Curb-side Pick Up? Delivery? Dining at Home!
By the Gastronomes
Curb-side Pick Up? Delivery? Dining at Home!
It has been nearly eight weeks since we sat in our favorite restaurant or bar and watched the folks outside gaze in the windows to check out the action inside. Is the bar too crowded? Are there any seats available? Some even had their noses pressed against the glass as to eliminate the glare on the window. Soon afterward the COVID-19 virus began to spread and business, as we know it, came to a standstill.
With the closing of restaurants in the Alexandria area we were hit with an economic disaster. Restaurants began to close and subsequently applied for Small Business Association backed loans in an effort to survive. Social distancing was the next rule and soon the crowds were gone. It reminded me of when I came to Old Town Alexandria in 1977.
In 1977, Old Town Alexandria was only seven blocks long – it ran from the waterfront to the 700 block where Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub has recently reopened. The Woodrow Wilson Bridge (the first one) had just opened 16 years earlier. Old Town was relatively young. The Fish Market Restaurant as well as the Wharf and 219 were the only restaurants here that are still here today. The Landini brothers owned Pelicano Restaurant at 100 King Street. The Warehouse was another restaurant but whose former name escapes me, and where Union Street Public House is located there was Kings Landing. The Seaport Inn Restaurant sat at the corner of Union and King Streets, where Starbucks serves coffee today.
Business was slow and Old Town was entering their growth stage to where today, Old Town Alexandria is 20 blocks long. Unlike today, you could usually find a place to park on the street and there were very few downtown parking lots. Everyone worked hard and the town began to prosper. Today, these same restaurants are working hard to survive the “virus” and need our help.
As I mentioned, some restaurants have flat out closed with hopes to reopen. Some of them have decided to open for delivery and curb-pickup service. Nowhere in Alexandria is this effort more evident than the 100 and 200 blocks of King Street. Owners are in their restaurants running food to the waiting cars, taking a shift in the kitchen when they are needed, and doing all of the other jobs in an effort to survive. Some of the service folks are on volunteer time, only working for the tips. This community has come together to help themselves as well as each other.
If you miss a great Italian dinner from Landini Brothers, a crabcake sandwich from Fish Market and the gumbo from the Warehouse, now is the time to call in an order, take it home and enjoy. I might mention that most of these fine restaurants have wonderful wines and beers at discounted prices and they are now allowed to send you home with your favorite mixed beverage as well. Bonus!
Noe Landini had to close Bar Deco in Washington, D.C. but has kept Junction Bakery & Bistro open in Del Ray as well as Landini Brothers. Junction has excellent bakery products, wines, and chef James Duke is in the kitchen making dinners to go that are great for an evening of good home cooking with a flair. Even though Landini’s is on a limited menu, the choices are many and this is a chance for you to discover why this is Old Town’s favorite go-to Italian restaurant. Don’t forget to order your wine and cocktails to go with your meal.
THE FISH MARKET–
An Old Town pioneer, the Fish Market has been serving delicious seafood ranging from their own clam chowder recipe, fish sandwich, pastas and seafood platters to a good burger. Once again the menu is limited, but there are plenty of choices. Also, cocktails to go as well as growlers of beer. When they reopen, check them out…good restaurant, I know, I tended bar there 31 years ago.
MIA’S ITALIAN KITCHEN–
If the 100 block of King Street, during this pandemic, has an anchor store, it is Mia’s. The street level of the restaurant is a series of double doors that are always open creating an open air sort of feeling. Their Italian food is very reasonably priced and good. Check out their deals on the adult beverages. And…they have music playing for you while you wait and if you meet their order criteria, you will be sent home with a roll of toilet paper! How can you beat that?
O’CONNELL’S IRISH RESTAURANT–
Who doesn’t relish good Irish fare now and again. O’Connell’s is open in the foyer the later part of the week offering deals on wine and really good food. As it is with the Irish, you may even discover a bit of entertainment while ordering your evenings fare.
THE WHARF–is the place if you have a taste for great seafood. As you look past the hospitality table you will notice the nautical bar. That place is usually packed. Not only does the Wharf offer seafood but also prime steaks and the perfect pasta dish. Their she crab soup is a classic.
THE WAREHOUSE– is one of the area’s most popular restaurants specializing in prime aged steaks and fresh seafood. When the restaurants were first closed for the pandemic I asked owner Hossein Pishdad how long he planned to stay open with carryout and he answered, “As long as the employees want me to.” This is the kind of camaraderie that prevails in this restaurant community.
UNION STREET PUBLIC HOUSE–
is a classic American restaurant with a special menu of hearty food for take home. With their fine selection of whiskeys it is the perfect stop for to-go drinks with your food. General Manager Al Chadsey is usually front center making sure customers are taken care of and that everything runs smooth.
Other restaurants in the 100-200 blocks that are offering to go food are Urbano 116, Vola’s Dockside and Il Porto. And don’t forget Hummingbird and Chadwick’s on the Strand –they have some amazing offerings.
These are the restaurants that are keeping Old Town alive. On weekends there are a number of folks walking around on the streets and in the parks and taking a break from their confinement. During the week there are fewer people out and they seem to adhere to social distancing more even taking it to extremes (not even a “hi, how are you?”) Social distancing is an important component of the ability to impede the spread of this virus and if you forget, there are Alexandria’s finest there to remind you. You will find a police car at the foot of King doing just that.
Some other favorites of ours that aren’t located on lower King are open and offering curb service and delivery as well. You might also be missing the burger at Mackie’s, the Irish stew at Murphy’s, fabulous French fare from Bastille, a brat from the Village Brauhaus, and Caroline’s sweet potato biscuits at River Bend Bistro. These fine places are not in a cluster like lower King in Old Town, but they offer delicious food and may be close to where you live.
Please support these restaurants by having a chef prepared dinner at home tonight. Remember to tip well as that is the reason they are there. You can also support the restaurants by purchasing a gift certificate for future use or as a gift. When these restaurants reopen there will certainly be social distancing protocol in place so seating will be at a premium. Support them now and guarantee your seat at the table or bar in the future. Don’t be the one looking in from the outside with your nose pressed against the window. BON APPETIT!
Contact information for all of these establishments can be found in the Dining Out Guide in this section.