Restaurant on Main Street serves sandwiches, soups, and more
Ellie herself is running about greeting guests and asking what they want to eat when I arrive at Ellie’s Place restaurant on Main Street in downtown Warrenton for a chat about her new eatery. I order a uniquely named Drum and Strum BLT sandwich made with pimento cheese, Ellie brings me a bag of chips to the table, and her parents agree to join us for a conversation. Even though it’s Ellie’s Place, she needs a little help from Mom and Dad; after all, she is only three and a half years old.
Ellie jumps into a seat at one of the nine inside tables. She is carrying a can of Old Bay seasoning, which she politely returns to the shelf when I tell her that I don’t really need it. Apparently, some customers ask for it for the lobster and crab bisque from the menu. She tells me her parents named the restaurant Ellie’s Place because, when her family first entered the empty lower level suite in the heart of downtown last spring, she told her parents she liked it and named it after herself then and there. Her parents agreed.
With Ellie’s approval, her parents Ann and Zan Dial signed the lease in May and held their grand opening on July 4th of this year. Since then, they say they have been warmly welcomed by other downtown merchants and local government representatives, as well as residents and employees of Old Town businesses stopping by for lunch. Sometimes, luncheon guests choose to eat at one of the outside tables or take lunch with them back to their office for themselves and co-workers.
Ellie says she leaves the food preparation to her parents, especially her dad, who studied culinary arts at the University of South Carolina and has experience as a personal chef and caterer, as well as a restaurant owner at a previous restaurant in Middleburg. After dabbling in political science in college and considering the possibility of life as a lawyer, he realized what he really enjoyed was preparing dishes and catering. He admitted he enjoyed watching chefs like Julia Childs on television and went back to school to pursue his real passion.
Zan initially became involved with restaurants in Charleston and Columbia in his native South Carolina before working as a personal chef and starting his own catering business. Using his former involvement in political studies, he contacted friends in northern Virginia who were working on Capitol Hill to see how he could become involved in catering for politicians in D.C. He moved to Virginia and began providing catering for individual congressmen and senators and their associates and friends. He helped cater a variety of fundraisers, including a major fund-raising event to support St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. He also has done catering for lavish events in New York, including at The Hamptons.
Some ten years ago, Ann entered his life. Raised in a baker’s family in West Virginia, just across from Cumberland, Maryland, Ann found that she and Zan had mutual interests, and Ann began offering him ideas for catering jobs. Five years ago, they married; eighteen months later Ellie joined the team. They moved to Sterling and became owners of Federal Street Café in Middleburg until closing it two years ago when the cost of the lease was raised dramatically. In December of last year, they purchased a house near The Plains, and in May acquired the lease for the location of Ellie’s Place at 70 Main Street.
When you enter Ellie’s Place, just below street level, you will find a menu offering a wide variety of sandwiches—including ones you can build yourself, soups—including the lobster and crab bisque, salads, and baked potatoes with various toppings. Gluten-free items are also on the menu. You can top off your lunch with a cheesecake brownie or a cookie; during my visit, homemade chocolate-chip cookies were available. A favorite: Ellie’s features a special J. Tucker Harvest Salad topped with a double order of chicken salad.
Zan also offers catering, something that helped him get started in the restaurant business. He has already catered some local events, including the Boys and Girls Club Skeet Shoot and meetings of the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors. He is eager to talk to other organizations who may be interested and indicates he is very flexible in what he can provide, literally “catering” to the wishes of his customers.
Something to look forward to and that will definitely bring me back is the hand-dipped Hershey’s ice cream Ellie’s will begin to serve after freezers are installed. Zan and Ann also are planning to possibly expand their hours of operation to include opening on Sundays. I can just imagine stopping by for a cone of ice cream after church or a Sunday morning walk, especially if Ellie is there to welcome me with her cheerful smile and child enthusiasm. After all, it is her place.
Ellie’s is currently open on Monday through Friday from 11 to 4, and on Saturday from 11 to 3. The website is at elliesplaceonmain.com or you can call at 540-216-7810.