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Posted January 28, 2009 | comments Leave a comment

Old place, new face: Restaurant uses familiar building, name to tap tourist market

By Linwood Outlaw III -- Daily Staff Writer

FRONT ROYAL -- Tommy Jones is back home to spend time with relatives and see some familiar faces -- and serve up some steaks and seafood in the process.

Perhaps history -- as the slogan for Jones' new restaurant touts -- never tasted so good.

Jones, 43, opened the Stonewall Jackson Restaurant on 915 N. Royal Ave. for business last month. Many residents who often drive past the eatery, Jones says, might not realize it is a new business because the building it occupies has housed other restaurants in years past.

"It's been a restaurant [building] here for years ... I guess it's been a restaurant here since about 1974," Jones says. "We're trying to cater to some banquets and large parties."

Jones operates another restaurant with his sister in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. He acquired the restaurant space on North Royal Avenue when it became available in August.

"Prior to that, the place has had some good history of restaurants ... We renovated it, painted, hung up some new portraits. We just cleaned it up because it was pretty run down," Jones says. "We spruced it up, a little bit."

The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. It's no coincidence that Jones named the restaurant after Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, who served as a Confederate general during the Civil War and was a well-known commander under Gen. Robert E. Lee in the Army of Northern Virginia. The Battle of Front Royal, fought on May 23, 1862, was part of Jackson's campaign through the Shenandoah Valley during the war.

After fighting through town, Confederates crouched behind a stone wall located along the road immediately south of the Stonewall Jackson Restaurant, shielding themselves against cannon fire from Union Troops at the top of Richardson's Hill immediately northeast of the business, according to a description of the war on the back of the restaurant's menus. Confederates also battled on grounds where the restaurant's parking lot now occupies.

Another reason for the restaurant's name, Jones says, is because of its proximity to Stonewall Jackson Highway. "We want to attract some tourism. I just think he's [Jackson] a good guy," Jones said.

With businesses around the nation feeling the pinch of a weakened economy and struggling financial markets, Jones admits that it is a challenge opening a new business in the midst of reduced consumer spending.

"It's tough. It's scary. But, you know, we all must eat," he says. "It is tough. I didn't think it would be this tough. But, then again, we're in the hardest time of the year, January and February. It doesn't get much harder than those two months. Money's funny. People are holding onto their last dollars. It's tough."

Business, however, certainly picked up for Jones on Friday night, when he hosted a crowd of about 173 people who came for a dinner honoring former Front Royal Police Chief Ronald A. Williamson, who resigned last month after serving as chief for nearly three years. It was the largest crowd the restaurant had seen since its grand opening.

The menu at Stonewall Jackson Restaurant offers a variety of seafood, pasta and steak entrees, along with signature sandwiches and burgers and fresh cut salads. Jones says he thinks the Major Prime Rib, which can be served as traditional or blackened, will emerge as the restaurant's most popular dish. Other steak entrees on the menu include the 16-oz. Colonel Porterhouse, 12-oz. Captain T-Bone Steak and the 10-oz. Lieutenant New York Strip with Montreal seasonings.

Among standouts on the seafood entrees list, meanwhile, is the "Surf and Turf" dish served with a 4-oz. crab cake and 7-oz. New York Strip steak with baked potato and vegetables. Creamy Shrimp Scampi, meanwhile, is served with baby spinach and tomatoes over rice with a side of vegetables. Other dishes include the Confederate Burger, Southwestern Shrimp Salad, and Shrimp and Andouille Sausage pasta served with fresh peppers and corn tossed in a mustard cream sauce. Jones said he and other relatives also pitch in and help prepare the meals.

As Jones waits for business--and the economy--to pick up, he says he is enjoying being back in the town in which he was born and raised. He says he started honing his cooking skills in 1981.

"I've lived here all my life. I'm just ready to come back home," he says.

*Contact Linwood Outlaw III at loutlaw@nvdaily.com

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