Summer 2023 has been one of my favorite summers in recent years. Summer 2020 there was the pandemic. Summer 2021 I felt mentally crushed being away from all of my college friends having just moved back to the Washington, DC area. And, Summer 2022 I was struggling a ton mentally. SO, Summer 2023 was such a treat for me. I travelled to South Carolina, Indiana, Illinois, North Carolina, Delaware, and took day trips to Maryland and West Virginia. In between it all, I spent many afternoons and evenings in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia and Washington, DC. Needless to say, many special memories were made both near and far this Summer 2023. At the same time, my Washington, DC area dining experiences were ALSO ones for the books, too!
This Summer, I tried some places that I LOVE going to from time to time and also some that I’ve been dying to try. It was a GREAT highlight of a GREAT Summer for me. I feel beyond lucky to have friends and family that I love and are happily willing to try such incredible restaurants with me. In case you didn’t know, the Washington, DC foodie scene is BOOMING. There are SOOOO many delicious places to dine at in and around the Washington, DC area yet SO little time!
The Bazaar by Jose Andres (1100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC)
With its setting inside the iconic Waldorf Astoria in Washington, DC, Bazaar is truly in the most majestic setting which draws its inspiration from the hotel’s origins as DC’s General Post Office until 1914. Bazaar is the workings of a 30-year dream by its iconic Chef Jose Andres and it serves up unique Americana-inspired dishes. The Bazaar was truly one of THE MOST magical restaurants I have *ever* stepped foot in – I was seriously IN AWE the moment that I walked into the restaurant with its glorious avant-garde and Americana flair.
My best friend Briana and I decided to make a girl’s night out on the town via dinner at The Bazaar and *of course* photos admiring the gorgeous lobby of the Waldorf Astoria. While we LOVED the entire atmosphere of the restaurant, we found the food to be unique yet overpriced for its tiny portions. The charcuterie and oysters with a fizz on the top and drinks were extremely well-done, I would not see myself going again for anything more than a nice glass of wine or a cocktail and a snack. I would LOVE to bring some of my best friends from Indiana and North Carolina to The Bazaar when they come to visit and *even* climb to the top of the Old Post Office Tower, which also calls the Waldorf Astoria its home and is FREE for all.
Tip: Make a reservation at least 4 weeks in advance, as tables fill up FAST.
Bellissimo Restaurant (10403 Main Street, Fairfax, VA)
My best friend Stephanie and I tried Bellissimo Restaurant, located in Old Town Fairfax, Virginia (here), as apart of Summer 2023 Washington, DC Restaurant Week. We tried their 3-course $40 menu with a glass of house wine for an additional $10. Bellissimo is a tiny yet extremely elegant and homey Italian restaurant that has been owned by the same man for over 20 years. Stephanie and I got to meet the owner and he was so kind alongside the rest of the staff! Let’s just say that the menu was also TO DIE FOR good and I was BLOWN AWAY (!!!!) by the food. I started with their caprese tower, enjoyed their lobster bisque and crab and shrimp ravioli, and then finished off with their cheesecake to go alongside some Pinot Grigio. Stephanie and I enjoyed a nice time catching up before heading back home via enjoying an extraordinary sunset that was ALL across the Washington, DC area at the end of August.
Tip: Make a reservation *even* on a weeknight as the restaurant is small to guarantee seating.
Virginia’s Darling (277 S Washington Street, Alexandria, VA)
I first visited Virginia’s Darling in November of 2022 (here) and was blown away by the gorgeous atmosphere and delicious food and *just knew* that I needed to make another visit back! SO, when I had a free Thursday night, I decided to head on over to Old Town Alexandria and enjoy Virginia’s Darling’s Happy Hour and some pasta. I had a delicious blackberry summer spritz and a unique pesto gnocchi! Needless to say, Virginia’s Darling’s vibes and decoration were just as great if not BETTER than I remember!
Ada’s on the River (3 Pioneer Mill Way, Alexandria, VA)
If you know me in real life or on Instagram (follow me @_thepinkchickadee), then you know that I LOVE spending my weekends at home in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia! In the recent Summer months, my Papa, Aunt Amy, and I have been dining out in this gorgeous Potomac Riverfront town as apart of our monthly dinners/brunches together. For June, we decided to do brunch at Ada’s on the River – an Old Town Alexandria restaurant boasting gorgeous panoramic views of the Potomac River. Ada’s is named after and inspired by Ada Lovelace aka one of the greatest mathematicians, pioneers of coding, and women in STEM of the 19th century. When looking on Ada’s website, I learned that this waterfront restaurant was built around a custom wood-burning oven – HOW COOL! Papa, Aunt Amy, and I enjoyed cocktails and brunch fares while admiring both the interiors and exteriors of Ada’s. Overall, we had a GREAT time together and LOVED being so close to the waterfront!
Trattoria Villagio (7145 Main Street, Clifton, VA)
Located in the Clifton Historic District on Main Street, Trattoria Villagio combines the vibes of an elegant Roman Trattoria with the hustle and bustle of an Italian train station. Growing up, I used to enjoy dinners at Trattoria Villagio with both of my parents and have several great memories. SO, Papa and I decided to take a trip down memory lane and dine here *yet again*. Let’s just say that Papa and I were EXTREMELY impressed and blown away with our time and service here. We made a reservation *even* on a Monday night which was still pretty busy. The staff, ranging from our waiters to the hostesses were super kind and ensured that we had an incredible experience there. We happened to dine at Trattoria Villagio during their Monday Happy Hour special (aka my FAVORITE way to dine!!!!) of 1/2 priced wine bottles, so we *of course* enjoyed a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and some pasta. The best part?! Trattoria Villagio also sells carryout pizza for lunch and dinner, which Papa and I want to try at some point!
Barca Pier & Wine Bar (2 Pioneer Mill Way, Alexandria, VA)
When Papa, Aunt Amy, and I dined out at Ada’s on the River earlier in the summer, we *just knew* that we had to hit the nearby Barca Pier & Wine Bar next! Part of Barca is located LITERALLY on the Old Town Alexandria waterfront pier via covered seating, which makes for the perfect summer atmosphere. We ended up dining at Barca on a cloudy Sunday, which made for a nice and more peaceful experience. Barca serves food in a shareable, Spanish tapas style and also has some brunch delights and a delicious cocktail menu (I ordered the Sangria!). A fun fact about Barca is that they use my exact same serving ware from The Golden Rabbit (!!!), which was a nice coincidence. I LOVED getting to take in ALLLL of the views at Barca while enjoying incredible shareable Spanish tapas with Papa and Aunt Amy (we LOVED the scallops and butternut squash dip!).
Carlyle (4000 Campbell Ave, Arlington, VA)
I’ve ALWAYS found Carlyle to be a magical place! Located in the heart of Arlington’s Shirlington Village, Carlyle serves American fare while decked out in deco-esque decoration with a STUNNING bar. Carlyle is also apart of the Great American Restaurants (GAR) Washington, DC area-based chain like Jackson’s, Mike’s, Coastal Flats, and Ozzie’s that I also LOVE dining at as well. To me, Carlyle has always felt grand. A fun fact about Carlyle is that my Dad and Step Mom went on their first date here years ago. And, my Dad and Step Mom took me and my brother to Carlyle for dinner growing up. Needless to say, Carlyle is an extremely special place to me and my family. Papa and I LOVED getting to spend a Friday night at Carlyle, as it holds a special place in both of our hearts. We definitely want to dine at Carlyle again, too!
The Majestic (911 King Street, Alexandria, VA)
I knew that I wanted to dine at The Majestic since seeing its gorgeous sign on Old Town Alexandria’s King Street. Having been a fixture in Old Town Alexandria since 1932, The Majestic has a delicious menu, extensive drink list, stunning interior design, and great happy hour specials (which I want to come back for VERYYYY soon!!). I dined for a solo Saturday brunch in August and felt like royalty. The food and my summer spritz is TO DIE FOR good and the staff including the owner who regularly greets diners. The interior walls are lined with paintings, including those that are of Washington, DC area landmarks. I find the retro interiors to make The Majestic OH SO elegant and make you feel just as if you turned back in time to 1932.
Thompson Italian (1024 King Street, Alexandria, VA)
Having been given accolades by Washingtonian and Northern Virginia Magazine, New York City culinary-trained couple Gabe and Katherine Thompson opened Thompson Italian‘s first location in Falls Church, Virginia in 2019. In recent times, Thompson Italian opened its second restaurant in Old Town Alexandria’s King Street where my Papa and I dined in late August. Funny enough, my name is *also* Katherine Thompson, which made my desires to dine at Thompson Italian (beyond reading about it on just about every top restaurant magazine headline!!) that much stronger. When we came into the restaurant, the host was shocked that I was not the restaurant owner – LOL! – despite the fact that she doesn’t usually make reservations being an owner. Our time at Thompson Italian was great, as the staff was super kind (including our super sweet waiter Caesar!), approachable, and made our experience such a delight. We enjoyed a Monday special of $30 for any bowl of pasta and a glass of wine, where I got a corn, panko, and scallops pasta with a glass of Pinot Grigio – it was GLORIOUS (!!!). Thompson Italian is a popular restaurant spot and does get busy FAST, even on a Monday night, which shows how many Washington, DC area locals love this place, too. I WILL be back with others again soon, as I’d LOVE to try dessert and a martini there in the future!
The Bullpen (1201 Half Street SE, Washington, DC)
I came The Bullpen briefly before a Washington Nationals baseball game, as apart of a company-wide networking event at the baseball game where some of my coworkers and I met up for drinks before hitting the ballpark. Located right by Nationals Park, The Bullpen is known for its live music, drinks, and baseball. My coworkers and I ALL got the “Barbie” aka pink colored cocktails while networking with one another and our other coworkers. The funniest part was that one of the guys in the band playing live music while we were all there happened to also work at our company, too – WHAT A SMALL WORLD! Needless to say, I had a GREAT time catching up with my coworkers, many of which I hadn’t seen for quite some time.
Spartans Family Restaurant (9542 Burke Road, Burke, VA)
The moment I step foot in Spartans, I immediately feel right at home. Its heritage truly shows how Spartans strives to make everyone feel welcome and at home as they walk through the restaurant’s doors. Spartans Family Restaurant was founded by Chris and Xenia Sarantis in January 1995 in Burke, Virginia. The couple truly believed they could make their dreams a lasting reality within the Northern Virginia community through their beliefs of hard work and value in customer service and even expanded to open a second restaurant – Olympians Family Restaurant – in Alexandria, Virginia. Spartans serves the most delicious Greek, Italian, Mediterranean, and American fare and there is ALWAYS something on the menu for everyone that comes to dine.
Papa and I regularly come to Spartans Family Restaurant and find that the same sweet and extremely kind staff are there and excited to see us (along with many of their other frequent diners!). Each time Papa and I come, we both get salad and their French Onion soup, which is THE BEST! I ALWAYS look forward to dining at Spartans, as there’s such a cozy, welcoming, and magical feel whenever I go.
Del Mar Restaurant (791 Wharf Street SW, Washington, DC)
In early August, my best friend Shivani and I met up for dinner in Washington, DC’s gorgeous area known as The Wharf. And, we happened to walk by Del Mar and simply pop in. I will say, in the moment, I had ZERO expectations of what to expect, however, I am SO glad we stumbled upon this incredible restaurant. Del Mar is a Spanish seafood restaurant on the waterfront by Fabio Trabocchi. The atmosphere is STUNNING and truly goes off of its Spanish-style and seafood cuisine. Shivani recently graduated with her Master’s and we happened to share that with the waiters who brought us complimentary champagne and made us both feel SO special. The manager came to bring us dessert champagne and cake, too – something that Shivani deserves more than anyone else I know. But, while there, I also enjoyed a summer spritz (surprise!) and octopus. Del Mar is definitely a special place in my heart and I hope to dine here again with Shivani and/or someone else very soon!
The Tasting Room (1602 King Street #200, Alexandria, VA)
Located in the Lorien Hotel & Spa on Old Town Alexandria’s King Street, The Tasting Room Restaurant proudly offers authentic European cuisines with an American twist. Offering everything from charcuterie, flatbreads, sandwiches, desserts (I ordered the delicious warm cheesecake topped with vanilla-sugared berries!!) food-wise alongside an array of specialty cocktails, beers, and wines, The Tasting Room offers it all at a much more affordable rate than other restaurants in the Washington, DC area. Personally, I LOVED getting to enjoy the small and cozy yet opulent restaurant atmosphere here without worrying about spending a fortune to have a good time on the town (if you know, you know!). And, if you plan on staying at the stunning Lorien Hotel & Spa (somewhere that I want to go for a staycation!!), then depending on when you book, you may get a restaurant credit, too.
On an August weeknight evening that I had free, I decided to get out of the house and head to Old Town Alexandria to check out some of the many fun Happy Hour spots! While I missed the Happy Hour window (which usually ends at 6 or 7 on weeknights at most places), I did snag a seat at the gorgeous bar which was empty when I arrived. I LOVED getting to have the entire bar at The Tasting Room to myself, too. It has been on my bucket list to enjoy a gorgeous bar to myself on a weeknight after a long work day, and I am SO glad that I got to.
Tip: Be mindful that The Tasting Room does not accept any reservations. Walk-in’s only, so plan accordingly.
Here’s to making MANY more Washington, DC area dining memories this Fall and beyond!!
XOXO – Katie <3