There once was a guy named George Washington. Maybe you’ve heard of him? He led the Continental Army to victory during the Revolutionary War and was the OG POTUS.

Here’s who couldn’t forget Washington if they tried: the residents of Fredericksburg, where he and his family have roots as deep as cherry trees. The clan is memorialized all over town with monuments, public gardens and museums.

The history-rich city — just a 53-mile drive south from the White House, and also serviced by Amtrak and VRE trains — is also the site of the Battle of Fredericksburg, a bloody clash during the Civil War in which Gen. Robert E. Lee’s troops crushed the Army of the Potomac. You can find plenty of mementos of that event, as well.

Dead war generals not your thing? Stay with us, because in recent years Fredericksburg has undergone a 21st-century makeover. A crop of new restaurants, boutiques and booze producers have opened to appeal to younger generations and students at nearby University of Mary Washington. And although some of these spots aren’t exactly spring chickens (such as the 70-plus-years-old ice cream parlor), they’re of interest to the modern-minded. Most of the newish businesses (funnily enough) are in the historic district, a 40-square-block part of town anchored by Caroline Street.

For those who’d rather use a history book to prop up their iPad than read it, we chronicle some of our favorite contemporary spots here.


Fredericksburg’s historic district is a 40-square-block part of town anchored by Caroline Street. (Pete Marovich/For The Washington Post)
Hyperion Espresso

301 William St. www.hyperionespresso.com.

Hyperion Espresso serves the caffeinated drinks you’ve come to expect: lattes, cappuccinos and so forth. But no other coffee shop can claim the Elvis Monkey: a blend of homemade chocolate milk, espresso, fresh banana, white chocolate powder and peanut butter syrup. Hyperion, which opened in 1994 and expanded in 2005, is open every day except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. (When it snows, the owners have been known to pick up employees and drive them to work.) “We’re the kind of place that feels comfortable for everyone,” says Dan Peterson, who owns the shop with his wife, Ana Brugos. “It’s a gathering point where people can touch base and meet for little reunions.”


Also check out: 25 30 Espresso

400 Princess Anne St. www.2530espresso.net.

Located in Darbytown, just a block from the Amtrak station, 25 30 is a straightforward coffee shop with comfy, worn-in furniture and strong espresso drinks.


Benny Vitali’s, part of a small chain of pizza restaurants, has 28-inch pies. (Pete Marovich/For The Washington Post)
Benny Vitali’s

722 Caroline St. www.bennysva.com.

This pizzeria claims to be “Home of the Virginia Slice.” We didn’t know what that meant either, so we asked co-founder Chris Brown: “It’s like New York-style, but much bigger because Virginia is a bigger place.” Fair enough. Pies stretch a whopping 28 inches across, start at $28 and are made with fresh dough, whole-tomato marinara and a Wisconsin cheese blend. Brown says this is the busiest outpost of the mini-chain, which was founded in 2011 and now has 10 stores in Virginia and the Carolinas, each with a different name (Benny Marconi’s in Roanoke, Benny Nicola’s in Radford). Say hi to the store’s mascot, a life-size cutout of — who else? — George Washington serving a slice of pizza.


Also check out: Soup and Taco Etc.

813 Caroline St. www.soupntaco.com.

The best part about this taqueria, housed in a tiny shotgun-style storefront: It puts a layer of shredded cheese between taco shells for an extra-gooey bite every time.


Carl’s is a Fredericksburg institution. (Pete Marovich/For The Washington Post)
Carl’s

2200 Princess Anne St.

This frozen custard stand, which was founded in 1943 by Carl Sponseller, doesn’t believe in change: Chocolate, vanilla and strawberry are the only flavors; employees wear the same soda jerk hats as always (except a local seamstress makes them now because they’re no longer manufactured); and the original 1940 Electro Freeze machines are still in use. “You learn to be a mechanic,” says Ramona Settle, Carl’s niece and the shop’s current co-owner. Lines for Carl’s (which is open from the Friday before Presidents Day to the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and takes only cash) are always long. And for good reason. Those vintage Electro Freeze machines? Unlike modern equipment, they don’t pump excess air into the milk mix. What results is inimitable custard that’s supremely dense.
Also check out: Goolrick’s Modern Pharmacy

901 Caroline St. www.goolrickspharmacy.com.

This compounding pharmacy dates to 1912 and houses a charming soda fountain anchored by a retro Multi-Mixer. Grab a cherry Coke, made-to-order with flavored syrup.

Kickshaws Downtown Market

101 William St. www.kickshawsdowntownmarket.com.

Kindly check those Cheetos at the door. You’re about to enter a wholesome-food-only zone. The small market, founded in 2014 by Kathy Craddock, sells locally grown produce, healthy snacks, kegged kombucha, freshly blended smoothies and baked goods cooked in a gluten-free, vegan kitchen. It’s housed in a Civil War-era building that once held a grocery store. Ask Craddock to tell you a few ghost stories; apparently, there’s a playful spirit who likes to lock the bathroom door. Plan your visit for a Saturday, when the market hosts a pancake breakfast and occasionally previews such new treats as brownies, cupcakes and donut holes.


Also check out: PA Dutch Food and Candy

1015 Caroline St.

Grab an orchard basket and load it up with salt water taffy, mango gummy bears, cherry fruit slices and jelly-filled turtles. There’s also an impressive selection of international chocolates if you’re craving something from across the pond.


Spencer Devon Brewing creates as many as 10 different brews on the premise. (Pete Marovich/For The Washington Post)
Spencer Devon Brewing

106 George St. www.spencerdevonbrewing.com.

Don’t expect to run into a Mr. Spencer Devon at this brewpub. The rather stately name is what co-owner Shawn Phillips would have named his son, if he had one. “I came up with the name for my son when I was in junior high,” he says. “I had a daughter instead.” After 24 years in the Marines, Phillips opened the brewery with his wife, Lisa, in 2015 on a quiet block off Caroline Street. Together with head brewer John Ritenour, the team creates as many as 10 different brews on the premises, such as the Sunken Road Belgian Blonde, Rocko’s Milk Stout and the Bittersweet IPA, a crowd favorite. The kitchen is overseen by chef Justin Cunningham, who churns out contemporary American fare using predominantly local ingredients.
Also check out: A. Smith Bowman Distillery

One Bowman Dr. www.asmithbowman.com.

Located on the outskirts of town, this family-owned distillery makes whiskey, rum, vodka and gin based on historic recipes. Stop by Blue & Gray Brewing around the corner if you are craving suds.

LibertyTown Arts Workshop

916 Liberty St. www.libertytownarts.com.

This sprawling art center has served Fredericksburg’s weavers, jewelers, painters and ceramicists for nearly 13 years. The lobby acts as a gallery where owners Kenneth and D.D. Lecky display works by artists from across the country. Scattered throughout the space are 27 private studios where local artists plot their next masterpiece. Can’t tell your Dali from your Degas? Sign up for a beginner drawing class, or try your hand at slinging some clay: LibertyTown has 10 professional-grade pottery wheels and kilns. “Other places do similar things, but we’re a place where you can do your work,” Kenneth Lecky says. The art center also hosts such special events as artist yard sales, gallery talks, musical events and first Fridays, when artists fling open their studio doors and share what they’ve been working on.


Also check out: Ponshop

712 Caroline St. www.ponshopstudio.com This teeny boutique showcases handmade wares, including hammered brass jewelry, necklaces made from old T-shirts and ceramic plates in the shape of a cat’s head, from 30 local artists.


Chocolate almond and blackberry cake at Eileen's Bakery and Cafe. (Pete Marovich/For The Washington Post)

Blueberry cheesecake with lemon zest at Eileen's Bakery and Cafe. (Pete Marovich/For The Washington Post)
Eileen’s Bakery and Cafe

1115 Caroline St. www.eileensbakeryandcafe.com.

What’s the next career step after you’ve cooked at a four-star restaurant and served your food to Gerald Ford and Margaret Thatcher? If you’re Trista Eileen Couser, you follow your passion and start a bakery. Couser opened her sweet shop in a renovated cavernous church that was built in 1833. The stained glass transoms and high ceilings remain, but in place of pews you’ll find comfy chairs and a glistening deli case loaded with painstakingly made goodies. The puff pastry, for example, takes up to two days to prepare and has about 6,000 layers for extreme flakiness. Sandwiches come on freshly baked bread, and cakes are made from a recipe that dates to World War I. With fall approaching, consider a pumpkin latte, which Couser makes with fresh pureed pumpkin.


Also check out: Sammy T’s

801 Caroline St. www.sammyts.com.

This corner pub is best known for its camper’s special, a mammoth vegetarian burrito meant to revive depleted hikers. It’s stuffed with a bean and grain burger and sauteed vegetables, and topped with mozzarella and cheddar.


Hooked carries vintage clothing and vinyl — and that’s just scratching the surface at this lifestyle shop. (Pete Marovich/For The Washington Post)
Hooked

1009 Princess Anne St. www.becomehooked.com.

Sure, this lifestyle shop sells pristine vintage pieces, one-of-a-kind artwork and rare vinyl hand-picked by owners Mike and Lauren Skinner. But the real draws are Sgt. Pepper and Padmé, the Skinners’ impossibly cute English bulldogs, who can usually be found loafing around the boutique. Opened in 2012, Hooked supplies Fredericksburg’s hip set with 1980s bathing suits, weathered cowboy boots, old Gameboys and enough cut-off shorts to outfit an entire university. “We cater to our generation,” says 28-year-old Lauren Skinner, who keeps the stock current. The 2,000-square-foot space is a hodgepodge of design, with a floor covered in comic books and a wall of animal skulls.

Also check out: Forage

208 William St.

Marc Jacobs mingles with J.Crew and vintage frocks at Alicia Austin’s carefully arranged consignment shop. Inventory changes daily, and threads are organized by size which makes shopping a breeze.


Burger and fries at Foode. (Pete Marovich/For The Washington Post)
Foode

1006 C/D Caroline St. www.foodeonline.com.

Every part of your meal at Foode is a pleasant surprise, from the umbrellas strung above the brick patio to the gentle bill (at least for those accustomed to D.C. prices). Inspired by the fast-casual movement, founders Beth Black and Joy Crump applied the same concept to gourmet food. In lieu of table service, guests order at a counter and have a seat, likely next to a photo of a partnering local farm. A waiter dressed in Converse sneakers or ripped jeans drops off your meal, and delight ensues. “You can breathe and be who you are here,” says Crump, Foode’s chef. “The atmosphere makes people feel comfortable and like they’re at home.” But such dishes as the seafood paccheri and grilled rib-eye would prove near impossible to re-create on your stove. “Our food is supposed to do two things: remind you of something you love, and make you feel like you’ve never had it that way before,” Crump says.
Also check out: Kybecca

402 William St. www.kybecca.com.

What was once a general store today holds a contemporary restaurant, cocktail bar and raw bar. Long, communal tables (and stiff drinks) encourage conversation with your neighbor while huge front windows allow for ogling passers-by.