“It’s a very personal story,” chef and restaurateur Cathal Armstrong tells ARLnow about the Irish pub’s origins. “There are pubs all over Ireland that have great food and I wanted to show that… and be respectful to my grandparents.”
Mattie and Eddie’s is named after the Dublin native’s grandparents — Martha and Eddie — and the logo featuring two well-dressed figures was designed by Armstrong’s brother.
“Every restaurant we’ve ever done… is an expression of something personal,” he says. “Each one has its own sense of community… and I’ve always wanted to do something along my own heritage, my own roots.”
In late March, Mattie and Eddie’s opened its doors in the former Siné space at Westpost (formerly Pentagon Row).
“It wasn’t necessarily something we planned. It just kind of fell into my lap. The landlord reached out to us and they had a space available and asked if I was interested,” says Armstrong. “It was just a kind of serendipity.”
This is Armstrong’s eleventh restaurant and first in Arlington since Society Fair closed on Columbia Pike in 2014.
He says Pentagon City offers a chance to be near a nexus of restaurant-goers; those commuting on Metro, those who live in the big apartment buildings close by, office workers and nearby Amazon employees, and tourists staying at hotels. Plus, there’s plenty of parking for those who choose to drive.
It also was attractive that Westpost has become somewhat of a magnet for buzzy restaurant concepts in recent months, from Bun’d Up and its new mahjong bar Sparrow Room to just-opened Lucky Danger to Nighthawk Pizza, which set to start serving later this year.
“That’s definitely a big appeal because people have a tendency to go to where there’s a lot of activity,” says Armstrong. “They might go to Nighthawk Pizza for dinner and come to us for a pint afterwards… There’s a perfect kind of symbiosis of restaurants feeding off each other.”
He admits business hasn’t fully returned to what could have been expected pre-pandemic. Armstrong says they are still operating at about 50% of what the restaurant is capable of.
But he remains encouraged that things will continue in a positive direction. Nothing made him feel more like things were slowly getting back to normal than the day in May when Virginia allowed bar seating again.
“I didn’t even realize it…. until the stools came back, that it was just kind of sad without bar stools,” he says, “And now it’s much more fun and lively.”
Nonetheless, Armstrong — like many others — are concerned about the Delta variant, vaccination rates, and increasing COVID cases.
“I’m kind of conservatively expecting not to get back to what we would call normal before spring of next year,” he says.
As for the future, Armstrong has toyed with opening a scaled-down version of Restaurant Eve (which closed in Old Town Alexandria three years ago) and maybe a more modern-styled Irish restaurant.
But, for right now, he’s happy with sticking to his other restaurants and shepherding Mattie and Eddie’s.
“I don’t foresee myself doing anything else for a couple of years,” says Armstrong. “We’ve got to get back to normal first.”
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