A newly-opened bistro in Clarendon is hoping to attract a slightly more mature crowd in an area known for its youthful nightlife.
Maison Cheryl, located in the former Heritage Brewing space at 2900 Wilson Blvd, had its soft opening last Thursday. The 2,000-square-foot restaurant offers a refined, yet casual spot for Arlingtonians to take dates, meet their neighbors, and explore an ever-evolving menu of drinks, dishes and desserts.
Though the bistro can accommodate nearly 80 people in the dining room, the centerpiece of the eatery is the pristine, marble bar counter, around which strangers and friends gather, talk and indulge in creamy and rich “French-New American” food.
The restaurant’s chef and owner Robert Maher and his wife moved from New York City to Bethesda earlier in the pandemic to be back in his wife’s hometown. He planned to open a restaurant there, but found the Clarendon spot and loved the energy in the neighborhood.
“When I started it, I wanted a restaurant that would look beautiful but also a place you could take a date, but also something that was all-inclusive and not only have good food but have good drinks and have good wine,” said Maher. “I have a real problem. I like to make everybody happy. It’s a good thing, but it keeps you awake at night.”
With many Clarendon nightlife spots catered toward younger adults in their 20s, Maher and general manager Rami Sabri wanted to create a restaurant geared toward older millennials — those in their 30s, starting to settle down in Arlington. In other words, the kind of “elder millennial” that gets made fun of in those Progressive commercials.
The restaurant is planning on officially opening soon after Labor Day. Maher and Sabri said the community response has been very positive so far.
“We already have regulars,” said Sabri. “We have five or six couples who have already come back. Nothing has been sent back, almost nothing boxed.”
“Except my mom. My mom’s like this big,” added Maher, indicating her petite size. “She saves [leftovers] for breakfast the next day.”
Even after being in business less than a week, certain dishes are starting to stand out.
“My favorite dish has to be the fried burrata. It’s really simple, really fresh. There’s something so satisfactory about cutting burrata and it oozing out,” said Maher. “The shrimp with spicy kewpie mayo and cabbage and lime salad, I mean that is probably our number one selling dish.”
Sabri added that the crispy cauliflower always comes back as “a clean plate.”
Maher says menu items will rotate throughout the seasons and depending on what patrons say they’re interested in seeing added.
“My plumber was like, ‘Oh I love bison,’ and I was like, ‘Listen, tell me you’re coming, I will buy some bison and I will put it as a special.’ Anything to make anybody happy,” said Maher.
“I’ll do a separate cocktail menu for brunch,” said Sabri, who’s in charge of the establishment’s drink listings. “We’ll do different kinds of citrus mimosas like blood orange or grapefruit [and] Bloody Marias with tequila as opposed to vodka. If you like Bloody Marys, you’ll like it, but it’s not for the faint of heart.”
Maher said the hours are still being decided on as the restaurant starts to provide the new offerings.
The name Maison Cheryl was chosen by Maher to honor his wife’s late mother, who possessed a “warm spirit and love of the Parisian aesthetic.”
“It was a way to keep her memory alive,” he said.
As for French pastries, Maher, who was trained in French cooking in culinary school, makes each dessert himself, including the baked-to-order madeleines with orange chantilly cream, macerated berries and mint, and the espresso creme brûlée.
“We’re definitely losing a lot of sleep over the desserts,” said Maher.
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