars drive by the Bailiwick Inn on Route 123, drivers might catch a glimpse of Huseyin Kansu waving at them as he sips wine from the front porch.
Lynn Miller, Kansu’s partner in the new restaurant that occupies the inn’s ground floor, La Rue 123, said everybody knows him. Kansu’s popularity stems from his partnership at Le Tire Bouchon, a fine French restaurant located just down the street, which ended last year. He’s trying to bring his loyal customers from that establishment into his new place, which also features fine French cuisine.
"I want to be the best in Fairfax. I want my local customers to feel good about this place," said Kansu. "Fairfax is growing; there’s a lot of potential here."
In addition to painting the walls in the restaurant a tiered yellow and burgundy, Kansu and Miller have added burgundy window treatments to warm up the feeling of the dining room. The building itself is responsible for the restaurant’s quaint atmosphere. The inn is one of the city’s many historic buildings, and stepping inside feels like walking into the Civil-War-era South. The nine rooms in the inn remain vacant, as Miller and Kansu have not worked out a lease arrangement with the owners. But they plan to, Miller said.
They have already gutted the Thomas Jefferson bedroom on the ground floor and are in the process of turning it into a bar and lounge. The walls are now painted yellow, and two long windows help brighten the small room up.
The two rooms just across the hall are still dining areas, but Miller and Kansu have been using them for private parties too. The adjoining rooms can be separated so the restaurant can host two small private parties simultaneously, or the rooms can serve as one large room. Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock) recently threw a campaign fund-raiser there, with one room serving as a cocktail area, while the other featured hor'deurves set up in a buffet-style setting
While the inn has a very upscale feel to it, Miller and Kansu wanted to make it more inviting. The dress code is somewhat relaxed. For men, jackets are not required, but shorts are not allowed.
As for the inn, if Miller and Kansu can lease it, they plan to upgrade the rooms just a tiny bit. The rooms are cozy, and each one features a different design, but some of them could use a little touching up, said Miller.
IN THE MEAN TIME, Kansu said he doesn’t want people driving by to think of the Bailiwick Inn and La Rue 123 as a bed and breakfast, because it’s not. Miller said they wouldn’t likely serve breakfast even if they acquire the inn, depending on the circumstances. If several guests are staying in the rooms for several days, it would be worth it to open up the kitchen and serve breakfast, she said. Tentatively, though, the in-room coffee makers and a continental breakfast would have to do.
As for renovations, the entire first floor has gone through a small transformation from the days of Christina’s, the restaurant that previously operated where La Rue 123 now does. In addition to the fresh paint and cocktail lounge addition, Miller said they doubled the size of the original kitchen by transforming a small bedroom into a kitchen addition. The restaurant has four main dining areas now, two of which serve as private party rooms, when booked. So far, Miller said they’ve done everything from bridal showers and rehearsal dinners, to corporate functions and a bachelor party.
It’s the history of the building though that Miller said helps make the inn, and restaurant, so special.
"There’s really no other place like it in Fairfax City," said Miller.
The previous tenant of the inn, Bonnie McDaniel, had her own plans for the place. She operated the inn and Christina’s, the ground floor fine-dining restaurant, but her plans to purchase the building didn’t work out with the owners, she said. McDaniel opened a bakery just around the corner, Sweet Christina’s, which was to serve as a complement to the inn and restaurant, which she said was doing well when she had to close it.
The bakery is thriving too, she said, even if her original idea for the collective businesses fell through.
"I expanded the bakery to a café, because I needed my restaurant business to continue," she said. "People come in for lunch everyday."
In addition to freshly baked breads and sweets, McDaniel offers quiches, gourmet sandwiches, tarts and salads. She also makes an herbed chicken dish with homemade chutney, which she said has become one of her more popular items. Now that the café is her sole city food business, she’s taking pride in ensuring its success.
AT LA RUE 123, the menu features French cuisine, including delicacies and typical fine dining fare. The lobster bisque is smooth and decadent, but not overly rich or creamy as it often is in restaurants. A tiny hint of truffle oil brings out the elegance in the bisque, without overpowering its flavor.
Considered delicacies in many parts of the world, the chef prepares eclectic menu items, at least for Fairfax. Foie Gras, which is specially fattened (force-fed) goose or duck liver, and veal sweetbreads, which are thymus glands near the heart or in the throat of young calves, are prepared with pride.
Wild game menu items include venison and lamb, and the seafood selection is also ample, including sea bass, swordfish, salmon, Alaskan halibut and Gulf shrimp.
And the wine is a must. The list is extensive, covering new and old world wines and several varietals from California, Oregon, Virginia, Italy, France and Germany.