Northern Virginia began reopening under Phase One last Friday, and two friends and I made plans to meet for our first restaurant get-together in three months. We settled on Carlyle, an American mainstay located in the Village at Shirlington, an open-air neighborhood retail area featuring boutique shops and midscale restaurants, in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Arlington, Virginia.
Lunch could not have been more pleasant. Under current rules, only outdoor dining is allowed, for groups of 10 people or fewer, with 6 feet of distance between tables. Not knowing how the restrictions on restaurant capacity would affect the availability of tables, we were pleased to easily make a reservation online for 12:15 on Monday. It was a beautiful clear day as I walked from my Alexandria apartment to the restaurant. The temperature was in the 70s, and there was a light cloud cover. When I arrived, our four-top table on the brick sidewalk was gleaming clean. As required, our menus were disposable. There were no condiments of any kind on the table; servers dispense them only by request under the new rules. The servers all wore masks, though of course we didn’t. Since the table didn’t have any kind of covering, I kept my white cotton hat on, not because the sun was uncomfortably strong, but just because I’m fanatical about protecting my skin.
Over the decades, I’ve enjoyed everything from eggs benedict to mahi mahi at Carlyle, in the dining room, at the bar, and on the sidewalk patio, and never had a bad bite. For Monday’s lunch, I selected one of my go-tos, the lobster club salad.
The “market price” was a little high, but I figured it was okay, since I hadn’t eaten a restaurant meal since March.
My friends had the grilled chicken sandwich with French fries and the crab and shrimp fritters and a Caesar salad. They looked good, but I can’t tell you how they tasted, since we don’t share these days.
At brunch, I love Carlyle’s bellinis, but with lunch I sipped a Yealands sauvingnon blanc, fruity and refreshingly crisp on the warm Spring day.
We chatted for nearly two hours before requesting the check, which came without a jacket of any kind, a little inelegant but expected under the current rules. It was a great lunch, catching up with friends over reliably good food, outside on a perfect Spring afternoon. And we loved the distance between tables. Sidewalk space is at a premium in Shirlington, and before the recent situation, tables would be squeezed close. It’s a much more relaxing experience now. And after everything that’s happened this year, relaxing with friends is what we all need.