By Alexa Epitropoulos
The face of Alexandria is changing, and nowhere is that more evident than its quickly evolving restaurant scene.
August presents the perfect opportunity to experience those changes for yourself at Summer Restaurant Week, which will kick off Aug. 17 and go until Aug. 26. For the first time ever, 15 restaurants will offer brunch specials at $15 or $22 per person as part of restaurant week. In addition, more than 50 restaurants are offering dinner specials, while 25 restaurants are offering $15 or $22 lunch specials.
Mia’s Italian Kitchen in Old Town and Café 44 in North Old Town are first-time participants this restaurant week, while Hank’s Pasta Bar, Evening Star, Brabo, Vermilion, Hummingbird, Del Ray Café and Virtue Feed & Grain are returning this year.
The Majestic, Vola’s Dockside Grill, Bastille, Blackwall Hitch and Society Fair will offer lunch specials, while Chadwicks, Cheestique, Cedar Knoll, The Wharf and Vermilion will offer brunch specials. A full list of participating restaurants is available at www.visitalexandriava.com/restaurants/ restaurant-week.
In the meantime, there are plenty of new restaurants to explore. Old Town has seen several exciting shake-ups this summer, and more are in the pipeline.
Common Plate Hospitality, the three-partner restaurant group that opened Mason Social in 2015, is part of that change. The group announced plans in May to open two additional restaurants in Old Town on properties owned by Charlotte-based Asana Partners.
The first, Augie’s Mussel House, opened last week in the former Hunting Creek Steakhouse location at 1106 King St. The concept revolves around mussels, housemade frites and craft beer. Although Augie’s draws influences from Europe’s beer culture, its entrees also have a local flair, like a mussel dish that incorporates a pork belly broth made with Port City’s Optimal Wit. The kitchen is headed by Chef Eric Reid, who formerly worked for Reserve and Del Ray Pizzeria.
The patio is open Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Inside hours are 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Sunday.
Augie’s patio and a small portion of its indoor space will be open until winter, when the owners plan to close it for additional renovations. It will reopen with a more expansive menu, according to Chad Sparrow, Augie’s co-owner.
A few blocks away, former Mason Social partner Teddy Kim and partners Seth McClelland and Ian McGrath recently debuted The People’s Drug in the former Bittersweet Catering location at 103 N. Alfred St.
The small space offers a selection of sandwiches and sides, as well as “bar snacks” like truffle fries and garbanzo hummus and bowls. Craft cocktails, like the rum-based Knickerbocker and tequila-based Paloma, are $12 or $9 during weekday happy hour. Select beer and wine is also offered, including Amble and Chase Rosé in a Can. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to midnight all week.
In addition to Augie’s, Common Plate Hospitality owners Chad Sparrow, Justin Sparrow and Larry Walston are also preparing to open a Mexican-inspired concept Urbano 116 in December.
Urbano 116, located at 116 King St., plans to serve craft cocktails with a focus on agave-based spirits, tequila and mezcal. Though a menu hasn’t been released for the new eatery yet, initial information indicates that it will serve a wide selection of Mexican mole and made-in-house tortillas.
It follows a trend of Mexican eateries opening in Alexandria in the last few months, including Tequila & Taco at 540 Carlyle St. from restaurateurs Bill Blackburn and Mike Anderson. Tequila & Taco is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. A third Mexican restaurant, Chop Shop Taco, is planning to open in Parker-Gray in the next few months.
International fare is also finding its way to Old Town’s main corridor. Old House Cosmopolitan Grill, which serves German fare, opened at 1024 Cameron St. in May. The popular restaurant, owned by Ivica and Amela Svalina, serves schnitzel, späetzle, jager and gesschnetzeltes at a pricepoint of $16 to $26. A combo platter for two, featuring a taste of all their entrees, is available for $55.90.
Old House is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and is closed on Monday.
And those looking for an after-dinner coffee farther down King Street will soon find Misha’s, which plans to relocate from its existing location at 102 S. Patrick St. to a new location at 917 King St. The coffeehouse and roaster, which has operated in Alexandria since 1991, requested in a special use permit to maintain the same operations in the new space.
Alexa Epitropoulos is a food and coffee lover, a recovering business reporter and the editor of the Alexandria Times.