Known for its chef-driven independent restaurants in historic buildings, creative comfort food and waterfront eateries, Alexandria, Virginia, just minutes from Washington D.C., has dozens of new dining options waiting to be discovered. Look out for a (sugar) rush of sweet spots, including a bubble tea bonanza and retro frozen custard concoctions. Find mouth-watering pan-Asian cuisine, from sushi to steamed buns to slurpable noodles, alongside Latin American eats like sweet-and-savory Bolivian salteñas. Keep reading for more than 35 new and coming soon concepts to explore in 2020.
Along with Southeast Asian cuisine at Del Ray’s Spice Kraft Indian Bistro and Middle Eastern and Mediterranean infusions from wildly popular New York-based brand, The Halal Guys, here’s where to go, and what to look forward to:
Yunnan by Potomac Noodle House: Alexandria’s newfound noodle trend was set off in spring 2019 by Yunnan by Potomac Noodle House, whose hearty mixian noodle bowls have earned praise from The Washington Post, Washingtonian and more.
Kung Fu Kitchen: In addition to hand-pulled “La-Mein” and hand-cut “Dao Xiao” noodle dishes, the West End’s outpost of this New York franchise specializes in cute-as-a-button soup dumplings nestled in a basket for your noshing.
Sisters Thai, set to open in Old Town North’s Eden Development in May 2020, expands its regional footprint with noodle dishes, curries and treats from Magnolia Dessert Bar & Coffee. Find Thai street food at upcoming Thai Signature, planned for King Street in 2020 (Kuay Teow noodles, anyone?). Finally, slurp up Vietnamese pho at Old Town’s upcoming Pho Nam, opening in spring 2020.
Yagút St.: Treat yourself to milky-sweet bubble tea at newly-open Yagút St., an Old Town North café from the team behind Vietnamese hotspots Caphe Banh Mi and Sunday in Saigon, in a photogenic setting studded with floral décor and equally artistic drinks, gelato flavors, pastries and more.
Spill the Tea: Boba fans can get the lowdown at Spill the Tea, open since late 2019, as they watch the world go by from their perch next to the Braddock Road Metro.
Following the national and global craze, the city cranks up the spice factor with an influx of hot fried chicken. Diners will be able to pick their piquant level at to-be-announced Wooboi Hot Chicken in Old Town North, featuring a Southern and Japanese-fusion twist, and sample Korean-style birds at Choong Man Chicken, aiming to debut a West End outpost in early 2020. For now, satisfy your craving at Southern-inspired The Rub Chicken & Beer on the first floor of Hen Quarter.
The Handover: Soak up the cozy environs beneath a striking koi painting as you enjoy temaki rolled before your very eyes at King Street’s casual counter, which opened in February 2020.
The King’s Ransom: The Handover’s sister restaurant offers a chic lounge atmosphere upstairs, with gold graffiti trimmings, twenty cocktails and a Japanese-inspired menu ranging from poké bowls to bento boxes to tuna tostadas.
Adding to an already-robust Japanese dining scene, more sushi rolls onto the scene with Hinata Sushi Bar & Grill in Old Town North’s new Eden development, due in March 2020, while Sushi Jin Next Door arrives in the West End in May 2020.
Novel Sweets Spots
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams: The in-demand, Ohio-based national brand landed on S. Patrick St. in fall 2019, churning up signature flavor flights of plant-based, popular scoops like brown butter almond brittle, brambleberry crisp, frosé sorbet and more.
Smallcakes NOVA: Head to the picturesque cupcakery and creamery, known from “Cupcake Wars,” which opened in Del Ray in October 2019. Try a Smashcake, which sandwiches homemade ice cream inside cupcake flavors like banana pancake and peanut butter cup.
Coming later this year, look for Goodies Frozen Custard & Treats, a retro Wisconsin-style frozen custard shop set in a small brick Instagramable ice house that dates back to the 1930s. This spring, find Magnolia Dessert Bar & Coffee inside soon-to-open Sisters Thai for your fix of everything from ice cream-topped honey toast to coconut snow ice.
Latin American Flavors
Silpancho’s House: At brick-red Silpancho’s House on Mount Vernon Ave., take for your pick of Bolivian specialties from sweet-and-savory salteñas praised by The Washington Post to its name-sake dish, silpancho, a feast featuring steak Milanese alongside rice and potatoes, diced veggies and topped off with fried eggs.
Taquería Señora Lola: Also in Arlandria, Taquería Señora Lola serves mouth-watering, spit-roasted meats, including steak, chicken and pork al pastor, to tuck into your tortillas. Try tacos stuffed with any of the above (or other Mexican specialties such as lengua or buche) and start with the guacamole en molcajete (in a mortar).
Taquería Picoso: For more flavors of Mexico City, try Taquería Picoso, which opened in January 2020 at the West End’s Shops at Mark Center. Choose between chilaquiles verdes or rojas, tortillas stuffed with suadero (braised brisket) or barbacoa, and alitas al carbon—chicken wings, CDMX-style.
El Saltado: Follow the smell of charcoal-broiled rotisserie chicken into El Saltado, a newly opened Peruvian joint at Bradlee Shopping Center, and pair your bird with yuca and sauces or sample the namesake “stir fry” entrees.
Waterfront Dining Destinations
Riverside Taco Company: Open since summer 2019 and operational during outdoor dining season, Riverside Taco Company serves up grab-and-go tacos, drinks, elotes, rice bowls and more from an Airstream trailer steps away from its sister restaurant, Vola’s.
Coming in 2020, Barca Pier will offer on-pier waterfront dining in a seasonal outdoor eatery inspired by Barcelona’s beach bars and made from carved-out shipping containers. Expect a menu filled with small plates brimming with Mediterranean, Greek, Italian and Moroccan flavors. Barca Wine Bar, which will be open throughout the year, will boast an intimate, sophisticated setting and vast selection of unique and domestic wines from around the world.
Coffee Shops with a Twist
Beyond the Vietnamese coffee and bubble tea to be found at Yagút St., here’s where to get your java:
For Five Coffee Roasters: Strategically located by the King Street Metro, the New York-based franchise’s Alexandria shop sells specialty coffee roasts as well as colorful concoctions like the Blue Owl Acai Bowl, matcha lattes, stuffed rainbow cookies and more.
Cat lovers will soon be able to cuddle to their hearts’ content at Mount Purrnon Cat Café + Wine Bar, expected to open in 2020. Part café, part adoption center, Mount Purrnon will sell pre-packaged snacks and drinks in a dining area adjacent to the cat room where guests can mingle with adoptable cats and even take one home. The cat café will feature Alexandria-specific historical touches and offer board games, movie nights, trivia and yoga.
2020 will also see the expansion of beloved local cafes, as Misha’s Coffee opens a second spot at 6 Prince St. near the waterfront and Del Ray’s St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub satellite operation arrives in the new Eden Development space in Old Town North.
After sampling American gastropub fare at Old Hat Bar & Kitchen, opening in spring 2020 from a co-owner with cocktail ties to D.C.’s Compass Rose and Thip Khao, take a trip down south with these satisfying menus:
The Rub Chicken & Beer: Crank up the heat with hot chicken and cool off with a cold one at the newest pop-up at the base level of Hen Quarter. If you could season something with a Southern drawl, it sure would taste like the Memphis sauce-drenched Barbecue Bird, the Nashville Hot Chicken sandwich and jalapeño-cheddar hush puppies.
French & Southern: Newly-opened Hyatt Centric Old Town’s in-house restaurant fuses flavors from Bordeaux to Birmingham with elevated dishes such as Culotte steak with duck fat bearnaise and fries and shrimp and grits topped with hog jowl and garlic confit.
Oak Steakhouse: Old Town North’s luxe iteration of the Charleston-based steakhouse franchise, open since July 2019, has garnered attention for its New York strip, bone-in ribeye, corn agnolotti and sweet-and-salty peanut butter semifreddo.
New Year, New Look
Bastille Brasserie & Bar: Old Town North’s resident Francophiles debuted a new look in January 2020, channeling a bistro vibe with mosaic tile floors, warm wood and bright walls as well as a mural map of Paris, along with tweaks to the menu for a fresh focus on French classics.
Hank & Mitzi’s Italian Kitchen: Acclaimed restaurateur Jamie Leeds announced a new concept for the former Hank’s Pasta Bar in Old Town North, set to open in early 2020. Named after her parents, Leeds’ new venture will feature a few dishes from the beloved pasta bar as well as new delights and the debut of an 80-seat rooftop patio for al fresco dining and imbibing.
Michael’s Little Italy: The S. Washington St. outpost formerly known as La Trattoria, Michael’s Little Italy now houses four dining experiences under one roof. Grab a pie from the casual pizzeria, cozy up with fireside dining downstairs, and indulge in Italian fare in the main dining room upstairs, which boasts a live piano player every weekend, as well as “The Buca Room” cocktail lounge.
Carlyle Diner: January 2020 saw the opening of Carlyle Diner, a new neighborhood nook to grab comfort food. Drop by for a shake or homemade slice of pie after a show at the Carlyle Club next door, under the same ownership.
In summer 2020, look for the city’s first Silver Diner at the new West Alex Development in the West End. The popular regional franchise is known for its crowd-pleasing menu, old-school aesthetic and forward-thinking menu featuring everything from hearty salads made with locally-grown ingredients to juicy burgers and more.
Game-Watching Gathering Spots
Augie’s Mussel House & Beer Garden: At Augie’s, open since fall 2019, order the waffles and frites or a bevy of mussels to pair with more than 70 brews as you pour one out for the home team. For an indoor-outdoor viewing experience, migrate to their festive outdoor beer garden and watch the game on one of their 13 TVs.
Doyle’s Outpost: Catch all the highlights on 20 70” TVs at the sports bar in just-opened Doyle’s Outpost in Alexandria’s West End. During halftime or period breaks, take a time-out from the on-screen action with Doyle’s state-of-the-art arcade, virtual reality experiences or a rapid-fire game of laser tag.