When you tell someone about a city you’ve visited, do you tell them about the hotel and flight? “Went to Paris, should have seen this Best Western.” But that is usually where people spend their research and money. But when they tell the story of a city, it is usually about the people, the food, and the places they saw. Let’s call this the experience. When you go somewhere, do you get the experience right the first time? Or do you often say, I wish I did…or wish I knew. I’ve done it; it’s hard to do everything and to see everything. It’s even harder to know everything. What are the unique things to do in a new city? I am here to help you get this trip right.
Our goal at Alexandria the Great Tours is to help you experience Alexandria while having a great time. We pride ourselves on being fun. I was an executive at two management consulting firms in DC and the people were fun, but work was not. So I left and now I’m just out here having fun and ripping it up with y’all. I want you to learn not only about the past that made Alexandria into the city it is today, but also learn about what it has to offer right now. Drinking, eating and walking the city are my favorite things to do, and I want you to see what I see.
I want to amplify your experience to make it remarkable. I’d say memorable, but, hey, we do drinking tours. To experience more, do one of our tours to get a closer look through your guide. If not, that’s okay, here is what you need to know and I’ve (hopefully) added some laughs along the way.
The year is 1749, a bunch of hottie merchants and farmers looked at each other and said, LET’S. GET. THIS. PARTY. STARTED. Not a direct quote but the sentiment is what matters, and get this party started is what they did. Rising from the wild, wild east of the Potomac shore a new city was founded. That might have been enough for a screw up like me, but this town had a little something called, ambition. The British were like, “Pay dem taxes,” and we were like, “Nah.” So we went to war!
I’m sure a bunch was going on before the American Revolution, but it feels like the best place to start our journey, mainly because the most famous citizen of Alexandria is our home boy, George Washington, aka G-Dubz. Spoiler alert, we went out there and kicked Britain’s ass and our boy G-Dubz lead the way. He frequented Christ Church and had a house in Old Town, right near the Gatsby Tavern – what a scoundrel.
I separate out coffee because it needs its own category. It’s that important to me. The first thing I try to find in a new place is the coffee. So where is the good coffee? Well, there are two Starbucks coffee shops in Alexandria. The first is on the corner of King and Union St and the second is on St. Asaph and King. They are about 5 blocks from each other and are equally “good.” Skip the Starbucks while in town and check out these places or I’ll throw all kinds of side eye at you when I see you in the streets.
The two best coffee shops are ESP Tea and Coffee and Misha’s. I like ESP, but I feel like most people like Misha’s better. Misha’s is opening up a new store in the waterfront area. So I’d go to that one if you are staying down there. Either ESP or Misha’s if you are staying further North. Both are right on King St.
The rundown of other available places is, looking for a cool spot to sit, Fontaine has a great vibe, coffee and is attached to some great French food, For Five Coffee Roasters has a great selection of drinks (Freddo Cappuccino), food and is our pick if you are staying near the Metro. Dolci Gelati has gelato, so if you are a late espresso drinker and want a treat, check it out. Cafe du Soleli is convenient located near the waterfront and has crepes and other French pastries. South Block has smoothies and a coffee bar. They also have some sandwiches usually hang around but have recent changed their menu so I am unsure if that is still the case.
Food and Drink
I hate using terms like good/bad on subjective things like food. You can check out our best of blogs to see the best food and drinks, but that is really just an easy way for me to summarize the 100s of restaurants into a digestible read. But for here, I want to maybe lump some of these places into maybe a different hierarchy of categorization. Best is subjective. Do you want to sit around and have drinks and eat for 2 hours? Well, that’s a different best. Then my flight leaves at 10am on Sunday. What can I eat before I leave? Best is different for those scenarios. I got a 2 year old, I need space, but I love Italian places that are right on top of each other, but I ain’t taking that rascal there.
Old Town kind of lacks a flagship restaurant. We had Restaurant Eve, but that closed, and Vermilion and that’s been closed all pandemic and, as of May, still not reopen. I’d also say the town lacks great hand food, that quick and go and eat on a walk type food. We have some delis but real estate is expensive, so we tend to get restaurants.
Alexandria Restaurant Partners have a ton of clout and have opened some really solid restaurants. I’d say Barca Pier and Wine Bar and Ada’s on the River are probably the two hottest seats in town. I’ve had pretty even experiences there through a couple visit, but both have been open for less than 6 months as of May. So will keep an eye on them. They also have The Majestic, Mia’s Italian Kitchen (good Pizza and great Sangria) and Vola’s. Any of these places are fine. All have good service, good food, good drinks.
Virtue Feed and Grain (spot on our Old Fashion Tour) has been around for as long as I’ve lived here. It’s an awesome scene, classic American style food. It has great drinks, good food (good is the right word), awesome vibe, outdoor seating. I usually try to take people that come from out of town to either here or Barca. The drink menu is outstanding along with a wide variety of spirit flights. Cool spot.
Those three are probably the most popular, one cause they are near the waterfront. You also have Hummingbird right there which I’ve only had lunch at but I really enjoyed. They have a great outdoor scene. Chadwicks is also down on the waterfront and is a solid place if you are into more of…whats the right word…..non-bougie? scene. The other places I’ve mention are new and a bit fancier. Chadwicks has been around a long time and it’s good. They added outdoor seating which is great.
Urbano 116 is a new Mexican restaurant on King St. They usually have some classic and some not so classic fare (e.g. Catcus, which was actually really good). It’s your classic margarita spot with a cool vibe.
Blackwall and Chart House are right there, but those are the places I usually frequent when I go down the waterfront. But honestly, real estate ain’t cheap around here, and pretty much everything down there has made it a long time, so they are doing something right. So pick anything within that 100 block of King St. you’ll probably be fine. I’ve had uneven experiences with Chart House and Blackwall Hitch, so I stopped going there. Blackwall is gorgeous inside, but service has alway been inconsistent.
Momo Sushi and Care always has a line outside for Sushi. It can be tough to get your order in a timely fashion but the food is good. The Fish Market, The Wharf and The Warehouse, all serve seafood, and I don’t have a strong preference towards any option. The same goes for Ill Porto and Landini Brothers for Italian Food.
Sonoma Cellar is a really cool wine bar with some great outside seating. I’ve had good experiences there and I have really enjoyed the food.
We’ve talked pretty extensively about the Waterfront, but there is a lot of options away from there as well. So let’s strap up our dad new balances and take a journey. I’ll try to move through here quickly.
The next three places that we would recommend are King and Rye (American), Fontaine (French), Caphe Banh Mi (Vietnamese). I lumped them together because, geographically, they are close to each other. They obviously each have different cuisine. You also walk by a Taco Bell if you are looking to disappoint me.
Further north we go, next we have Le Refuge (French), Village Brauhaus (German/Hungarian), Don Taco (Mexican), Mackie’s (American), Thai Signature (Thai) again any of these depending on what you are in the mood for is fine.
Taverna Cretekou is kind of a special place and would be somewhere I’d go out of my want to check out. It’s got some of the best outdoor seating on Old Town. It this old school Greek/Crete place with really solid greek food. You have to call for reservation and their website looks like an 80 year old took a WordPress lesson. But, hey, they make good food.
Augie’s Mussel House and Beer Garden has great outside seating if you are looking for a good time and mussels. They say they open at 11am on their door and on yelp and on google, but that is apparently fake news. I’ve showed up multiple times at 11:30ish and had to wait. Not sure there strategy there but maybe they will update their time.
That kind of rounds out the restaurant game, again I feel like all of these places are lumped into similar quality, service and price. Some have better outdoor seating and more options than others. Reach out to the firstname.lastname@example.org if you want a more custom recommendation.
Take Out/Quick Grabs/Delivery
OK! We’ve made it. Where? I don’t know. But we are here. I’ll list out the places that would make me feel disdain for you first then give my recommendations. We’ve got a Chipotle, Nando’s, Five Guys, Taco Bell, and SweetGreen. You can literally eat at these places in any city. You’ve probably been to all of them. In a pinch, sure they will work. You know what you’re getting you don’t need me to tell you.
Where should you go?
We have our best take out article, so will just highlight some of those places here. The Rub, Thai Signature, and Meggrolls. They are all convenient and have good food. Obviously each a little different but I think you’ll enjoy each of them. Lori’s Table is our deli of choice, they serve your classic breakfast/deli fare. I also really like the District Taco but that is probably a delivery spot. You can get there food there anytime of day, I really like the breakfast.
SouthBlock, is a mix of coffee spot and lunch spot. They have smoothies, and maybe sandwiches, they had them then they took them off the menu because of a baguette challenge, can’t make this stuff up. Good coffee, good snacks.
For pizza go with either Redrocks or Mia’s Italian Kitchen. Both have solid pizza you won’t be disappointed. In this area everything is relatively expensive. Not sure what a pizza cost where you come from but a whole pie at either going to be in the $15-20+ range.
Quick run down on delivery. Obviously you can open up your Uber eats and find whatever. I give you trio of good hand foods. Souvlaki bar (Greek), Plnt Burger (Vegan), The Rub (Chicken) are my go to spots.