In many ways, spring signifies new life – and Alexandria’s restaurant scene is, at least this year, falling in line with tradition. Walk or drive through nearly any part of town and you’ll find new storefronts either readying for business or hosting grand opening events to celebrate their inaugurals. Here are three of the latest eateries onto the scene.
Chop Shop Taco, 1008 Madison St.
The latest resident of the Madison Collective of businesses – currently including Grateful Kitchen, Zweet Sport, and Marlowe Ink tattoo – is Chop Shop Taco, a long-awaited taqueria whose name pays homage to the building’s former life as an automotive chop shop. The eatery sports a walk-up taco window that is open for 11 hours daily, while the interior also offers a mix of lunch and dinner (brunch is coming onto the scene next month) from pre-lunch to late-night. Try a pork and banana leaf taco, or perhaps a brisket confit; vegetarians won’t be left out, either, with a taco sporting roasted mushrooms alongside halloumi cheese and pumpkin seeds.
On the non-taco side of the coin, diners can feast on a variety of small plates, including a duck confit with star anise and cardamom, as well as a fried-rice style plate with huitlacoche and porcini mushrooms, rich with zaatar onion and cojita cheese.
Toastique, 1605 King St.
At first blush, a restaurant offering toast isn’t necessarily compelling. But look a little deeper and you’ll see that toasted bread isn’t really the featured dish. Rather, the eatery focuses on what goes on the bread, as well as what other options exist alongside it. Of course avocado toast is all the rage at the moment – and has been for a while, really – and it maintains a starting position at Toastique, playing alongside watermelon radish, microgreens and tomatoes to make a light yet filling option for breakfast or lunch. Or venture further afield with the Tuscan tuna toast, which sports sundried tomato tuna alongside lettuce, Kalamata olives, capers and more.
Smoothies, juices and bowls also take the stage at Toastique, offering a multitude of ways to partake of a healthy meal – or supplement your current dietary needs. In the new era of Blue Majik and acai bowls, this restaurant certainly aims to become a go-to place for all the latest trends.
Yunnan by Potomac Noodle House, 814 N. Fairfax St.
Yunnan’s relatively simple menu is turning on its head the idea that more means more when it comes to food on offer. It doesn’t possess a menu that’s a dozen pages long; rather, its offerings could probably fit on one printed page, but to assume that its quality equals its quantity is to commit a grievous error. Look a little closer and all the small plates are there — the pork belly bun, wasabi-dressed bok choy, Asian pear radishes — as well as an array of main dishes.
After all, Yunnan is a noodle house, and it’s got noodle dishes in spades. Mixian dishes — that is, those focused on a specific kind of rice noodle — reign supreme, as they should, with the likes of braised beef mixian sharing menu space with “Grandma’s Parou Mixian” as well as several vegetarian options centering on tofu and shiitake mushrooms.
Hope Nelson owns and operates the Kitchen Recessionista blog, located at www.kitchenrecessionista.com. Email her any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.