By Susannah Black
Lawyer-turned-restaurateur Sang Lee named his new restaurant Mackie’s Bar and Grill after his wife’s maiden name: “It’s the Taj Mahal for my wife.” But that’s not the only romantic pathos Lee attaches to Mackie’s. “We worked for six weeks, night and day, 12 hours a day to make this happen. You can see all of our work in the paint, the floors, the walls, the ceilings.”
Lee was inspired to bring a mix of steakhouse fare with plenty of other options—pork and grits, flash-fried Cornish game hen—to Old Town Alexandria after one of his favorite restaurants, Las Tapas, closed six months ago.
During the first week of business, only the bar and lounge area were open, a week later, the dining room opened up for business. Lee designed Mackie’s to include a wall within the restaurant in order to act as a barrier between the front, windowed bar area and the more formal mood of the back dining room. “We want to be an honest, genuine restaurant, and the reaction has been very nice … we’re very happy,” says Lee.
Mackie’s German-born, executive chef Klaus Keckeisen, a veteran to the restaurant scene, previously worked in hotels and restaurants across Germany and Switzerland before relocating to Northern Virginia where he worked as a chef in Alexandria’s Chart House and Gatsby’s Tavern and owned Bistro Europa (currently The Light Horse).
Though Mackie’s menu offers dry-aged steaks, there’s also tuna tartare, a sashimi-grade yellow fin tuna dish complete with a bed of avocado. “People say it’s got a nice wasabi kick but it doesn’t have any wasabi in it. It’s got a secret, spicy Korean ingredient,” says Lee. There’s also a dish of cherry tomatoes, scooped out and stuffed with buffalo mozzarella and glazed with balsamic, called a caprese bite. “I like foods that are good all in one bite. It’s all the flavor all at once,” says Lee. Interested in supporting area farms, Lee hopes to source local produce soon, as well as use vegetables and fruits from his wife’s garden.
“I look forward to running a bar where locals and tourists or whoever comes through the doors feels accepted and feels like they can come here and talk to anyone and have an interesting conversation,” says Lee. “When people say, where can I get a good steak in Old Town? I want everyone to say Mackie’s.” / Mackie’s Bar and Grill, 907 King St., Alexandria.