Alexandria, VA

If you’ve followed the recent widespread war over the best chain-restaurant fried chicken sandwich on the market, there’s a new homegrown player in Old Town.

Reston-based Thompson Hospitality, the owner of Hen Quarter at 801 King Street, has converted the first floor of the restaurant into the southern-style restaurant The Rub. While the second floor is still devoted to Hen Quarter, the new establishment, which opened on Thursday (Jan. 17) offers five fried chicken sandwiches with fries ranging in price from $8.50 to $12.50. The sandwiches are all made to order and take about eight minutes to prepare.

“We couldn’t ignore the recent explosion of the fried chicken sandwich,” Craig Carey, Thompson’s vice president of marketing strategy, told ALXnow. “We’re really motivated by bringing awesome creative food that is inclusive of everyone’s budget.”

The sandwiches were created by Chef Graham Duncan, formerly of Alexandria Restaurant Partners.

Carey is also the founder of Big Buns Damn Good Burger Co. in Shirlington, and partnered with Thompson Hospitality a year-and-a-half ago. He said that Thompson, which includes Austin Grill, Matchbox and American Tap Room among its brands, plans to open many more restaurants throughout the region over the next two years. Those new restaurants include a new Big Buns in Reston by this April, and a Big Buns in the Navy Yard in June.

The company plans to open three to five Matchbox and Big Buns locations per year, we’re told.

Carey said that the fried chicken sandwich was the most popular item on the menu when it debuted at Big Buns in 2015.

“The Rub is really about the customer, and I think it’s a really cool space to have fun with,” he said. “The fried chicken sandwich is really something that has exploded for us. Soon we will be coming out with a new fried chicken sandwich every month.”

4 Comments

Starting this weekend, roughly 70 restaurants throughout Alexandria will start offering new specials on multi-course meals to get locals to try new places.

Alexandria’s Winter Restaurant Week is scheduled to run for just over a week, from tomorrow (Friday) through Sunday, (Jan. 26). The event, put together by Visit Alexandria, aims to showcase local chefs in areas throughout the city.

While many of the restaurants are in Del Ray and Old Town, the West End, North Ridge, and the Landmark area are also represented. A list of all participating restaurants, as well as a map showing where the restaurants are located, is online.

New restaurants this year include:

Three-course dinners will be $35 per person. A one-course dinner for two is offered for the same price, $35. Also during Restaurant Week, 35 of the restaurants will offer lunch menus at $15 or $22 per person, while more than a dozen restaurants will offer $15-$22 brunches.

Photo via Rus Uz/Facebook

0 Comments

When the Chevy Chase bistro Little Beast announced that they would be bringing back their bakery, Washingtonian senior editor Andrew Beaujon celebrated the long-awaited D.C. arrival of an exotic breakfast treat: The Cruffin.

But not so fast! Other astute readers rightly noted that Junction Bakery and Bistro in Del Ray (1508 Mt. Vernon Avenue) already has cruffins. So who gets to lay claim to crushin’ the first cruffin in the region?

For those of you who don’t know, cruffins are the final result of a Dr. Moreau-esque hybrid where a croissant’s flayed dough is wrapped around the flesh of assorted fillings, and stuffed into a muffin mold.

In accordance with Betteridge’s law of headlines: no. Junction’s cruffins preceded the re-opening of Little Bistro’s bakery, but other bakeries around the region had them first.

It is true that Junction Bakery has cruffins in a variety of flavors. Today (Wednesday) those flavors are chocolate hazelnut and raspberry. There are no egg or dairy-free options, so this vegan ALXnow reporter could not personally vouch for them, but others in the restaurant and on Twitter claimed to enjoy them.

Staff at the restaurant said they’ve been very popular, but noted that Junction Bakery was not the first in the area to stuff a cruffin.

A Washingtonian article from 2016 said Bayou Bakery in Arlington’s Courthouse neighborhood has cruffins, though that was on Fridays only at the time and staff said they don’t currently have cruffins available. Eater credited Bayou Bakery with introducing the cruffin to the region.

Staff at Junction Bakery said they started serving cruffins six months ago, so that would also not pre-date Little Beast’s initial bakery run in the fall of 2018.

8 Comments

A new restaurant called Thai Signature could be taking over 722 King Street, once home to local establishment Geranio Ristorante.

Geranio Ristorante closed in 2018 after 42 years of serving up Italian meals and the building has been empty since then. Recently filed permits show, however, that Thai Signature could be taking over the space with a focus on offering street food from Thailand. The restaurant will also have a bar serving wine, beer and cocktails.

Before Thai Signature opens, new restaurant will also have something of a facelift, with plans to remove the awning and replace the front facade with a new green and white design.

The space was originally a cobbler shop in the 1880s but the current building was constructed sometime between 1902 and 1907, according to a city staff report.

The original plan was a wall-to-wall glass building with a very modern design, Historic Preservation Manager Al Cox said, but staff worked with the applicant for something more Old Town appropriate. The new designs were unanimously approved at the Dec. 18 Board of Architectural Review meeting.

On the same block, a new pair of restaurants called The Handover and The King’s Ransom are in the works for the space that was once Eamonn’s Dublin Chipper and Bar PX, with signs recently placed in the window.

2 Comment

Morning Notes

Hops Closes in Potomac Yard — “Potomac Yard microbrewery Hops Grill and Brewery officially closed its doors for good on Sunday, according to a news release. The brewery’s remaining assets went up for auction to the general public through a partnership with Auction Nation.” [Alexandria Times]

Water Main Break on Duke Street — “There is a water main break that occurred this morning (January 2, 2020) on Duke Street between Quaker Lane and Sweeley Street in the Taylor Run area of Alexandria.” [Port City Wire, Twitter]

Arcade and Laser Tag Venue Opening Next Week — “Doyle’s Outpost gave some Alexandrians a preview on New Year’s Eve, and an official grand opening is now set for Jan. 10. Doyle’s Outpost is located next to Planet Fitness in the Seminary Plaza Shopping Center. The space was occupied by AMF Seminary Lanes bowling alley, which closed in 2005.” [Alexandria Living]

New ACPS Chef Profiled by WaPo — “Updated employee nomenclature — maybe “kitchen manager,” Ruffin suggested, or “cafeteria chef” — is the least of many changes he’s planning for the Alexandria City school system, which serves about 16,000 students in Northern Virginia. Other goals include securing more ingredients from local farmers, diversifying the menu and reducing kitchen waste.” [Washington Post]

4 Comments

Alexandria’s Winter Restaurant Week is coming back next month with a handful of new eateries to sample.

For 10 days across two weekends, 70 restaurants across Alexandria will offer specials on meals. The event is put together by Visit Alexandria and is scheduled to run from Jan. 17-26.

Restaurant Week aims to showcase local chefs in neighborhoods across the city, from Old Town to the West End. Restaurants include everything from neighborhood favorites to international cuisine.

Three-course dinners for one will be $35 or a dinner for two at the same price. Also during that week, 35 of the restaurants will offer lunch menus at $15 or $22 per person, while more than a dozen restaurants will offer $15-$22 brunches.

A full list of participating restaurants is available online, but new additions to this year’s lineup include:

The event started in 2009 and occurs biannually, with winter and summer celebrations.

0 Comments

Holy Cow Del Ray has taken all of the outrage and fury of Alexandria’s most controversial issues and put them between two buns.

The restaurant at 2312 Mount Vernon Avenue announced its new “burger of the moment,” the Seminary Road-Dockless Scooter-Waterfront Development-Halal Butcher-Bike Lane Sandwich, on Facebook.

The creation features a grilled chicken breast and melted jack cheese on a toasted potato roll topped with bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickled onion and Miracle Whip.

The restaurant acknowledged in the post that the Miracle Whip — a cheap alternative to mayonnaise — was a fittingly controversial decision to represent the burger’s conflicted name. Some commenters argued that naming a chicken sandwich a burger was the more controversial decision.

The sandwich costs $8.95.

If you need a breakdown of each of the components of this sandwich:

Photo via Holy Cow Del Ray/Facebook

8 Comments

There are no signs on the walls or permits from the city visible, but there are nevertheless signs of life at the former King Street Blues restaurant at 112 N. St. Asaph Street.

Neighbors told ALXnow that movers bringing equipment into the space told them the new restaurant would be called Old Hat. A company under that name with the King Street Blues address was created on Sept. 11 this year.

While the building is still covered in King Street Blues signs, the former two-story barbecue and southern cuisine spot has sat empty since at least early 2018. Patrick’s Fine Linens and Home Decor next door is likewise abandoned, with some of the windows broken.

Paint cans and other signs of activity are visible through the sheets of paper plastered over the windows of King Street Blues. While no permits are visible on the outside of the building, city records show a number of recent inspections of the address.

The owners of the Silverman Galleries next door said they didn’t know anything about the new restaurant, but said they were happy to see something new coming to the long-vacant location.

Owners of Old Hat LLC could not be reached for comment.

0 Comments

Shortly after scooping out a spot in Old Town, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is hosting a grand opening celebration next Thursday (Dec. 19) with a scheduled appearance from the eponymous Jeni Britton Bauer.

The grand opening celebration is scheduled from 7-11 p.m. at Jeni’s (102 S. Patrick Street). Free ice cream and “swag” is promised to the first 50 people in line.

The chain, based out of Ohio, has a cult following and about three dozen stores nationwide. Its new Bethesda store is celebrating its grand opening the same day.

The ice cream lineup is scheduled to include flavors like brambleberry crisp and brown butter almond brittle, as well as dairy-free flavors like Texas sheet cake and roasted peanut butter and strawberry jam.

The ice cream shop opened in mid-November in the former Misha’s Coffee location, which has relocated down the block to 907 King Street.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

0 Comments

Before it was a Starbucks, before it was the Seaport Inn, the restaurant at the corner of King and S. Union Street was a bawdy little tavern with a petrified pig.

As early as 1893, records refer to the location as Brill’s Restaurant, and local newspaper reports from a year later detail a curious incident with a slab of ham. These details, and others about local Alexandria restaurants, are featured in a new book by local journalist Hope Nelson called Classic Restaurants of Alexandria.

A newspaper article from the Alexandria Gazette-Packet from 1894 said the restaurant kept a unique petrified ham on display.

“A curiosity in the shape of a petrified ham is on exhibition at the restaurant of Mr. Jacob Brill,” the article said. “The ham was found in the ground near Staunton and will be sent to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.”

After Brill’s restaurant closed, Nelson said the space was eventually transformed into the Seaport Inn, a more upscale restaurant that served seafood for more than 50 years before it closed in 2000. All that remains of the restaurant today is a plaque outside the building, which now houses a Starbucks.

Nelson, who has written a food column for the Gazette-Packet for several years, said Alexandria has a unique culinary history shaped by restaurants both long gone and currently active. Given the city’s long culinary history and numerous restaurants, the book only discusses the long-time establishments.

“The litmus test was, if it’s currently operating, it needs to have been operating for more than 25 years,” Nelson said. “A few are right at the level, while some like Gadsby’s have been around much longer.”

One of the youngest on the list, Nelson said, is Taqueria el Poblano — a baja-style taco place in Del Ray, though it’s since expanded to Columbia Pike and Lee Highway in Arlington.

“It’s slightly over 25 years old, so it is the baby of the book, but it has such a following in Del Ray and Alexandria that I couldn’t not include it,” Nelson said.

Nelson said the restaurant’s family-friendly reputation and welcoming environment are the keys to its local success.

“It’s a small little restaurant that whether winter or summer, there’s always a wait to get in,” Nelson said. “Because it’s such a family-oriented place, a lot of families with young children feel comfortable that their kids can be loud and act up and they’re part of the family. Management welcomes you like an old friend and they have a knack for recognizing people.”

The book is available online or at The Old Town Shop. Nelson will be signing copies at her book launch party next Wednesday, Dec. 11, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Union Street Public House (121 S. Union Street).

4 Comments

Morning Notes

Fox 5: No Additional Delays on Seminary — Alexandria’s Seminary Road controversy has taken another turn in the local TV news spotlight. This time, Fox 5 looked at the lane reduction issue and concluded that the brief periods of gridlock on the road during peak times are not, in fact, worse than it was when the Seminary was two lanes in both directions. [Fox 5, Twitter]

Population, Housing Continue to Grow — “Alexandria’s housing inventory is barely keeping up with its population growth. That’s a key takeaway from Alexandria’s recently released fiscal 2019 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report… The city added an estimated 2,300 residents in the last year, climbing to 156,800, and roughly 2,900 total residential units, ending fiscal 2019 with 82,310.” [Washington Business Journal]

New ACPS Trying Out Healthy Recipes — “Alexandria City Public Schools recently welcomed a new executive chef to its cafeterias and he’s already got some fresh ideas. Chef Isaiah Ruffin wants more vegetarian options on the menu, less sodium in the lunch items, and about 80 percent of the ingredients to be locally sourced.” [WDVM]

Local Cop Dedicated to Helping the Homeless — “In Alexandria, Officer Bennie Evans goes far beyond the call of duty to work with the homeless — often using his time and money to help — with the goal of building a stronger community altogether. ABC7 joined him on an autumn day at Alexandria’s Meade Memorial Episcopal Church as Evan cooked up lunch for more than a hundred people.” [ABC 7]

Reminder: Weekend Events — A number of significant events are taking place in Alexandria this weekend, including the Alexandria Cider Festival, the holiday tree lighting in Old Town, and the inaugural Alexandria Makers Market at Port City Brewing.

9 Comments

(Updated 5:35 p.m.) Watch out, Red Lobster, there’s another crustacean crawling into town across Van Dorn Street.

According to a city permit application, the national seafood chain Crafty Crab is planning on moving into the shell of Portner Brewhouse (5770 Dow Avenue) in the Modera Tempo mixed-use development. A representative of the applicant confirmed the new location was part of the national chain.

Crafty Crab offers a wide selection of seafood focused primarily around the eponymous crab, along with sides like fries and corn on the cob.

The company has locations in Maryland, including one across the Potomac in Prince George’s County, but the Alexandria location would be the franchise’s first in Virginia.

Portner Brewhouse was a brewery from the great-great granddaughters of Alexandrian brewer Robert Portner. It closed in 2018, one year after it opened. In the wake of the closure, city staff identified a chronic shortage of parking for retail as the cause of several closures in the shopping center.

On Saturday, the City Council authorized Modera Tempo to allow retail parking in the unused residential space of its garage.

Photo 1, 2 via Jay Westcott. Photo 3 via Crafty Crab Seafood

5 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list