Great American Restaurants

Great American Restaurants often abbreviated GAR, is a company that owns and operates restaurants in Maryland and Northern Virginia, including Fairfax County.

Great American Restaurants started when the partnership of Randy Norton, Jim Farley and Mike Ranney opened Fantastic Fritzbe's Flying Food Factory in Annandale in 1976.

Norton and Farley had originally owned and operated Picco's Passion, a pizza parlor in the City of Fairfax in 1974, and while the pair concentrated on cooking pizza, they brought in Ranney to cook the books.[1]

In 1978, they opened a second Fritzbe's, Fantastic Fritzbe's Good Time Emporium, in the Fairfax Circle Shopping Center in Fairfax City. A third Fritzbe's opened in Reston's Hunters Woods Village Center in 1980. In its first foray outside Northern Virginia, a fourth Fritzbe's opened in Rockville, Maryland in 1981.

In 1985 the Fritzbe's in Fairfax was rebranded as Artie's. The group continued their move away from the Fritzbe's brand with the opening of Carlyle Grand Cafe at the Village at Shirlington shopping center in Arlington in 1986 and Mike's "American" Grill in Springfield in 1987.

The rebranding of the Fairfax Fritzbe's as Artie's, as well as the opening of Carlyle and Mike's were early signs of the company's shifting focus, moving away from the fun of Fritzbe's to position itself in a category it defined as "upper casual".

As part of this shift, Picco's was sold in 1993, and the Fritzbe's in Reston and Rockville were sold to their managers. By 1995, GAR had pared down to four restaurants, the Fritzbe's in Annandale, Artie's, Carlyle and Mike's.[1] That same year, the Best Buns Bread Co. bakery opened next door to Carlyle.

GAR closed the original Fritzbe's in Annandale on May 13, 1996 and reopened as Silverado in mid-July.[2]

Also in 1996, the first Sweetwater Tavern, a brewpub combining a southwestern-style restaurant with a microbrewery, opened in the Centre Ridge Marketplace in Centreville. Another Sweetwater would open in August 1997 in Falls Church, followed by a third in Sterling in 2001.[3][4]

GAR also moved their corporate offices from Arlington to the Willow Oaks Corporate Center in Merrifield in 1997.[3]

The first Coastal Flats, with a menu more reliant on seafood than GAR's other restaurants, opened in the Fairfax Corner mixed-use development in July 2004.[5] A second Coastal Flats opened in the Tysons Corner Center in 2005.

Cheesecake Factory president and chief operating officer Peter D'Amelio joined GAR in 2007 as COO.

In 2008, GAR returned to Reston, opening Jackson's Mighty Fine Food & Lucky Lounge in the Reston Town Center in November.[6]

Jon Norton became the Chief Executive Officer of GAR in August 2010, succeeding his father Randy. At the same time, Chief Operating Officer Peter D’Amelio became president, succeeding Mike Ranney. The elder Norton and Ranney became co-chairmen of GAR.[7]

Later in 2010, GAR opened Ozzie's Corner Italian in Fairfax Corner.

D'Amelio's tenure as president of GAR was brief, and he moved to Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants in November 2011.[8]

Following an absence of nearly 20 years, GAR returned to Maryland when they opened their third Coastal Flats restaurant in Gaithersburg's Downtown Crown development in 2014.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Sagon, Candy. "A Grand Success." The Washington Post (pre-1997 Fulltext)Jul 26 1995. ProQuest. Web. 20 June 2017.
  2. "ON THE FRIDGE." The Washington Post (pre-1997 Fulltext)May 01 1996. ProQuest. Web. 20 June 2017.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Lopes, Pat. "Restaurant Park Fills Gallows/Route 50 Corner." Washington Business Journal. American City Business Journals, 17 Nov. 1997. Web. 20 June 2017.
  4. Chamis, Eleni. "Georgetown Loses Two: Gourmet Pizza, Designer Furniture." Washington Business Journal. American City Business Journals, 26 Nov. 2001. Web. 20 June 2017.
  5. Kretikos, Eleni. "Keys-themed Saltwater Flats Lands at Fairfax Corner." Washington Business Journal. American City Business Journals, 3 Oct. 2003. Web. 20 June 2017.
  6. Sietsema, Tom. "Jackson's Mighty Fine Food and Lucky Lounge: A Friendly Spirit." The Washington Post. WP Company, 05 Nov. 2008. Web. 20 June 2017.
  7. "Great American Promotions." Lorton/Fairfax Station/Clifton Connection 2 Sept. 2010: 2. Print.
  8. Duerr, Charlie. "Former Cheesecake Factory President Moves to Cooper's Hawk." Nation's Restaurant News. Penton, 11 Nov. 2011. Web. 20 June 2017.

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