Alexandria’s Parker-Gray neighborhood near Braddock Metro in northwest Old Town is on the National Register of Historic Places, full of historic architecture and rich African American history with extraordinary restaurants and hidden gems. This guide highlights some of our favorite activities and restaurants in the Parker-Gray/Braddock neighborhood.
Make a day of it or turn it into a weekend—there’s no shortage of things to do, see and learn in Parker-Gray/Braddock. The best way to get around? Hop on one of many Capital Bikeshares for a fun and leisurely ride through the neighborhood.
Breakfast & Brunch
Blue and White Carry Out
If there’s an ‘Open’ sign at Blue and White Carry Out on Wythe Street, there’s usually a line. Credit: S. Stanton for Visit Alexandria
The best way to start your day in the Parker-Gray/Braddock neighborhood is with a breakfast sandwich from Blue and White Carry Out on Wythe Street, open Monday through Friday. This blink-and-you-might-miss-it fast-food restaurant has been a local favorite for over 40 years and is probably one of the only places you can pick up a full breakfast for under five bucks. One customer described the fried chicken sandwich as “the closest to my mama’s,” and it definitely won’t disappoint.
Credit: Mason Social Facebook Page
On the weekends, head to Mason Social for one of the best brunches in town. This hip, industrial-inspired eatery pays tribute to the Belle Pre Bottle Co. with decorative glass bottles inside. You can order anything from cinnamon Belgian waffles with bourbon maple syrup to a slow-braised pork BBQ sandwich with cider slaw. The bar is the perfect spot to watch a big game with a signature cocktail or a flight of draft beer, and the dining room is excellent for everything from a brunch date night to group gatherings.
Sugar Shack Donuts
Sugar Shack Donuts. Credit: M. Enriquez for Visit Alexandria
If you want to start your day off on a quick and sweet note, pick up some of the tastiest donuts in America at Sugar Shack Donuts on North Henry Street, which offers new and eccentric flavors every day like Bourbon Caramel Chocolate and Bacon Maple with the classics.
African American History
Parker-Gray was the name of the only school for African Americans in the early 20th century in Alexandria, named in honor of educators John Parker and Sarah Gray. The Parker-Gray School, erected in the early 20th century, was located on Wythe Street, where the Charles Houston Recreation Center stands today. The history and stories of Parker-Gray are well preserved, and you can spend the morning learning more about the fascinating history.
Alexandria Black History Museum
PBS’ Mercy Street actor L. Scott Caldwell visits the Alexandria Black History Museum to study her role for the Civil War medical drama, based on the real stories of Alexandria, Virginia. Credit: M. Enriquez for Visit Alexandria
After breakfast, the Alexandria Black History Museum is a can’t-miss museum in Parker-Gray, with exhibits that highlight local and regional histories. Visiting the museum on Wythe Street, which was once the segregated library for Alexandria’s African American community, gives you a much deeper understanding of what life was like for African Americans in the Parker-Gray neighborhood and in the whole of Alexandria. Take your time as you explore the exhibits and ask the knowledgeable and friendly staff questions.
Alexandria African American Hall of Fame
The Charles Houston Recreation Center is on the site of the former Parker-Gray School, and includes the Alexandria African American Hall of Fame. Credit: S. Stanton for Visit Alexandria
Next, visit the African American Hall of Fame exhibit inside the Charles Houston Recreation Center where the historic Parker-Gray School once stood on Wythe Street. The exhibit tells the stories of Alexandria’s African American community throughout history, and highlights fascinating people and stories you might not know about unless you visited—like the fact that the NBA’s first African American player was hall-of-famer and Alexandria native Earl Lloyd. The exhibit also celebrates local writers, activists, pioneers, trailblazers, government officials and other leaders.
Lunch Like a Local
Artist Jessica Lovelace created extensive murals throughout Lost Dog Cafe, painting a picture of life at the Belle Pre Bottle Co. in Parker-Gray through imagery of dogs. Credit: S. Stanton for Visit Alexandria
Lost Dog Cafe has always been my go-to for a quick and delicious lunch in Alexandria. The menu has seemingly endless options for delicious appetizers, salads, sandwiches and pizzas. You can feel good about eating there, too, as the restaurant supports the Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation. Bring Fido along and eat outside on the patio, or eat inside and admire the extensive murals that tell the history of the Belle Pre Bottle Co. history (which was located in the same spot on North Henry Street) through very creative images of dogs.
Dos Amigos Bar & Grill
Credit: Dos Amigos Bar & Grill Facebook Page
Dos Amigos Bar & Grill, just steps from the Braddock Metro, has one of the best margaritas in town and over a dozen different recipes to help you cool down. Their fresh, classic Tex-Mex menu can be enjoyed on the patio, inside or at the bar seven days a week.
Hawwi Ethiopian Restaurant
Credit: Hawwi Ethiopian Restaurant Facebook Page
Family-owned Hawwi Ethiopian Restaurant is a hidden gem on Queen Street, where their business model is to “treat you more like old friends or family than customers.” The casual restaurant gets rave reviews on Yelp for authentic dishes served with Injera—a spongy and sour traditional Ethiopian bread, and offers plenty of options for vegans. The combo dishes are perfect for sharing at lunch or taking to go for a picnic in nearby Helen Miller/Bernard Hunter Park.
Get Outside With Bocce, Ping Pong and a Kids Climbing Wall
Braddock Interim Open Space Park
Sit outside, play bocce or table tennis at the one-of-a-kind Braddock Interim Open Space park. Credit: S. Stanton for Visit Alexandria
After lunch, stretch your legs and get outside to enjoy free bocce and table tennis at Braddock Interim Open Space park on North Henry Street. The park has free equipment including balls and paddles in a plastic bin underneath the ping-pong table. There’s also plenty of outdoor seating and green space, perfect for picnics and summer reading.
Helen Miller/Bernard Hunter Park
Helen Miller/Bernard Hunter Park includes a basketball court and a small playground. Credit: S. Stanton for Visit Alexandria
Helen Miller/Bernard Hunter Park, across the street from Hawwi Ethiopian Restaurant on North Fayette Street is perfect for toddlers and young children, with a fun playground including slides, a small climbing wall, swings, see-saws and balance beams. The park also includes a basketball court with plenty of shade for hot summer afternoons, where open pick-up games are frequent for locals. The park is located across the street from the old historic Carver Theater at 1120 Queen Street, a movie theater that served the African American community from the 1930’s to 60’s and is now a church.
Drinks & Dinner
It will take more than one trip to the Parker-Gray/Braddock neighborhood to work your way through the best restaurants, but it’s definitely worth your time and your taste buds will thank you. In the early 1900’s, Parker-Gray was home to the Belle Pre Bottle Co., claimed to be the largest milk bottling factory in the world at the time, the factory produced one million bottles per month. The factory later served as a glass company that produced flasks instead of bottles, and burned in three separate fires until it was eventually destroyed in 1921.
In a nod to the history of the Belle Pre Bottle Co., we’ve rounded up our favorite spots for sips, spirits and dinner in Parker-Gray/Braddock, with something for everyone. Cheers!
Creative cocktails are the norm at Captain Gregory’s. Credit: Captain Gregory’s Facebook Page
Cocktail enthusiasts will love the speakeasy Captain Gregory’s inside Sugar Shack Donuts for a cozy and intimate atmosphere with creative and original cocktails from Sam Brooks using ingredients like banana and red miso infused bourbon, burnt sugar or cedar leaves. The small setting means Brooks can make fantastic and personalized recommendations for cocktails paired with food on the menu including sliders and sandwiches made with sugarless donut dough.
Credit: Tony Brown for Bastille Restaurant
A night at Bastille is the fastest way to get to France from Alexandria, offering contemporary twists on French classics including duck confit with seasonal vegetables. The wine list is equally impressive; ordering a bottle to share is a must.
Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap
The fire pit at Lena’s is the perfect spot for a night with friends. Credit: M. Enriquez for Visit Alexandria
Located near the Braddock Metro, Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap is the best spot for outdoor dining in Parker-Gray/Braddock, including a patio with a fire pit and blankets for breezy nights. It’s hard to imagine a better way to spend a night out with a group of friends than with a bottle of wine and wood-fired pizza around a fire pit and friendly service.
Cherry on Top: Milkshake at Lost Dog
Top your night off with a delicious milkshake from Lost Dog Cafe. Swiss Chocolate is my favorite, with whipped cream, of course.
Cheers to a day well-spent in Parker-Gray/Braddock. For more on Alexandria’s vibrant neighborhoods, click here.
Header image credit: S. Stanton for Visit Alexandria