While the historic city is known for its quaint shopping district, it’s also home to some of the best restaurants in the region. From European to Ethiopian, enjoy cuisines from around the world right in Alexandria.
Restaurants were reviewed by Olga Boikess, Ashley Davidson, Dawn Klavon, Alice Levitt, and Renee Sklarew.
Ada’s on the River
Alexandria / Modern American / $$$
On the hunt for river views? At this Old Town Alexandria destination, they’re backed by a wood-burning grill staffed with expert hands. No matter the occasion, the sweeping outdoor patio and commodious indoor booths are the main attraction for the eyes.
And for the palate? Steaks are front and center. Choices range from luxurious wagyu and 60-day-aged rib-eye to a more modestly priced tri-tip. Clever use of the grill drives the menu. Crispy wood-fired chicken thighs atop toasty pita pop with flavor thanks to the Dijonnaise dressing and marinated greens. Vivid flavors define the vegetarian entrées and sides, as well. Thus, Middle Eastern spicing gives honey-glazed carrots a smoky, earthy finish. The hash brown potatoes dissolve in a rich smoked-paprika aioli.
A chocolate soufflé is always tempting, and the one at Ada’s should not be missed. Its intense, lava-like center tastes all the more decadent when a rich caramel sauce is poured in. Other options — notably, caramel apple beignets and a lemon tart, piqued with a black pepper and berry syrup — are worthy, too. And the view makes it all the sweeter.
See this: The airy, window-wrapped interior showcases river views that draw diners to the expansive terrace.
Eat this: Wood-fired chicken thighs, 14-ounce wagyu rib-eye, chocolate soufflé
When to dine here: This versatile player works for any occasion worthy of a splurge, whether it’s a romantic evening for two or a gathering of family and friends.
Alexandria / French / $$$
Food lovers on the left bank of the Potomac find a delightful corner of France tucked away in historic Alexandria. This cozy, brick-walled dining room, serving exceptionally well-made stalwart fare, has transported diners for decades. Its hideaway atmosphere, warm hospitality, and steady kitchen stand the test of time.
Starters on the menu range from the traditional escargots, pâté, and foie gras mousse to well-composed salads like one with tender beets, goat cheese, and a delightful puréed beet dressing. Still, the exemplary onion soup is hard to pass up. A deeply flavored broth and velvety onions lurk beneath a cap of melted, cheesy indulgence.
A fan of pink-centered duck breast, judiciously sauced with a rich, savory-and-sweet raspberry purée, is plated with a garlicky potato gratin, puréed carrots, and sautéed cabbage. Like the salmon served with a creamy béarnaise or veal scallops simply sautéed with butter and lemon, it’s proof of why such dishes are classics.
Desserts — chocolate mousse, fresh fruit Melba, and crème brûlée — also hew to proven provisions, and their deep flavors surprise and delight. It’s all edible evidence of Gallic cuisine’s enduring appeal.
See this: Vintage posters and memorabilia crowding the walls evoke an atmosphere of Gallic intimacy.
Eat this: Soupe à l’oignon gratinée, canard avec sauce aux framboises, le filet de saumon béarnaise
When to dine here: Reserve ahead to relive (or conjure up) a romantic dinner in the French countryside.
Alexandria / Ethiopian / $$
The primal pleasure of eating with your hands is one of the joys of dining at this unassuming Ethiopian restaurant. Diners discover flavor-packed cuisine hidden in an undistinguished shopping center.
Menu choices offer the African country’s specialties in formats suited to the families that fill its tables. There are generous tasting platters that provide a comprehensive introduction to its varied dishes.
The Taste of Makeda offers a colorful banquet of meat and vegetable specialties along with a soothing avocado salad. Succulent, slow-cooked chicken is alive with the complex flavors of warming spice mix berbere.
Vegetable dishes are a highlight of this flavor-packed cuisine. Lentils, slow-cooked in spiced, clarified butter and berbere, are a signature dish. Intense flavors permeate other vegetable combinations as well, notably in fasolia wot, a confit of carrots and green beans. Slow cooking and subtle seasoning enhance the texture and develop flavors in these two vegetables that are often dismissed as mundane. The kitchen also turns out intriguing dishes using familiar salmon and tilapia.
Eating with your hands isn’t for everyone on every occasion. But if you’re willing to get your fingers dirty, the rewards at Makeda go beyond a rush of spice and a full belly.
See this: Platters of colorful food on the tables and intriguing art on the walls animate a simple, contemporary storefront.
Eat this: Taste of Makeda, fasolia wot, assa goulash
When to dine here: You’re gathering adventuresome friends who enjoy sampling and sharing.
Alexandria / Greek / $$
The cuisine at this Greek spot has passed the test of time and then some. Many recipes for its classic fare date back to ancient Greece and Mesopotamia. And Taverna Cretekou can claim similar laurels. Its owner, Christos Papaloizou, has been welcoming guests here since 1973.
Sampler platters of familiar mezethes — luscious rice-filled grape leaves, crisp-crusted spinach and cheese pastries, red caviar whipped with Greek olive oil, hummus, and eggplant mousse — testify to the restaurant’s knowledgeable sourcing and talented kitchen staff.
Complex dishes based on ancient folkways highlight the menu. Expertly braised lamb is simmered with black olives and both fresh and sun-dried tomatoes. The latter adds a sweet-sour tartness to the rich sauce. The dish hails from the Cyclades, where a hot, windy climate makes its sun-dried tomatoes much prized. Another specialty is a firm fish baked in parchment with coriander — an herb used in Hellenic cooking since antiquity for its earthy, citrusy notes — along with spinach, leeks, and scallions.
Greece’s culinary roots are honored on the dessert menu, too. One sundae-like creation features poached apricots, a stone fruit of ancient lineage; yogurt; and honey. Another pairs lemon custard cream with grape preserves. Like everything at Taverna Cretekou, these provide the end to a meal with serious staying power.
See this: The courtyard’s lush greenery makes an alfresco meal seem like a minivacation. The white-walled dining room, with its year-round Christmas tree, is more high-energy.
Eat this: Ouzeri mezedes, Arnaki Kikladitiko, Verikoka Aphrodite
When to dine here: You’re craving an escape to the Greek Isles.
Alexandria / Mesoamerican / $$$
Most of us associate the word “Mesoamerican” with history. This isn’t wrong. Mesoamerica was an area where pre-Columbian cultures like the Olmecs, Aztecs, and Mayas thrived. But it doesn’t just exist in a textbook.
Costa Rican–bred chef Tomas Chavarria proves that his culture is alive and well at The Study. Ancient techniques inform the menu, and smoke is a central player. A hamachi crudo arrives cloaked in tendrils of the stuff. Though it transports diners to a long-ago fireside, the dish, which combines the fish with passion fruit mayonnaise, finger limes, and avocado, is unapologetically modern.
So is the Steak and Onions, an upscale plate that plays on a common Central American meal of low-quality steak sautéed with chopped onions. Here, it’s elevated with 60-day-aged strip loin served over a pool of creamy onion confit. Best of all, Chavarria creates a beefy jus using Lizano, Costa Rica’s favorite convenience sauce.
This is a nod to the culinary history still being made today. And Chavarria is continuing to forge his own path. Each year, he’ll fuse his native cuisine with that of a different culture. He’s cooked all over the world, from the Philippines to Dubai, guaranteeing plates that challenge the imagination.
See this: Blues and grays bestow a relaxed feel on the small dining room and separate, sweet-smelling bar.
Eat this: Cold-smoked hamachi, Steak and Onions, Churros in a Row
When to dine here: You’re looking for something unique for a romantic evening.
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