A beguiling print of Benjamin Franklin hangs in the powder room of The Fox’s Den Tavern, in Middleburg, Virginia. Why is Benjamin Franklin hanging in the loo? As it happens, one of the owners of the restaurant, Charlie Carroll, is a direct descendant of Franklin and three other signers of the Declaration of Independence. There are countless other surprises at the Fox’s Den Tavern, which Carroll recently opened with his longtime companion Christie Knoff. If lighting is everything, this cute couple has brilliantly succeeded with a sophisticated ambiance worthy of any great dining establishment. While the Fox’s Den Tavern has the inviting atmosphere and comforts of a private club, the comparison ends there.
“We wanted the best,” said Knoff of their decision to hire Vi Nguyen, a highly accomplished chef trained in the classical French tradition. Nguyen has created a superb menu of fine American cuisine, including pan seared rainbow trout with beurre blanc, lobster and truffle macaroni and cheese, and the enormously popular fried oysters. Parts of the menu change daily, so one will never tire of this magical spot, which even makes the famously temperate founding father smile.
The Georgetowner sat down to speak with Charlie and Christie (C&C) about their new establishment and discuss the joys of being countryside restaurateurs.
GT: How did you decide to decorate in an elegant Edwardian fashion? The objects are lovely and seem to have a rich provenance.
C&C: That is because they are our own belongings! We had many things in storage. We wanted to create a space that was inviting and makes you want to stay.
GT: The Burgundy walls have magically transformed the space. Who chose the color?
C&C: We did, despite some skepticism about a dark color. We found the color and tripled the hue to bring out the texture and warmth.
GT: What other structural changes were made to the space?
C&C: We refinished the bar using old wood with a beautiful patina and we utilized the wall to make a long banquet with comfortable pillows
GT: You have created a sumptuously elegant interior, which makes people want to stay for hours.
C&C: Yes, thank you. That’s also why we have different seating areas. The bar and a casual lounge with sofas are separate from the tables and banquette room, which makes it easy to accommodate large groups.
GT: What inspired you and helped you prepare to open the Fox’s Den?
C&C: We were the general managers of the Charlotte Inn on Martha’s Vinyard for thirteen years. Every aspect of the inn was impeccable and set a great example.
GT: Before we get to the food, how did you select the staff?
C&C: We wanted a familial feeling. We have Noel Ryan tending bar and Jamie Plaskitt, a fourth generation Middleburg native, and other wonderful staff members.
GT: How did you find your chef?
C&C: Before we met our chef we knew that we wanted a classic comfort food. Our chef, Vi Nguyen, is classically French trained. He worked at the Ritz Carleton and in his family’s restaurant. We wanted the best, and I’m pretty sure we got him.
GT: What distinguishes your restaurant from others?
C&C: Good Service, good food, and an elegant, but casual atmosphere.
GT: How do you like being in Middleburg?
C&C: We love it. It’s such a small and friendly community. We were inspired to open the Fox’s Den while we were visiting family in the area. It’s a perfect place to have a restaurant like ours. We are thrilled about the restaurant and being in Middleburg.
The Fox’s Den Tavern is located at 7 W Washington St, Middleburg, VA 20117. Call the restaurant at 540 687 4165 for reservations and more information.