A Trummer’s on Main employee was out to dinner at another Clifton restaurant and overheard another table talking about Trummer’s. There were locals and out-of-towners, and the locals described Trummer’s with such regard, with such reverence, that they described it as Virginia’s version of the French Laundry. The French Laundry features a $325-per-person, multicourse tasting menu at Thomas Keller’s three-star Michelin restaurant in Northern California.
Stefan Trummer originally told this as an off-the-record story. But he relented to letting it be shared because this story is the perfect allegory to understand why Trummer’s on Main is closing. For the record, Trummer’s realize the differences between the French Laundry and itself, but it proves the point that the restaurant was looked at as a special occasion place. And that’s exactly what Stefan and Victoria Trummer, his wife and business partner, wanted to change.
After about a month of renovations—a total overhaul of the kitchen, three floors of dining spaces, a patio and, of course, the menu—Trummer’s drops “on Main” and rebrands as an American bistro. The restaurant will reopen Sept. 19.
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“How do we take it down a notch?” is the question Victoria thinks about when they’re making paint, wallpaper and light fixture decisions. They’re keeping the famed paddle fans in the main dining room, but everything else will look different, feel different and taste different.
John Cropf remains as head chef, as does Meagan Tigh in pastry and Nicole Bernard in wine. The biggest shift in the menu, besides prices dropping as much as $10 an entree (or about 20% to 35%), is the addition of a Rotisol Rotisserie, a French-made machine that’s about 5 feet wide and 6 feet tall. Rotisserie-cooked foods will represent about half of the menu with items like spit-roasted prime rib, half or whole chicken, duck, baby goat, fish (technically spun in a metal basket) and beets au poivre. Most entrees (starting at about $19) from the rotisserie will come with potatoes cooked under the meats to capture the drippings, with an extra side of drippings.
Stefan, originally from Austria, will continue the presence of dishes inspired from his homeland, and initial ideas include wiener schnitzel, spatzle (including a spin on chicken noodle soup), pretzels and goulash. Off-rotisserie items could include some longtime favorites like shrimp and grits and fried Brussels sprouts with kimchi mayo and benne seeds. The cornbread will stay, but instead of served gratis, there will be a new bread basket section of the menu with options like squash bread with a quenelle of freshly shaved truffles mixed into butter and rosemary focaccia with blistered tomatoes.
New items proposed, as the menu is still being finalized, are cast-iron hanger steak and ricotta gnocchi.
Sides include coffee-glazed carrots, blistered shishitos with lemon aioli, pomme puree with goat’s milk butter and whatever vegetables are in season, cooked from the live fire in the rotisserie.
As one of the few restaurants with a full-time pastry chef, desserts will still be a focus. Tighe’s signature Textures of Orange will remain, and other sweets she’s playing with are the Viennese sacher torte (chocolate cake, apricot jam, chocolate ganache) and elevated sundaes (with spit-fired peaches, if the fruit lasts until mid-September). The wine will still lean Austrian, but the prices will come down. Cocktails favorites (Pleasure & Pain) will remain, but watch for zero-proof and lower-alcohol versions, too.
The rebrand has been a two-year conversation, says Victoria. The Trummers thought about how they like to eat, what restaurants they want to go to on their days off. “It’s been 10 years of this,” says Victoria. “What should the next 10 years look like?” // Trummer’s: 7134 Main St., Clifton