Best Places to Live

Alexandria, VA

Population: 149,315
Photo: Richard Nowitz

Alexandria, VA is one of the best food cities in America. Critics claimed the dining scene in Alexandria was stale until a group of inspiring chefs and risky restaurateurs came in to freshen things up. Restaurants in Alexandria offer bold, fresh takes on traditional cuisine. Old Town Alexandria in particular is ripe with trendy restaurants and bars drawing local foodies and tourists from nearby Washington D.C. The Obamas routinely go for date nights in Alexandria and have been spotted at several local restaurants.

Restaurant Eve, owned by acclaimed chef Cathal Armstrong, offers two dining experiences – The Chef's Tasting Room and The Bistro. Both provide palate pleasing menus created with local meats, produce and homemade breads. Armstrong's five, seven and nine-course meals combine his traditional French training, Irish upbringing and experimental style. Modern pub grub is the star at the popular Old Town eatery Virtue Feed & Grain, which Bon Appetit named a top 50 best new restaurant in 2012.

Housemade charcuterie and sausages, farmstead cheeses and bistro steaks draw diners to the Columbia Firehouse Restaurant & Barroom.

Simple, modern American dishes take the spotlight at Vermilion, while French country elegance shines at Le Refuge. Chef Jim Jeffords' Southern specialties tantalize at the Evening Star Cafe, which offers items like shrimp and grits, mac and cheese with roasted peppers, pan seared rockfish, and buttermilk fried chicken.

Neighborhood farmers markets let Alexandria's at-home chefs pick up a bounty of seasonal and organically grown ingredients. Classes at the Judy Harris Cooking School not only teach techniques but inspire creativity.


Alexandria's historic charm earned the city a spot on our list of Top 10 Downtowns 2012.