Where to Eat in Old Town Alexandria
Waterfront seafood restaurants, charming ice cream shops, and more places you must eat and drink in Old Town.
Even though it sits less than 30 minutes outside DC, Old Town Alexandria feels a world away from the daily grind of the District. You can stroll through cobblestone alleys admiring the historic architecture, take in views of the sailboat-speckled waterfront, and browse through the abundant adorable boutiques that line this quaint part of town.
There are plenty of reasons to take a day trip over to Alexandria, Virginia, but perhaps the biggest draw is the downright impressive dining scene. Waterfront restaurants with the freshest seafood and old-school taverns abound in this little town, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. So next time you find yourself in this port city, here are the 13 restaurants and eateries you absolutely must visit in Old Town.
Barca Pier & Wine Bar
In an area with plenty of waterfront restaurants, Barca Pier & Wine Bar takes it up a notch as a floating bar on the Potomac with unobstructed views of the DC skyline. You can’t get much more quintessential Old Town than that. The bar and restaurant focuses on Spanish-style tapas like Patatas Bravas, Jumbo Garlic Shrimp, and octopus prepared like you might order in Barcelona. On the drinks side, you can also do as the Spaniards do and order up a fancy gin and tonic or a Rioja wine.
Caphe Banh Mi
For Vietnamese staples like bánh mì, pho, vermicelli, and summer rolls, Caphe Bánh Mì is the move. This shop nails the expected dishes, but they also get creative with a Broiled Catfish Bánh Mì and Vegetarian Soy Chicken with Lemongrass. The prices can’t be beaten—grab a sandwich for under $10, while rice or vermicelli entrées will only run you a couple of bucks more.
This taco and tequila bar bucks tradition with its namesake item. Fillings range from the usual suspects like pork belly and Mexican short rib to head-turners like fried oysters, lamb chimichurri, and buffalo chicken. For dessert, there’s a Nutella Banana Split Taco, as well as the obligatory churros. Beyond tacos, the casual eatery also offers rice bowls, empanadas, tortilla soup, and ceviche, plus a slate of agave-focused cocktails for imbibing.
Goodies Frozen Custard & Treats
Everybody in Alexandria has their favorite ice cream shop on King Street, but mix it up every once in a while with a visit to this slightly off-the-beaten-path custard shop for something sweet. Located in a 90-year-old ice house, Goodies’ menu is every bit as nostalgic as its locale. As the name suggests, this spot is focused on frozen custard made from local dairy, and the rich scoops are available on their own or dressed up for treats like a root beer float or the shop’s signature sundae of custard sandwiched between a hot apple cider donut.
Hank's Oyster Bar
For more than 15 years, Jamie Leeds and her team have been serving some of the best Chesapeake Bay seafood, including oysters on the half-shell, at multiple locations around DC. The Alexandria outpost is a mainstay, and recently moved to a new location offering rooftop dining. People especially gravitate here at happy hour for $1.50 oysters and $6 beers from Alexandria’s Aslin Beer Co., but visit any time for towering seafood plateaus and fried seafood sandwiches served with Old Bay Fries.
King & Rye
From flakey biscuits to an extensive menu of whiskey and bourbon, this restaurant and bar offer downright Southern comfort. Dishes like sweet tea-brined chicken, scallops and grits, and banana pudding for dessert fully lean into the idea of Southern hospitality. And the space takes advantage of both patio seating and a cocktail garden in the courtyard, where the restaurant will host a music series and drag brunches during the summer months.
This is a low-key, modernist space offering the freshest Japanese cuisine in Old Town. It comes from chef Yuh Shimomura who trained in Ginza, Tokyo, and aims to serve a flexible omakase menu that’s equally suitable for date night as it is for a Wednesday night on the couch. The mission here is to serve the highest quality food at an affordable price, so you’ll find options like a seven-course tasting for $95 per person or a “tasting to-go” menu for $48 per person that include raw, grilled, and fried dishes.
The People's Drug
If you’ve lived in Washington, DC long enough, you know that The People’s Drug was a popular general store known for its signature white marble soda fountain serving hamburgers and vanilla cokes. Much later, it turned into a chain of pharmacies in the DMV. Today, the century-old space that now houses The People’s Drug is a go-to for tasty burgers, highly stacked sandwiches, and craft cocktails like the Peoples Painkiller with a house rum blend, pistachio orgeat, pineapple, and lime, or the Frozen Aperol Spritz.
A new chef and menu concept at The Morrison House’s library-themed bar and restaurant may just be the most exciting new reason to plan a visit to Old Town sometime soon. Chef Tomas Chavarria hails from Costa Rica and brings a variety of Mesoamerican dishes, all of which are comprised of ingredients sourced from local farms and purveyors in the Mid-Atlantic region. The top dish to order here is Esquites. Unlike the traditional Mexican style, Chavarria’s version is fashioned from baby corn and rubbed in a three-spiced rub. It pairs nicely with the Fire & Ice cocktail, a drink with pineapple-infused chartreuse and ghost pepper tincture.
For a Thursday night to remember, look no further than Taverna Cretekou. On this otherwise unassuming pre-weekend night, the restaurant hosts live Greek music, dancing, and plate-breaking that’ll make it feel like an all-out party. On other nights of the week, things are a little more refined in the formal dining room, but the food is quintessentially Greek. Take your pick from any of the traditional dishes like Pastitsio, Moussaka, Spanakotiropita, and Dolmades, or try something that may be new to you from the ancient Greek section of the menu. Whatever you order, make sure to pair it with some of the great Grecian wines.
Since 1979, this New Orleans-style restaurant has been transporting DMVers to the French Quarter through its French-Creole cuisine, live music, and cigar bar vibes. You’ll find a charming Victorian-style dining room offering up Creole cuisine from Jambalaya to Crawfish Etouffee and other flavors of Crescent City. From the Basin Street Lounge with live blues and jazz performances every night to a cigar bar perched on the top level with a full menu for perusing—this spot is also known by locals as a reliable spot to get your drink on.
Virtue Feed and Grain
Virtue Feed & Grain is exactly what you picture when you think of rustic American tavern. Situated in a building that used to be a feed house in the 1800s, the place has that shabby chic look with flooring from an old oak barn, Victorian-era wallboards, and other antique touches. Executive chef Aldo Avilez’s menu covers American tavern fare, with options like Scotch Eggs and a Prime Rib French Dip Sandwich alongside modern touches like Quinoa Salad and Duck Meatloaf.
Vola’s Dockside Grill and Hi-Tide Lounge
When in Old Town, you pretty much have to dine on the waterfront, and the best new spot to do that is Vola’s. The patio is in the prime position for people watching and boat ogling over seafood and beers. You’ll find a great ocean bounty—Crab Dip and Conch Fritters, plus raw oysters and seafood cocktail to start, and options like a Crab Cake Sandwich and Fish and Chips for main dishes. Plus, the Old Bay Fries are pretty much a requirement for every table.