Having lived in the heart of Old Town for four years, I can assure you, I’ve come up with the ultimate list of the best of the best restaurants in town! These are my tried-and-true favorites, the ones I go back to again and again even now that I live an hour away! Get ready. You’re gonna get hungry.
*Note: I photographed some of these experiences before the pandemic started, and some after. Pay no attention to anything presented in styrofoam, cardboard, or paper! The food is first-class at all of these locations!
If you want a little bit of a French treat without buying a plane ticket to Paris, make sure Fontaine is on your list! They do breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, and brunch on the weekends, too. It’s pretty much all crepes all the time—sweet, savory, and in between! It’s an old favorite of mine, and I highly recommend it. Their restaurant is adorable inside, and their outdoor seating will truly make you feel like you’ve stepped into old world France!
This is a super fun date night or girls’ night out spot! The Majestic Cafe has been serving food since 1932, and the Art Deco look and feel give you that special occasion feeling as soon as you walk in. I had been wanting to eat here for years, but I always thought it was too fancy to just take myself there (for the record: you’re worth it!), but my husband graciously took me out for brunch here recently! We will be back, and I hope you’ll check it out, too!
More here: What I LOVE about Old Town Alexandria, VA
Misha’s is an Old Town institution! It’s a defintely the local’s favorite, and just a couple of years ago they moved into a larger space on King Street, just a block away from their former location. They have coffees from all over the world, as well as locally-made pastries, savories, and desserts! We popped in for breakfast on our first morning in Old Town, and we both enjoyed one of their quiches!
More here: Best Coffee Shops in Alexandria, VA
I love Pop’s! They make the best ice cream in town, and there is truly a flavor for everyone! They’re right on King Street, close to the waterfront, and their shop is the cutest! It looks just like a 1950s ice cream parlor. You can get it in a cup, cone, milkshake, sundae, and more! Any way you imagine it, they can do it.
Everyone has their favorite: it’s either Pop’s or the Creamery! And since they are conveniently located across the street from each other, you can try them both and decide which one you like more! I got a scoop of salted caramel and a scoop of peanut butter fudge the last time we were in town!
Satisfy your sweet tooth: The Best Desserts in the World
This is one of my favorite restaurants in the world! A step inside is like stepping into another world. It’s one of the longest-running restaurants in Old Town, and it’s consistently been voted the best Greek food in the D.C. area. The owners—authentic Greek accents and all—greet you with joy, and the waitstaff are always friendly and kind. You won’t always find that kind of hospitality everywhere in Old Town, but you will always find it here!
You can eat in their blue-and-white dining room, of course, or you can enjoy their tented garden in the back, which is what we did for our most recent meal here for my birthday. The food is consistently superb, too. I love their sampler options so I can try a little of everything! When I lived in Old Town and people would come visit or a guy asked me where I wanted to eat on a date, I made sure they brought me here!
I’d love to visit Greece one day. Check out what else is on My Post-COVID Bucket List!
I love the Pita House! It used to be located on Cameron Street, where Caphe Bahn Mi is located today, but they moved to a larger location on King Street several years ago, which was fantastic for them! This is a true “mom and pop” business; the family came to America from Lebanon in the 1980s as refugees, and in 1992 the father fulfilled his dream of running a restaurant using his wife’s recipes. The father passed away in 2000, but now his children run the restaurant. The family is the definition of kindness—truly, they are some of the sweetest people in Old Town. And their positivity is reflected in their amazing Lebanese food!
This is the best Vietnamese food I’ve had outside of Vietnam! The restaurant is tiny, but the food quality is phenomenal. The owners are from Vietnam, and they definitely do it right. They have pho, of course, but my favorite is the vermicelli! And their summer rolls are to die for—so fresh, so delicious! And don’t forget to try their Vietnamese iced coffee. Steve descibed the flavor as “melted coffee ice cream.” Yes, it’s that good!
This is my favorite sushi restaurant outside of Japan, y’all. It’s small and just a little off the beaten path (two blocks off King Street), but it’s by far the best sushi I’ve had in the USA! The service is always friendly, the sushi is always perfectly prepared, and they have more than just sushi on the menu for those of you who don’t like sushi! I would eat here every day if I could!
Keep eating: The Best Food I Ever Ate in My Travels
These are perhaps the best cupcakes I’ve ever tasted. Their flavors change daily, but if you can make it in on a s’mores cupcake day, you won’t be sorry! Follow them on Facebook for their daily list of flavors and start planning your trip to Old Town for the best cupcakes around! And believe it or not, all their cupcakes are organic. Check out their Facebook Page for daily flavor updates!
Read next: 10 Reasons to Visit Alexandria, VA
This was a newcomer when I lived in Old Town about eight years ago, but given its popularity all these years later, I’d say it’s probably going to be a mainstay! They have great ambience and atmosphere, with both outdoor and indoor seating. The restaurant is in an old warehouse, so it’s got the industrial vibe going for it. I love that their menu includes favorites like burgers and salads, but also some unexpected items like duck poutine and sweet potato tacos!
I was a little disappointed to see that Old Town’s Pizza Paradiso had closed, but a friend and fellow tour guide recommended this place for pizza. It was great! I love a good thick, bread crust, and the personal sized pizzas had enough going on that we were quite full! I would definitely recommend this place next time you’re seeking out yummy Italian in Old Town!
Italian food always makes me think of Venice! Check out What to Eat in Venice.
Maybe you’re staying at a vacation rental and want to cook something fresh and local. Maybe you’re in it for the free samples. Maybe you want a little breakfast. You can find it here at the Old Town Farmers’ Market! George Washington used to send things up here from Mount Vernon to sell, and it’s the oldest, continuously-operating farmers’ market in the country.
You’ll find several coffee and tea vendors, pastry vendors, meat vendors, veggie vendors, preserves vendors, and plenty of non-food items as well! On my recent trip to Old Town, I picked up a spinach and feta pastry from the Kiwi Cafe stand and a salted caramel sweet cream cold brew coffee from the Guata Java stand!
I have to say, I was sad and disappointed to find my little coffee and tea shop was gone. This restaurant is located in what used to be “Old Town Coffee and Tea,” and they had coffee beans from all over the world, in every flavor, and you could mix and match as you saw fit! It was the same with their teas. They didn’t have a coffee bar where you could order an espresso or anything, just the roasted coffee (and tea) by the pound. It was awesome.
However, finding this little French-inspired cafe was not all bad! Their crepes are truly gigantic and stuffed all the way full! Their coffee is delicious, and they have more than just crepes, if you requite a little something else! Their pastries looked great, too, so I’ll have to go back another time!
This one is a little farther afield, but I think it bears mentioning here! If you happen to find your way down to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, be sure to carve out time for lunch or dinner at the Mount Vernon Inn. We went to Mount Vernon on my birthday this year, and we made it extra special by dining here instead of in their food court! Every time I’ve eaten here, the service has been extra kind, the decor makes my history-loving heart happy, and the food is always delicious!
An essential guide:
How to Have the Best George Washington Weekend in Alexandria, VA
Fun fact: I was a waitress here! This historic tavern was reportedly George Washington’s favorite, and he had his last meal in public in the restaurant’s back dining room. You can sit back there yourself for a meal even today! A friend and former Gadsby’s co-worked and I ate lunch here recently, and it was fun to reminisce!
For lunch they boast patriotic favorites like the Colonial Peanut Soup with traditional Sally Lunn bread or the John Gadsby Burger. For a fine dining dinner date you’ll choose from options like crispy fried oysters, Smithfield ham and biscuits, and George Washington’s favorite: duck served with a cherry-orange glace, scalloped potatoes, and corn pudding. Don’t forget to take the tour of the museum next door!
Want the real George Washington experience?
Stay at his townhouse just a block away!
Other Notable Establishments
I can only eat so much! Over the years, I’ve eaten at dozens of Old Town’s best restaurants, but I don’t have photos for all of them! So here are my recommendations for restaurants with amazing food and staff, but for which I do not have current photos! Take your pick of these Old Town Favorites:
This one wins the prize for best use of a historic building! This restaurant is located inside the historic Columbia Firehouse. They are open for brunch, lunch, and dinner, and they serve good old American and Mid-Atlantic fare. You’ll find hearty burgers, refined seafood, large servings, and their firehouse chili is no joke!
This is the most authentic Irish food you’ll get this side of the Atlantic Ocean! They have a fabulous rooftop terrace for the spring and summer months, and warm, cozy fires and cushy seating on the inside for those chilly fall and winter days. The decor and furnishings are authentic Irish antiques, giving all patrons both a taste and feel of Ireland. I love their Irish shepherd’s pie, and I hear great things about the Scotch egg, too!
Alexandria started out as a seaport, and at one point, it was the third largest port city in the Colonies, right behind Boston and New York! So it stands to reason that we have great seafood. Whether you want oysters, seafood chowders, lobster avocado toast, crab cakes, or the Captain’s Fried Platter, you’ll leave here full and happy!
For a taste of Tuscany, head to Landini Brothers! It’s one of the oldest restaurants in Old Town, so you can be sure their food and service are spot-on. It’s another family-owned business, which I absolutely love. Get your panini, pasta, crostini, and more right here!
We’ll call this one “refined bar food,” and you’ll love it! Steve and I had our rehearsal dinner here before we got married, so it has a special place in our hearts! It’s named for local Alexandria legend Light Horse “Harry” Lee, who was George Washington’s friend and fellow Revolutionary War general. He’s the one who said of George Washington at his funeral, “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” You’ll find items here like braised lamb ragout, surf ‘n turf skewers, steak frites, and candied bacon for dessert!
This is the best Thai food in Old Town, and maybe in the whole D.C. area! The upstairs has a great view of the waterfront, the staff have always been nice to me when I’ve eaten here, and I’m a sucker for their pad see ew! Choose your heat level, but whatever you choose, always make sure you save room for mango and sticky rice for dessert!
This restaurant is located in a Colonial-era warehouse near the waterfront, and it’s a favorite of locals and tourists alike! You can enjoy excellent seafood, comfort food favorites, and hearty burgers and sandwiches, too.
If refined steak and seafood are on your list of things to eat, this is the place to get it all. Their vast menu has something for everyone: alligator stew, Asian-style baby back ribs, chicken pineapple salad, shellfish linguine, and more! Again, it’s in a historic warehouse, just a couple of blocks from the water!
If you want true fine dining, you want The Wharf. You’ll want to dress up a little for this one whether you decide to come for brunch, lunch, dinner, or dessert! Get ready for bacon-wrapped scallops, New England Clam chowder, linguine portofino, old Virginia rockfish, and more refined dishes!
Still hungry? Check out all my foodie adventures on the World Foods Page!
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