Steamed Mussels Are the Specialty at The Columbia Firehouse

Housed in an building constructed in 1883 that was once home to the Columbia Firehouse, the restaurant that bears the same name focuses on familiar comfort food as well as seafood.

One of the standout offerings at The Columbia Firehouse is the steamed kettle of Prince Edward Island mussels, which comes with a mini loaf of bread to soak up the broth. The buttermilk fried chicken breast is another popular item, described as juicy, light, and not at all greasy. Regulars also enjoy the hangar steak, which is cooked to your preference, and the crispy, house-made onion rings.

Frequent guests recommend asking for a table in the atrium, described as a beautiful spot with a glass ceiling, floor-to-ceiling windows, and an exposed brick interior. Chandeliers and plenty of candles give the room a warm, cozy feel. On warmer days, ask for a table on the small patio outside.

The Columbia Firehouse
109 S. Saint Asaph Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 683-1776

Rustico: An Alexandria Favorite for Craft Beer and New American Fare

Beer serves as the backbone of an experience at Rustico, a New American eatery "designed with good times in mind," per the restaurant's website. More than 400 craft brews — one of the largest selections in the area — are in rotation here, which proves Rustico to be a popular destination among beer aficionados.

But beyond Rustico's bustling bar, you're likely to spot families (many with young children) and friends nestled in wooden booths, lingering over wood-fired pizzas, seasonally-influenced salads, and gourmet burgers. In fact, burgers are a real crowd pleaser here, especially The Rustico, which tops a locally-sourced beef patty with aged cheddar and a savory aioli. For dessert, you might sip a Crispin blackberry-pear cider, or sink a fork into a slice of flourless chocolate cake, decorated with a scoop of raspberry sorbet and an equal amount of fluffy chocolate mousse.

Note that Rustico also serves a popular brunch, available between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekends.

827 Slaters Lane
Alexandria, VA
(703) 224-5051

Ramparts Tavern and Grill: Great Neighborhood Food & Drink

When you want to go to a real neighborhood place for a beer and a bite, come to Ramparts Tavern and Grill. Located in Woodbine Park, Ramparts Tavern and Grill is a perfect spot for friends. Come in and check out the comfortable surroundings, with a great bar, nice tables and booths, and 26 big HD screens on the walls so you won’t miss one second of game action. What a place to meet up with friends to watch the games! Beer lovers will enjoy the vast selection of over 100 brews on tap, by the bottle and can, from all over the world. There is also a great listing of wines by the glass and the bottle. The menu features all your favorite pub grub, but come on Tuesdays for half-price burger/trivia night.

Ramparts Tavern and Grill
1700 Fern Street
Alexandria, VA 22302
(703) 998-6616

Smashburger: The Smashfries Will Leave an Impression

A dash of olive oil, a sprinkle of rosemary, and a hint of garlic transform typical fries into Smashburger's signature Smashfries, one of the most popular snacks to eat alongside a burger. The haystack onions are regarded just as highly by eaters who want to add a little crunch to their meal. Either way, the fried grub makes for a perfect accompaniment to the main course: a burger or sandwich.

The Classic Smash comes piled with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, and a dollop of ketchup, plus the house's signature Smash Sauce. For something a bit heftier, try the burger topped with applewood-smoked bacon, American cheese, and ketchup and mustard. You can also take a healthier route with the black bean burger outfitted with avocado, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and ranch dressing, all tucked inside of a multigrain bun. Go for a chicken sandwich instead if you're watching what you eat (the calories count of each menu item is listed beneath it on the menu).

5774 Dow Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22304
(571) 451-0303

Balkan Grill: Mediterranean Fare in Alexandria

Balkan Grill is a small Alexandria restaurant serving authentic Mediterranean dishes, so you can expect lot of grilled beef and freshly baked bread. Try the house-made beef sausages wrapped in a still-warm flatbread, or go for a mildly spiced burger with chilis and herbs on a ciabatta-like house baked bun. Regulars recommend you try a "burek," which is phylo pastry dough stuffed with herbed cheese, fresh baby spinach, spiced potatoes, or any number of other delectable fillings.

Frequent diners report that the staff is especially friendly and patient, particularly if you're new to Balkan Grill and need some suggestions for what to order, so feel free to ask questions and seek advice. The restaurant also does a brisk take-out business, so if you want to savor your meal in the comfort of your own home, just call ahead and they'll have your order waiting when you arrive.

Balkan Grill
5902A North Kings Highway
Alexandria, VA 22303
(703) 329-3303

Fat City Kitchen: American Fare With an International Twist

At Alexandria's Fat City Kitchen, chefs start with American classics and then add a dash of international influences here and there to create their signature style of fusion fare. It's no wonder customers give the food high marks. After all, the same people responsible for the unique cuisine here also head up two other thriving restaurants in town. With their expertise and the know-how of the kitchen team, Fat City Kitchen has earned a sterling reputation among the people of Alexandria.

Kick off your meal with some spicy sausage sliders or mini Baltimore crab cakes, and then move on to a bowl of Boston clam chowder or the soup of the day. You can also dive right into your entree, maybe a fluffy pizza pulled fresh from the stone oven or a juicy 8-ounce burger rubbed with the house's signature blend of spices. Pair a steak or grilled filet of salmon with one of Fat City's top-notch beers or wines.

Fat City Kitchen
330 S. Pickett Street
Alexandria, VA 22304
(703) 685-9172

Sugar Palm Thai Restaurant: Tasty Food, Sweet Deal

For tasty Thai fare in Alexandria, consider a visit to Sugar Palm Thai Restaurant. Located in a shopping center just off of Vincent Gale Terrace, the Sugar Palm Thai Restaurant features authentic food in a modern, relaxed environment. Modern is the best way to describe the ambiance at the Sugar Palm, with high ceilings, cool lighting and big windows that give you a great view. And the food is both delicious and affordable. Check out the new lunch special, when you can get a great entrée for just $8.95! The dinner menu features all of the delicious soups, salads, rice and noodle bowls and entrees, each as mild or spicy as you please. The restaurant offers takeout, too, in case you'd prefer to dine back home at Windsor at Arbors!

Sugar Palm Thai Restaurant
5580 Vincent Gate Terrace
Alexandria, VA 22312
(703) 354-1077

Tacos el Costalilla: One of Alexandria’s Most Delightful Mexican Restaurants

This unassuming restaurant actually serves up some of the best street-style tacos in Alexandria, so pay it a visit. These aren’t boring tacos loaded with sour cream and beans – they’re served authentically, just a tortilla wrapped around meat with lime juice, onions, and cilantro. Accessorize them with your choice of salsas and other toppings from the self-service bar and you’ve got an incredible meal for just a few dollars. Some of the best options are the Pastor (spicy pork, cooked to tender perfection) and the amazing beef tongue – not normally a delicacy, this place has mastered how to wring every drop of flavor out of it. It’s actually worth making a special trip to Tacos el Costalilla on weekends to try the pozole. This hearty pork stew made with kernels of hominy is topped with fresh vegetables. It’s very time-consuming to make, but you can taste the care in every bite.

Tacos el Costalilla
7862 Richmond Highway
Alexandria, VA 22306
(703) 704-9088

Enjoy Fish and Chips at Eammon’s: A Dublin Chipper

The tagline of Eamonn's: A Dublin Chipper restaurant is, "Thanks be to cod." That's fitting, given that cod is one of the most popular dishes on the menu, described by regulars as moist, flavorful, and flaky.

In addition to cod, you can also order ray, prawns, grouper, or the fish of the day. You order your chips separately. There are seven sauces to choose from, and they're all mayonnaise-based. Regulars recommend the curry sauce, described as having a depth of spicy flavors, and the Marie Rose, which contains ketchup.

If you're not in the mood for fish, you can't go wrong with the batter burger, which comes without a bun; the sausage; or the chicken bites. Don't forget the order the classic mushy peas on the side.

Make sure to save room for one of Eammon's irreverent, decadent desserts, such as the fried Snickers or Milky Way bars. The restaurant also has a variety of packaged candies and snacks imported from the U.K. if you want to enjoy a sweet treat later.

Eammon's: A Dublin Chipper
728 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 299-8384

CC-BY-2.0/Flickr/Smabs Sputzer

Mediterranean Bakery and Café: A Grocery and More in Alexandria

This exceptional local business does two things and does them very well. First off, it provides a great place to buy a wide selection of groceries and food products from a variety of Mediterranean cuisines. Walking down the aisles of this place will open your eyes to a new world of spices. There’s even a whole aisle dedicated to different blends of olive oil from different regions, each of which has its own flavor profile. Fresh olives and delicacies like preserved limes and more are also on sale. And then there’s the café portion of the store, which is a local favorite for succulent grilled chicken, flatbreads, and more. The house-made samosas are a can’t-miss – these Indian pastries are filled with beef, chickpeas, potatoes, and other amazingly-spiced wonders.

Mediterranean Bakery and Café
352 S. Pickett Street
Alexandria, VA 22304
(703) 751-0030

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