By Audrey Harman and Jesse Harman
Housed in an older building on Centreville Road, Yorkshire Restaurant in Manassas can be easily overlooked. That changes once you step inside.
The rustic environment with a classic diner-feel is reminiscent of a family breakfast at your grandma’s house, with the aroma of pancakes and sausage wafting through the air. This is a small-town eatery for a growing community, providing a sense of nostalgia even as the world around it changes. Everyone belongs, whether a first-time customer or a regular, and staff greet each person walking through the door as if he or she was family.
“We try to run this place like a family,” explained Matt Natour, 51, co-owner and chef. “The relationships matter, and that’s what we’ve tried to show.”
In 1979, brothers Imade “Matt” and Elias Natour, who have spent much of their professional lives working in restaurants and the food industry, purchased Yorkshire Restaurant, which opened in 1950. “We always wanted to eventually have our own restaurant, so we worked hard and did it,” said Matt Natour.
The brothers, hailing from Lexington, Ky., hoped to bring their Southern home-cooked roots to Northern Virginia, he said. They also wanted to weave their personality into the restaurant and create a sense of comfort in the family-owned establishment, he added.
“Back when we first started, [Route] 28 was just a two-lane road,” he said. “This area wasn’t nearly as big as it [is] now, and we focused on building strong relationships.” Originally, the restaurant only had one small dining room. More than 30 years later, Yorkshire Restaurant expanded to a capacity of almost 170 people, he said.
Has It All
The eatery offers a full menu, including breakfast, lunch and dinner selections, as well as desserts. Breakfast is the most sought-after meal, said Natour. The full menu is available all day, so you may smell eggs cooking whether it’s 10 a.m. or 8 p.m.
However, he said that the most ordered item is from the lunch menu. Customers’ favorite, the specialty sandwich, “Top Hat with French Fries,” consists of rib-eye steak, ham, bacon and provolone cheese, nestled in a warm seeded bun.
The Top Hat’s popularity is far-reaching. “We’ve got people who will come in once a week from as far as McLean to have this sandwich,” said Natour, adding that some patrons who frequent the restaurant have routinely ordered the Top Hat for 30 years.
High Standards for Fresh, Homemade
The sandwich is prepared in-house, like nearly all of Yorkshire Restaurant’s food. Homemade gravy, waffle and pancake mix, soups and sauces are made fresh daily. “We want to make sure that everything our customers eat is fresh any day they come in,” Natour said. The brothers and their staff strive to provide quality, fresh food and exemplary service that “let people leave here happy,” he said.
Some items are prepared just like mom would make them—the Natours’ mom, that is. “Every morning, our mom will come in and make the biscuits for the day,” Natour said.
The brothers purchase most ingredients, including seasonal vegetables and fruits, from local farmers markets. Coffee, a key menu item when breakfast is served all day long, is delivered fresh from M.E. Swing Coffee House in Washington, D.C.
“We’ve been purchasing the coffee from M.E. Swing for 34 years now,” said Natour. “We could be getting cheaper brand coffee from somewhere else, but what we care about here is the quality.” The owners hold everything they serve their patrons to a high standard, he said.
Reaching and maintaining a higher standard, and being more than just a place to grab a quick bite, is at the heart of this locally owned business.
“When we first got the restaurant, we wanted to build relationships with the community. We wanted to build our reputation up as a reliable organization that people can count on and trust,” recalled Natour.
To that end, Yorkshire Restaurant supports local schools by providing catering at discounted prices and assisting in promoting anti-bullying campaigns throughout Prince William.
The brothers and their staff also build individual relationships with customers. Yorkshire Restaurant is a gathering place for many in the community, Natour explained. On any given day, roars of laughter from the dining room combine with the hum of customers and employees deep in discussion.
“As the area grows, people will try other places. That’s just what happens. But more often than not, people come back. We stay busy,” said Natour. “People will come in all the time with memories of this place. They’ve all got their personal stories about Yorkshire. I’ve seen kids grow up eating here and eventually come in with their kids. It’s a wonderful thing.”
Audrey Harman has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Spanish from Hollins University in Roanoke and is finishing her Master of Arts degree in publication design at the University of Baltimore. She lives in Woodbridge and can be reached at [email protected] Her brother and fellow Woodbridge resident Jesse Harman studies English at George Mason University and works at Giorgio’s Family Restaurant in Montclair when he isn’t writing. His email: [email protected]