By Thompson Eskew and Lexie Jordan
With summer only a couple of weeks away, there will be an ever-increasing number of opportunities to enjoy the spectacle and atmosphere at one of the many restaurants Alexandria has to offer. From a fine dining experience along the waterfront to a smaller streetside restaurant catering to a livelier environment, you can find an eatery that has what you want here in Alexandria. Here are a few locations we would recommend for those of you who would enjoy dining with a view this summer.
Among the collection of Alexandria’s more formal restaurants, Cedar Knoll stands out for its unique setting. Located across the George Washington Parkway from the Potomac River at 9030 Lucia Lane, the restaurant lies between Old Town and Mount Vernon.
After a scenic drive along the parkway, patrons will find an equally beautiful view of the river from Cedar Knoll’s many rooms.
A full-service American cuisine restaurant since 1970, Cedar Knoll’s building dates from the early 1800s. It was originally a farmhouse be- fore being remodeled a century later as the Mount Vernon View Antique Shop and Tearoom. The essence of the original building has been maintained, creating a fine dining ambiance and an aesthetic akin to Mount Vernon.
“Part of the uniqueness of each room is that it has its own set of characteristics that makes it different. We have the Botanical Room when you walk in towards the left, which has many plants on the inside and large windows that allow you to see our gardens … [Another one of our rooms is] the Presidential Room, which has the dark oak and a more historic feel, such as a parlor or a dining car on a train from the 1800s,” co-owner Andrew Holden said.
Cedar Knoll has multiple “rooms with a view.”
Old House Cosmopolitan Grill
Old House Cosmopolitan Grill, located on the corner of N. Henry and Cameron streets along Route 1 in Old Town, might at first seem an unlikely candidate for a “best view” restaurant option.
Its outdoor, rooftop seating area, decorated with lights and flowers, proves otherwise. Old House Cosmopolitan Grill offers a variety of seating in addition to the roof. There is counter-top and high-top seating near the bar and kitchen areas on the first floor, while the rest of the indoor seating that owners Ivica and Amela Svalina created is candlelit and more intimate.
As you enter the restaurant, your senses are transported. The smell of authentic European food hits you as a waiter walks by with a plate of their locally-famous wiener schnitzel. The open kitchen to the right is made by the sizzling of meat on a pan. Cocktails are shaken from the bar area to the right of the kitchen.
“When guests come to this house, I treat them like they come to my personal house,” Svalina said.
This welcoming and loveable environment adds to the charm of the family owned restaurant.
If you do find yourself at the Old House Cosmopolitan Grill, be sure to try the veal wiener schnitzel or one of the new summer soups, salads or sandwich combos. For beverages the owner recommends one of the German beers. If you are in the mood for a cocktail, the espresso martini and the Cosmopolitan stand out.
Barca Pier and Wine Bar
With summer settling in and weather becoming warmer, Barca Pier and Wine Bar located at 2 Pioneer Way is a great place to enjoy the beautiful waterfront views.
Inspired by the ports of Spain, Barca’s menu features a variety of Spanish food and drink. If you are looking for a more casual dining experience, the pier side, located directly on the Potomac River, offers tapas and a plethora of wines and cocktails. Be sure to try the two most popular items on the drink menu: the sangria and the pineapple express.
Manager Naomi Harris said, “the bay scallops and patatas bravas” are her personal favorites.
If you are in the mood for a more intimate setting with larger plates, Barca is also home to the wine bar and in- door seating, with outdoor options. The wine bar has happy hour Monday through Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Throughout the summer, Barca plans on hosting cock- tail classes where you can learn to make some of their popular cocktails, so check their events website at barcaalx.com/private-events for more details.
Barca’s water views are among the best in Alexandria, especially at sunset.
“There is no place else in Old Town that has [better] tapas or a better water view,” Harris said.
Grape and Bean
If you crave a quieter ambiance that still offers an international feel, then look no further than Grape and Bean located at 2 East Walnut St. Standing on its own in the Rosemont neighborhood, this eatery combines the atmosphere of a local restaurant with the diverse menu of a bottle shop and gourmet marketplace.
With its outdoor seating under the restaurant’s maroon curtains, Grape and Bean can host smaller parties as well as
families that are looking for a shared dining experience. The quaint dining experience in the welcoming setting of Rosemont offers a special rustic ambiance.
Along with its menu of cheeses, soups and sand- wiches, Grape and Bean also provides a variety of craft brew beers and international wines.
Furthering a rustic atmosphere, upon entering the space patrons will be welcomed with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and baked goods. An array of organic dairy products, wine and craft brew beer can be found on the left wall parallel to the market counter. Guests can order products such as one of the restaurant’s sustainable coffees.
Stacey Wharam, who runs Grape and Bean, attributes the restaurant’s setting in the heart of the Rosemont neighborhood to its success.
“There’s something really special about having a quaint little wine and coffee shop in your backyard that you can walk to, where you can get a small bit to eat, a good glass of wine, a cup of coffee or a pastry,” Wharam said.