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Alexandria, VA suggestions?

Originally posted on the Mid-Atlantic board...

Thinking about a weekend getaway to Alexandria, VA...probably staying in Old Town. I haven't been in ages - any good recommendations? I'm a strict vegetarian but husband will eat pretty much anything (I'm not high-maintenance - a good salad and sides are fine for me so husband can enjoy a good meaty meal), we're open to all ethnic options (except Indian) and we prefer places that are casual and low-key (read: don't want to pack a dress and heels).

TIA!

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  1. I live a block from Old Town and it kills me to say that it is not the best for dining. DH and I have one favorite, Bastille. It is french but not traditional. The food is local, fresh, and we have yet to have a bad meal (only one salad we did not care for). It's unpretentious---we've seen groups come in wearing jeans. No one cares. My favorite appetizer there are the shrimp beignets with a dipping sauce. If your not a vegan I recommend them. Fish is always outstanding.

    We really enjoyed Jackson 20 (it's on King St. in one of the hotels). Many tourists, very casual.

    I have not been to the famous Restaurant Eve but that is not casual.

    The best ethnic is out in the burbs. I would try to eat downtown if you don't have access to a car.

    Maybe some others have had better luck than I have in Old Town.

    2 Replies
    1. re: nissenpa

      Pizzeria Paradiso is a good option. It is at the foot of King Street. Even further down at the base of King Street is Mai Thai. For budget but also good, go to Red Mai, which is pan-Asian place. That is my go to place for a cheap lunch.

      1. re: nissenpa

        While I agree that Old Town isn't the best place for restaurants, in the sense that there are lots of mediocre places, there are also a decent number of good places (although as it happens, some of my favorites like Eamonn's would be pretty hopeless for a vegetarian).

        I like Red Rocks better than Pizzeria Paradiso (practically next door) for pizza, although Paradiso may have better beers.

        Restaurant Eve's lunch deal at the bar, $14 or so for any two items from a selection of drinks, entrees, and desserts (weekdays only, I think) is excellent.

        Majestic isn't formal, and lots of people like it, although it's a little too comfort food for my taste.

        Vermillion is good, nice but not as fancy as Restaurant Eve, but still may be a small step above jeans.

        Eamonn's fish and chips is good, but may be nearly useless for a vegetarian (except for the chips and the English candy).

        Pita House (on King) has decent middle eastern. Caphe Banh Mi on Cameron near Royal is my new favorite Asian place in Old Town, better than any of the Thai places I've tried, it's cheap at least for lunch, and I'm pretty sure they have some vegetarian things.

        I've been unimpressed with Jackson 20 (decent, but not exciting and not worth the prices), La Tasca (way better tapas at Jaleo in Crystal City), and Fontaine Creperie, despite the fact that other people seem to like them.

      2. Hope you get more suggestions on this board than you were on the Mid-Atlantic, this seems to be a much more active board.

        Like I suggested, La Tasca (http://www.latascausa.com/site/locati...) may be something a little different. The Fontaine Creperie (http://www.fontainecaffe.com/) may also offer something a little different for you!

        Here are a couple of other threads that have some good suggestions as well:

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/782253
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/176753

        3 Replies
        1. re: ForFoodsSake

          Thanks for the suggestions so far. I looked at the menu for La Tasca it looked promising. Is there a Pizza Paradiso in DC? If so, I went a few years ago and really enjoyed it. I'll check out the other places that have been mentioned. We'll only be there from Saturday through Monday, but I like to have a few back-ups, just in case.

          I also realized that the weekend we're thinking about going is during Restaurant Week in DC and Alexandria. Would that change anyone's recos?

          1. re: punkin712

            There are two Pizzeria Paradisos in DC, one in Dupont Circle that's been there for years and years and one in Georgetown that's a few years old.

            1. re: punkin712

              I would avoid La Tasca the food is flavorless and not worth visiting. If you want tapas try Jaleo in Crystal City which is close to Alexandria.

          2. Three more places to check out

            Overwood-great burger for the meat eater, tremendous wood fired vegetable lasagna for the vegetarian. their specialties are anything cooked over their wood fired grill, hence the name.
            220 North Lee St. Alexandria, VA 22314
            (703) 535-3340
            Southside 815
            This is more of a meat eaters kinda place but i think there is enough on there to be vegi-friendly, it has a creole theme w/some tasty po-boys on the menu.
            815 South Washington Street Alexandria, Virginia 22314-4220
            (703) 836-6222
            and finally at the Lorien Hotel there is a fancy shmancy place called Brabo which is very good but they have a casual spur attached to it called the Brabo Tasting Room which is a warm friendly jeans oriented space. if you go there, stop in the main restaurant and sit at the bar for an excellent cocktail, we drop in from time to time when we are walking around king street.
            1600 King Street Alexandria, VA 22314
            (703) 894-3440

            there is plenty of very good dining to be had in Old Town, enjoy your visit

            1 Reply
            1. re: taoseno

              Second Overwood. Their ribeye and hangar steaks are one of the best deals in town. Lots of flavor and a good woodsey char from the wood fired grill. I don't care for salads, but theirs are substantial and satisfying.

              Of all the Hard Times Cafes, I think the one in Old Town is the most consistent. The vegetarian chili isn't bad at all and goes down nice with a hunk of cornbread. The place is about as casual as you can get.

            2. Hank's Oyster Bar (I'm assuming you eat fish?)
              A La Lucia
              Taqueria Poblano (well worth it to travel over to Del Ray)
              Cheesetique in Del Ray

              1. La Fromagerie on upper King Street (1222 King Street) closer to the King Street Metro opened a little bistro in the store. I had a nice cheese plate and a wine pairing. They have some nice vegetarian salads and sandwiches as well as charcuterie.

                I like many of the other suggestions as well, Caffe La Fontaine for crepes (and great pan roasted trout with spinach salad.....). Overwood has great meal size salads and Pizza Paradiso has the nice option of 8-inch pizzas.

                1. I second both Jackson 20 and A la Lucia. J20 can be expensive if you order off the dinner menu; cheaper if you order off the bar menu (which you can even if you sit in the dining area). They also have a great wine list of bottles that are $20. That can cut expenses if you drink wine. A la Lucia has excellent old-style Italian food and prix-fixe deal.

                  1. I live 4 blocks from King St and there are several above average places, all mentioned. The place to try out is Virtue Feed and Grain on Union, just off King. Its a casual Irish place (jeans), but some of the food is great. They have some great Irish "wierd stuff" such as Cruebeans (a pigs feet ball), steak and kidney pie, etc as well as some entrees that are outstanding. They have a unique drink menu that has among other things hoptails; beer based cocktails. They are much better than it sounds and well worth trying.

                    Eve is the best in town, but Virtue is my new favorite place. Be sure to sit upstairs.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: mforeman15

                      I loved the roasted chicken and chips I had at Virtue but don't think a vegetarian would fare well there. Very meat focused menu.

                      1. re: mforeman15

                        Second the crubeens and the steak & kidney pie, and the rest of the nasty bits menu. The roast chicken was also simply prepared but very flavorful. Some of the other items, though, can be hit or miss; I found the shaggers pie underseasoned and the cockels/mussels overly salty. But I keep going back because it's a great space with a fine bar and the sort of unsophisticated fare I find myself craving.

                      2. Lots of great suggestions above!

                        Just thought I would add Misha's for coffee, and if you are in Shirlington or DelRay Cheesetique, didn't see them mentioned.

                        1. Thanks to everyone for their suggestions! We ended up going to the following places:

                          --Mai Thai (dinner): I'm new to Thai food, but my husband eats it fairly frequently. I got the vegetarian green curry (very tasty, but could have been spicier) and my husband got the crispy fried whole fish (he loved it).

                          --Pita House (lunch): I grew up eating Middle Eastern food, so the bar was a little high for me. Hummus tasted similar to Sabra and the pita didn't seem to be homemade. I got a falafel sandwich which was okay, but definitely improved with a heavy slathering of tzatziki. Husband got Riz Bel Djaj (stewed chicken and brown rice) and said it was good.

                          --Moby Dick House of Kebob (Georgetown location - lunch): Definitely preferred this to Pita House. Appetizer of Kashk-o Bademjan was very good and accompanying pita was fresh and toasty. My falafel platter was good, but I might have been better of getting it as a sandwich. The platter comes with pita triangles which made it a little more difficult to eat. Husband got something with chicken, but I honestly don't remember what it was! He said it was very good and fresh tasting.

                          --Misha's: great coffee and a nice low-key atmosphere

                          --La Tasca (Old Town location - lunch): Saved the best for last! We went here for a late lunch (around 2:30pm) and got the unlimited tapas. Each dish was better than the one before - flavorful, hot, and delicious. We shared a pitcher of peach sangria which was very good, but didn't seem to pack much of a punch. In retrospect, I think we had so much food in our bellies that the alcohol didn't stand a chance! We actually went back the next day for happy hour (more sangria and $3 tapas at the bar) and again after dinner for house wines and music at the bar. I have to say that it was the best overall experience of the weekend and we would definitely go back.

                          There were so many places we wanted to try, but just didn't have time (or stomach space). We'll definitely be back! Thanks again for all the suggestions!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: punkin712

                            Thanks for the report back! Glad you had some enjoyable meals!

                          2. I'm actually a bit shocked to see that many people thing that the restaurant scene in Alexandria is mediocre. I've lived in Jersey the last 10 years, and done the foodie circuit throughout New Jersey, New York City, and Philly, and I have yet to be disappointed with anything in Alexandria.

                            I just moved to the area 3 weeks ago, and I have yet to be disappointed. I moved 2 blocks from King Street, and I am in absolute heaven. The scene in Old Town and the proximity to my offices going against traffic was perfect, hence the reason I chose to live in the area.

                            In those 3 weeks, I have visited many of the restaurants mentioned. So far, my favorites include:

                            Restaurant Eve
                            Brabo Tasting Room
                            Vermilion (loved my fish and the bartenders were awesome)
                            The Majestic (meat loaf rocks!)
                            The Formagerie (great place and very close to me)
                            Grape and Bean (I snack here twice a week)
                            Evening Star (Del Ray) (decent burger and Goose Island on tap)
                            Cheeserie (Del Ray) (love the cheese boards, flatbreads, and grilled cheese)
                            Columbia Firehouse (great tuna tartare and great bartenders)

                            Some of the restaurants I would consider on the mediocre side:
                            Virtue (good drinks)
                            Union Street Public House
                            The Wharf (decent crab cakes, service was a miss)
                            La Tasca (decent tapas)
                            Bistro Lafayette (tartare was uninspiring)
                            Tiffany's Tavern (decent burger and fun music)
                            BGR (similar to Five Guys and pricey for the quality)
                            Rock It Grill (fried food for when you are hammered)

                            Those are the ones that I can think of off of the top of my head. I'll chime in more on this area soon as I absolutely love it in Old Town! Cheers! -mJ

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: njfoodies

                              Disagree on Virtue and BGR.

                              Virtue comes from the same stock as Eve, so while it may not be the same caliber or quality, it's still very good. I've tried several dishes there and everything is always fresh and flavorful. While not every dish is a hit, you just have to find what you like. Overall, it's one of the brighter spots in Old Town, especially when considering the abundance of pedestrian tourist joints.

                              BGR is not really comparable to Five Guys, IMO. The quality of the meat is much better and you can get it cooked to order, as opposed to Five Guys done one-way burgers. While BGR isn't as good as Elevation or Ray's, it's still beats FG. They have a wide variety of toppings and menu burgers. The Wellington is always a winner in my book. They also have shakes and bottled sodas, always a plus.

                              1. re: biscuit

                                I'm sure Virtue has some great dishes, and I wouldn't hesitate to go back. Next time I'll definitely order something different. I enjoyed the bar and the bartenders there, and will be back soon. Probably stop there for a cocktail on my walk back home.

                                Havent had the Wellington at BGR yet but saw it. I'm a burger fanatic and if I were on death row, I'd probably ask for a burger. On the hunt for the best burger in this town.

                                We have Elevation Burger in NJ and it is good as well. I haven't seen in here yet. We also have Bobby Flay's "Bobby's Burger Palace" which
                                Is good as well...

                                Someone told me that the burger at Overwood is the best in town, so I'm sitting here now, skipping my usual hanger steak or Monday night angus special and giving the burger a whirl. We'll see how it is! -mJ

                                1. re: njfoodies

                                  Do report back!
                                  I haven't been to Overwood in a while, but thanks for putting it back on my radar.
                                  I used to get the meatloaf plate all the time!

                                  1. re: monavano

                                    Burger at Overwood was actually pretty damn tasty, and cooked to a perfect temperature of medium. I enjoyed their fries at all. Will definitely visit again sometime, but for now, there are way too many other places to check out. We'll see where I hit next when I get back into town on the 29th! Cheers! -mJ

                                    1. re: njfoodies

                                      Thank you! I'll be putting Overwood back into the rotation. Another pretty darn good burger and a great deal is the burger and fries at Southside 815 at happy hour-- half price!

                                      1. re: monavano

                                        Thanks for the tip. I still haven't made it over to that side of town yet, but will have to check it soon! Can't beat half price! Cheers! -mJ

                                        1. re: monavano

                                          Finally made it over to Southside 815 a few weeks ago and they did have a decent burger as well. Unfortunately though, the A/C was out, so the front of the bar was almost unbearable, and the beer was a bit on the warm side. I'll have to check it out again in a few weeks and see how it is when the temps inside are tolerable. Regardless, seems like it'll be a good spot to watch a game. Thanks for that tip monavano. -mJ

                                  2. re: biscuit

                                    Been back to Virtue several times since this post, and have had plenty of snack items there that were tasty for sure. Still not a go to place for me for an entree, but I do love their mac and cheese, Adobo wings, and a few other apps. For me however, I go there for the hoptails and the bartenders. Still love this place, and will probably stop in tonight for a nightcap after my drive back from Jersey. -mJ

                                    1. re: njfoodies

                                      Thanks for your reports. I've got to get us back to Virtue so DH can have their duck confit!