Own It

Ole What’s-His-Name, CHEF Robert Wiedmaier, owns the whole dang block, and then some. The man has too many vowels in his name. Okay, okay, he knows what he’s doing. I admit it, the name of my cafe is The Sour Grapes. 

Restraint required when reading the don’t-break-your-arm testimonial on the Weiaedemaeieire empire site.

Acclaimed Chef Robert Wiedmaier realizes his culinary vision in Old Town Alexandria. Adjacent to Lorien Hotel & Spa, BRABO RestaurantBRABO Tasting Room and The Butcher’s Block Market each uniquely express the sensibilities of this much admired chef. Recently nominated the RAMMY’s (Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington) “Chef of the Year,” Chef Wiedmaier’s Belgian roots, classical training and creativity clearly inspire dishes that are deliciously distinctive and satisfying.

Left upper lip quivering hard into a sneer. Resist. Resist. Resist. Up here on the high road, I know it takes a big ego to own a success of this grandeur.

Up here on the high road, on my block in South Arlington, eyes squinted tight, I can’t even make out the signs for Brabo or the Butcher’s Block or Brasserie Beck. A pair of binoculars would be needed to read the menus. That and a fresnel lens.

Drat-a-tat-tat.  We are stranded in a sea of single family dwellings.

The corner store of my dreams looks like this, with a candy counter just out of view stage left and the homegoods and hardware stage right. Cue the cranky old lady behind the cash register.

Robert’s neighbor, CHEF Ruth Gresser of Pizzeria Paradiso, turned me on and brought me in to the Butcher’s Block for a sandwich. Forgive me, I knew nothing of this place. Old Town Alexandria is too olde and towne for me, although mine is a case of “do not like”, not to be mistaken for “it’s not good.”


It is good, just the right mix of olde and towne to sprout blocks and blocks of sweet boutiques. With Ruth, never to be seen in a garment even vaguely nautical in style, I felt shielded from the precious and earnest WASPs tiptoeing between the cracks in the charming brick sidewalks. Them and tourists. Those cracks have chomped more of my high heels than I can shake a baguette at. I wore proper sandwich shoes – sturdy flats that leave you in peace to eat.

Speaking of neighbors, Route 11 Chips are our Virginia neighbors in Mount Jackson – not so close the exhaust sheens our homes with a patina of frying grease, but close enough to secure bragging rights. I am proud to be a Virginian when Route 11 is on topic.


Does Ruth know a sandwich worth eating when she sees one? Yes, she does. Bread parens and the stuff between are assembled and carried and consumed daily at all her pizzerias. The bread alone sustains. Not that I’m calling the fillings superfluous. Nope. What’s good for the pizza is good for the ‘wich. 

Perhaps following my successful crusade to Bring Back the Corner Store – mixed zoning please! – Ruth and Robert would like to be my neighbors and they will bring their brick and mortar, yeast and meat, aprons and hails, cheeses and chips, and – need it be mentioned? – sandwiches into my hood.

Oh to hear those words leave my lips, “Walk on down to the corner and get us some lunch, honey. I’m hungry for a sandwich. Yup, you may get some bubble gum and BRING ME THE CHANGE.” And to eat the results. In the neighborhood.

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8 responses to “Own It

  1. What a great story and post. I’m going there!

  2. You might have to get your meat on:)

  3. I have friends, now on an old farmstead miles north of Charlottesville, who spoke of this place with longing. Can’t tell which ‘wich you opted for… looks like the ham or prosciutt’ option. NICE thick bread.
    Gotta go… Irene is a ragin’ cajun outside now.

  4. If I knew your friends and had been to their place, I think I would be speaking of their farmstead with longing…

    Roast beef – something I rarely, so to speak, order. When it’s not good, it is so not good, so. BB’s beef was beautiful and delicious!

  5. FROM RUTH VIA DIRECT EMAIL:
    Let me know if you ever open that corner store. Our’s (in Baltimore) was Mr. Moore’s. I went there one time as a kid to buy garlic. My mother had given me the task of making BBQ sauce while she was out. I read the recipe – 1 c garlic. I obviously needed a lot more garlic to measure 1 cup of chopped garlic. I was still chopping garlic when my mother returned and told me the c meant clove in the shorthand of that recipe.

  6. Instead of Sour Grapes, I’ll let you have my deli name: “Please to Meat You.”

  7. Oops, that should read “Pleased to Meat You.” Darn keyboard!

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