Mark Manly and Carole Robert in 2007 opened their French café in Middleburg, Va., but were forced to relocate three years later when a few feet of snowfall weakened the restaurant’s roof. After three years in Bethseda, Md., “we were at that point where rents were about to go into the realm of not possible,” Manly says. Last fall, he and wife paid a scouting visit to the area where his grandparents retired in the 1970s.
“(Carole) said ‘I can live anywhere’,” Manly says of the decision to re-open Annie’s Bistro in Towne Centre.
Currently, the restaurant is only serving lunch, but Manly says dinner service will debut as soon as they obtain a liquor license; he estimates the process will take another 10-14 days, although he’s hoping the license arrives before Valentine’s Day.
“We’ll be French country for dinner,” Manly promises. “I don’t want to use words ‘peasant food’, but we’ll have stews. We try to source as locally as we can.”
Robert, whose family owned restaurants in Paris, handles the bulk of the cooking, although she’s now looking to hire a sous chef. The 42-seat restaurant is otherwise staffed by the couple’s daughter and a pair of servers.
The lunch menu changes according to ingredient availability and Robert’s whims, but soups, salads and sandwiches are constants. Yesterday’s line-up featured French onion soup; white bean sausage soup; grilled salmon salad; nicoise salad and roast beef and brie on a baguette.
“We have the real Maille Dijon mustard and cornichon pickles,” Manly says.
After Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema visited for his “First Bite” column, he wrote, “Egg salad set off with genuine Dijon mustard, capers and dill is prettily packaged with a chiffonade of greens between slices of a light baguette. Tuna salad with just a hint of a binder tastes, well, healthful.” He liked the vinaigrette on his salad.
Annie’s Bistro is located at 1795 N. Hwy 17, Unit 3. The restaurant is open every day from 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Its website hasn’t yet been updated with Mt. Pleasant information, but there are old menus and blog posts at anniesbistrofrancais.wordpress.com.