Al Fresco Dining Through the Holidays



By the Gastronomes

Al Fresco Dining Through the Holidays

Yes…you read the headline correctly. In order to continue to provide those of you who still aren’t ready to dine indoors – due to the virus – an opportunity to keep going out to dine, many of Alexandria’s eating establishments will continue offering al fresco dining with the addition of heat sources to keep you all warm and cozy. Obviously, if it is blowing a gale, sleeting and sideways snow is coming down the option won’t be there. Common sense will prevail…we hope.

Many restaurants in the Old Town and metro Alexandria area have extended their outdoor dining in past years- Michael’s Little Italy and Vola’s Dockside are two that come to mind – so it isn’t anything new but having so many more options will be fantastic in our point of view. Back in the day….the covered patio at 219 was the best place to be when the snow was coming down since the seating was very cushy and the overhead heaters were such that you could take your coat, hat and gloves off and enjoy cocktails and Cajun food is total comfort. In fact, we had a standing date with good friends to meet for a celebratory beverage when the first snow of the season started coming down. We might have to start a similar tradition this year.

Obviously, this isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, so to speak, but for those of us who love the “apres ski” vibe this is a golden opportunity to sip Irish Coffee, Hot Buttered Rum, Spiced and Spiked Apple Cider and some mulled wine and enjoy some hearty cold weather cuisine in the crisp fall/winter air. You can bet your bottom dollar that there will be a whole new plethora of hot drinks being concocted by the many “mixologists” who are constantly working on their “craft” cocktails here in Alexandria. And I bet there will be a few that have a “tea” base.

The 100 Block King Street will remain blocked off to traffic through the end of the year and quite possibly beyond. If this comes to fruition, you will see improvements to the esthetics of the space and it won’t look like someone just dropped off some portable Jersey walls (since that is basically what they did) and decorated with some flower pots. Desperate people have desperate ways, and they did a fine job under the circumstances. This street closure, along with the extended outdoor space into the sidewalks and parking areas all up and down King and the side streets, has made a major difference in the economy of the restaurants along the King Street corridor. Granted, it has played some havoc with parking availability on the street but there are several garages that are finally getting used to their potential and once you are parked you don’t have to worry about the meter running out. Many of the restaurants on the West End and the North Side have extended their dining areas to the sidewalks as well.

As with everything that involves the safety of the public, there will be some restrictions on the types of heating “units” – propane or electric – and the storage of said units that will be acceptable to the State/Commonwealth Fire Marshall. You can rest assured that every precaution is going to be made to be sure that the safety of patrons and residents alike – especially in Old Town since so many residents are in close proximity to King Street – will be a priority. When I asked about putting in a “cool” fire pit or two in the 100 Block, I just got “the look”. They had portable propane fire features all around National Harbor during the winter months a couple of years ago so I thought, why not here…Maryland has different rules.

At the time of this writing, to go, curbside and delivery options will still be available from the majority of the restaurants. A good place to get up-to-date information on what is available is by Liking and Following the Alexandria Curbside Dining Facebook page.

Until the world has the “Rona” situation under control, we are going to have to live with some “odd to many of us” conditions. Wear your mask when it is mandated, keep the distance, use that sanitizer and wash your hands often and DO NOT litter. In fact, I think they need to name one of the many hurricanes coming up the coast “Rona”…..

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