alexandria nightlife

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band performs on Stage at The Birchmere. (Photo: Lisa A. Walker)

Eat + Drink

Alexandria after Dark: Get the After-Hours Scoop on Where to Eat, Drink and Party

Alexandria, Virginia, may be best known for historical sites that date to America’s early days, but beyond those Colonial bricks lie some delicious attractions with contemporary appeal. Whether you’re looking for a sexy cocktail, live music, a tasty meal or an epic doughnut, this small riverside city opens its doors to you when the sun goes down.

When It’s Finally Cocktail Hour

Launch your evening festivities from the Hi-Tide Lounge at Vola’s Dockside Grill, a groovy, Tiki-style bar perched by the Potomac River on Alexandria’s downtown waterfront. Choose from frozen drinks like a frosé piña colada, a hefty list of bottled beers and a handful of on-tap cocktails.

Sit indoors or on the outside patio at Jackson 20, an American tavern–style restaurant with an extensive bar that includes locally brewed Port City beers, Jefferson Vineyards’ Virginia wines by the glass or bottle, and a patriotic gin cocktail called “Don’t Tread on Me.”

Styled like a Prohibition-era speakeasy, Bar PX doesn’t have a sign outside, so look for the blue light to guide you to the door. All etched wood and plump leather upholstery, this cozy, reservations-only date spot specializes in handcrafted cocktails with housemade tinctures and bitters.

Dinner and a Show

Intimate and laid-back despite being a major player in the D.C.-area music scene, the 500-seat theater The Birchmere hosts both established and emerging artists, from country scion Rosanne Cash to bluegrass string band Old Crow Medicine Show and R&B crooner Kenny Lattimore. From 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. you can feast on a full menu of sandwiches, salads and flatbreads, as well as comfort foods like pot roast and shrimp and grits.

Only in town for the weekend? On Friday and Saturday nights, BBQ joint King Street Blues — popular for its slow-smoked pork and traditional Southern meat-and-three meals — features local blues acts like The Joe Chiocca Band.

On Alexandria’s waterfront, surf-and-turf restaurant Blackwall Hitch features live country and rock acts on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Order a dozen of Blackwall’s signature oyster, the Blackwall Beauty, and look out for Alexandria’s own Scott Fallon, a versatile singer who riffs on country, folk and rock classics.

Late-Night Vibes

In addition to a sweet selection of whiskey and cigars, Basin Street Lounge features live jazz and blues every night from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., including house regulars like the Capital Blues Ensemble and bassist Holly Montgomery. The steep flight of stairs to the lounge might make you wary of donning high heels, but not to worry — the dress code here is laid-back and cool, just like the music.

Set in a renovated 19th-century grain warehouse, seafood restaurant/bar The Fish Market offers the city’s only late-night happy hour, every night from 10 p.m. to midnight. (On Fridays and Saturdays, the Anchor Bar here stays open until 1 a.m.) Enjoy half-price Maryland-farmed oysters and a full bar that includes Port City brews.

Scoring a hole-in-one for Alexandria’s best bar location, you have to walk through homegrown Sugar Shack Donuts to get to Captain Gregory’s. Dimly-lit and casual, this 25-seat bar stays open till 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, serving cocktails crafted with housemade mixers and hearty small plates like pork belly with Brussels sprouts and quince. You can also order any Sugar Shack doughnut (or six), the perfect ending to your night on the town.

Something Sweet

Styled like a vintage ice-cream parlor from the early 1900s, Pop’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Co. is celebrated for having more than 60 ice-cream flavors, custom-made shakes and decadent specialty sundaes like For the Love of Peanut Butter (guess the mystery ingredient). Spring for a waffle cone and take your treat to go, strolling down Colonial-style King Street toward the water.

If you’d prefer to linger over dessert, enjoying some coffee and conversation, Killer ESP is the place. ESP stands for espresso, sorbet and pie, as this relaxing cafe serves Stumptown espresso drinks (as well as a wide array of teas and hot chocolate), fruit sorbets made in house, and Maryland-local Dangerously Delicious Pies. Check out works made by local artists and grab seats on one of the couches in the low-lit, brick-walled back room.