Cedar Knoll Offers The Status Quo With One Exception
Cedar Knoll continues to be a great property looking for inspired ownership and management. But there is an encouraging sign from the current owners.
I have lived in the Fort Hunt area on and off for nearly 40 years. In fact, I used to go to school with a kid whose family owned Cedar Knoll Inn at one point and we would play in the house part of this old and beautifully-situated restaurant.
The property traces its lineage back to the Washington family and has sat stoically on a hillside overlooking the Potomac River for more than two centuries. Its vista is to die for; the interior shows its age but not in a bad way.
The problem has always been the food. Anyone who ran the place counted on the tourist traffic to and from Mount Vernon for their bread and butter. Make money in the spring and summer months and then book the room for Rotary or Kiwanis Club in the fall and winter. Any individual diners were nice, but not necessary. It's a big restaurant and you have to do volume to keep the doors open. Most owners figured they could overcharge for mediocre mainstream 1950s-style American "fancy" fare.
I must say there is one thing that supercedes everything that was -- and has been -- wrong with Cedar Knoll from an individual diner's perspective. The empanadas and the saltenas are fantastic. The current owners have added some South American dishes to the menu and these two items are exceptional; and the chimichurri is lovely as well.
Forget about the sketchy service, ignore the management (since they're likely to ignore you) and the dull but functional interior. Ignore the menu in large part. Just walk in, sit down and order the saltenas or a few empanadas. Maybe share a bottle of wine from the small but mid-priced wine list and sit by a window so you can gaze out on the Potomac.
Note to management: Grouping your wines by state and country is confusing; there are plenty of ways to list your wines that will help your customers and this isn't one of them. How about whites and reds sweetest to driest, or by varietal? It would be a good start.
Locals would love to know there's a quality restaurant just down the road and would frequent it; there are plenty of examples of this enthusiastic and consistent patronage in Hollin Hall and Belle View. Add a few more South American dishes, get some character on the menu, add some professionalism to your service and you'll grow your business. Or ignore the locals that are always looking for something good and close, and suffer the fate of so many other owners.
Cedar Knoll Inn
9030 Lucia Ln, Alexandria, VA 22308
T - Sat 11:30am - 3pm, Sun 11am - 4pm
T - F 5pm - 9pm; S 5pm - 10pm; Sun 5pm - 8pm