More than 40 years after launching The Inn at Little Washington, celebrated chef and master of epicurean delights Patrick O’Connell opens Patty O’s Cafe & Bakery.
To Patrick O’Connell, details are oxygen to a seriously good time, saving us from life’s banalities. And so, it shouldn’t surprise anyone who has frequented The Inn at Little Washington—O’Connell’s hospitality and culinary shrine in a small Shenandoah Valley village 90 minutes from D.C.—that his newest restaurant is special.
Patty O’s Cafe & Bakery isn’t grandiose, but its vision is just as outsize as the mother ship: The Inn at Little Washington. Call it gourmet comfort food in the Virginia hills, with an elevated bakery that wouldn’t feel out of place on Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud in Paris.
O’Connell’s success over the years—he’s won a James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award, after all—has always stemmed from surprising his patrons. This is certainly true at Patty O’s, where there’s a stark contrast between the design of the country cafe and big city bakery. Architecturally, it’s a visual coup, as a hallway leads from one space to another (the cafe also has a separate street entrance). Cafe guests take in a bright exterior framed by exquisite landscaping, white painted brick, and a soft teal awning; outdoor seating invites leisurely meals on warmer days. Once inside the cafe, patrons see a barn-dance mural by William Woodward, and dining spots include the bar or cozy tables adjacent to a hearth. And yes, the restaurant takes reservations, which, once word spreads, will be coveted.
Inspiration for Patty O’s, which is located across the street from The Inn at Little Washington and was once a gas station (inconceivable, to see it now), comes from O’Connell’s many trips to France. The vision came together at the hands of French designer Pierre-Yves Rochon, who’s renowned for integrating iconic European hotels into their locations. “A cafe can become the living room of a small town. A passerby should be able to stop in for a drink or coffee anytime during the day and expect a fine meal at lunch and dinner,” O’Connell explains.
When O’Connell cut the cafe’s ribbon on a rainy evening in the fall of 2021, he told the assembled crowd that he wanted an unfussy place to eat with a menu of simple American classics reminiscent of his childhood. Chef Devin Bozkaya oversees the cafe’s kitchen, which offers lunch and dinner. Early dishes to adore include onion soup gratinée with perfumed Calvados; half-roasted chicken with Grand Marnier-glazed carrots and pureed potatoes; pan-roasted citrus lobster; and an Ovoka Farm half-pound burger with tomato jam, crispy onions, and comté cheese.
Christian Capo, who has been with The Inn at Little Washington for two years and previously worked at Michelin-starred Fiola and New York’s Dominique Ansel Kitchen and Bakery, leads the charge in the bakery at Patty O’s. The dreamy space produces freshly baked breads, croissants, and O’Connell’s famous granola, among other confections. Guests may order takeout, of course, but the best bet is to linger inside—sipping single-origin coffee or a custom-blended tea—and enjoy the little mercies offered by O’Connell and his team. It’s a culinary trip worth taking every time.
389 Main Street, Washington, VA, pattyoscafe.com