Photograph courtesy of K. Summerer for Visit Alexandria.
Alexandria

The latest happenings, plus where to eat, shop, and explore.

About Alexandria

Old Town. Photograph by Misha Enriquez for Visit Alexandria


Your 2020 mini-guide to the popular DC suburb. By Marisa M. Kashino, Ann Limpert, Mimi Montgomery, and Jacqueline Tynes.

For Cat People


A cat cafe opening during a pandemic? Hear us out. Old Town’s Mount Purrnon (109 S. Alfred St.) is Colonial-themed—peep the cat in a tricorn hat on its home­page—and serves as a cat lounge, coffee shop, and adoption center. An hour of kitty time is $20, but those who need to escape their WFH for longer can get a daily pass for $40 or a monthly for $80. The cafe is separate from the felines, so you won’t risk getting cat hair in your coffee. Masks are required.

For Dog People


A rendering of Brewski’s Barkhaus. Rendering Courtesy of Barkhaus


While cat cafes have been popping up around town for the last few years, a newer concept is the dog bar. One of two that are scheduled to open in the region this fall is Brewski’s Barkhaus in Del Ray (529 East Howell Ave.). For $225 a year, or $25 a month, members and their dogs will get unlimited access to a private indoor/outdoor dog park as well as a dog-friendly restaurant and bar.

Italian Arrivals and Departures


Alexandria got two new pizza-and-pasta joints this summer. The first to open was Piece Out in Del Ray (2419 Mount Vernon Ave.), owned by the Ponzi family, who also run Alexandria’s Cafe Pizzaiolo. The restaurant offers New York- and Detroit-style slices and pies, plus frosé, wings, and mini-cannolis. The menu is available for takeout or dine-in on the patio or in the socially distanced dining room.

The second spot to debut, Hank & Mitzi’s Italian Kitchen in Old Town (600 Montgomery St.), is the latest venture from Jamie Leeds, the chef and restaurateur behind Hank’s Oyster Bar. The menu is heavy on pasta made in-house, hand-crafted pizzas, and Negronis and spritzes. The restaurant has patio seating, and you can also order delivery via Doordash.

Meanwhile, Old Town lost its beloved Pizzeria Paradiso because of Covid-19. The popular decade-old pizza-and-beer destination shut its doors back in March and will not reopen. You can still find owner Ruth Gresser’s Neapolitan pies at a monthly pop-up at Alexandria’s Port City Brewing Company (3950 Wheeler Ave.).

Cycling in a Pandemic


Ascend Cycle’s new garage (2903 Mount Vernon Ave.) is literally that: a former garage converted into an open-air cycling studio for pandemic-safe workouts. Just down the street from the studio’s original indoor location in Del Ray, the garage has sliding doors left open for air circulation, and all bikes are spaced ten feet apart. Riders tune in to the music and instructor’s voice via headphones, and everyone gets a personal sanitation kit. To ride, you must bring your own shoes, headphones, water, and towel. It’s $22 per class.

Another Covid Closure


Also shut because of the pandemic: quirky Pendleton Carryout Co. in Old Town, which featured a rotating cast of pop-ups selling cakes, dumplings, and pupusas alongside its excellent Roman-style pizza. But it’s not all bad news. A new tenant is already slated for Pendleton’s space: the pun-loving Chewish Deli (807 Pendleton St.). Owner Gregg Linzey, who also runs a food truck with a similar menu—it will go on temporary hiatus—will serve New York-style bagels, breakfast sandwiches, Reubens, and baked goods. A warning for traditionalists: Schmears have included flavors such as maple-espresso and roasted garlic.

Developer Dissed


A huge new development slated to re-place an aging apartment complex bordered by South Patrick and North Washington streets in Old Town came under intense scrutiny at a design-review hearing earlier this fall. As reported by the Washington Business Journal, when the New York company Asland Capital Partners presented plans for its 777-unit Heritage at Old Town project, officials unleashed a torrent of criticism, including “We can’t put lipstick on this pig” and “This is Ballston. We don’t want to be Ballston.” Ouch.

The developer contends that the project—which would be among the largest residential developments recently built in Alexandria—needs to be big to accommodate the 190 affordable units in the plan. No word yet on next steps.

Say Yes to the Salon


Monte Durham outside Salon Monte. Photograph by Misha Enriquez for Visit Alexandria


Monte Durham, the fan-favorite bridal consultant on TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta, opened his own hair salon in Old Town in September, called Salon Monte (210 S. Union St.). Before he became a reality-TV star, Durham was a hairstylist. He also did a long-ago stint as a personal stylist at the Woodward & Lothrop at Landmark Mall. According to ALXNow, the Belle Haven resident decided to open the salon after the pandemic curtailed filming of his show. Inside, the place is decked out in custom wallpaper, with shelves of Durham’s own line of products.

Timber!


In September, Alexandria City Public Schools chopped down a beloved 150-year-old oak tree on the campus of T.C. Williams High School to make way for a football-stadium concession stand. Nearly 3,000 people signed a Change.org petition to save the tree, but to no avail. “A crime has been committed,” one activist told ALXNow after the oak’s demise.

New Old Town Shopping


In January, Sephora moved into the storefront previously occupied by home-furnishings boutique Random Harvest (810 King St.). Over the summer, an outpost of British retailer FatFace took over the old Trading Post menswear space (128 King St.). The store sells casualwear and accessories for men, women, and children. It has ten US locations, though this is the first in the Washington area. As for that name, it’s a reference to the cofounders’ favorite “fat” run in the French Alps.

Save the Sign


When the outdoor-clothing company Patagonia announced last year that it would move into the shuttered Old Town Theater (815½ King St.), residents wondered what would become of the building’s landmark “Old Town” sign. The retailer initially planned to remove the lettering and replace it with its own branding. But after city officials pushed back, it relented. Though the sign was saved, the store’s original spring opening date couldn’t be. Because of coronavirus, Patagonia is now working to open sometime this fall.

Next Act


After 18 years on North Royal Street, MetroStage theater closed in 2019 in preparation for its move to a new, larger home at the Venue (901 N. Fairfax St.), a mixed-use development on the Old Town North waterfront, scheduled to finish this year. The project is centered around transforming the Crowne Plaza hotel into a 13-story condo tower. MetroStage—which produces contemporary plays and musicals—will occupy a 7,000-square-foot performing-arts space at the base of the building.

Curry and Chow Mein


Indo-Chinese creations such as chop suey tinted with turmeric and spice-battered fried chicken in chili-garlic sauce are on the menu at IndoChen (4906 Brenman Park Dr.), which opened in the Cameron Station development in August. The restaurant, formerly known as London Curry House, has ditched its red-walled, chandeliered decor in favor of a more muted palette. But the owners remain the same, and staples from the old menu, including butter chicken and lamb rogan josh, are sticking around.

Something Sweet


Brandon Byrd with his Goodie’s van. Photograph by Evy Mages



Owner Brandon Byrd has won lots of fans over the years selling sweets from his Goodie’s Frozen Custard & Treats vintage van. Now he’s launching a brick-and-mortar version under the same name. Starting with a “soft” opening planned for November, he’ll be serving his Wisconsin-style custard from a walk-up window in Old Town (200 Commerce St.).
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Where to Eat in Alexandria

New eateries worth a try in Alexandria, plus a few local favorites.
mediterranean food
Enjoy burrata straight from Hank’s Pasta Bar. Photo by Scott Suchman

NOTE THIS HAS NOT BEEN UPDATED.

Alexandria Pastry Shop. Find sweet confections as well as sandwiches and salads at this beloved mainstay. 3690-H King St.; 703-578-4144.

The Dairy Godmother. The Del Ray fixture scoops Wisconsin-style frozen custard in flavors such as Toll House cookie. 2310 Mount Vernon Ave.; 703-683-7767.

El Paisa Grocery and Carry Out. Along with produce and pantry goods, you’ll find carry­out empanadas, tamales, and pupusas. 3414 Mount Vernon Ave.; 703-299-0214.

Fleurir Chocolates. You can watch candymakers craft sweets through the storefront windows, but the salted milk-chocolate caramels are worth a trip inside. 724 Jefferson St.; 703-838-9055.

Hank’s Oyster Bar. A King Street staple known for its fresh coastal fare—not to mention a great dirty martini. 1026 King St.; 703-739-4265.

Hank’s Pasta Bar. Few dining rooms in the area are as suited to family get-togethers as this spacious spot decorated with Shaker chairs and Chesterfield couches. House-made pastas are for sharing and can lean rich—delicious as they are, there’s only so much beef-Bolognese lasagna and sausage-and-cream mafalde you can put away. Plus, there’s luscious burrata and house-made ricotta with pepper and honey to start. 600 Montgomery St.; 571-312-4117.

Junction Bakery & Bistro. A carb lover’s paradise for straight-from-the-oven croissants, muffins, and loaves. 1508 Mount Vernon Ave.; 703-436-0025.

Mia’s Italian Kitchen. For simple but hearty classics including a build-your-own meat-and-cheese board. 100 King St.; 703-997-5300.

Momo Sushi & Cafe. This spot in a narrow rowhouse has served fresh rolls for more than a decade. 212 Queen St.; 703-299-9092.

Nasime. This stark-white storefront with just 20 seats isn’t big on atmospherics. What it lacks in ambience, though, it makes up for with its excellent value. Each night, chef/owner Yuh Shimomura proffers a single five-course tasting menu for $55. (He can accommodate dietary restrictions.) Shimomura trained both in Tokyo and at DC’s Kaz Sushi Bistro, and his sashimi plate, a constant for the second course, is a work of art. Dinners move on to an inventive fish or meat course, and a scoop of house-made ice cream sends you into the night. 1209 King St.; 703-457-0146.

1986—The Whiskey Bar. A nook in the back of Union Street Public House with more than 200 varieties of Scotch, bourbon, and whiskey. 121 S. Union St.; 703-548-1785.

The Peoples Drug. A drugstore turned cocktail bar serving Palomas and Moscow mules alongside starters and sandwiches. 103 N. Alfred St.; no phone.

Smoking Kow BBQ. The brick-and-mortar offshoot of the Kansas City–style BBQ food trucks, with an expanded menu of ribs and sandwiches. 3250 Duke St., 703-888-2649.

Southside 815. A favorite stop for rib-sticking Southern fare and one of the best happy hours in Old Town. 815 S. Washington St.; 703-836-6222.

Swing’s Coffee Roasters. Try the signature Mesco blend, patented in 1918, mixing beans from Latin America and Africa. 501 E. Monroe Ave.; 703-370-5050.

Sunday in Saigon. For authentic Vietnamese fare, such as pho with Wagyu beef dunked and cooked in hot broth at the table. 682 N. St. Asaph St.; 703-549-7777.

Vermilion. Chef Thomas Cardarelli, late of the Modern and Marea in New York, has taken over at this Old Town dining room. His menus change seasonally to showcase regionally grown ingredients. You’ll find both à la carte and prix fixe options. Creatively flavored ice creams—such as Vietnamese basil or chamomile-and-honey—are the way to go for dessert. For optimal people-watching, request a table upstairs overlooking bustling King Street. 1120 King St.; 703-684-9669.

Wag & Brew. Where you can sip wine, beer, or coffee and enjoy bites from Buzz Bakery on the weekend while your dog plays. 614-A S. Pickett St.; 703-888-2554.

Where to Shop in Alexandria

The best places to shop around Alexandria.
Alexandria Farmers Market. Photograph by Gabe Aceves.
Alexandria Farmers Market. Photograph by Gabe Aceves.

NOTE THIS HAS NOT BEEN UPDATED.

El Paisa Grocery and Carry Out. Along with produce and pantry goods, you’ll find carry­out empanadas, tamales, and pupusas. 3414 Mount Vernon Ave.; 703-299-0214.

Forge Industrial Works. For locally sourced gifts, antique furniture, and workshops on topics such as floral design and how to operate a manual camera. 128 S. Royal St., Suite 100; 571-290-3287.

Old Town Farmers Market. The country’s oldest continuous farmers market is open Saturdays. 301 King St.; 703-746-3200.

Penny Post. A woman-owned shop celebrating all things paper, such as elegant stationery, clever greeting cards, and witty cocktail napkins. (The truly pen-and-paper-obsessed can join its Correspondence Club to discuss the virtues of calligraphy and snail mail.) 1201 King St.; 703-888-1515.

The Dog Park. Both cats and dogs are welcome to sniff gourmet treats while their humans peruse a variety of food, clothing, and accessories. 705 King St.; 703-888-2818.

Things to Do in Alexandria

All the best things to do and places to see in Alexandria.
The craft studio AR Workshop offers a full schedule of DIY classes. Photograph courtesy of AR Workshop.
The craft studio AR Workshop offers a full schedule of DIY classes. Photograph courtesy of AR Workshop.

NOTE THIS HAS NOT BEEN UPDATED.

Alexandria Black History Museum. The museum examines the African-American experience in Alexandria, including exhibits on civil rights, art, and culture. 902 Wythe St.; 703-746-4356.

Alexandria Ghost & Graveyard Tour. Guides in Colonial garb give nighttime tours of Old Town, with stops at graveyards and supposedly haunted spots. 221 King St.; 703-519-1749.

AR Workshop. A DIY craft studio with a calendar of Pinterest-worthy classes, such as cheese-board tutorials, tote-bag painting, and organic-wine tastings. 107 N. Fairfax St.; 703-566-0177.

The Birchmere. Rufus Wainwright, Lyle Lovett, and Kevin Bacon have all graced the stage of this storied music hall. 3701 Mount Vernon Ave.; 703-549-7500.

Fort Ward Museum. Learn about Civil War–era medical inventions and Alexandria’s past as a city occupied by the Union Army. 4301 W. Braddock Rd.; 703-746-4848.

Founders Hall. A multi-use space with South Block Juice Co., yoga studio Vikriya Lab, and a pop-up clothing shop on the ground level, plus a coworking space upstairs. 106 N. Lee St.; no phone.

Gadsby’s Tavern Museum. The 18th-century hotel turned museum—one of George Washington’s hangouts—is offering special Hamilton-themed tours through Labor Day weekend. 134 N. Royal St.; 703-746-4242.

George Washington Masonic National Memorial. The impressive structure, honoring our first President, offers guided tours and an observation deck. 101 Callahan Dr.; 703-683-2007.

National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum. A hidden gem inside the US Patent and Trademark Office, where you can bone up on trivia about Edison’s light bulb and the Energizer bunny. 600 Dulany St.; 571-272-0095.

Synergy Float Center. A flotation-therapy spa where you’re buoyed by Epsom salt in a pod filled with water. The weightless sensation helps muscles relax. 1240 N. Pitt St.; 571-319-0355.

Photos of Alexandria

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