The Washington Post

Leesburg Neighborhood Guide

Sure, this quaint historic town in Loudoun County may be about 35 miles from Washington's hippest night spots, but it is that distance that makes it such a gem. In town, you'll find an eclectic mix of shops, sites and dining, all steeped in history. Along King Street, the town's main thoroughfare, American flags wave and antique shops beckon with displays of vintage finds from every era. But Leesburg is also where you can eat doner kebab out of a kitchen built from recycled fighter-plane parts. Where indie rockers and grandmothers mingle at the coffee shops. Where former Redskin Chris Cooley signs autographs at his art gallery. Here are 11 Leesburg establishments -- both new and old -- that are not to be missed.


11 N. King St., Leesburg, VA 20176  | 703-771-2233  |  Web site »

The restaurant, one of Leesburg's classiest establishments, is housed in an ornate historic building full of chandeliers, elaborate molding and framed French advertising posters. The large bar features French and American wines by the glass, with many in the $7-to-$10 range, and the bartenders make a mean martini. A grand piano graces the elaborate mezzanine level, with performances every Friday and Saturday from 6 to 10:30 p.m. Grab a seat, order bacon-wrapped shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes topped with jalapenos, shrimp and cheese, or one of the huge house salads, and pretend you're on vacation.

The Wine Kitchen

7 S. King St. , Leesburg, VA 20175  | 703-777-9463  |  Web site »

Stroll down King Street and you'll notice one place that never fails to be noticeably packed: the Wine Kitchen. A cozy place for a date or a classy midday shopping break, this wine bar and small-plates purveyor embodies country-chic, farm-fresh dining. The walls are adorned with rust red maple leaves, and leather couches, sparse tables and a long bar add to the lounge atmosphere. A chalkboard with locally sourced specials hangs opposite the bar.

The wine list features about 30 options, which can be purchased by the glass, the bottle or in flights of three. The flights have such cute names as "The Plains of Spain" and "Pinot Envy" and come with pithy quick takes or stories more entertaining than your average tasting card.

The sipping may put you in tasting heaven, but don't overlook the kitchen. Try the smoked fig and arugula salad, topped by a thin pancetta crisp. And the Parisian sweet potato sage gnocchi -- spruced up by maitake mushrooms, leeks, walnuts and a sweet pinot noir reduction -- is a rich, textural treat.


Urban Pickers

10E S. King St., Leesburg, VA 20175  | 571-918-4139  |  Web site »

Amid the sea of antique shops in Leesburg, it can be difficult to discern the line that separates shabby-chic from, well, just plain shabby. At antique boutique Urban Pickers, nearly every item falls on the fashionable side. Items are thoroughly curated to offer an irresistible smorgasbord of home furnishings, jewelry, accessories, country kitsch and adorable knickknacks.

The store's four rooms are stocked and arranged by three women, so each has a distinct feel. Everything is handpicked (hence the name), and the rooms are pleasantly full, not overwhelmingly cluttered. The front room contains mostly antique home furnishings and accessories, but head back to the three smaller rooms and you'll find handcrafted felt purses and hats, bronze cuff bracelets, decanters, polka-dotted sewing kits, brightly colored alpaca wool yarn and myriad other items, both new and pre-owned.

You'll find it difficult to leave without picking one-of-a-kind gifts for your friends -- and a little something for yourself.


The Cooley Gallery

9 N. King St., Leesburg, VA 20176  | 703-779-4639  |  Web site »

About a year ago, former Redskins tight end and Leesburg resident Chris Cooley opened an art gallery in historic Leesburg to fuel his other passion -- pottery. Now, the gallery is one of the town's most eclectic artistic hot spots. The Cooley Gallery supplants the pastoral landscapes and still lifes that are ubiquitous in many of the town's other galleries. There are stately, gnarled wood tables, handcrafted jewelry and ceramics by a cadre of regional artists and artisans. Then there's Cooley's own work. Some of his pieces are marked with his Redskins number, 47, or black lines and Xs that almost resemble a play diagram. Other pieces rely more on rugged texture and color gradations. It's an edgier aesthetic that seems to say: This is not your mother's art gallery.

At one of Leesburg's recent "First Friday" events, the gallery stayed open late, featuring bluegrass music and wine and chocolate tastings. Cooley milled around, signing autographs for kids while their parents perused the art. The Cooley Gallery is certainly popular, especially when its owner is present. But its contents will not disappoint either.


The Resourceful Woman Thrift Shop

11-A Loudoun St. SW, Leesburg, VA 20175  | 703-771-8173  |  Web site »

Sorting through racks of used clothing, books and household items in hopes of unearthing a couple of great pieces isn't for the faint of heart or those on a tight schedule. But if you do venture into the Resourceful Woman and do a little digging, you might just find a treasure.

The store -- a nonprofit enterprise that benefits the Loudoun Abused Women's Shelter -- is the happy beneficiary of items from nearby retailers with an excess of unsold inventory as well as from well-dressed Loudoun County residents updating their wardrobes and homes. Finds on a recent trip included an intricately beaded black tunic dress, a men's cashmere sweater, a vintage red Chanel women's suit and a pair of red Salvatore Ferragamo flats. The best part? The total bill was just over $30. If that's not resourceful, what is?


Savannah's of Leesburg

27 S. King St., Leesburg, VA 20175  | 703-777-6875

Those who gravitate toward glittery Christmas ornaments, pumpkin-scented candles and potpourri like a moth to a flame should not leave Leesburg without stopping at Savannah's, a home decor shop on King Street.

The store -- housed in an old converted mansion with a still-functional dumbwaiter in the corner -- also stocks antique lamps, tableware and sweets. (For more household items, check out Savannah's sister store around the corner, Downs & Co.)


The Cajun Experience

14 Loudoun St. SE, Leesburg, VA 20175  | 703-777-6580  |  Web site »

In 2009, Louisiana natives Melissa and Bryan Crosswhite opened this casual restaurant in a picturesque 18th-century house in the heart of Leesburg, using family recipes to create their menu of Cajun classics. Service may be a little unpolished but, along with the setting and homestyle food, it only adds to the dinner-party vibe.

Masks and Mardi Gras beads decorate the walls, giving the dining room a festive air, but it's the hearty, straightforward Cajun cooking that will keep you warm and fueled up for shopping. Highlights include piled-high po' boys; fried boudin balls (Creole pork and rice sausage); creamy, briny crawfish etouffe; red beans with andouille sausage; and, for dessert, beignets made with batter from New Orleans's Cafe Du Monde and fried in-house.

The beer list is dominated by selections from the Abita brewery in Louisiana and includes a number of seasonal beers that can be hard to find here.


King Street Coffee

110 S King St, Leesburg, VA 20175  | 703-443-0110  |  Web site »

An afternoon wandering through the streets of Leesburg can be tiring. Thankfully, a quick pick-me-up awaits at King Street Coffee, a quaint and cozy coffee shop selling locally roasted beans and fresh baked goods.

Formerly known as the Coffee Bean, King Street Coffee could easily be mistaken for one of Leesburg's Victorian houses: Rocking chairs line the dog-friendly front porch; Adirondack chairs are tucked under a tree in the garden. The curtains and wooden tables inside add to the homey feel.

But the drinks are the stars. The espresso is robust without the usual burned notes found in chain-store varieties; the house blend is balanced and flavorful. Warm apple cider chases the winter chill. As you sip, you can browse the bins of penny candy or snack on lemon cake and other goodies from local bakers, some of which are gluten free.


Tuscarora Mill

203 Harrison St. SE, Leesburg, VA 20175  | 703-771-9300  |  Web site »

Tuscarora Mill -- Tuskie's to the locals -- is a destination for those who love meat and beer. Of course, there's more to this restaurant, housed in the skeleton of a 19th-century grain mill, including local red, white and rose wines by the bottle and the glass, but those staples have been the bedrock of its 15 successful years in business.

Tuskie's is a longtime adherent to the locavore movement, with most of its ingredients coming from local providers. The menu is full of creative, meaty takes on traditional favorites. Try the Barn Yard "Au Jus": Two slices of Parmesan ciabatta bread can barely contain chunks of smoky brisket and flavorful slow-roasted pork, all bound together by a blanket of tangy, melted provolone and caramelized onions. A bowl of the meat's juice is provided for dipping. It's as amazing and messy as it sounds.

The bar boasts one of the finest microbrew selections in Loudoun. Locals such as Lost Rhino (made up the road in Ashburn) share space on the 21 taps with Left Hand or Founders, all selling for $5 to $6 a pint. (Higher-octane drafts, such as Epic's 10-percent Hop Syndrome, are on the separate "Very Special Drafts" list and come in eight-ounce glasses.)

Keep an eye out for Tuskie's regular beer dinners and special meals. But fair warning: These events are hugely popular.


Doner Bistro

202 Harrison St. SE, Leesburg, VA 20175  | 703-779-7880

This beer garden is known for its seasoned meat on a rotisserie cone, but the first thing that will catch your eye is the Mighty Midget Kitchen, which oversees the deck seating. The riveted aluminum shack-size kitchen was built in 1946 from old fighter-plane parts and, until 1994, served up hamburgers and hot dogs.

The menu includes doner kebab (naturally) in pocket bread, hand-cut fries, curry wurst (slices of beef or pork sausage topped with a warm curry-ketchup sauce), veal schnitzel and bratwurst.

German beer lovers should appreciate the trio of draft lines (Warsteiner Pils, Weihenstephaner and Kostritzer Black Lager) and a nice selection of bottles (including Ettaler Helles and Schlenkerla Rauchbier).

Heat lamps warm part of the deck in cold weather, which, with the addition of several indoor seats, ensures that the beer and food keep flowing all winter long. Close your eyes and you could be in Berlin, which is exactly what owner and German national Timo Winkel says he envisioned when he opened the bistro in 2006.


Oatlands Plantation

20850 Oatlands Plantation Lane, Leesburg, VA 20175  | 703-777-3174  |  Web site »

What's a visit to Leesburg without a little history? Step back in time with a trip to Oatlands Plantation, a storybook-like property one would expect to see here, just below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Built in 1798, the mansion, gardens, outbuildings and greenhouse still stand today. The beautiful property belies some of its history, as it once housed the largest number of slaves in Loudoun County.

Today, visitors can tour the mansion and the oldest restored propagation greenhouse in the nation, have tea or stop in the gift shop.

Oatlands hosts afternoon tea Thursdays through Sundays from February through the end of December, ($24.95 for tea, sandwiches, fruit and sweets).

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