Vermilion, a night-out fixture in Old Town, Alexandria for nearly twenty years, is reopening after a long pandemic closure. The Neighborhood Restaurant Group (NRG) is bringing the seasonal American spot out of hibernation on Tuesday, July 19 with a refreshed look and new talent at the helm: chef Ben Pflaumer. The Osteria Morini alum most recently served as culinary director of Creative Food Group, overseeing restaurants like Michelin-starred Masseria, newly opened Greek tasting room Philotimo, and more.
Pflaumer was brought into the NRG fold by chef (and fellow Morini alum) Matt Adler, who is behind Italian-American hit Caruso’s Grocery in Capitol Hill. The menu for Vermilion’s downstairs cocktail bar and dining room will pull largely from local farms, and feature touches of Pflaumer’s Italian and Mediterranean cooking background—think Maryland-grown arborio rice from Next Step Produce fashioned into risotto. Other opening plates include potato ravioli with Virginia oysters and lemon balm, or Roseda beef carpaccio with celery and cress.
Vermilion’s kitchen was showcasing vegetables before the plant-everything trend, and Pflaumer plans to continue the long-running tradition. Diners can expect a number of root-to-stalk dishes like beets—plus pesto from the greens and pickles from the stems—with stracciatella cheese. Entrees include meatless plates such as an Eastern Shore mushroom “steak” with black soy beans and bordelaise sauce.
The restaurant’s personality has always been split between a cozy entry-level bar and dining room above. In the former, diners will find a lengthy list of 75-plus whiskies, seasonal cocktails, and low or no-alcohol libations. Order from the regular menu, or graze on the more casual bar menu, which will have additional snacks like a pickle-brined fried chicken with tzatziki for dipping, Maryland crab croquettes, and local oysters with granita.
Vermilion’s kitchen has turned out a number of talented chefs over the years, including Tony Chittum (Iron Gate) and Thomas Cardarelli (Stracci Pizza). Pflaumer, who recently moved to Alexandria with his wife and baby daughter, says he’s excited to join the ranks.
“I looked at it as a great opportunity—everyone is so excited to see it reopen,” Pflaumer says. “I want to help take it into its next chapter.”
Vermilion will open for dinner service to start, followed by Friday lunch and weekend brunch in the future.
Vermilion. 1120 King St., Alexandria.