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.”

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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

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Old Town barbecue joint Myron Mixon, tucked away off the main drag at 220 N. Lee Street, is celebrating three years in business with a party tomorrow.

Starting at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the restaurant will be serving up a whole hog to celebrate the restaurant’s anniversary. Tickets are $22 and guests will also receive a free bottle of Myron Mixon’s barbecue sauce or rub, according to the Facebook page.

The restaurant started in 2017 as a project from Myron Mixon, a celebrity pitmaster from the show BBQ Pitmasters. An in-depth profile of the restaurant from the Washington Post’s Tim Carman praised the restaurant’s dedication to perfectly cooked and smoked meats, but said some of the sides taste “as if they were dumped from a can.”

The restaurant is also planning to offer $1 mimosas this weekend as part of the anniversary celebrations.

Photo via Myron Mixon/Facebook

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Morning Notes

APD Launches Safety Campaign for Officers — “Commuters often hear about the importance of safety on the road, but a new police program in Alexandria, Virginia, seeks to help officers keep themselves out of harm’s way on the road. Through its newly-launched, 12-month ‘Safety First — Every Shift, Every Call’ campaign, Alexandria police will provide officers with monthly safety tips throughout 2020 on topics like safe driving tactics, traffic stops and driving while fatigued.” [WTOP]

Drug Take-Back Day Coming Soon — “Alexandria encourages residents to safely dispose of prescription and over-the-counter medications, including those prescribed by veterinarians, during National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. A special collection will take place on January 25, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., although medications may also be taken year-round to one of the permanent drop box locations.” [City of Alexandria]

High School Basketball Team Eyes Playoffs — “Last year, the St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes boys’ varsity basketball team won the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association state tournament for the first time since 1990. This year, they’re going for a repeat.” [Alexandria Times]

Al’s Donating in Honor of Anniversary — “Al’s Steak House, 1504 Mount Vernon Avenue, is celebrating 65 years as the ‘King of Cheesesteaks’ by giving back. To celebrate the milestone, Al’s is donating 65 cents for every sub sold during the month of January to Community Lodgings.” [Zebra]

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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]

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Alexandria is gearing up for its 25th annual First Night celebration tomorrow (Tuesday).

First Night is the city’s annual New Year’s Eve celebration featuring various local businesses and civic organizations. Events are scheduled to take place across Old Town. Kids entertainment is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. while music starts at 7 p.m.

This year, the event is planned to include a pop-up comedy show as well as live music, according to the First Night website.

All-access tickets to the event are $30 today, but increase to $35 tomorrow. Badges are free for active-duty military.

Other bars and restaurants around town are also hosting special New Year’s Eve parties as well, including:

  • Noon Year’s Eve Party and Balloon Drop at Hops N Shine (3410 Mount Vernon Avenue) — New Year’s celebrations start a little early at Hops N Shine tomorrow. Events are planned to include face painting, s’more kits, moonshine infusions and a balloon drop at midnight.
  • New Year’s Eve with Evening Star Cafe (2000 Mount Vernon Avenue) — The Del Ray restaurant is offering a $75 per person four-course meal with the option to add a $35 wine pairing.
  • Roaring 2020s NYE at Village Brauhaus (710 King Street) — Village Brauhaus is hosting a costume party with a Great Gatsby theme. General admission tickets are $30 and come with a buffet and snacks, along with a glass of champagne or sparkling cider. The $45 ticket includes two glasses of wine, two light beers, and two specialty cocktails as well as the buffet, snacks and champagne.
  • New Year’s Eve Fireworks Cruise with the Potomac Riverboat Company (211 N. Union Street) — The riverboat Cherry Blossom will take to the river for a unique view of the city’s fireworks celebration. The three-hour cruise will feature hors d’oeuvres along with beer and wine, culminating with fireworks and a champagne toast at midnight. Tickets are $160.
  • New Year’s Eve at Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub (713 King Street) — The Irish pub in Old Town will offer a four-course dinner, party favors and live music for $55, according to the restaurant’s Facebook page. Reservations can be made over the phone at 703-548-1717.

Photo via First Night Alexandria/Facebook

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The new cat cafe that has the town talking is going up to the Planning Commission for approval early next month.

The Mount Purrnon Cat Cafe is slated to open at 109 S. Alfred Street and offer both a place to drink and play with adoptable cats.

“Imagine a place that feels like home, where you can drink wine and play with cats, all while contributing to a good cause,” the business said in its application. “This is that place. Mount Purrnon Cat Café and Wine Bar plans to be the area’s first cat café, combining adoptable cats, history and wine to create a unique experience for visitors.”

The cafe will have free Wi-Fi as well as beverages and snacks. The bar/cafe area will have a separate entrance from the cat lounge, keeping the food and drink separate from the cats and meaning someone could — for some reason — go to Mount Purrnon and not interact with the cats. They will still be able to observe the cats from the cafe, though.

“Featuring an early U.S. history theme, Mount Purrnon also plans to offer information on the area through books, reference materials, and maps,” the company said. “On select Friday and Saturday nights, the cafe will also hold special events like cat yoga, trivia and game nights.”

Cat cafes started in Taiwan in the 1990s, Mount Purrnon said in the application, and quickly became a popular destination. The cafes temporarily house adoptable cats, giving shelters more space to take in other pets.

“Cat cafes have been shown to reduce euthanasia rates and increase adoption rates,” the company said.

Photo via Mount Purrnon/Facebook

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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.

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(Updated 4:45 p.m.) If everything goes to plan, husband and wife team Jeffrey Jr. and Kelly Yates may finally be able to open the pizza restaurant that’s been “opening soon” since early 2014.

The dream of Yates Pizza Palace started in 2014 when Jeffrey Yates Sr., owner of the Yates Car Wash and recent purchaser of Table Talk (1623 Duke Street), purchased the space on the 3000 block of Duke Street that had been local pizza and pasta institution Generous George’s.

Jeffrey Sr. worked to completely remodel the building, with Scott Long Construction adding large windows, a rooftop deck, and a new kitchen. When Jeff Jr. walks inside the building and sees the tasteful and detailed work done by his dad, a down-to-earth engineer with a passion for the city, he said it makes him feel proud of his father.

The goal was to offer the best New York-style pizza in the city. But when Jeff Jr. and Kelly visited before a planned move out to Oregon, Jeffrey Sr. admitted to his son that he was sick with cancer and asked if his son could help with some of the work that needed to be done on the restaurant.

Jeff Jr. and Kelly moved to Alexandria in 2017 and worked to help get the restaurant together. Jeff Jr. said his father was insistent on doing much of the work himself, once devising an improvised mechanism that allowed the two of them and a few friends to move four massive pizza ovens into place.

Kelly said they thought Jeffrey Sr. was going to get better, but he didn’t. Jeffrey Sr. died in 2018, leaving his local businesses in the hands of his son. Jeff Jr. said he never thought he was going to be part of the family business, but over the last year he and Kelly have worked with the managers and staff at Table Talk and Yates Car Wash to help get their bearings.

“It’s nice to have people to lean on,” Kelly said. “The businesses are all so different and some of the people have been there as long as Jeff’s been around.”

During that time, Jeff Jr. said he also learned to become more comfortable not just following in his father’s footsteps, but taking his own ideas and implementing them as well.

“I’m getting less timid about doing it the way dad did,” Jeff Jr. said. “I’m different. I’m more cautious.”

As Jeff Jr. and Kelly worked to take the wheel of the businesses following Jeffrey Sr.’s death, the current businesses took priority over work on Yates Pizza Palace. After getting a green light from the city earlier this year, however, Kelly said the pair is ready to take off and fire on all cylinders to get Yates Pizza Palace open.

“It would kill me for another summer to go by while the building is ready to go,” Jeff Jr. said.

Their hope is for Yates Pizza Palace to serve quality pizza and pasta, but also to be a gathering place for the local community the way Generous George’s was. Jeff Jr. also said the name “Yates Pizza Palace” may or may not stay.

The last big thing that Jeff Jr. and Kelly have on their todo list before the restaurant is ready to open is picking the right partners to work with in operating the restaurant, but there are already a few potential partners the pair have in mind.

“It’s finally time,” Jeff Jr. said, prompting a soft laugh from Kelly.

“It feels funny to finally hear that,” Kelly said.

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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

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Morning Notes

ACPS Working to Improve Racial Equity — “Students and teachers in Alexandria still face racial bias, and now school officials are working with social justice advocates to expand training sessions and restorative justice practices. That’s some of the aftermath of an alarming racial equity survey conducted this year to prevent race and socioeconomic status from being predictors of academic success or opportunity.” [Gazette Packet]

Tim Carman Visits Smoking Kow — “Several readers (and the owner of the place himself) asked why Smoking Kow BBQ didn’t crack my top 10. I assure you there’s a very good reason for its omission: Until recently, I had never set foot in the original Alexandria location, nor its second shop in Arlington (2910 N. Sycamore St.)… Consider this column a mea culpa.” [Washington Post]

Reasons to Celebrate for T.C. Band, Teams — “In October, the T.C. Williams High School Marching Band earned the highest superior rating at the Virginia Marching Band Performance Assessment. This is the first time the band has reached this level since 1988, 31 years ago… In sports, the T.C. Williams varsity girls volleyball team, cheerleading team, and field hockey team have all captured district championships.” [ACPS]

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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.

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