Arlandria Top 9: Your Guide to Alexandria’s Little-Known Neighborhood

“Arlandria” may sound like a magical land in a fairy tale, but the Alexandria neighborhood just north of Del Ray is very real, authentic and off the beaten path. Here, in an area popularly known as Chirilagua after the El Salvadoran town where many residents and business owners grew up, small restaurants serve everything from Cajun cuisine to curiles, live music flows at the Birchmere music hall and market signs in primary colors dot the streets.

In fact, now that I think about it, maybe this multicultural enclave is a little bit magical. Where else can you get Peruvian, Sri Lankan and fried chicken and waffles all within one block? So you can explore Arlandria to the fullest, we asked local resident and The Arlandrian blogger Kevin Beekman for his top picks:

 

1. RT’s Restaurant

alexandria-va-neighborhoods-arlandria-rts-smallImage credit: Visit Alexandria

Locals and Washington elite alike slide into booths to slurp spicy she-crab soup and crawfish etouffee at this neighborhood standby. And for good reason: RT’s is an institution, its New Orleans-inspired dishes earning it a spot on Washingtonian’s Top 100 Restaurants list 15 years in a row. Kevin recommends the Death by Gumbo, with shrimp, oysters, lump crab, crawfish tails and andouille sausage. “You won’t be disappointed,” he says.

 

2. The Foo Fighters, “Arlandria”

celebrities-from-alexandria-dave-grohl-foo-fightersImage credit: Scott Barlow

Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl attended high school in Alexandria and later returned to his home just up the road from Arlandria to record the band’s album Nothing Left to Lose. The neighborhood apparently made quite an impression on Grohl, who mentions Arlandria in the 1999 tune “Headwires” and went on to write the song “Arlandria” in 2011. While living nearby, Kevin says, Grohl was often spotted at Birchmere shows or out to lunch in his favorite corner of Alexandria.

 

3. Shakthi South Asian Cuisine

alexandria-va-neighborhoods-arlandria-shakthi-south-asianImage credit: Visit Alexandria

Shakthi was the first Sri Lankan restaurant in the DC area and it has surely been a tough act to follow, with spicy (as in hot!) curries, Sri Lankan street food and nectar-of-the-gods coconut sambol. They also serve Thai food out of respect for the much-beloved previous tenant Po Siam. Kevin’s insider tip? “The Sunday buffet is a fun alternative to the bustle of the usual tired brunches elsewhere. You can feel comfortable lingering.” (Another tip: Kevin Bacon is practically a regular at Shakthi, stopping by every time he’s in town.)

 

4. “Wafle Shop”

alexandria-va-neighborhoods-arlandria-waffle-shopImage credit: Visit Alexandria

Yes, that’s right: Wafle Shop. Or Waffle Shop, depending on which sign at this iconic 24-hour diner you’re going by. It’s the last of a regional chain of diners and still displays its original Art Moderne neon sign, one familiar to generations of locals, as well as the endearing misspelling on the awning out front.  What should you get at this legit hole in the wall? One of two things: waffles—or wafles.

 

5. The Legendary Birchmere Music Hall

alexandria-va-birchmere-live-music-mural-550Image credit: Visit Alexandria

One of the last great listening rooms in the U.S., the Birchmere is beloved by artists and audiences alike for delivering what country singer Robert Earl Keen calls “an experience more than a show.” The intimate 500-seat music hall has hosted the likes of Johnny Cash, the Dixie Chicks, Ray Charles and Emmylou Harris and continues to draw top talent and rising stars. Even when you can’t score tickets, Kevin says, you can belly up to the bar outside the music hall and watch on closed circuit screens while noshing on buffalo wings, catfish or pulled pork.

 

6. Latino Food and Markets

alexandria-va-neighborhoods-arlandria-chirilagua-marketImage credit: Visit Alexandria

Tired of Tex-Mex? Take your taste buds on a trip on down to the rest of Latin America in Arlandria. Peruvian sisters Paula and Celia Coleto serve up authentic ceviche and traditional Andean breakfast foods (blood sausage, anyone?) at Huascaran, a neighborhood fixture, while residents favor Salvadoran dishes at El Pulgarcito for a taste of home (don’t miss the curiles). Markets like El Paisa offer a variety of Latino foods and coffee, plus tacos, carne asada and pupusas to go.

 

7. Four Mile Run Park + Farmers and Artisans Market

alexandria-va-neighborhoods-arlandria-four-mile-run-farmers-market-stallImage credit: Four Mile Run Farmers and Artisans Market

Four Mile Run Park is home to a permanent wildlife sanctuary and Four Mile Run Creek, a popular fishing and bird-watching spot. It’s also where Four Mile Run Farmers and Artisans Market happens every Sunday from April through November. This community-run market hosts small businesses, farmers and up-and-coming entrepreneurs selling artisanal foodstuffs, produce and crafts—and it features live music by local artists every week. According to Kevin, who helped found it, the market raises funds for the park and for restoration efforts “because that’s Arlandria…a bunch of people pulling together doing great things.”

 

8. MOM’s Organic Market

alexandria-va-neighborhoods-arlandria-moms-organic-marketImage credit: Visit Alexandria

Kevin calls MOM’s Organic Market “the proverbial American success story.” According to Kevin, the wholly organic market started as a delivery service out of the founder’s mother’s garage with the mission of helping promote and fund environmental restoration. Since then, MOM’s not only has a storefront in Arlandria but also all throughout the region. But its mission has stayed the same: 100 percent organic, 100 percent committed to the environment.

 

9. A Cool Name

Maybe you’ve figured this out by now, but Arlandria straddles the border of Arlington and Alexandria…get it? Originally Arlandria was the name of a shopping center in the area, then the name of the business district, and now the neighborhood (and that Foo Fighers song). And like many border towns, it brings together many international and local flavors to create one rich (and sometimes spicy) community.

 

Find more information about Alexandria neighborhoods here.

Header image credit: Visit Alexandria