Dining Out

Dining Out, Wining & Dining

Coffee Anyone?

By the Gastronome We usually reserve this space in the May issue for a visit to a local Mexican establishment since one of us is crazy about Cinco de Mayo and the accompanying margaritas that the meals include. While we will most certainly be partaking in some fabulous chile verde and toasting more than a couple of margs on May 5th, we thought we would highlight the coffee (and tea) shops that abound in Old Town proper. Since Mother’s Day is also celebrated in May, our thought process was that your Mom might be more likely to want to be treated to some fresh brewed coffee and a pastry. We realize that there are probably well over 50 coffee shops in the local OTC distribution area alone there is no way we could highlight them all so…..let’s start off with our version of Old Town “proper”. We included those locally owned spots whose prime offering is coffee and are situated between the waterfront and the King Street Metro along King Street and the side streets as far as Prince Street to the south and Cameron Street to the north. Our count was 11 and I won’t be surprised if we missed some – they seem to be popping up all over the place. Our original plan was to sample some java and each of these joints but time and caffeine jitters didn’t allow for it. That being said, we thought we would delve into what has become “Coffee Culture” and why coffee based shops have become increasingly popular. According to the ever informative Wikipedia, “Coffee Culture is the set of traditions and social behaviors that surround the consumption of coffee, particularly as a social lubricant.[1] The term also refers to the cultural diffusion and adoption of coffee as a widely consumed stimulant. In the…

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Dining Out, Wining & Dining

Landini Brothers Restaurant – Still Setting the Standard

By the Gastronomes With the arrival of spring and days getting warmer, our attention is more and more intrigued with al fresco dining. With all of the restrictions brought about by COVID, the pandemic had a cause and effect for our city that city officials could not pull off for many years…more al fresco dining options. In addition to establishing a pedestrian space in the 100 block of King Street, the city and merchant groups were able to get parking spaces as dedicated dining spaces throughout Alexandria and the rush was on. This month we decided to visit what we consider the anchor restaurant of Old Town. I have been a customer of Landini’s for about 40 years and I am not the only one. While many of the regulars are no longer with us, a good number are still around. My partner has been frequenting this place since she arrived in Old Town in 1992 and it remains one of our most favorite places for many reasons. Landini’s has been the “go-to” establishment for special occasions, business lunches and dinners, birthdays and just getting together with friends. The pandemic and all of its restraints put a strain on gatherings for over a year so it is good to be back on track again. On a personal note, this restaurant is also a very effective first date destination if you want to impress… We will get to the food shortly but first I have to mention the staff and the building itself. Over the past 40 years the bar at Landini’s has been akin to any boardroom in the city. Businessmen and women choose Landini’s as the place to meet and be seen. What makes the bar so special is the caliber of the bartenders year in and year out….

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Dining Out, Wining & Dining

Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub – Erin Go Braugh

By The Gastronomes With March being the month to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and all things Irish we were very disappointed to find out that the St. Patrick’s Day parade will not take place this year. So…in the spirit of the holiday we thought it pertinent to feature Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub in this space. Tom and Melinda Mooney wanted to open a pub celebrating their Irish heritage, and chose Old Town Alexandria for this traditional Irish pub and opened their doors at 713 King Street in 1978. For anyone who has been in Old Town for any length of time, if someone says, “Meet me at Murphy’s”, you know exactly what they mean. I have been going to Murphy’s since they opened. It has been the go to place for a good time and a good meal not to mention the perfectly poured Guinness for many patrons ever since. Fittingly, Murphy’s has one of the longest bars in Old Town to serve their many customers. As soon as you walk in the door you can feel the energy generated by the clientele. The dining area downstairs has two and four top tables with the option to put tables together for larger groups. In the middle of the dining area there is a huge fireplace that is a great feature on a cold winter day. The second floor has its own bar as well and more tables to accommodate private parties or their regular customers on very busy nights. As to be expected, the menu is chock full of hearty choices at a very reasonable price. Murphy’s offers thirteen appetizers including the standard chicken wings to Shrimp Killarney, Irish smoked salmon, Irish egg rolls and steamed shrimp. All appetizers are under $10.25. Their Irish Specialties and Entrees range from Beer…

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Dining Out, Wining & Dining

RT’s Restaurant – A slice of the Big Easy In Alexandria

By the Gastronomes With Mardi Gras falling in February and Fat Tuesday on March 1st, we decided it was time to feature one of Alexandria’s unique restaurants…RT’s Louisiana style restaurant – quoting their tagline – “Serving the best Creole and Cajun food outside of Louisiana”. Located in the Del Ray area of Alexandria, these folks have been providing unique dining experiences to the DC area for over 30 years. RT’s has a habit of being frequented by celebrities and politicians as well as famous musicians who perform nearby at the Birchmere. RT’s has always been noted for their authentic southern flavor and spectacular seafood and has been named one of the Top 50 Southern Restaurants in the Country chosen from Open Table’s list of over 27,000 restaurants by Forbes Magazine. This restaurant has been a fixture on Washingtonian Magazine’s “Top 100 Restaurants” list in the metropolitan area and is one of the highest rated seafood restaurants in the nationally acclaimed “Zagat Survey”. RT’s is a casual dining spot that also has a large bar for enjoying a fine cocktail at the end of the workday. The floor is laid out with booths for 4 in the bar area with an adjoining dining room. There is also a separate dining room for overflow or special parties. There is street parking and also lots of free parking across the street in the shopping center lot. The menu features many Creole and Cajun specialties including Jack Daniel’s Shrimp, Spicy She-Crab Soup, Cajun Veal Oscar and their popular Crawfish Etouffee. In addition to their extensive menu they also offer specials each day. Local Alexandrian’s Maria and George Christou purchased the restaurant from founder Ralph Davis two years ago. Not unfamiliar to the restaurant scene (Maria’s family owns a few other restaurants in Alexandria) Maria…

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Dining Out, Wining & Dining

Sisters Thai – A North Old Town Gem!

By the Gastronomes Sisters Thai – A North Old Town Gem! If any of you are followers of the local “Alexandria Dining-Curbside, Inside & More” Facebook page you know that Sisters Thai is a popular recommendation for outstanding Thai cuisine in the area. It has lived up to its reputation every time we have dined with them. Full disclosure here – since the closing of Po Siam on Mount Vernon Avenue years ago, I haven’t found one Thai place that has lived up to its standards but Sisters is very, very close. Located in the North Alexandria section of our fair city, Sisters joins Oak Steakhouse, Woo Boi Chicken, St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub, and Hinata Sushi Bar & Grill in the 500 Block of Montgomery Street. The block is bordered on the other three sides by North St. Asaph, First Street and North Pitt and is home to The Gables Luxury Apartments, West Elm Home Furnishings, Row House Old Town and several other retailers and services including the best – in our humble opinion – ABC Store in the Old Town area. The décor in this eatery is very interesting and even a bit eclectic. I’ve never really understood the relevance of the theater marquis that is above the bar and a couple of the “murals” to Thailand but it is a very pleasant space. Also in the space is a separate dessert and coffee bar “room” designated as Magnolia’s. We have yet to sample any of the goods in this section of the restaurant but have put it on the list for a future visit. We don’t feel the need to reiterate what is in store for you on their extensive menu since you have it at your fingertips with your electronic communication devices, laptops and PC’s. The offerings…

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Dining Out, Wining & Dining

Experience Upper King Street!

By the Gastronomes Experience Upper King Street! With the Christmas and Holiday shopping season upon us, we thought we would take a different approach to Dining Out. As we all know, there are many very fine restaurants and shops in Old Town Alexandria, so we thought we would recommend a few spots to grab a bite to eat as well as long standing go-to shops for just about anything. When I talk about upper King Street I am referring to west of Washington Street. Here you will find unique shops as well as eateries for a quick lunch during your shopping break or a nice dinner afterward. Our first restaurant is our friends at Mackie’s Bar and Grill. This restaurant is properly named. Out front is a neighborhood bar that is frequented by industry folks. The friendly vibe is a result of that Cheers axiom…Everybody knows your name! To new customers it may seem a bit rowdy, but in fact, it is everyone having a good time. The bar food is very good ranging from my favorite, pot stickers, to onion soup to great steak dinners. Their burger is rated number one in Alexandria. Between the dining room and bar area they have 8 tv’s showing different sporting events on each one. The place is also a Green Bay Packers retreat so when the Packers play it is pretty crowded. A recent addition, and a very cool one, is a projector that projects sporting events on their large plate glass front window. The perfect spot to watch a football game al fresco and order a game day special. You will feel like you are in the box seats at the stadium. Time to breakout the heaters! The dining room in the back is a different story – consisting mostly of…

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Dining Out, Wining & Dining

Want to Have Some Big Fun? Take In Drag Queen Brunch

By the Gastronomes w/Caitlyn Hitt   Want to Have Some Big Fun? Take In Drag Queen Brunch We are members of a local dining out based Facebook group and lately there was an inquiry as to what fun and entertaining things are there to do with the relatives that are coming in for the Thanksgiving holiday that include food and entertainment. The inquirer was clear that they were looking for something more entertaining than a dinner cruise on the Potomac and we immediately thought of “Drag Queen Brunch”! In fact, the day that that inquiry popped up was the same day that we were going to a Drag Queen brunch celebrating our friend Al Vyn’s 30th birthday – is that good timing or what? In fact, all of the photos accompanying this column are from that gig and we would like to give a shout out to Eric Faughn, proprietor of Stoney’s Kingfisher Restaurant, Al Vyn for the invite and to LaBella Maffia, Aave Bblluuee and Desiree Dik and the very talented Emcee/Host Laura for the entertainment. We have been to several Drag Brunches over the years and the food and beverage have always been pretty impressive as well as the entertainment. We have partnered with Caitlyn Hitt who writes for Thrillest and offer some enlightening information on the history of the DQB. The Glittery History of Drag Brunch By Caitlyn Hitt Drag brunch has been dazzling day drinkers for decades. The only thing better than traditional brunch is drag brunch. Booze, breakfast, queens, and glitter. Most people think drag started decades ago, but it actually has roots that date all the way back to the 17th Century. Drag brunch came about not long after. We’re not gonna say Shakespeare and other playwrights started drag, but they did fill their plays with men in…

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Dining Out, Wining & Dining

The Village Brauhaus – The Premier Place for Post Oktoberfest Feasting

By the Gastronomes The Village Brauhaus – The Premier Place for Post Oktoberfest Feasting If you read our newest column, Let’s Get Crafty, in the September issue you probably already have a pretty good idea of what Oktoberfest is. However, as a recap, it is tagged as the world’s largest Volksfest (folk festival). It is a 16-18 day festival running from mid-or late September to the first Sunday in October with more than six million people from around the world attending the event every year in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. Here in Old Town Alexandria we have our own Oktoberfest headquarters at 710 King Street. The Village Brauhaus was opened three years ago by Bill and Chelsea Gross and it has been a hit since day one. Located at the east end of the block, Brauhaus is surrounded by Nando’s Peri Peri, Signature Thai, King’s Ransom, Five Guys, Pita House, Magnolias Restaurant, Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub and the Light Horse Restaurant. The 700 Block – on its own – is a dining mecca. During the middle of Oktoberfest, we thought it a good time to visit Brauhaus and have dinner and join in the celebration. The physical area of the restaurant is actually the combination of two former popular restaurants that occupied the space several years ago. The result was a huge space with accommodations for large groups as well as secluded hideaways like the Paulaner Bar on the second floor. On this Monday night the place was very busy because of Oktoberfest, so we opted for a table in the bar area for our dinner. After ordering two small (16 0z) drafts of German beer we decided to start with the Giant Bavarian Pretzel. When they say GIANT, they are not kidding. The pretzel is at least an inch in…

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Dining Out, Wining & Dining

Aldo’s Italian Kitchen – Mangia, Mangia, Mangia!

By the Gastronomes Aldo’s Italian Kitchen – Mangia, Mangia, Mangia! I have been in Old Town for a long time and during our monthly delivery of the Old Town Crier we passed Aldo’s Italian Kitchen but never stopped in. Situated in on the back side of a commercial office area off of Eisenhower Avenue, it just never fit my vibe of dining in Old Town. My mistake! Recently we stopped in for dinner on a Tuesday night. I was surprised. Their covered veranda hosting about 30 seats had some folks enduring the humid evening with a nice breeze helping to cool things down. Except for the light coming through the glass side wall this place reminded me of A.V. Ristorante Italiano in D.C., now long gone. There were green checkered table cloths instead of the red checkered and there was no jukebox with Italian opera music like at AV’s but it did bring back memories. Although a relatively new build out, Aldo’s has a traditional vibe about it. As you walk in you will find Emanuele Cognetti aka Aldo, the owner, busy behind the counter answering the phone, filling out to-go orders while greeting customers as they enter. On this particular Tuesday night the restaurant wasn’t packed but there were a number of seats taken in the dining room where we sat and the flurry of activity was enhanced by the numerous Take Out orders they were processing. After we were seated our rather shy waiter brought us our water and took the wine order. He was soon back with the wine and then took our order. I am a big fan of fried calamari and while my dining partner doesn’t particularly like it, I had to have it. However, she changed her mind once it hit the table. The…

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Dining Out, Wining & Dining

Chadwicks – An American Classic

By the Gastronomes Chadwicks – An American Classic I came to Old Town in 1977. The town was a lot different then. Old Town was only 7 blocks long running from Union Street to a few blocks the other side of Washington Street. The waterfront was cluttered with old warehouses that were critical to Alexandria’s early seaport history. One of these warehouses on The Strand was taken over by the chaps who owned Chadwicks Restaurant in Georgetown. They wanted to bring their successful concept to the “new” emerging business district of Old Town Alexandria. As I remember, the Chadwicks in Georgetown had the bar on the right as you entered and stairs leading to the second floor. When they did the buildout of the Old Town store they copied that same floor plan except the stairway in Old Town became the center piece and dominating feature as you entered. The extensive build out took some time but Chadwicks Old Town finally opened in January of 1979 and it snowed on opening day. A friend and Rugby teammate of mine and I decided it was wise to take a sled as transportation down to Chadwicks opening. As I said, Old Town wasn’t very big in those days, and we weren’t very smart at times. The place was packed and quickly became a favorite watering hole and dining spot for regulars. That remains the same today. The first meal I had back in 1979 was brunch on the second floor so I could walk up that staircase. When we decided to write about Chadwicks we decided to return for brunch 42 years later. We arrived at 1:45 thinking that the brunch crowd would have thinned out. We were wrong. We joined long time bartender Karen at the bar for a mimosa and…

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