Meshelle and Cathal Armstrong first discussed the creation of their now popular eatery Restaurant Eve as they shared a bottle of wine at one of their favorite restaurants. Years later, they learned that same restaurant, The Majestic, was about to be turned into a sports bar.
The Armstrongs could not let that happen.
"This restaurant was so important to us and it would have lost its integrity and its history. We knew we had to do something," said Meshelle Armstrong.
The Majestic on King Street first became an Alexandria restaurant in 1932. It closed in 1970. In 2000, the famed restaurant re-opened, this time as The Majestic Cafe. According to Armstrong, even though The Majestic Cafe was bringing in business, conditions were far from ideal. "They went through a couple of chefs; through time things changed and the restaurant went through new operators because people weren't happy with what was happening with The Majestic."
At that point talks began to indicate that The Majestic would be reinvented with a new concept: the sports bar, the thought of which still makes Armstrong shudder. To prevent this monumental change from occurring, the Armstrongs consulted with former Governor Mark Warner, a frequent customer at Restaurant Eve. Official talks began this January, and the Armstrongs reopened The Majestic on the first of May.
"It happened very fast," said Armstrong, who along with her husband, also owns Eamonn's A Dublin Chipper, PX Lounge, and Restaurant Eve.
THE VISION the Armstrongs had of the new Majestic, contained very few significant changes, but several subtle ones.
"We kept the interior of the building, but we warmed it up a lot," said Armstrong. As for the food, she said, "it's a return to comfort, but with better ingredients and better cooking methods."
This "comfort food" includes everything from meatloaf and mashed potatoes to fried green tomatoes.
"It's definitely not trendy. We're never trendy," said Armstrong with a laugh. "We do a mint julep, not a cosmopolitan. We don't do cool, we do good."
Though the restaurant's dishes sound like simple American recipes, The Majestic's chef, Shannon Overmiller, adds a degree of Mediterranean influence to many of her recipes.
"I incorporate French techniques and Italian techniques with the same family style food that I like to eat," said Overmiller, who transferred to The Majestic from the French-inspired Restaurant Eve. Overmiller also has studied cooking in Italy.
Though The Majestic has been booked every night since its opening, Armstrong remained firm that the restaurant will only be open for dinner for the time being.
"I could open up for lunch and brunch right now and take everybody's money," said Armstrong, "but it's a process and I want everything to be perfect."
She did, however, say the restaurant will begin serving lunch at some point over the summer and brunch shortly after.
Despite the restaurant's history and success, Armstrong still is aware of the challenges that come with being what she calls "a mom and pop business." "It can be hard to survive with the competition from the chain restaurants that are everywhere, but what you do is push yourself to provide better service and a better product," she said.