The countdown to Cinco de Mayo has begun, and a number of Alexandria’s watering holes are offering special deals for residents and guests to fiesta in style.
All week, Tequila & Taco (540 John Carlyle Street) is gearing up for the big day on Thursday (May 5). Customers can get free queso with every order on Monday, $4 bottled beer today (Tuesday) and $8 nachos on Wednesday. On Thursday, the party begins at 9 a.m. with margaritas on sale for 5 cents until 10 a.m., followed by an outdoor party until 8 p.m.
There are a number of other ways to commemorate the Mexican victory over the French in 1862.
The American Legion Post 24 (400 Cameron Street in Old Town) is also hosting its annual Cinco de Mayo bash on Thursday. The event is open to the public, and tickets cost $10.
“Enjoy a refreshing glass of cerveza or freshly made sangria, and bring your festive spirit,” notes the Legion’s event listing. “Live music, patio party, corn hole games, and grilled food… Beer, wine, sangria, and soda available for purchase at bar.”
For dog owners, Barkhaus (529 E. Howell Avenue) is hosting a bingo night, along with District Dogs and Chippin’. Tickets cost $10 for members and $15 for the public, and ticketholders will get Cinco de Mayo swag, bingo cards and photo ops with a themed backdrop.
Residents can also order cocktails to go from dozens of Alexandria restaurants and bars.
— Visit Alexandria VA (@AlexandriaVA) April 30, 2022
Local businesses will have until the summer to enjoy the fruits of a temporary program that has allowed restaurants to provide curbside pickups, suspend regular operating hours and sell alcohol to-go.
City Council, on Saturday, will consider extending the temporary relief program to local businesses from April 1 to June 30, and expire along with the city’s state of emergency that same day.
The proposed extension would “provide restaurants and retailers the benefit of more time to submit applications for commercial parklets and construct the necessary decking for those who choose to continue use of on-street parking spaces,” city staff said in a report.
Additionally, on Tuesday, City Council approved a staff proposal to start charging annual rent to business owners for their use of parklets.
The following measures are now permanent, and would not be impacted by the new deadline:
- Closure of 100 block of King Street to traffic
- Retail activity on sidewalks
- Off-premises alcohol sales
- Restaurant delivery vehicles using on-street parking
Local gyms wouldn’t be able to provide their services in parklets anymore. The city said fitness-related businesses “did not actively participate in the temporary outdoor business expansion program,” and that the parklet program only allows for restaurants and retailers to provide services.
Alexandria’s state of emergency has been extended five times since it was first declared by Council in March 2020.
You won’t find Zoom wine tastings at Le Vintage Wine Shop.
The new shop is opening at 1218 King Street on Tuesday, and owner Benjamin Kuna says there’s something about an in-person tasting that gives the experience an extra kick.
“Nothing replaces a hands-on experience,” Kuna told ALXnow. “I did a bunch of Zoom tastings during the pandemic, and you could loop an Oregon winemaker into the call, and he could talk to you from his winery. So, that was great, but it’s not the same.”
Le Vintage features biodynamic wine without chemicals, and Kuna says it’s a misconception to think his wine is more expensive than grocery store alternatives. For instance, he carries a 2013 Scala “Briseo” Rosso that retails for less than $20.
“People can buy environmentally conscious, organic, sustainable wine that has the same price point,” Kuna said. “If you want to spend $100, I have that wine, but I also have a whole rack of 60 wines that are under $20.”
The 1,800-square-foot shop was previously home to the Acme Mid-Century + Modern furniture store, which moved online.
Kuna, a graduate of St. Stephens and St. Agnes School, was embarking on a career as a science writer when he started working as a sommelier at the La Fromagerie Cheese and Wine Bistro (1222 King Street). Kuna worked at the shop until 2014, rising to the rank of general manager, and then left for stints at a number of restaurants in the region, including Evening Star Cafe and Planet Wine in Del Ray.
“I really, really love wine,” Kuna said. “It’s the most interesting topic I’ve ever explored. It contains history and science, geography, cultural history, cultural trends. It dictates food. It actually dictated how we migrated in certain parts of the world. It just there’s so much involved with wine. It really is. This sort of microcosm of the human experience in a lot of ways.”
La Fromagerie’s owner Sebastien Tavel is a family friend, and owns 20% of Le Vintage.
“It opens up a lot of possibilities,” Kuna said. “We’re going to have a wine club at La Fromagerie called “Flight Club’, where a small group of 15-20 people will meet once a month to eat cheese and talk about wine.”
When coming up with the name, Kuna said he wanted to tap into the feeling of personal nostalgia that people get with tasting wine.
“When I’m drinking wine it evokes memories, and it’s why we love it,” he said.
Le Vintage will also host wine tastings on Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m. and on Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m. The shop is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday.
Ready for a Mangorita? Tiki, a new pop-up bar will open next week at 2312 Mount Vernon Avenue.
The former longtime home to The Sushi Bar was briefly converted into the Christmas-themed pop-up bar Joy On The Avenue, and more pop-ups at the location are being planned as plans for the final concept fall into place. For now, bamboo decorations are being put in place and Tiki masks have been painted on the walls.
Next month, Homegrown Restaurant Group owners Mike Anderson and Bill Blackburn will transform Tiki into the Valentine’s themed “Love Shack” pop-up next month, followed by a yet-to-be-named Mardis Gras pop-up after that.
“We’re transforming the space formerly known as kid-less Sushi, formerly known as Joy On The Avenue to new bar cocktail bar called Tiki,” owner Bill Blackburn told ALXnow. “There is no single person in Alexandria more qualified to open a tiki bar than mango. Mike Anderson.”
Anderson owned Mango Mike’s for 18 years on the West End.
“It’s about creating an experience, an escape,” Anderson said. “People need a bright spot in their day, and haven’t been able to take vacations. We’re giving them a vacation on the avenue.”
Tiki will serve tropical drinks, as well as food from HRG’s Holy Cow Del Ray.
Blackburn says HRG is ironing out a permanent fast-casual concept for the space, which he hopes to unveil in the spring.
With two celebration-filled weeks left in the year, there has been a 34% jump in the number of Driving Under the Influence arrests in 2021 over last year.
As of Dec. 7, there have been 193 DUI arrests in Alexandria, up from 144 last year — a period when police minimized traffic enforcement, and restaurants and bars were still largely closed indoors due to the pandemic.
Still, there were 240 total DUI arrests in Alexandria in 2019 — 20% higher than this year’s current total.
“Enforcement may be up and I would contribute it to our Traffic Safety Section being diligent and staying on top of their training in recognizing drivers who drive under the influence as well as the contributions from our patrol,” Alexandria Police public information officer Marcel Bassett told ALXnow.
Not counted in the figures is a DUI arrest that occurred on Dec. 11, after a pedestrian was struck in Arlandria. The 41-year-old driver was charged with DUI Maiming and DUI Second Offense.
The Sushi Bar at 2312 Mount Vernon Avenue is closing for good tonight (Dec. 7), and will soon reopen as a Christmas-themed pop-up bar, owner Bill Blackburn informed ALXnow.
“Joy On The Avenue – A Christmas Pop-up Bar” will open in its place sometime next week, Blackburn said.
The Sushi Bar opened in 2013 — next door to sister restaurants Pork Barrel BBQ and Holy Cow Del Ray, which are all owned by the Homegrown Restaurant Group.
“It’s long been our intention to close it by the end of the year and to change it into something new,” Blackburn said. “We decided to accelerate that plan. Tonight will be the last night of The Sushi Bar. “
The bar will have light appetizers, and will serve holiday wine, beer and cocktails.
“We’re going to do that until the 31st instead, and then close it and remodel to a new concept,” Blackburn said.
Blackburn anticipates unveiling a new concept soon and then reopening at the end of February 2022.
A Fairfax County man was arrested and released multiple traffic offenses in Old Town on Oct. 10, including driving while intoxicated, driving under a revoked/suspended license and two counts of failing to stop at the scene of an accident.
The 59-year-old suspect allegedly hit three vehicles and drove off while attempting to park in front of The Light Horse Restaurant at 715 King Street, according to a search warrant affidavit.
Restaurant staff told the suspect that he could not park there, and he then returned to The Light Horse after parking elsewhere.
“I was just standing here across the street watching this guy smashing cars trying to park and then drive away,” a witness told ALXnow.
“I arrived on scene at the Light Horse… and was advised that the subject had walked into the bar,” police said in the affidavit, adding that the suspect did not remember where he parked his car.
This is the suspect’s third DWI and he goes to court on November 11.
It takes less than five minutes to make most orders at Don Taco. The restaurant and tequila bar at 808 King Street also claims to make the best margaritas in Old Town, and that combination of making quick to-go orders with alcoholic drinks to wash it all down has been their secret to success during the pandemic.
“There’s not much of a profit margin on food costs,” Don Taco’s General Manager Tracey Deiderich told ALXnow. “As far as alcohol is concerned, that’s where restaurants make most of their money. Allowing restaurants to do this just weeks after we had to shut down was a huge success.”
Chef Mike Cordero has owned the building for decades, rebooting it several times with new concepts. He launched Don Taco in 2016, after spending years with it as Flat Iron Steak & Saloon and Cafe Salsa.
The restaurant is one of Cordero’s many taquerias in the region. It has a menu with dozens of $3.95 tacos, and was featured on the Cooking Channel’s Cheap Eats with Ali Khan with a number of other Alexandria restaurants.
“In my kitchen, they are beasts when it comes to getting food out quickly,” Deiderich said. “You might even get your tacos in about 60 seconds after you order.”
Best sellers include the Sriracha chicken taco, the pomegranate-glazed skirt steak taco and the fried avocado taco.
Deiderich says most dates can cost an average of $50 at Don Taco.
“You could come in and have a blast for 50 bucks,” he said. “I mean, at $3.95 a taco, and grab yourself a pumpkin spice Margarita or one of our specialty drinks.”
As for the margaritas, Deiderich says they’re made with fresh ingredients.
“I mean, we have the best margaritas in Old Town,” he said. “We don’t use any fillers, it’s all fresh ingredients. Just tequila, fresh lime juice and fresh Agave nectar. There’s no sour mixes or anything like that in there. It’s all fresh and ready and raring to go anytime you need to drink.”
A 25-year-old Alexandria woman was arrested for driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident in Old Town earlier this month.
The incident occurred in the 800 block of Duke Street at around 2 a.m. on September 13. A man called 911 and reported that a woman driving a white Honda hit a parked car on the side of the road, swerved and almost hit him and then hit another parked vehicle, according to police.
The man told police that he last saw the woman get out of her car and leave the area on foot.
Police searched the area and found the suspect asleep in the passenger seat of a truck in a parking lot off Alfred Street, according to a search warrant.
The witness then identified the woman in the truck as the suspect, and she was arrested. She goes to court for both offenses on October 21.
Even though it’s still boarded up, Total Wine & More is hiring at its Potomac Yard location.
The 18,000 square foot property at 3901 Richmond Highway is the former home of Pier 1 Imports, which closed in March 2020.
The Potomac Yard location is directly next door to the vacant former Shoppers Food Warehouse, which is planned to be replaced by an Amazon Fresh grocery store. Both are also within a short distance of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus development.
Total Wine has hundreds of locations around the country, including in the Landmark area. That location is also hiring.