Best of Old Town: “You’ve Got to Try . . .”

Five resident experts—including a top chef and Alexandria’s mayor—talk about their favorite places in Old Town.

By: Charlotte Safavi

Guide to Best of Old Town
Alexandria Dining Guide
12 Great Shops in Alexandria
"You've Got to Try . . . "
Want to Live in Old Town?
Five Fun Outings in Old Town
Our Map of Old Town
Chef Morou Ouattara of Farrah Olivia picks up organic arrangements at Bloom Fresh Flowers. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Artistic Inspiration

Morou Ouattara opened his highly regarded restaurant, Farrah Olivia (600 Franklin St.; 703-778-2233), in 2006. He does creative cooking in the back while his wife, Heather, welcomes guests in the front.

I find the Torpedo Factory Art Center (105 N. Union St.; 703-838-4565) inspiring. People weld, paint, design jewelry, and make pottery. I like to see things being made. . . . I start to think about food.

I go to the professional-cook store La Cuisine (323 Cameron St.; 703-836-4435) for cookbooks, terrine molds, and assorted cutters.

When I need last-minute flowers—birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day—I run across the street to Bloom Fresh Flowers (625 S. Washington St.; 703-299-9929). They put together organically grown arrangements.

Sometimes I need to get away from caviar and foie gras. I like Five Guys (107 N. Fayette St.; 703-549-7991) for an old-fashioned, messy burger. I especially love the peanuts; I can’t eat them at home because one of my daughters has allergies.

A Good Fit

Former Washington Post staffer John Harris started Politico with fellow journalist Jim VandeHei to cover the national political scene. Politico is available in print four days a week, though it reaches its widest audience 24/7 online.

Hank’s Oyster Bar (1026 King St.; 703-739-4265) is a great addition to Old Town. I like the seafood ceviche.

In the summer, I sometimes go to the farmers market at City Hall (301 King St.). I like to cook, and I pick up fresh produce there. I make blueberry pie.

My wife, Ann, and I take the family to Nana’s Sunday Dinner at the Majestic (911 King St.; 703-837-9117). They serve food family-style on communal platters. We went just after Thanksgiving with the kids.

I always get my running shoes at Pacers (1301 King St.; 703-836-1463). They seem to know what kind of shoes should fit your feet. You get a level of service unlike that in a big chain.

We have a new puppy, Elsa, a Bernese mountain dog. She had great training at the Olde Towne School for Dogs (529 Oronoco St.; 703-836-7643).

I surf the Web at Buzz (901 Slaters La.; 703-600-2899) or just have coffee there with a friend. When I feel decadent, I have a cupcake.

A Place to Think

A native of Alexandria and graduate of T.C. Williams High School, Mayor William D. Euille became the city’s first African-American mayor in 2003. Reelected in 2006, he is now running again.

Joe Theismann’s Restaurant (1800 Diagonal Rd.; 703-739-0777) has been home base for me since it opened. I’m a sports fanatic. I go there after work to relax, dine—the wings are good—and watch whatever is on TV.

I go to Mai Thai (6 King St.; 703-548-0600) for a quiet dinner. It’s close by at the foot of King Street. They do a nice pepper-beef dish.

I had David M. Martin at Gold Works (1400 King St.; 703-683-0333) design the first-ever medallion for a mayor of Alexandria using the city seal. I recently bought a pair of gold cuff links with a diamond setting from him.

When I can, I look around Decorium Gift and Home (116 King St.; 703-739-4662). I usually walk out with a thing or two. I last bought two five-foot wrought-iron candleholders for my recreation room.

If I need to think, I go to Oronoco Bay Park (100 Madison St.; 703-838-4340). As a kid growing up in nearby public housing, I used to play there. Then it was industrial; now it’s an elegant park. I still go to the water and skip a pebble or two.

Gallery director Mary Cook finds the sassy styles at the Shoe Hive tempting. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Cute Shoes and Ghost Tours

Mary Cook is director of the tiny Target Gallery in the Torpedo Factory. Since 2006, she has hosted traveling exhibits by contemporary artists.

I like the Union Street Public House (121 S. Union St.; 703-548-1785). They know exactly what I want: cheeseburger—medium-well, no lettuce—with a Star Hill beer.

I also enjoy going to Momo Sushi & Cafe (212 Queen St.; 703-299-9092) with girlfriends. I get the Philly Roll with salmon, cucumber, and cream cheese.

I go to the Glynn Jones Salon (720 King St.; 703-549-4000), the one with the Union Jack outside. They do a great clear glossing treatment for curly hair and make my miniature dachshund, Ralphy, feel welcome.

I’m on an art salary, but I love the Shoe Hive (115 S. Royal St.; 703-548-7105). My last buy was a pair of brown leather sandals with wooden heels. They were on sale.

When I have family visiting, especially with kids, we do a ghost tour starting at Ramsay House (221 King St.; footstepstothepast.com, alexcolonialtours.com). It’s a fun way to show off the town’s history.

Hungarian-born Erika Szuprics, one of the owners of Sugar House Day Spa & Salon, says the Bavarian fruitcake at Bittersweet Bakery reminds her of Eastern Europe. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

A Taste of Europe

With two others, Hungarian-born Erika Szuprics and her husband, Nandor, own the Sugar House Day Spa & Salon (111 N. Alfred St.; 703-549-9940). In a large historic townhouse, the full-service spa has pampered Alexandrians for ten years.

I like Asian Bistro (809 King St.; 703-836-1515) for ethnic food. You can eat healthy. I get the Asian Lettuce Wrap. The Rock ’n’ Roll sushi is also good.

When my son was little, I took him to play in the sandbox at Windmill Hill Park (501 S. Union St.) down by the river. Now he’s 12, and we go to Aftertime Comics (1304 King St.; 703-548-5030) for new and vintage comics.

I enjoy Arts Afire (1117 King St.; 703-838-9785), a gallery and gift shop for pretty things made of glass. I bought a handblown glass plate in purple, my favorite color. It sits on my buffet at home.

Bittersweet Bakery (823 King St.; 703-549-1028) has a great Bavarian fruitcake with whipped cream that reminds me of Eastern Europe.

When the weather’s hot, Nandor and I get ice cream in waffle cones at Pop’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream (109 King St.; 703-518-5374)—I’m plain vanilla, he’s a chocolate guy—and then we walk around the marina.