BARCA, Ada’s bring different vibes to waterfront dining in Old Town Alexandria

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with co-owner Scott Shaw (Part 1)

Outdoor dining is all the rage with two new waterfront options in Old Town Alexandria in Virginia.

Ada’s on the River opened in January, while BARCA Pier & Wine Bar opened in March.

“It is literally on the water on an old industrial pier two blocks south of King Street in Old Town,” Alexandria Restaurant Partners co-owner Scott Shaw told WTOP. “It is located at Robinson Landing, which is a new development that has sort of a mini-Wharf feel.

“We wanted you to sort of walk in and go, ‘Gosh, Toto, we’re not in Old Town anymore.'”

BARCA Pier & Wine Bar brings a distinct Spanish vibe to the Potomac River.

“It was inspired by a trip my partners and I took to Barcelona,” Shaw said. “On the beach in Barcelona, they have these little pop-up restaurants in the summer called ‘chiringuitos.’ They basically have three elements: a shipping container turned into a bar and kitchen, then some sort of shade structure, and a really simple Spanish tapas restaurant.”

What types of dishes can you find on the menu?

“Just a classic Spanish tapas menu,” Shaw said. “Croquettes, calamari with chorizo, a great Tzatziki, Gambas al Ajillo, a shrimp sautéed in olive oil, a beef tenderloin, an octopus ceviche, a very simple 15 items, all small plates served as they come out of the kitchen.”

In addition to its 200-seat dining pier, BARCA includes a 32-seat wine bar.

“Stone Fruit Rosé Sangria, great cocktails like the Barcelona Nights, which is made with two kinds of rum, we have passion fruit mojitos and a full wine list,” Shaw said.

Best of all, you can eat and drink with stellar views of the nation’s capital.

“There’s trellised seating with 360-degree views of the Potomac, including a look back to the Capitol, so it’s really a nice escape from the city in every sense,” Shaw said.

Next door is Ada’s on the River, boasting 180 seats indoors and 100 seats outdoors.

“[While] BARCA transports you to Barcelona, in Ada’s you could be in Santa Monica, South Beach or in D.C. at The Wharf, it’s got that kind of vibe,” Shaw said.

“It’s a very modern, cool design with 16-foot glass windows overlooking the river, we’ve got a great energy, a beautiful horseshoe bar. The idea was to create an elevated dining experience.”

The menu at Ada’s is all about steak and seafood on a wood-fired grill.

“We do a great wood-fired crab cake salad [but] the steaks are still the star of the show,” Shaw said. “There’s a 75-day aged strip, a 90-day aged porterhouse, and a 60-day aged filet mignon — and some great sides, a lobster mac-and-cheese, an oyster mushroom.”

He hopes both restaurants will boost Old Town’s growth as a destination spot.

“I describe it as #NewOldTown,” Shaw said. “The city made a big investment 20 years ago for a long-term waterfront plan. … There are great restaurants. There’s a wonderful waterfront walk.

“During the pandemic, a lot of people in the metro area discovered it and said, ‘Wow, this is a great place I can hang out, feel safe, be outdoors and dine outdoors.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with co-owner Scott Shaw (Part 2)

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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