At this restaurant in Winchester, Virginia, traditional American fare means the chef can experiment with many delicious cuisines.
And that’s why owners Charlie, Wael and Neal Zarou decided to pursue the American theme when they opened their business in Winchester 11 years ago.
The Zarou brothers grew up cooking in their dad Abe’s various restaurants. Abe Zarou emigrated to New York from the Middle East in 1963. A year later, his wife brought their young children, who would one day grow up to follow their father into the restaurant business.
At first, Abe and his family settled on Long Island, but in 1970, the family moved to Herndon, Virginia, to open a pizza restaurant. Abe loved to cook Middle Eastern food, but he adapted his cooking talent to suit American tastes when he opened his pizza restaurant.
Other restaurants followed. Over the years, Abe opened and operated the successful Manhattan Deli restaurant franchise in the Washington, D.C., area. As his sons grew up, they too entered the restaurant business. At one time, the family had 14 or 15 restaurants.
Abe is now 92. The Zarou brothers, now in their late 50s and 60, have downsized, and IJ Cannes is their one remaining restaurant. Forty-five years of restaurant expertise are now focused specifically on their Winchester restaurant.
Homestyle food is served in a casual setting, with a patio for warm-weather dining. The restaurant is open every day, with fixed specials each Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Mondays features Surf and Turf, with filet mignon, crabcake and shrimp. Tuesdays features 2 for 32, a complete dinner for two, including soup or salad, choice of entrees and shared dessert for $32. Wednesdays features Traditional Meat Loaf. Thursdays through Sundays features various specials, depending on the chef’s preferences and seasonal ingredients. The restaurant offers locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. There is also a Sunday brunch.
The menu features many pasta items, which reflects the family’s long experience in Italian cooking. At one time, Abe Zarou operated a fine Italian restaurant. IJ Canns also offers a variety of steaks and burgers. “A little bit of everything,” Charlie Zarou said.
Other items on the menu include Mozzarella Capreze, Flatbread Bruschetta, Ahi Tuna Sashimi, Classic Hummus; Entrée Salads including Caesar, Salmon, Wedge and Steak; specialty pizzas including Chicken Pesto, Spring Veggie, and Pepperoni, Sausage and Mozzarella; New York Strip, Roasted Prime Rib, Barbecue Baby Back Ribs, Sauteed Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes, Lemon Pepper Roasted Chicken, Spinach Ricotta Ravioli, Jambalaya Pasta, Chicken Marsala and Chicken Piccata.
Sandwiches and burgers include Classic Reuben, Turkey Reuben, Original French Dip, Crab Cake Sandwich, Traditional Burger and Smokehouse Burger. The burgers are made with a half-pound of Angus beef. Gluten-free options are available.
For the kids, there are Fried Chicken Tenders along with several kid-sized meals, including Hamburger, Grilled Chicken, Flat Iron Steak, Fish and Chips, Grilled Cheese Sandwich and Linguine Pasta with Tomato Sauce.
There’s a lot of creativity in American food, Charlie said. “You can almost make anything you want,” he said. “You’re not tied to any specific food. It’s a little bit of everything.
“The interior of IJ Canns is bright and inviting, with a sleek and modern-looking bar tucked into one corner. A fireplace provides cozy warmth on chilly days. There are two additional banquet rooms, one seating 30 and one seating 100, for private parties, including birthday parties, bridal showers, corporate events, and small weddings. There is a section of booths as well as table seating.
There is a full bar, with wine, bottled beer, beer on tap and craft beer also available.
A similar IJ Canns American Grille operated in a restored barn in Purcellville from 2013 to 2017, but the brothers decided to close the Purcellville location to focus on the Winchester restaurant. Charlie, who lives in Purcellville, said he and his brothers are semi-retired, and hope to keep the Winchester location open for many years.
The three of them split the ownership duties, which allows each of them to pursue retirement pastimes as well as keep the restaurant running smoothly.
Charlie said his four children all have their own careers, and do not plan to take over the restaurant business. They saw the hard work that went into owning a restaurant, and decided to pursue other paths. Charlie and his brothers, however, grew up in the restaurant business, and for them, it is their life.