Playing the good husband, Randy Norton had to side with his wife, Patsy. The couple, considered restaurant royalty in Northern Virginia, balked when their three adult children suggested that the newest properties in the family’s 43-year-old Great American Restaurants group would be named after the parents.
“We had to twist their arms a little bit. I think they were a little embarrassed,” says Jon Norton, the middle child who’s now CEO of GAR. “I think my mother’s first words were, “Over my dead body.’”
But the kids wouldn’t hear it, and the septuagenarians yielded, leading to the additions of Patsy’s American, which opened in early June, and Randy’s Prime Seafood and Steaks, which opens today. Along with an all-day extension of Best Buns Bread Company, the two restaurants are part of a massive, three-piece complex in Tysons Corner. Jon’s sister, Jill Norton, helped lead the construction and design. Their brother, Timmy Norton, works on the culinary side.
Jon Norton says his dad panicked when the idea was first proposed because he didn’t realize he was supposed to be against it until Patsy protested. Once he could commit to designing Randy’s, he could set about making it unmistakably his.
While Patsy’s menu is full of greatest hits from menus across the restaurant group — a portfolio that includes Artie’s, Sweetwater Tavern, and Mike’s American, for starters — every dish at Randy’s (8051 Leesburg Pike) is new to the group.
“This one’s fun,” Jon Norton says. “They’re all fun. But this one’s very different for us.”
Norton says his father hand-picked every item on the menu, curating an American-heavy wine list — complete with ratings of 90 or better from one of five different outlets — and asking group chefs to develop versions of dishes that left impressions on him over the years. That meant coming up with a sherry-glazed lobster bisque, forming a shellfish cake out of lobster and crabmeat, and plating seared day boat scallops from Cape Cod atop creamed corn with andouille sausage and ramp foam.
Going all out, Randy Norton wanted Ora King Salmon from New Zealand and wagyu beef from Snake River Farms in Idaho. A 5-ounce ribeye cap of that runs for $68. There are three different sizes of seafood platters — including a triple decker — from the raw bar.
With his father calling all the shots, Norton said it was a natural move to hire a chef from within the restaurant group, so executive chef Eric Hollandsworth came over from Jackson’s in Reston.
Executive pastry chef Tressa Wiles is a more recent addition to the company, bringing experience from Bayou Bakery and Eleven Madison Park. Wiles is the woman behind the pavlova with meyer lemon curd and passion fruit coulis. She also developed a version of Patsy’s carrot cake, a home favorite that never made it to the restaurants.
Indulgences carry over to the bar, where Randy’s offers a more extensive choice of spirits than GAR restaurants typically have. So there’s a bourbon smash with Jefferson’s Small Batch. Jon Norton says his dad usually sticks to wine and tequila.
“Mom tries to keep dad off the tequila,” he jokes.
Despite the boutique meats, the green mohair booths, and the mahogany tables, Jon Norton can’t bring himself to describe the place as “fine-dining” or “upscale.” That’s stuffy, he says, and that’s not what his family does.
Randy Norton’s tastes show up on the walls, too. GAR commissioned five paintings from Maine-based artist Jack Gable, including one of Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin hoisting the Stanley Cup and another of Patsy hanging out with two of his favorite actresses, Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts.
Although the family wanted to keep the place apolitical, Randy Norton also commissioned a painting of former First Lady Michelle Obama and former President George W. Bush hugging and smiling. The two are often seen chatting and trading candy at political functions.
“He goes, ‘I’m OK with offending. People need to figure out how to get along better,’” Jon says of his dad.
Randy’s Prime Seafood & Steaks is open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.