Alexandria is well-known for making history, and 2016 will definitely be one for the record books. The new year brings a new, national PBS drama series based on real events of Civil War Alexandria; a continued waterfront renaissance; and new restaurants and “Brew News” that have foodies and beer-enthusiasts buzzing about Alexandria. Keep reading for all the details about what’s happening in 2016.
New Things to Do
New Alexandria Visitor Experiences Bring PBS’s Mercy Street to Life
Image Credit: M. Enriquez for Visit Alexandria
Throughout Alexandria 2016
PBS’s first original drama in nearly a decade, set to premiere on Sunday, Jan. 17 at 10 p.m. , is inspired by real events of Civil War Alexandria, Virginia. To celebrate the national spotlight on the city’s heritage through the narrative of Mercy Street, Alexandria has launched two dozen new tours, exhibits and events that will provide visitors with a close look at Alexandria’s historic sites while uncovering the real people behind the show’s characters, the realities of Civil War medicine, women’s changing roles and the breakthrough experience of enslaved African-Americans claiming their freedom.
During a cast tour of Alexandria’s historic sites, star of Mercy Street Mary Elizabeth Winstead said Alexandria “is incredibly charming, it feels like stepping back in time. It’s been really educational, there’s been so many sites we’ve been able to visit that have taught me a lot about things I thought I already knew about, but didn’t.” See for yourself why the stars of Mercy Street were in awe of Alexandria, and learn more about our series-inspired experiences here.
Historic Alexandria Brewery Revived by Founder’s Great-Great Granddaughters 100 Years Later
Image Credit: Catherine Portner for Portner Brewhouse
5770 Dow Avenue, Alexandria, VA
Opening: Fall 2016
Alexandria is well known for its craft brews, and in 2016 Catherine and Margaret Portner are bringing our city’s beer status to a historic level. The two sisters are drafting Alexandria’s newest chapter in craft beer history by reviving the past, bringing back their great-great grandfather’s Robert Portner Brewing Co. as Portner Brewhouse, a pre-Prohibition-inspired brewery, restaurant and Craft Beer Test Kitchen™.
Headquartered in Alexandria, the Robert Portner Brewing Co. was the South’s largest pre-Prohibition brewery and Alexandria’s largest employer from 1869 until 1916. Exactly 100 years later, Robert Portner’s great-great granddaughters are brewing up old family recipes and contemporary German-American cuisine at this new locale.
Can’t wait til’ fall? Join the Portner Brewhouse Mug Club now and rest easy knowing soon enough, you’ll be a local. Do it soon, too! Only 250 of the mugs were handmade by a ceramic artist.
Alexandria’s Port City Brewing Co. named the Best Small Brewery in the U.S.
3950 Wheeler Ave, Alexandria, VA
Craft beer enthusiasts from across the U.S. are invited to experience the nationally acclaimed “Small Brewing Company of the Year” and “Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year,” titles secured by Alexandria’s Port City Brewing Co. at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival (GABF), considered to be the Oscars of the beer world. Port City also received medals for its Porter, Monumental IPA and Optimal Wit beers, all brewed at its Alexandria location, just two miles from the heart of Old Town, where visitors can enjoy guided tours and a variety of unique beer-centric programming, such as Beer Yoga, Jogger and Lagers, Pedals and Pints and live entertainment.
New at the Waterfront
Alexandria’s Waterfront Renaissance Continues With New Waterfront Dining
Image Credit: R. Kennedy for Visit Alexandria
Alexandria’s emerging waterfront district has given rise to a renaissance of various developments, including the opening of Carluccio’s first U.S. location, a new water taxi service linking Alexandria to D.C.’s National Mall and a revitalization of its outdoor spaces. This area is also preparing to welcome the city’s first waterfront hotel in 2017, Hotel Indigo. New in Summer 2016, the Alexandria Restaurant Partners (Virtue Feed & Grain, Majestic, Lena’s Woodfire Pizza + Tap) will unveil Vola’s Dockside Grill and the Hi-Tide Lounge on the river side of the Torpedo Factory. The additional space will be a bar serving specialty rum and tropical cocktails. For more information or to follow along with the exciting developments, visit AlexandriaRestaurantPartners.com.
Railroad History Provides Backdrop for New Restaurant in Del Ray
Junction Bakery & Bistro
1508 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria VA
Del Ray residents may feel like they won the culinary lottery in 2016, with several new restaurants coming to their neighborhood this year. Junction Bakery & Bistro, serving up American cuisine with a twist, is opening on Mount Vernon Avenue late spring 2016. Between Noe Landini (behind Landini Brothers, Fish Market and Pop’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream) and Nathan Hatfield (former baker at Restaurant Eve, Society Fair and Le Diplomate), this mouth-watering combination is sure to satisfy even the pickiest eater. The new restaurant is named in homage to the Potomac Yard railway system and its workers who called Del Ray home.
1603 Commonwealth Ave., Alexandria VA
Also opening in Del Ray in 2016 is Live Oak, from a local trio with more than 50 years in the restaurant business. The cuisine will be inspired by Charleston, S.C., from chef Justus Frank, former executive chef of award-winning Fiola. The space is set to be designed by Griz Dwight, an award-winning restaurant designer who has worked on Founding Farmers Tysons, Fiola and Iron Gate.
Hank’s Pasta Bar
600 Montgomery St., Alexandria VA
Just saying the name “Jamie Leeds” will perk the ears of any foodie in the D.C. region, especially those who have been lucky enough to enjoy her recipes at Hank’s Oyster Bar in Old Town or DC. Chef Leeds’ newest venture, Hank’s Pasta Bar, is scheduled to open on February 4, 2016 and will offer a stark contrast to the seafood Leeds is known for, serving up fresh Italian fare. Zagat named Hank’s Pasta Bar one of the Most Anticipated DC Openings of 2016.
New Sweet Spots
Image Credit: Marissa Bialecki for Buzz Bakeshop
Buzz Bakeshop Reopening
901 Slaters Lane, Alexandria VA
As evidenced by the list of new restaurants mentioned above, Alexandria is a distinguished dining destination known for its booming, chef-driven restaurant scene. We’re serious about desserts, too. Visitors who prefer to satisfy their sweet-tooth will fall in love with the city’s extensive menu of nearly 20 artisanal sweets and dessert spots. Joining newcomers Sugar Shack donuts and Argentine-inspired Casa Rosada Artisan Gelato, this year the reopening of North Old Town’s Buzz Bakeshop brings a sweet surprise: acclaimed couture cake artist Maggie Austin will now be baking for the masses as the shop’s Culinary Director, serving up her favorite chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes, brownies and muffins, including seasonally inspired treats.
New Ways to Stay
Kimpton’s Morrison House Announces Multimillion-Dollar Renovation and Redesign
Image Credit: Courtesy of Kimpton
A multimillion dollar renovation at Kimpton’s Morrison House will be unveiled in April 2016 with a sophisticated new design and a stylish new 70-seat restaurant and bar. The restaurant and bar moves to forefront of the building so guests can easily flow from check-in to the cozy living room to relaxing at the bar. New interior design is inspired by American literary masterpieces set on the water as a nod to the hotel’s proximity to the Potomac River. More local tradition is found in touches of tartan plaids – a tribute to Alexandria’s Scottish heritage. The hotel will feature a new 985 square foot ballroom fit for anything from corporate meetings to weddings of up to 80 guests.
Hilton Alexandria Old Town also has new renovations in 2015, including 252 new guest rooms, the ballroom, restaurant, lobby bar, front desk and Starbucks. The Hilton also has more meeting space than ever, and new Digital Key technology.
Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco Alexandria located in the heart of Old Town, also completed a multimillion-dollar redesign in 2015. The hotel’s extensive redesign includes all 241 guest rooms and suites, hallways and the living room style lobby.
M.E. Swing’s Celebrates 100 Years in the DMV
In 1916 in Washington, DC, a father-son duo opened the M.E. Swing Co. and began roasting and serving premium coffee. Now a century later, Swing’s is a legendary local tradition. Fun fact: Swing’s is so popularly known in the DC region, it was even featured on an episode of The West Wing. Although the Del Ray Coffee Bar and Alexandria Roastery are more recent locations in the Swing’s family, that doesn’t mean you can’t stop by to wish them a very happy 100th birthday and celebrate with a special signature drink.
To find out what’s happening right now in Alexandria, keep your eyes on Extra Alex or follow us on Twitter for the latest buzz.
Header Image: M. Enriquez for Visit Alexandria