Patty O’s Cafe

The Michelin three-star chef brings casual dining to “Little Washington.”

Across the street from the famed Inn at Little Washington, chef Patrick O’Connell has given the namesake village Patty O’s Cafe, an elegant and warmly approachable bakery, pastry shop, café, bar, and—of course—patio. The first new restaurant from the Michelin three-star chef in 43 years, Patty O’s was well worth the wait.

“This restaurant is the kind of place I would hope to discover,” O’Connell said in his ribbon-cutting speech, “a happy place where even the simplest of dishes taste extraordinary, where no compromises are made in quality.” 

For every diner who wins the lottery-like jackpot of a reservation at the Inn, there are scores of others who won’t. For them, Patty O’s is an opportunity to taste the craft and feel the vibe sans the hefty tab. 

In this former gas station off the village square in the town of Washington, no luxuries are ignored. From the lush environs to the handsome fireplace, smart staff uniforms, and curated artwork, this is not an “Inn Lite” knock-off. 

Consider Patty O’s as a deuxième vin, the second wine, as it’s called in Bordeaux. If the Inn is the famed Grand Vin de Château Latour (which runs around seven Benjamins upon release), Patty O’s is the fantastically-delicious-at-half-the-price Les Forts de Latour

Expect lunch and dinner service featuring classic, comfort-inspired seasonal fare, plus a killer cocktail bar, and pastries that light up one’s pleasure center akin to the glow on the restaurant’s Ferrari-like $30k La Marzocco KB90 espresso machine.

“I’ve always loved fairy tales,” said the theatrical chef, who sported a cowboy hat and ascot during Patty O’s opening. “Especially the fable of Stone Soup where an entire village each brought an ingredient to the broth to create a delicious soup. That is exactly what this collaboration has felt like.” 

Paris-based interior designer Pierre Yves Rochon envisioned the space, and Russell Stillwell (whose father helped design the Inn’s first kitchen in 1978) created the kitchen. Sixth-generation faux finisher Paul Robson painted the graining and marbling, while artist William Woodward created the bar’s delightful mural.   

Throw the top down, drive the curvy Blue Ridge roads to Little Washington, and slide onto a Patty O’s banquette. Pick the right day, and you might catch a sighting of the chef himself. “My staff knows,” O’Connell added, “that the real reason Patty O’s was created is that I had no place to eat on Tuesdays, when the Inn is closed.”

This article originally appeared in the February 2022 issue.

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