Patsy’s American is the Whole Package

Patsy’s American is the Whole Package

Patsy’s American, Randy’s Steak and Seafood, Best Buns Bakery Opens in Tysons Corner

My spoon dipped into crisp meringue, releasing silky lemon curd from its shell. The Pavlova was topped with mandarin slices and passion fruit drizzle. “Perfection,” I said, savoring the combination of sweet, tart, brittle and smooth. “This may be the best dessert in Northern Virginia.” My dining partner pondered for a moment, then answered, “Maybe in the world?”

We’re sitting at the bar in Randy’s Prime Seafood & Steaks, one of the three dining establishments inside a handsome new brick building on Leesburg Pike, across from Tysons Corner Mall. The building houses Patsy’s American, Best Buns Bakery and Randy’s Prime Seafood & Steaks. Diners have enthusiastically embraced this complex of eateries, but I’m not surprised. It’s owned by Great American Restaurants (GAR).

The Namesake

GAR was founded by Randy and Patsy Norton 45 years ago. As the restaurant company expanded, the couple welcomed their adult children into the business. Now, all three play a pivotal role in GAR’s status as one of the most successful restaurant groups in the country.

“Patsy’s is the Greatest Hits, if you will, of Great American Restaurants,” says Timmy Norton, Randy and Patsy’s son, one of the leaders of the GAR culinary team. “We culled through all of our menus that we currently have and grabbed certain things that have resonated with my mother and father,” explains Norton. “For Patsy’s, it’s more about things that my mom enjoyed eating.”

Timmy, a graduate of L’Académie de Cuisine Culinary School, is excited about the raw bar program at Patsy’s and Randy’s, which offers multiple ways to feast on seafood. “The Triple Decker is my favorite. It has 18 oysters of your choosing, nine clams, nine jumbo shrimp, and wonderful smoked mussels—they’re Dutch-style from Maine, so the meat-to-shell ratio is far greater than a traditional mussel—It also has tuna tartare and a one-pound lobster.” He laughs, “It’s a monster.”

Team Building

The building has a serious wow factor. Natural light pours through the skylights. “Everything is in one building,” describes Norton. “If you’re coming from Tysons Corner, on the front left is Best Buns, and behind that, a banquet room. The main part is Patsy’s. It’s an open space with steel beams that resembles a train station. Randy’s is the dining room to the right. There’s a wall that separates it from Patsy’s, and beyond Randy’s is the back bar and outdoor patio, which is really fun and neat for us too.”

The open kitchen sits below a mural of a county fair. If you’re a fan, you’ve probably noticed GAR restaurants feature unique paintings as part of their décor. These always have a story. Behind Patsy’s bar is a mural portraying celebrities and historic figures. It’s interesting to see how they’re grouped—the Dalai Lama is hanging out with Ghandi, John Belushi, Whoopie Goldberg, Mother Theresa and Yoda; then behind them is Humphrey Bogart and Toni Collette. The artist painted people or characters that GAR employees selected based on the question, “If you could dine with anyone dead or alive who would it be?”

Patsy’s wood and leather banquettes are sophisticated and feminine, while Randy’s is clubby, with oil paintings of well-known people Patsy and Randy admire. Behind Randy’s is the back bar with multiple screens and garage-style doors that open to a patio. Bartenders climb library-style ladders to reach a wide selection of liquor bottles.   

Food and Friends

During my visit to Patsy’s, I was greeted with the enthusiasm you find at all GAR restaurants (which include Sweetwater Tavern, Coastal Flats, the Carlyle, etc.). The host handed me a pager, and we wandered over to Best Buns to peruse the full-service coffee bar. The bakery supplies GAR restaurants with fresh bread, like their signature Ozzie Buns.

A half-dozen oysters allowed us to sample bivalves from New England, Canada and the Rappahannock River, each with their own distinct flavor. Patsy’s crabcakes are a serious standout—they have almost no filler, and are pan-fried, rendering them crisp on the outside and tender and sweet on the inside. While every restaurant likes to say their crabcake is “amazing,” this truly is an exceptional crab cake. They’re served with addicting hand-cut fries.

Gem Salad is a welcome addition to the GAR salad line up. Timmy Norton says the recipe was inspired by a recent trip to California: “Our Baby Gem Salad came to fruition when we went to Napa last year. It’s a play on a Caesar salad, really clean and delicious, with avocados, apples and sunflower seeds.” Vegans will feel respected by their veggie burger topped with guacamole or the vegetable-packed Penne Primavera.

Patsy’s and Randy’s shoot for the galaxy when it comes to dessert. We tried the seasonal berry shortcake, with its warm vanilla cake, surrounded by raspberry puree and fresh berries. Did I mention the Pavlova? It’s worth mentioning again. It’s as light-as-air and ends the meal on a high note.

Bucket List

With 40 beers on tap, four wines on tap, and a first-class bourbon collection, Patsy’s back bar is the place to meet your squad for a Caps game or feed your late-night cravings. “We get a lot of industry people, from the restaurants in Tysons, because we have limited menu until 2 am. You can get a cheeseburger or beer after your shift, and our locals like the outdoor patio,” Norton explains. “There’s not a lot of that in this area, so people come and hang out. Honestly, it’s humbling to see how busy it is.”

Despite the size and scale of this complex of eateries serving American classics, it’s especially pleasing knowing you’re supporting a local business. Timmy Norton tells me, “We are always trying to reinvent the wheel, looking for the next way to make things better.” This combination of dedication and inspiration, is why Patsy’s American is the whole package.

Patsy’s American

8051 Leesburg Pike
Vienna, VA 22182

(703) 552-5100

All photos credit: Renee Sklarew

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