O’Connell’s: 112 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314; (703) 739-1124; danieloconnells.com
The Warehouse: 214 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314; (703) 683-6868; www.warehouseoldtown.com
Captain Gregory’s: 804 North Henry St, Alexandria, VA 22314; (571) 659-4934; www.captaingregorys.com
We take a public bus from Port City Brewery to Old Town Alexandria. Big mistake. We haven’t used the bus system in northern Virginia much and were curious to try it. No more. Nothing worked as intended, from the phone number to track the next ride’s arrival (utterly useless) to the 90-decibel air-conditioning unit six inches behind my head. It isn’t even economical; Lyft would have been a better deal for two people. Or even one. Live and learn.
We arrive and start strolling around, scouting places for dinner. We aim for Fish Market initially, but the menu selection underwhelms. Same with Virtue Feed & Grain. Kisso Asian Bistro looks good, but we can get great sushi in Fairfax. We duck into O’Connell’s to sort out our options.
This place would fit in on the other side of the river and couldn’t exist too far from a power center. The vibe is very much, well, Old Town and old Washington, even though the current owners have only been here since 2004. It’s all brick, dark wood, tinted mirrors and leather. There are 3½ levels with nooks, booths off in corners, back rooms and back bars. Also a sunny front room that’s already crowded with afternoon revelers. It’s accessible from the third, or maybe it’s the third-and-a-half, level.
At the end of my perambulation about the interior, I return to our booth and notice the back of the column features a sign from Port City Brewery, from whence we just came.
So where to go for dinner? Putting dessert first, we hash it out over Warm Bread & Butter Pudding and a Pink Gin Fizz. The cocktail consists of Bombay Pink Gin that’s been infused with strawberries, champagne, and St. Germaine elderberry liqueur.
In the end, with dessert under our belts, we resolve to have dinner at The Warehouse, which we had passed on the way here. It had the most interesting sidewalk menu.
We order a cup of Creole Alligator Stew, the NOLA Oysters, Trout Orleans, and two cocktails. She gets the Rack Your Brain; me, the Abandoned Apartment in Zurich. The former consists of Batavic Arack, rum, Pernod, honey, passion fruit, lemon and orange. In case those ingredients weren’t enough, it comes garnished with an edible orchard, the petals of which taste minty and earthy. The drink is shaken and its creaminess throughout imbibement. The Abandoned Apartment is gin-based with rose liqueur, cucumber, raspberry preserves, absinthe and lemon, with cucumber garnish. It, too, is frothy from the shake preparation and tastes mild, light, refreshing. It’s hard to make cocktails like these at home without a good amount of preparation and a couple trips to state-run liquor stores. Not to mention a good florist.
The stew is topped with chopped egg and finished with a touch of sherry. It’s hearty but not too thick or floury, and the alligator meat is tender, as if sliced finely and then broiled in the stock. It’s not the least bit gamey, and neither creamy nor too tomatoey. Just great.
Raw oysters have made me sick on three occasions over the years, so I’ve learned not to even glance in the direction of a raw bar. These oysters are heavily breaded and deep-fried, so I figure I’m safe. And I am, though after biting into the third or fourth oyster I decide that it will be my last one, ever. I don’t care for the texture of these slimy devils; I’m just not an oyster man. So be it. At least my last several were good.
The Trout Orleans is “topped with spicy shrimp, lump crab, fresh asparagus and three-mustard Hollandaise sauce,” and comes with roasted potatoes that are crispy on the outside. The trout swims in an oily sauté but the shellfish are much less oily. It’s seasoned with cajun spices, though the crab meat is mostly allowed to stand on its own.
PX: Permanently Closed!
One of the waitresses at Port City mentioned that this place was set to close in a month. Looks like the end-date arrived early, because we show up at the unmarked blue light (see pic at top of post) at around 7:40 p.m. (PX opens or opened at 6.) We knock on the door, wait a bit and… nothing. Maybe we’re just not cool enough for entry. Either way: Too bad, we’ve been looking forward to the speakeasy. Fortunately, the same waitress at Port City also mentioned…
What a find. Concealed behind a large wood-plank door just inside the entrance of a Sugar Shack Donuts shop, this dark room with a wrap-around bar area offers custom craft cocktails, small plates and, for dessert, donuts from the shared-access kitchen area next door. What more do you need, really?