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It’s always nice when a family member comes home for a visit. But it’s even better if they stay and become part of the family business. That’s how Denim & Pearls owner Jennifer Robinson feels about the return of her former chef Robin Woodrow Isaac. 

“We are really excited to have Woody back,” said Robinson. “He’s got some great ideas and new menus he’ll be creating for us in the months ahead.” 

Isaac mirrors her sentiments. “I worked at the former Iron Bridge and Bridge restaurants and then Denim & Pearls and was a chef at Poplar Springs on two occasions. I’m pleased to be back with Jen and her staff. I have a lot of ideas for the restaurant.” 

Hitting the ground running is one of Isaac’s traits, as evidenced by his new brunch, lunch and dinner menuswhich will be available starting this week. Accompanying the changes in food fare are updated drink menus also gracing the dining tables. 

The restaurant’s emphasis will continue to be on Italian-American cuisine but with a subtle shift to more American dishes.  

“With Woody back, we are going to be able to implement some really great changes. We will be utilizing our downstairs dining areas more and, of courseour rooftop setting when the weather turns warmer,” said Robinson. 

Robinson opened the restaurant in 2017 and knows the importance of new and creative offerings to keep her regulars and newcomers coming back. 

A quick scan of the restaurant’s website emphasizes in part the ambiance the restaurant seeks to create: 

The term upscale casual has been adopted by countless restaurants in the last 10 years.  We wanted to find another way to convey that message. We want [diners] to think of us for their anniversary and special occasions or because it’s Tuesday and they don’t want to cook.  

The actual name is from a country song, by Drake White, “Making Me Look Good Again.” There’s a line in the song that goes, leather and lace, denim and pearls, whiskey and wine. The denim and pearls part just stuck with me. We started with our cowhide barstools and went from there.” 

Wine & whiskey 

One of the more unique new ideas will be a series of alternating wine and whiskey tastings on the first Wednesday of each month followed by a companion dinner showcasing the same libations during the last Wednesday of the month. 

First out of the gate is Rappahannock Cellars pouring its wines on Wednesday, March 6, during the restaurant’s happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. There is no charge.  

On Wednesday, March 27, the same wines will be served at a dinner in the downstairs dining room. The intimate roomwith its exposed original stone walls, is the perfect setting for a social lubricant-centered repast. 

“The monthly tastings will be accompanied with a menu for the follow-up dinner,” said Robinson. Guests can sign up for the dinner following the tasting or make reservations later. “We anticipate a strong response to the new offering, so I wouldn’t have guests wait too long before signing up.” 

The 6 p.m. wine dinners will focus on quality Virginia producers, and each course will be carefully paired to accent both wine and food. 

The whiskey tastings and dinners will highlight both Old Dominion and nationally known whiskey producers. 

Incredibly, the first four-course dinner will be priced at $50 per person, not including tax and gratuities. This is well below similar dinners and offers “early adopters” an opportunity to experience what should quickly become a restaurant tradition. 

“The introductory pricing will likely rise somewhat as we progress through our series to the $75 range. For now, we want to get the word out to the community,” said Isaac. There will be seating for 26 guests, but if the dinner sells out, some consideration will be given to increasing attendance. 

“We want it to be an intimate and enjoyable experience, so we do not want to sell an overly large number of seats,” said Robinson. 

Interested diners are encouraged to attend the March 6 tasting and learn first sip about the wines to be poured at the March 27 dinner. However, for those who know a good deal when they read one, reservations can be made anytime by calling the restaurant’s front of the house manager, Taylor Davenport at 540-349-9339. 

The whiskey producers for the April tasting and dinner have not been finalized but will be available on its website soon. 

But wait, there’s more 

In addition to the new menus and dinners, Robinson says every third Wednesday of the month starting in April there will be a cigar and whiskey flight on the rooftop dining area. “It will be a blend of local and nationally known producers,” she said. 

The restaurant’s wine list is comprised of some 25 selections while its whiskey list embraces 30 producers so no one will go thirsty when dropping by for a drink or dinner. 

Moreover, the popular First Friday and ladies night specials will return with warmer weather. And of course, this week is Restaurant Week in Warrenton and eight of Denim & Pearls fellow restaurateurs will be serving specially-created dishes through March 10 along with them. 

For a complete tour of Denim & Pearls including menu items and hours, visit denimandpearlsrestaurant.com.

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