Visit a buzzing small-batch brewery, wander through rejuvenating green spaces and savor satisfying Ethiopian platters. Alexandria’s West End is the city’s headquarters for award-winning craft beer, international cuisine and some of the region’s top barbecue spots. Here are our top picks of things to do now.
Award-Winning Craft Breweries
Port City Brewing Company
Pull up a stool at award-winning Port City Brewing Company’s West End tap room, where you can also take a tour, enjoy trivia night or try out activities like Beer Yoga. One sip of craft brews like the Optimal Wit or Monumental IPA, and you’ll understand why the brewery has racked up accolades nationally and abroad, including the 2018 Great American Beer Festival and the 2018 Brussels Beer Festival.
Aslin Beer Co.
In July 2019, Aslin Beer Co. opened its neon-signed, art-splashed West End headquarters to the delight of followers hooked by their funky offerings. The beloved small batch brewery rotates through flavors including the “Astro Zombie” and the coconut and coffee-infused “How Now Brown Cow.” The Instagram-worthy tasting room experience includes arcade games, pop-a-shot basketball and eye-catching art, from quirky can designs to full-wall murals.
Sample a smorgasbord of global flavors in the West End, starting with Makeda Ethiopian Restaurant on Van Dorn St. Gather under the Ethiopian artwork-studded walls and use the injera bread to scoop up the Taste of Makeda platter, praised by The Washington Post for its “concert of flavors,” including doro wot (a spiced chicken stew), awaze tibs (sauce-soaked leg of lamb) and more. Steps away, Thai Lemon Grass serves up rich green curry, noodly pad thai and sizzling pan-fried pork. Looking to ramp up the spice factor? Request the second, Thai-language only menu for hidden dishes and an extra dose of heat. London Curry House at Cameron Station provides picture-perfect biryani, a luscious rice dish cradled in a copper pot and topped with a hunk of naan. Cool off with the refreshing mango kulfi frozen dessert.
Rocklands Barbecue & Grilling Company is a D.C.-area institution, curating a fanbase over three decades with its wood-smoked barbeque. Regulars at the Alexandria outpost on S. Quaker Lane crave The Pearl, which layers mac & cheese, baked beans and saucy chopped pork into one satisfying stack. On Mondays, snag a free pork barbeque sandwich with the purchase of beer. Nearby on Duke Street, Smoking Kow BBQ is building its own barbecue empire. In 2019, Smoking Kow earned a place in Washingtonian’s annual “Best Places to Eat Cheap” list with dishes like barbeque tacos wrapped with housemade tortillas, the cheesy Bleu Kow brisket sandwich and crave-worthy burnt end platters.
Café Pizzaiolo on Fern Street is a favorite for families and friends gathering over a New York or Neapolitan-style pizza, ideally lounging in the laid-back sidewalk seating. For fusion flavors, head to Duke Street’s Tempo Restaurant for decadent pastas and other entrees melding French and Italian cuisine, topped off with a mouthwatering pastry selection. At nautical-themed Clyde’s at Mark Center, customers can partake in a raw bar, creamy shrimp and grits and non-seafood specialties. City Kitchen, on S. Pickett Street, pays homage to the nation’s great cities, from Baltimore Crab Cakes to Savannah Chicken and Biscuits. Sit by the cozy fireplace as you choose your culinary adventure; just be sure to leave room for the garlic-truffle fries.
Looking for an indoor spot where little ones can play and explore? Scramble, Eisenhower Avenue’s European-style play center, boasts everything from rocket ships to reading corners, perfect for blowing off steam and sharpening gross- and fine-motor skills. Adult adventurers can head to nearby SportRock for top-roping, bouldering and lead climbing.
From welding to 3D-printing to drones, technology is at your fingertips at The Garden presented by Building Momentum, a veteran-owned science and engineering consulting group offering teambuilding, coworking and public events at their Eisenhower home base.
Relax and rejuvenate at one of the West End’s outdoor havens. Fort Ward, constructed in 1861 to defend Washington, D.C. during the Civil War, welcomes visitors to engage in historic programming, visit the educational museum or simply pack a picnic to enjoy in the 35 acres of greenspace. For more fresh air, wander through Ben Brenman Park at Cameron Station, containing everything from sports fields to pond-side trails to a Sunday morning West End Farmers Market. Runners and cyclists can zoom through Holmes Run Trail, a five-mile, streamside path with a recently-revamped pedestrian/bicycle bridge. Then, experience flora and fauna up close at the Dora Kelly Nature Park and Jerome “Buddie” Ford Nature Center.
Shows & Entertainment
Soak up the West End’s wide-ranging music and arts scene. Catch the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra at the West End’s Schlesinger Concert Hall & Arts or at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. Looking for some drama? Monumental Theatre Co. produces new works by millennial artists, performing its shows at Episcopal High School’s Ainslee Art Center. The Washington Post called its 2019 production of “Be More Chill” a rival to the Broadway production, staged “as it was always meant to be.” Fans of the Bard can head down the road to the Lab Studio Theatre at Convergence, where Brave Spirits Theatre focuses on Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays. Get in on the action at Nick’s Nightclub on S. Pickett Street, with live country bands, stage-view dining around two large dance floors, two-step and line-dance lessons and a karaoke bar.
Find more to explore in Alexandria’s West End.
Header Image Credit: Misha Enriquez for Visit Alexandria; Evan Michio Photography for Visit Alexandria; Claire Mouledoux for Visit Alexandria