Del Ray is the kind of neighborhood in which locals should feel lucky to live. It’s walkable, bike-friendly and serves as home to a wide array of independently owned shops. It’s also filled with restaurants and cafes. Regardless of the time of day you visit, you’re guaranteed to find good eats.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better biscuit than the ones being churned out at the super-friendly Stomping Ground. At breakfast, you can build your own sandwich with additions such as eggs, cheese and sausage. Go simple with sorghum butter or indulge in one of the top-shelf fried chicken biscuits, made the traditional way with pimento cheese and pickles or less so with tahini, hot sauce and za’atar. Other morning options include chilaquiles, a veggie hash and a grits bowl.
2309 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria.
Sure, Junction Bakery & Bistro has jumped on the artisanal toast trend, but the bread is legit and the toppings creative, so it totally works. Grab a seat and enjoy your breakfast in the light and airy space, perhaps along with a fresh-pressed juice from Grateful Juice Co. The impressive options for breakfast baked goods include a tender, tall cheddar chive biscuit and a sweet, nutty sticky bun.
1508 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria.
You’ll find many of the standard cafe offerings — panini, salads, quiche — at Caboose Cafe, but the Ethiopian fare is what helps it stand out from the pack. A mere $9 gets you an entree for lunch. The vegan sampler includes your choice of three dishes. Go for the misir wot (spicy red lentils), kik alicha (split yellow peas) and fosolia (green beans and carrots). You won’t regret it.
2419 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria.
Cheese is, of course, the name of the game at Cheesetique, the eatery and shop that opened in Del Ray in 2004. (There are now locations in Shirlington and Ballston.) The cheese board and “share plates” (arancini, burrata, spinach-artichoke dip) would make for a fun lunch to split with friends, but the Pimento, a spicy grilled cheese, is perhaps too good to share. The gooey Mac ‘n Cheesetique is nothing to sneeze at, either.
2411 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria.
Del Ray Pizzeria’s namesake cuisine has the presidential seal of approval, as President Obama picked up three large pizzas during a Christmas shopping trip in December 2011. DRP, as it’s known, commemorates that visit with two pies: Barack My World (tomato sauce topped with mozzarella, pepperoni and sausage) and Supreme Clientele (the same pizza with the addition of peppers, red onions, olives and mushrooms). Chef Eric Reid’s kitchen also puts out a daily dinner special — Wednesday’s hot chicken is a spicy winner — and a diverse menu of mostly Southern and Italian dishes.
2218 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria.
Especially charming because of its location in a converted house, Emma’s Espresso and Wine Bar is the kind of place where you could plop down with a coffee and laptop during the day, but that also makes for a great first stop on an evening out. Swing by around happy hour for a glass of wine and the sweet potato Sriracha tater tots.
106 Hume Ave., Alexandria.
At Live Oak, chef Justus Frank serves up a variety of upgraded Southern staples: boiled peanuts with smoked olive oil and preserved lemon; fried green tomatoes in an artful stack of crispy fruit, creamy grits and edible flowers; and Buffalo pork cheeks as an innovative twist on the standard wings. There’s plenty of overlap on the menus in the bar and dining room, but the fare on the former is a little lighter and better suited for sharing.
1603 Commonwealth Ave., Alexandria.
The Del Ray community eagerly welcomed back Bombay Curry Company in 2014 after a nearly three-year absence. Balraj Bhasin’s cozy, quiet Indian restaurant serves warm and comforting curries, biryani and tandoori dishes and kebabs; vegetarians also will find plenty that appeals. Don’t miss the saag gosht, a savory dish with tender chunks of lamb in a spinach curry.
2607 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria.
The Neighborhood Restaurant Group has a big footprint in Del Ray with the restaurant Evening Star Cafe; its two bars (the Majestic Lounge downstairs and the No. 9 Lounge upstairs); and Planet Wine, a beer and wine shop. Its imprint grows even larger during the warmer months when Front Porch is open. The outdoor space features a small food menu of snacks and sandwiches, paired with a big list of craft beers, wines and a bourbon slush cocktail. Front Porch will be open through October this year and perhaps longer, weather permitting.
2000 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria.
Cap your evening in Del Ray with a trip to neighborhood favorite Dairy Godmother, where the Wisconsin-style frozen custard is thicker, creamier and denser than typical ice cream. Vanilla and chocolate custards are always available, with an additional flavor that changes every other day — think mint Oreo, lemon meringue or caramel Heath bar.
2310 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria.