Lavender Moon Cupcakery

Rating: ★★★★☆

17321752_10155140527488011_650307663_n.jpgFar from the cupcake wars of Georgetown, Lavender Moon Cupcakery is a far more low-key spot, baking delicious cupcakes in an adorable space in Old Town Alexandria, just off King Street. In fact, it does little other than bake cupcakes. While they have bottled cold drinks like water and soda for sale, they don’t offer coffee like Georgetown’s Baked and Wired does. While I appreciate having coffee or hot chocolate with my cupcake, Lavender Moon is in the business of doing one thing and doing it well. The cupcakes are smaller than the massive ones you’ll find at other cupcakeries, but $3 doesn’t seem too unreasonable of a price for 17321451_10155140527458011_2096308955_npremium cupcakes such as these, especially when the La Boulange crap at Starbucks costs about the same. I ordered a chocolate peanut butter cupcake and really enjoyed it. If you’re in Alexandria, check it out!

 

Lavender Moon Cupcakery is located at 116 S Royal St. in Alexandria, VA.

Balkan Grill

Rating: ★★★★★

17148831_10155107921988011_986793410_oBalkan Grill and the attached Euro Foods market serve up a taste of the Balkans just steps away from Huntington Metro Station at the southern terminus of the Yellow Line. Balkan Grill serves up a mix of Bosnian and Turkish food at very reasonable prices. I ordered a sandwich with five pieces of cevapcici, a grilled Bosnian meat that is something of a cross between a kebab and sausage. The cevapcici were served with lettuce, tomato and delicious bread, baked in-house. The bread was unlike anything I had ever had before; it looked like pita but it tasted more like sourdough.

I also ordered kadayif (shredded wheat filled with walnuts and soaked in syrup) for dessert, as well as a Bosnian coffee (like a Turkish coffee), which came beautifully presented in a cup surrounded by a metal holder with a lid to keep the coffee hot. The service was very friendly and the entire meal set me back well under $15.

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Euro Foods next door is just as much of a gem, selling wine 17195446_10155107920493011_909800849_oand a wide variety of other goods from the Balkans, other parts of Eastern Europe and beyond. Since I myself am 1/4 Croatian, I tried a white Malvasia wine from Istria in northern Croatia that I was sadly not a big fan of. That said, I want to go back and try some other wines since they have a truly impressive selection.

Balkan Grill is located at 5902 N Kings Hwy, Alexandria, VA 22303 near Huntington Metro Station.

 

Sonoma Cellar

Rating: ★★★★★

16730723_10155037887378011_1889678132_nMy friends and I stumbled upon Sonoma Cellar while browsing around Old Town Alexandria and decided to stop in for wine tasting. Sonoma Cellar offers a tasting of four wines for $10 or four reserve wines for $15, as well as a full food menu (we stuck to wine this time). They are flexible and let you mix and match between the two wine lists. We all decided to taste two wines from the regular “Select Tasting” list and two from the “Reserve Tasting” list for $12.50. The pours were generous and the experience afforded us the opportunity to taste some truly great wines while being well taken care-of by our friendly server.

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The star of the show: the 2015 Mazzocco Zinfandel

I started with the 2013 Chehalem Reisling from Wilamette Valley, Oregon, which was a classic, bright, satisfying Reisling. Less successful was my next tasting, the rosé of the day which was a Pinot Noir-based rosé with notes of strawberry that we all found rather bitter.  However, the 2013 Au Contraire Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast, CA was great, and everything I want from a pinot noir; it was a light, approachable, tasty red wine. Even better still was the 2015 Mazzocco Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley, CA. This bold, dark red had complex flavor but lacked the unpleasant earthiness of some potent red wines. It was without a doubt one of the best reds I have ever tasted and I plan to pick up a bottle at some point. I am no wine connoisseur, but my group unanimously agreed that this one was really good.

Five Guys

Rating: 

12952785_10154103948773011_910181536_oFive Guys may be a large burger chain now with over 1,000 locations, but they got their start right here in Arlington. Five Guys continues to have a heavy presence throughout the DMV area with several locations in the District, in addition to locations at Reagan National Airport and in Arlington, Hyattsville, Kensington, Bethesda, Fairfax, Potomac, Alexandria, McLean, and Annandale.  While the “better burger” market has become saturated in recent years by new offerings like Smashburger and Shake Shack, 12941142_10154103948738011_1729560251_oFive Guys  was the first of the “better burger” chains I tried and I still think it’s one of the best. For starters, the burger (despite the fact that you can’t order it less than well-done) is always flavorful and juicy (some people might say it’s greasy, but I find it delicious). And there’s a large selection of toppings- I always get a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, mushrooms, pickles and ketchup. The fries are tasty (if you like them with the skins left on) and I love that they serve free peanuts while you wait. The wait is usually pretty brief (rarely as long as at Shake Shack. Be aware that Five Guys doesn’t do much other than burgers and fries; they do have hot dogs (I’ve never tried one) but you can’t get a veggie burger. They’ll make you a sandwich of veggies on a bun, but that doesn’t sound too appetizing. Since I love burgers and I’m not a vegetarian, I don’t really care. Some Five Guys serve breakfast, which is basic, but tasty. You can get a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich or add a burger patty to that for an extra charge (and extra calories). They do have coffee but it’s pretty meh (what did you expect?).

Caphe Banh Mi

Rating: ★★★★★

 

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Banh mi sandwich with ham, paté, viet mortadella cha lua and head cheese.

Caphe Banh Mi is a cute and cozy Vietnamese restaurant located at 407 Cameron Street in Old Town Alexandria. It serves a variety of Vietnamese food, but I went for a Banh Mi sandwich with ham, paté, viet mortadella cha lua, and head cheese. It was really delicious and at $6 a great deal as well! Alexandria is a hike of course, but if you’re in the area and want a great place to eat, Caphe Banh Mi will hit the spot.