The 19th-century French critic Alphonse Karr is attributed with the oft quoted line, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Theres no place where that phrase fits better in Alexandria than in the new dining and musical experience known as the Carlyle Club.
Yet, the question that many wonder is will the Carlyle Club speak to a new generation of Virginians, those whove grown out of the nightclub scene but are still in search of an exciting nightlife?
As a man of 34, I set out in search of this answer and was surprised by the result while attending a recent performance of the Cab Calloway Orchestra, one of the top-tier swing acts the upscale supper club promises to bring into town on a consistent basis. Decembers calendar delivers on this promise with such legendary acts as Glenn Millers Orchestra (Dec. 22) and the former band of Tommy Dorsey (New Years Eve) dotting the schedule.
All of the clubs representatives guaranteed a big night out. I was skeptical though of an all-in-one construct. With its Art Deco aesthetics, its traditional yet superbly sound menu, and its smooth hardwood dance floor, the Carlyle is cut from a cloth over 75 years old. But, could it provide its younger guests with the contemporary tastes and elegance theyve grown to expect from fine area establishments?
The answer to this question is a surprising yet welcomed, yes!
While Im no food critic, the Carlyle met my culinary needs with its four-course prix fixe menu. The early offerings of a butternut squash and lobster bisque and a light mixed baby field greens sprinkled with a sharp sherry vinaigrette were fine opening acts. The filet mignon entree was swimming in a pool of sweet butter, making the mashed potatoes a purely delightful backstroke to my tonsils. The finale was entitled Marquise au Chocolat, a luscious encore worry of a standing ovation.
Music, on the other hand, is my specialty, and the late Cab Calloways band is pulling off a great celebration of the masters 100th year of artistic legacy. Backed by a six-piece standard troupe of horns, bass, piano, and drums, Cabs middle-aged grandson, Calloway Brooks, flew flawlessly through such standard jive jukes as Louis Jordans Caledonia and newly composed numbers like The Fastest Tune Ever Written.
The key for the Carlyle Clubs lasting success will be its ability to transcend the generational gap and make the traditional evening out an event. Nostalgia will only take this venue so far. The novelty will wear off, and once it does, will there be a product worth coming back for?
Thats what the highlight of the evening was for this reviewer. People forget that Cab Calloway was once a pop turk, making music far from the mainstream. Long before disco, hip hop, or crunk, Harlem nights were filled with fat brash beats that made the audience want to jump up and dance hours before the classic closing number of Minnie the Moocher.
For one night, the Cab Calloway Orchestra was able to peel away a half century of popular culture and let the audience, both young and old, feast on a bounty of unabashed joy.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Hopefully, many more such nights will be in this reviewers future at the Carlyle Club.
The Carlyle Club is located at 411 John Carlyle Street. Opened Monday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to midnight. While they will accept walk-ups, reservations are strongly recommended (especially for the more notable performers). Call 703-549-8957 or visit them on the web at for more information.