Barca Pier & Wine Bar, which sits on the Alexandria waterfront, has been in the works for four years. But it wasn’t until the owners—Dave Nicholas, Scott Shaw, and David Clapp of Alexandria Restaurant Partners— took a trip to Spain in December 2019 that the real inspiration for it struck. In Barcelona, they found themselves attracted to the chiringuito (beach bars) set up on boardwalks and in the sand. “We went, ‘hey, that is perfect,'” says Nicholas, who is also behind the neighboring waterfront restaurants Vola’s Dockside Grill and Ada’s on the River, among other Northern Virginia spots.
Barca, which sits on a Navy shipping pier from the 1800s, ultimately became an upgraded version of a chiringuito. It’s made out of repurposed shipping containers, which were brought in on a barge. One container is now a bar, and the other houses a full kitchen. Surrounding them are more than 200 seats overlooking the Potomac River. A sun covering, fire pits, and heaters mean the place will continue to operate even when it gets cold.
“This is like the Cadillac of chiringuitos,” Nicholas says.
The tapas menu includes plenty of Spanish classics—such as pan con tomate (ciabatta with tomato), papas bravas (crispy potatoes with mojo rojo sauce and lemon-garlic aioli), and gambas al ajillo (garlicky shrimp)—but also takes inspiration from elsewhere in the Mediterranean. There’s a selection of mini sandwiches known as montaditos stuffed with confit tuna or pork.
While there are plenty of Spanish and Mediterranean wines, the list isn’t strict about it. Bottles also come from Napa and New Zealand. You’ll also find a number of beers and cocktails such as a rosé/stone-fruit sangria and a slushy passionfruit “froijito.”
While the bar is well-suited for a time when people are gravitating toward outdoor venues, there are some pandemic adjustments. The concept includes a lot of bar seating, for example, which still isn’t allowed in Virginia. You’ll also see all the usual safety measures, from mandatory masks to temperature checks for staff.
“It’s something something that we’re going to take serious for a long time, even when the pandemic is done,” Nicholas says.