By Susannah Black
Late last summer, a downtown, comfort-food-serving restaurant closed its doors. The Leesburg Restaurant operated for about a decade until owner Michael O’Connor decided to renovate. A little more than a year since its temporary shutter, the restaurant will reopen next month with the new name: Leesburg Diner.
“We are in the final evaluation with the county,” says O’Connor, who says the name change “felt appropriate … it is a diner.”
For about five months after O’Connor closed Leesburg Restaurant, he served its combination breakfast-lunch menu out of Palio of Leesburg, his Italian restaurant around the corner. “I didn’t want to see Leesburg Restaurant’s employees cut loose,” says O’Connor, who will now rehire several of his previous employees for the diner.
Included in the renovations are a revamp of the kitchen and the addition of a new ice cream machine, keeping O’Connor’s promise that “we will always have the best milkshakes in Virginia.”
The menu will be similar to that of Leesburg Restaurant—including the famed peanut soup—and O’Connor is thinking about featuring an Irish-themed breakfast on Sunday mornings. O’Connor is especially excited to feature the occasional peacock egg omelet on the menu, courtesy of the 20-plus peacocks he raises on his Mt. Gilead farm, Stoney Lonesome. Patrons can expect this omelet, which O’Connor describes as rich and gamey, about twice a year when the peacocks lay eggs. Unlike most greasy spoons, O’Connor will source some products locally: all beef will come from his farm and Great Country Farms, Quarter Branch and Fields of Athenry will provide some produce.
Settled among locally owned shops, Leesburg Diner will reside in its original building: an establishment that has housed restaurants since the 1860s. O’Connor plans to use paraphernalia found within the old building such as vintage freezer and refrigerator parts to decorate the walls and is currently searching for a jukebox. Despite the turn to 1950-style decor, O’Connor says he “didn’t want to change the feel” of the original restaurant and will keep many of the same signs, pictures and refurbished booths from the original restaurant. “All of the old customers will feel very, very comfortable here.” / Leesburg Diner, 9 S. King St., Leesburg