Where to Eat in Old Town Alexandria

From elegant dining rooms and romantic bistros to lively gastropubs and family-style restaurants, Old Town serves up some very fine dining.

At Brabo Tasting Room, mussels are made decadent with goat cheese and bacon. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

Lunch on the Go

The wall of wines is the first thing that strikes your eye at the Butcher’s Block (1600 King St.; 703-894-5253), chef Robert Wiedmaier’s sliver of a gourmet shop, but the baguette sandwiches are a draw, too. We like the olive-oily salami version brightened with arugula and roasted red peppers as well as the hefty helping of roast beef with horseradish mayo and caramelized onions.

We could peruse the arrays of house-made tonics and freshly baked breads at Society Fair (277 S. Washington St.; 703-683-3247)—the market/bakery/butcher/wine bar from the team behind Restaurant Eve, Eamonn’s, and the Majestic—for hours. The one thing that breaks our attention: the terrific sandwiches, including My Turkish Cousin, flatbread holding tender lamb shoulder, sweet raisin mostarda, and preserved-lemon yogurt.

Family Meal

When you’ve got a crowd to please, it’s tough to go wrong with pizza, and Old Town’s best bets are two DC imports. At Pizzeria Paradiso (124 King St.; 703-837-1245), go for a blistered crust topped with four cheeses and minced garlic or the spicier Atomica, laden with salami, pepper flakes, and kalamata olives. Instead of Bud Light, there are draft brews including such beer-geek favorites as Ommegang BPA and Southern Tier’s pumpkin ale.

Or head to the exposed-brick Red Rocks (904 King St.; 703-717-9873) for similarly thin Neapolitan-style pies and a nice selection of charcuterie.

For dessert, walk over to Artfully Chocolate (506 John Carlyle St.; 703-575-8686) and take your pick from 15 flavors of hot chocolate. We go for the zesty, chipotle-infused Lucy.

On Sunday nights, the Majestic (911 King St.; 703-837-9117) pays homage to Grandma with Nana’s Sunday Dinner, a $22-a-person family-style feast that changes by the month and that you reserve by the previous Friday. The centerpiece of December’s menu is roast beef with scalloped potatoes, which comes with sautéed mushrooms, red-wine/horseradish sauce, and for dessert, a whole chocolate cream pie. We like to supplement it with one of the best Caesar salads in the area, tossed tableside.

Reel It In

Shellfish fans should hit the cobalt-painted Hank’s Oyster Bar (1026 King St.; 703-739-4265), where Olde Salts and tiny, creamy Kumamoto oysters on the half shell share space with lightly fried shrimp and calamari as well as thinly pressed, griddled crabcakes.

At the Dublin-style chip shop Eamonn’s (728 King St.; 703-299-8384), you tear open your paper bag to find beautifully crisp fish and chips. Accessorize it with a cup of tangy Marie Rose sauce and perfectly creamy coleslaw.

It’s a Date

When you’ve got a girl or guy to impress, you’ve got plenty of options. At the highest end, there’s the luxe, jewel-toned Tasting Room at Restaurant Eve (110 S. Pitt St.; 703-706-0450), where James Beard Award-nominated chef Cathal Armstrong offers five-to-nine-course tasting menus, and its more low-key (but still special-occasion-worthy—and expensive) bistro.

The barely lit, velvet-draped dining room at Vermilion (1120 King St.; 703-684-9669) exudes romance, but Tony Chittum’s masterful plates—such as hand-folded goat-cheese tortelloni with toasted-walnut froth and a riff on a Waldorf salad with Asian pear—are the biggest reasons to visit.

Robert Wiedmaier made his name at the haute Marcel’s in DC’s West End. You’ll get a taste of the more rustic side of his Belgian-accented cooking—steak smothered in a lively green-peppercorn sauce, a juicy Amish chicken breast—at the copper-hued Brabo (1600 King St.; 703-894-3440).At its laid-back, no-reservations neighbor, Brabo Tasting Room (same address and phone number), don’t miss the mahogany-dark onion soup or the pork-belly-and-mussel flatbread.

At the red-sauce Italian spot A la Lucia (315 Madison St.; 703-836-5123), linger over bountiful portions of grandma-approved classics such as chicken Parmesan and gooey lasagna.

If you’re wrapping things up with a nightcap, consider a reservation at the intimate, Deco-elegant speakeasy PX (728 King St.; 703-299-8384), where the bartenders stir up some of the area’s best Manhattans and gin-and-tonics.

Pull Up a Barstool

When we’re looking for a restaurant dinner without any stiffness, we grab a spot at a brass rail and let a bartender play waiter.

Inside the barroom at Columbia Firehouse (109 S. Saint Asaph St.; 703-683-1776), you can graze on fried goodies such as buttermilk-drenched onion rings and rock-shrimp fritters alongside lighter fare including tuna-tartare tacos.

You’ll find a mix of British and American gastropub grub (pimiento-cheese deviled eggs, gooey Welsh rarebit), along with good beer cocktails, under the exposed ducts and rough-hewn wood beams at Virtue Feed & Grain (106 S. Union St.; 571-970-3669).

Over at the friendly Daniel O’Connell’s (112 King St.; 703-739-1124), the kitchen goes the fusion route, putting Irish spins on bar standards—nachos melty with Dubliner cheddar, egg rolls stuffed with corned beef and cabbage.

For Paula Deen fans, the bar menu at the Light Horse (715 King St.; 703-549-0533) offers a sandwich she would likely love—a burger between two grilled cheeses instead of a bun.

Good Morning

Spend the night downing a few too many pints? Go for a fully loaded British breakfast at the UK-obsessed cafe Extra Perks (822 N. Fairfax St.; 703-706-5886). The pile-up of eggs, bacon and bangers, grilled tomato, toast, and baked beans—along with a cup of PG Tips tea—will help ease the pain.

For a leisurely brunch, seek out the poached eggs with rich Asiago grits and bacon, the fluffy blueberry pancakes, and other comfort fare in a wooden booth at the casual, all-American Overwood (220 N. Lee St.; 703-535-3340).

Leaning toward the lunchier side of brunch? Hit the Hotel Monaco’s Southern-accented Jackson 20 (480 King St.; 703-842-2790), which features oversize shrimp fritters and a fabulous, Big Mac-inspired burger.

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.