We all know DC has a bomb food scene, but just across the Potomac River is the city of Alexandria, rivaling the nation’s capital in delicious restaurants. Known for its historic sights, cobblestone streets and views of the water, Alexandria has become a must-visit hotspot, especially for food lovers.
Having lived in Alexandria for twenty years, I’ve eaten pretty much everywhere there is to eat. From the tourist favorites with lines out the door to locals-only hole in the walls, I have truly experienced it all.
With that, below are the restaurants I keep heading back to, in no particular order. Save yourself the time scrolling through Yelp reviews and visit these favorite local restaurants. Whether you are visiting from DC, grew up in the neighborhood, or just passing through, these 11 restaurants have whatever you’re craving whenever you're craving it:
This contemporary American style restaurant is a go-to brunch spot where the trendy food and atmosphere have led to many Instagrammed meals. Take advantage of the outdoor patio, and try the brioche French toast or the classic fried chicken and waffles, for a life-changing brunch experience.
Stomping Ground is a local gem where you’ll feel right at home the moment you walk in, and probably see familiar faces if you’re from the area. While they’re known for a build-your-own breakfast sandwich menu, they also offer coffee, salads, as well as farm-fresh lunch and dinner.
With meals served on mismatched plates, this cozy café is the perfect spot for when you want to feel like a true Alexandria local—even if you’re not.
As listed in Northern Virginia Magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants of 2016, it’s no wonder that Restaurant Eve is a favorite for residents and visitors, including Barack and Michelle Obama who ate here for their wedding anniversary in 2011.
One of my favorite places to dine in all of Alexandria, this restaurant combines classic American dishes with Irish and French twists—so you’ll feel cultured without even leaving the city.
#SpoonTip: Save money by eating for $15 from their bar menu during lunch hours on weekdays.
4. Mai Thai
Located across the street from the waterfront, Mai Thai is a spot where locals and tourists can meet for a delicious meal. With locations only in the DC area, this Thai restaurant is constantly packed, but the view of the Potomac River to complement any dish makes it worth the wait.
Head to Hank’s Oyster Bar for a reminder that this city is, in fact, located on the water. Almost always packed, there’s a reason locations are opening all over the District. With the best oysters in town, this sophisticated restaurant is perfect for when you’re feeling bougie.
For those who aren't seafood fans, take the free trolley to the Alexandria’s newest addition a few blocks away—Hank’s Pasta Bar.
Skip the traffic to the nation’s capital and grab some of the best tacos in the city at this fast casual style restaurant. Your stomach (and wallet) will thank you as you chow down on these must-try tacos.
If you haven't heard of him yet, you will soon. Myron Mixon is a celebrity chef who is bringing years of experience in competition barbecue to Old Town, Alexandria. New to the scene, this barbecue restaurant is the perfect addition to remind you that Northern Virginia is, in fact, below the Mason-Dixon line.
Even non-barbecue lovers, like me, will appreciate the mouth-watering brisket, baby back ribs, and pulled chicken sandwiches. They also have some of the tastiest mac and cheese in town for any non-meat lovers. I actually had to resist the urge to lick my plate clean.
Of the hundreds of pizzas I’ve probably eaten in my life, this spot is at the top of my list of favorites. There will almost always be a wait, and you will almost always see someone you know, maybe even Obama, who went in 2011 and now has a pizza named after him on the menu.
If you’re not in the mood for pizza, they also have sandwiches, salads, and a killer brunch menu. Many ingredients are grown from a vegetable garden located right next to the outdoor patio, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “locally grown.”
#SpoonTip: Make sure to save room for homemade custard or sorbet from the adjacent custard shack at the Belle Haven location in the summer.
9. Don Taco
Because you can never have enough, here is another must-try taco joint. Head to this trendy taco and tequila bar in the heart of King Street for your next Taco Tuesday celebration. Luckily, the tacos are sold individually, so you can try all 14 flavors. I recommend the fried avocado or the sweet and spicy mahi mahi.
Cheese lovers, rejoice. Not only is Cheesetique a gourmet cheese and wine bar, it’s also a popular restaurant with cheese plates, fondue, salads, and a selection of sandwiches, including a grown-up grilled cheese, making this restaurant a comfort-food heaven.
With three locations in the area, this restaurant is a must-visit local favorite. I recommend the truffle mac and cheese, which Travel & Leisure even put on their exclusive list of America's Vest Mac and Cheese.
If you’re a non-expert like me, the knowledgeable staff will help you pick the perfect cheese and wine pair to make you feel sophisticated AF.
This Japanese-fusion restaurant is always a go-to because it’s far from your typical sushi joint. With both sushi and tacos on the menu, KAiZEN has anything you’re craving and is the perfect solution when you can’t decide what to eat.
As a sushi fanatic, it’s safe to say I’ve tried most of the rolls in Alexandria, and this place wins for both flavor and atmosphere. With warm weather around the corner, head to this restaurant on a night where you can sit on the patio right on the main avenue of the trendy Del Ray neighborhood.
Whether you’ve lived here your entire life or are just passing through, Alexandria is the perfect place to go for a quick pit stop or a weekend getaway. Luckily, these restaurants are just a few of the many popular spots in the city and you can’t go wrong with any. Try one (or all) these favorites and I promise you’ll be back again.