After owning Bittersweet Cafe in Old Town Alexandria for the past three decades — and living in the city for longer than that — Jody Manor decided it was time to do something about its hidden gem: the waterfront.
Manor plans to open Waterfront Market this summer, a combination market and restaurant that will take full advantage of the city’s ample views of the Potomac. The market will cater to tourists with outdoor seating and grab-and-go meals, but also serve as a resource for residents, according to Manor.
“Tourism is an important part of our economy but it really struck me as wrong that residents don’t really use the waterfront,” he said.
Manor previously had a shop in the nearby food court-style pavilion on the waterfront, but that building is now empty and its owner is seeking a new tenant.
The building that Waterfront Market will move into, at 101 S. Union Street, has been empty for approximately a decade; part of the space is being provided to the city of Alexandria as a store for the historical museum.
The 4,000-square-foot market will include grab-and-go sandwiches, fresh sushi and other items, all while selling basic groceries, such as fresh produce and beer and wine. Manor is trying to work out a deal to allow vendors to sell other items using retail carts owned by the city.
The restaurant side will include a quick-service counter similar to what’s currently in Bittersweet Cafe, which will remain at 823 King St., although it won’t be quite so self-serve, according to Manor. The new restaurant will seat 76 inside, 20 on the sidewalk on King Street and another 54 on a city-owned, waterfront boardwalk behind the building. He’s aiming for an August opening.
The city council will have to approve the restaurant — and the use of the public space — at a public meeting May 18, but at this point, Manor is optimistic. No one came to speak against the proposal at a recent planning commission hearing.
“Everyone wants to see it happen, and I didn’t even have anyone testify against me at the planning commission, which shocked me,” Manor said. “Things are changing in Alexandria, which is great.”
The bigger hurdle may be convincing the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Commission to let him sell wine and beer at the outdoor seating on public property, Manor noted.
“It just struck me that there was an opportunity here. Let’s see if I can get the ABC to go along with me too,” he said. “I think it has a lot of potential to bring residents down there, and a menu concept that will appeal to both residents and visitors.”