The Best Restaurants in Old Town Alexandria Right Now

Longtime classics and chef-driven newcomers alike

February 27, 2024 7:08 am
different plates of food on dining table
Can we interest you in a reservation at Josephine, or any of these other Old Town hotspots?
REY LOPEZ

It’s difficult not to be beguiled by the charm of Old Town Alexandria. The picturesque neighborhood situated along the Potomac River is just 15 minutes away from downtown Washington, D.C., and a destination in its own right. History buffs will delight in the fact that George Washington once spent the night at Gadsby’s Tavern — a series of buildings that have been standing since the 1780s — while art lovers can peruse the many galleries in the area. Most importantly, foodies will find plenty of epicurean delights along the cobblestone streets representing cuisines from around the world.

Mediterranean food set on dining table
Elaine’s
Cynthia Higgins

Elaine’s

Opened in March 2023, Elaine’s brings the dishes of Alexandria, Egypt, to Old Town Alexandria. Named after owner Cynthia Higgins’s grandmother, the restaurant describes its food as a modern take on Mediterranean cuisine that draws inspiration from Middle Eastern, French, Greek and Italian cooking. Don’t miss the Alexandrian grilled whole branzino featuring a chermoula sauce, parsley and lemon.

208 Queen St

Kismet Modern Indian

At Kismet, you’ll be able to enjoy dishes from Chef Ajay Kumar, whose cooking has earned him a couple nods from the Michelin Guide in the form of Bib Gourmand honors. The food at this restaurant is inspired by the chef’s mother and grandmother, though Chef Kumar has elevated some of these homey dishes before bringing them to your table. The tangy sweet potato is a favorite, featuring a pan-grilled sweet potato along with tamarind sauce.

111 N Pitt St

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Oak Steakhouse

If you’re looking for a romantic night out on the town, head to the northern Virginian outpost of Oak Steakhouse. While you can find Oaks in a few states, each location serves up its own unique twists. Don’t miss the jumbo lump crab Oscar as an add-on to any steak, and be surprised by the ceviche from the raw bar menu, which is especially fresh and acidic. 

901 N Saint Asaph St

lamp chop on a plate
Josephine
REY LOPEZ

Josephine Brasserie & Bar

Another new addition to Old Town, this French-inspired restaurant offers Parisian classics, like fabulous pan-seared sweetbreads and a stunning Trout Amandine. While the airy space gets plenty of natural light during lunchtime hours, when dinner time comes, you’ll want to head upstairs to the third floor and check out Bar Jo, a champagne bar that is perfect for special occasions.

109 S Saint Asaph St

Jula’s on the Potomac

This laidback classic is one of the best spots to catch a panoramic view of the Potomac River in either Virginia or D.C. (thanks to its elevated space on the fourth floor). Whether you’re looking for a place to meet for happy hour drinks, a fabulous brunch or a casual dinner, Jula’s is the place to go. The French toast bread pudding at brunch is not to be missed under any circumstances. 

44 Canal Center Plaza 4th Fl

pasta with mushrooms on a plate next to silverware
Thompson Italian
SV Images

Thompson Italian

For James Beard-nominated desserts, you’re going to want to head to Thompson Italian. Co-owner and pastry chef Katherine Thompson received the prestigious nomination in no small part thanks to her phenomenal olive oil cake. Of course, that’s not the only dish drawing diners to this Italian restaurant in Old Town. The sweet potato cavatelli with smoked lamb ragu, sweet potato sofrito, radicchio and pecorino is one of many menu standouts.

1024 King St

restaurant on a pier on the water
Barca at dusk
Elyse Cosgrove

Barca Pier and Wine Bar

For some of the best al fresco dining the DMV has to offer, head over to Barca Pier and Wine Bar. With a structure made of old shipping containers, the Pier takes its riverfront status seriously. The menu comprises Mediterranean tapas-style offerings, and fruity cocktails to-go alongside the river breeze. Check out neighboring Barca Wine Bar for a slightly more intimate experience. 

2 Pioneer Mill Way

oysters on a serving platter
Oysters at Vermilion
JOHN RORAPAUGH

Vermilion

One of the most perennially popular (and lauded) restaurants in the area is undoubtedly Vermilion, whose simple, ingredient-driven menu changes seasonally based on available produce. The kitchen is newly helmed by Ben Pflaumer, a fresh face with a fresh take on New American cuisine. Personal favorites include the octopus a la plancha and the crispy skin local rockfish — but remember, the menu changes frequently. 

1120 King St

Hank’s Oyster Bar

With locations throughout the DMV, Hank’s Oyster Bar is an institution in and around Old Town. The family-friendly space in the neighborhood always offers dependable seafood (and land-based offerings) well beyond oysters. Whether you’re in the mood for crab cakes or some popcorn shrimp, Hank’s won’t let you down. 

818 N Saint Asaph St

Le Refuge

Called the oldest French restaurant in Old Town, Le Refuge is an institution in and of itself. In operation since 1983, Le Refuge is known as much for its extensive wine list as for its delectable food. The cozy, intimate space is reflective of the family business that Le Refuge has become; be sure to try the escargot and one of the richest chocolate tortes you’ll ever have. 

127 N Washington St

Taverna Cretekou

Another neighborhood mainstay — this one since 1973 — comes in the form of Taverna Cretekou, which serves up classic Greek dishes in an indoor-outdoor space with a beautiful garden. You’ll find all your favorite Greek dishes on the menu (definitely try the moussaka) and, as many diners comment, some of the friendliest service around. Don’t be surprised if you find the staff dancing and breaking some plates for celebrations.

818 King St

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