Old Town Alexandria, a place that I’ve been lucky enough to call home for the past year, has a certain magic in the air that you just can’t find anywhere else. This little historic town boasts the perfect marriage between the old and the new. The cobblestone streets and brick sidewalks juxtaposed with the hustle and bustle of the town creates the perfect dichotomy between history and progress. All nestled along the Potomac River, it’s no surprise Old Town ALX has won countless awards from Southern Living, Condé Nast, Apartment Therapy, and many more. Living here (and working at a job a few blocks away) almost feels like a 24/7 staycation.
While the main attraction in Old Town is King Street and the Waterfront, there is so much more to immerse yourself in here. Between the eclectic food scene, boutique shops, and public art + museums, it is easy to get lost in everything Old Town has to offer.
So, first things first…
Where to Eat in Old Town Alexandria
I’m going to do a thing and separate this in two: Restaurants on King Street/Waterfront and restaurants a bit off the beaten path. While you will definitely want to spend most of your time on King, I encourage you to venture out! You’ll be glad you did.
Where to Eat in Old Town: King Street Edition
King Street is lined with amazing cuisine from all over the world. Irish pubs, Greek patios, and fresh seafood joints line this street for miles.
Start your day here with a cup o’ Joe and side of dough! Any Portlandia fans out there..? Anyways, this cafe is a coffee lovers dream. Right as you enter the shop, the most delicious aroma in the world immediately fills your nostrils. It’s pretty much the equivalent to a warm hug. This is because in the back of the cafe they are literally roasting batches of beans. Large jugs of fresh coffee beans (available for purchase!) line the bar as you order your morning beverage. It’s a delightful experience and great way to start your day.
If fresh seafood and draft beer served in a 32 ounce Schooner mug sounds like a dream, this place is for you! This really is the quintessential seafood bar and restaurant on King Street. I highly recommend ordering the peel & eat shrimp as it is to die for – there’s something incredible about the way they season their shrimp! Want oysters, crabcakes, or lobster? They got it. Go here.
Chadwick’s menu consists of your classic American cuisine in a cute historic building located right on the Waterfront. This is one of my favorite brunch/lunch spots in Old Town. And there’s a reason why… It has the best fried chicken sandwich in all of Old Town! Trust me, I’ve done my research. I’m usually one to try different things on the menu, but I literally have only ordered this sandwich and I’m not ever going to regret it.
Owned by an extremely friendly Greek family, this restaurant is about as close as it gets to actually being in Greece. After visiting Mykonos, I came to this restaurant in search of authentic Greek food. I was wowed by not only the food, but the atmosphere of this restaurant. Inside the restaurant, they replicated the beautiful cobbled streets of Greece & outside is a charming patio filled with greenery and blooming flowers during the warmer seasons.
For a special occasion or if you’re just feeling fancy, this is your spot for traditional Tuscan style Italian eats. Fun fact: Noe Landini also owns the Fish Market, Pop’s Ice Cream, and popular rooftop Bar Deco in D.C. Clearly, I like his style! The inside of the restaurant oozes in romance with it’s dimly lit ambiance and exposed brick walls making it the perfect place to celebrate Lady & the Tramp style. Bon Appétit!
This ice cream parlor boasts that the founder used to cater ice cream to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Order some delicious ice cream and take a stroll by the Waterfront for a perfect end to your day in Old Town.
Where to Eat in Old Town: Off the Beaten Path Edition
It’s always more fun to go off the beaten path. It makes you feel like you really stumbled upon something great. Also these places lack that touristy feel and the prices highlight that fact. Your belly and wallet will be happy you ventured out.
Located in an industrial art-deco building, this coffee spot has the look and feel that makes you think, ” wow, they must really know what they’re doing here.” Enjoy a delicious iced coffee and chocolate croissant, and you’ll be sure to have a great day.
This is my favorite hidden gem in all of Old Town. It’s like if you know, you know…you know? But when you know, YOU KNOW. As a fried chicken connoisseur, I absolutely died when I found out that this shack that I drove by nearly every day was offering up some of the best fried chicken in all of Alexandria. This is a no-frills, cash-only joint + everything on the menu is like $5. The menu is meat heavy including made-to-order breakfast sandwiches (get there before they run out), fried chicken sandwiches (bone-in, so watch your teeth!), grilled pork chops, half-smokes…Food for the soul. Be wary though, the Blue & White sells out of food fast + they’re only open weekdays from 5:30 AM – 3 PM.
Here’s your one stop shop for Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches and pho soup. This teeny restaurant serves up pho soup that is so rich and meaty, it’s not even necessary to add any condiments (sriracha, plum sauce, etc.). The banh mi sub is equally as amazing – we usually get one to share for the table. Another plus is that they offer a chicken/vegetarian (same thing to me, sorry 😬) version of everything for your non-meat friendly friends. This is the perfect place to go to warm your belly up on a cold winter day.
Right across from my apartment building are two places I love to go when I’m feeling like living lavish. The first is the biggest furniture tease in the world: West Elm (seriously who can actually afford buying $1,000 decorative objects from here). The second is a very delicious, upscale restaurant called Oak Steakhouse. This is my favorite place to go to celebrate birthday’s, anniversaries, *cough* restaurant week that turned out not to be restaurant week *cough*. Did I mention I dragged my boyfriend here because it was allegedly restaurant week & we’d be getting restaurant week prices? As it turns out, it was in fact not restaurant week. All that matters is that we ended up loving it so much, we came back for our anniversary. Fun hack: mention that it’s your anniversary & they’ll bring you like two free appetizers & a cute little anniversary ice cream. Also, highly recommend ordering the bone marrow. Absolutely divine.
Where to Drink in Old Town Alexandria
When you’re wanting a fancy cocktail in an Instagram-worthy location, head over to The People’s Drug. This place really nailed the whole “Instagram influencer” vibe right on the head. Right as you walk in a large, illuminated sign reads, “DRUGS” welcoming you to the bar. Don’t be embarrassed and snap that pic, you know you’ll want to! The prices are a bit hefty here, but lets be real – you came here in all actuality to snap a cute pic for the ‘gram.
For the best outdoor patio experience in Old Town, go to Vola’s Dockside Grill. This is the perfect place for a dinner pre-game, if you’re into that kind of thing. Have a frozen orange crush, some fresh oysters + shrimp & enjoy people watching as close as you’ll get to the Waterfront.
When in Old Town… Go to an Irish pub! Located in a historic building built in the 1800s, O’Connell’s is a restaurant you could very well get lost in. Warm fireplaces and Irish antiques fill the walls, nooks, and cranny’s of this bustling restaurant. Order a Guinness and some fish and chips & you’ll feel right at home…That is, if you’re from Ireland.
Let’s hear it for Alexandria’s only open air beer garden! This is the perfect place to come to when you’re feeling like enjoying a nice patio with a bench full of friends. Not into beer? Don’t worry, they also have wine and cocktails on the menu. The outdoor patio is open all year long, thanks to some amazing heaters that keep you warm in the cold winter months. Their menu is pretty on point too, offering an extensive menu dedicated to mussels. They also have great bar food with a wide selection of appetizers and sandwiches to share. Another plus, the patio (like many others in Old Town) is dog-friendly!
Hope you enjoyed this food & beverage edition of my personal Old Town Alexandria recommendation list. I feel like this list will be constantly updated as I explore Old Town myself, so feel free to return to this living document at any time. Coming soon is an activities & shopping blog post for Old Town ALX! In the meantime, please drop a comment below for any tips, suggestions, or personal perspectives.
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