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Choices by Shawn, Old Town Fairfax - Chef Shawn Warner in the Former Sweet Life Space - Closed

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On 10/16/2009 at 11:35 AM, 'DonRocks said:

Sweet Life Cafe closed in August, and has been replaced by "Choices by Shawn," owned and operated by Shawn Warner.

I'm excited, since I'm something of an Fairfax City cheerleader. I've only been able to find a few reviews online, but they're all raves. I tried Sweet Life (the former occupant of the historic Moore House) once for dinner and it was sorta 'meh'/hit-or-miss, so I'm not surprised they didn't make it. Choices by Shawn seems to focus a lot on gluten-free baked goods, and they even have a few vegan offerings. The web site is here.

Has anyone tried this place? Any thoughts?

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Just back from brunch at Choices. It was a very nice, properly prepared basic brunch. I had steak and eggs, which was 2 petite sirloins, medium rare, 2 eggs sunny side up, home fries, and toast. For $2 extra, I had gluten-free white bread toast. I took a taste of the toast and then called the waitress back to make sure it was gluten-free. It was the closest thing to "real" bread that I've found since going GF a year ago next week. Most GF breads that are available are pretty awful. This smelled and tasted "yeasty" and had more of the texture of wheat bread than any other GF bread I've tried. I happily ate every crumb. WW had the "big breakfast" of French toast, eggs, potatoes and sausage. His "regular bread" French toast looked great, and he seemed to enjoy it.

I was hoping to be able to take home a loaf of bread or some other GF products, but they aren't really set up for retail sales, and until there is enough demand I don't blame them for not offering it. But I was told that I could make a special order and pick it up.

That being said, it is a nice, cozy space in a historic house right on Route 123 at North Street. The staff are all very friendly and helpful. The food is basic and homey, at least at brunch, and very tasty. Another time I'd be tempted to try one of their home-made ice creams. There are at least a dozen flavors on offer, maybe more.

This is not a GF restaurant. It is, rather, a good restaurant that understands and accommodates gluten and other food sensitivities not by omitting offending ingredients but by providing good alternatives. I can't wait to go for lunch and maybe have a sandwich!

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Tried this over the weekend. Good not great.

Highlights were the country fried chicken and the mahi-mahi. The homemade ice cream is also very good. The only real downside was the service which was poor. Having waited tables for 4 years I can tell when a server is in the weeds or they are just inattentive. Our server was just inattentive.

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I'm surprised that I haven't updated my comments for this restaurant. It is my go-to restaurant for good, safe, gluten-free foods. They actually have TWO kitchens, and serve gluten-free food on red china, to ensure safety. But they don't stop there. They accommodate other allergies and sensitivities as well.  The owner is quite expert on the issues, and her staff are well-trained in that regard (at least if they're unsure about something they do ask the owner).

I love their gluten-free fried chicken and gravy, especially after enduring one too many Popeye's commercials that set up a craving. I also really enjoy their avocadoes stuffed with curried chicken salad and shrimp salad, their lovely and generous steak salad, and their brunch buffet, which includes gluten-free pancakes or French toast. One of the things I love the most, though is their burger. It can be served on a regular bun for those who aren't gluten-sensitive, or on gluten-free bread or without bread or a bun. It has a nice flavor, and is always cooked the way I ask.

My husband, who has no food sensitivities or allergies, as well as my sister, both have loved the food at Choices. And many times when I'm there for lunch, the majority of diners are not ordering gluten-free, and they seem to enjoy their food very much.  It's a great place to eat, whether you are worried about gluten poisoning or not.

Yes, the service can be a little slow at times, but this is more of a family restaurant, rather than fine-dining, so if the check is a little slow in coming, or if my drink order is a little slow in coming, I don't mind. I'm there to relax and enjoy the good food.

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This has been a standby for me for several years, when I want a meal out that I know will be safe for me (celiac disease). It's always been pretty good food in a historic building, with fairly casual service.

Recently the restaurant has changed hands, with Shawn retiring, and it is transitioning to its new name, Hamrock's, for its new owner, Bill Hamrock (formerly of Portabello's).

There's new paint on the walls, nicer napkins, and a different style of service (a bit more attentive). Gone are the laminated red placards that say "gluten free" and the red plates for gluten-free dishes, although I'm assured that the separate kitchen is being maintained to prevent cross-contamination. The standby dishes like GF fried chicken (a pounded breast dipped in GF batter and fried) with mashed potatoes and honey-buttered carrots,  the Reuben sandwich, and the curried chicken salad remain, but Chef Hamrock is developing a more upscale menu.

This is a great place for diners with food sensitivities and allergies, but it's also a nice, local non-chain place to enjoy good food. Check the Facebook page for new additions to the menu.

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