Industrial buildings in the Braddock neighborhood of Alexandria have been slowly turning into high-end condominiums and apartments the past several years, ushering in a new swath of residents with big appetites and plenty of disposable income.
The only problem? There have not been many places — right in the neighborhood, at least — for them to eat.
That’s now changing, however, with the opening of three new restaurants in the area just north of Old Town during the past month. A fourth, Mason Social, is also on the way.
Restaurants and retailers were slower to jump headfirst into the Braddock neighborhood pool. Christophe Poteaux, who moved his restaurant, Bastille, into the Asher condominium building on North Fayette Street Jan. 24, was approached in 2012 for his space but thought then that it wasn’t the right time, he said.
The area is still in transition: Auto body shops and warehouses still share blocks with high-end apartment buildings and new restaurants. But now that The Henry condominiums and The Asher and Belle Pre apartments are open and mostly sold or leased, Poteaux has seen a great response.
“There’s a lot of new residents in the area, and people are hungry,” he said. “When we were building, people kept coming in asking, ‘Are you open yet?'”
Over at Lost Dog Cafe, which opened in early January, the lunch hour was hopping on a recent Friday. Matt Sisk, who owns the new Alexandria location of the local pizza chain, said business picked up faster than he had expected.
“This is a very underserved pocket of Alexandria,” he said. “With all these residents, there’s still very little retail to support them.”
Here’s a look at the new restaurants taking the plunge in the neighborhood:
Bastille: Owners Christophe and Michelle Poteaux moved their nearly decade-old French restaurant into new digs in the Asher building on N. Fayette Street, more than tripling its size. The old location on N. Royal Street has been reimagined as Bistrot Royal, a more casual, classic French bistro.
The new Bastille seats 100 inside and about 40 on the patio, has space for semi-private dining and a more casual cafe-bar area for those looking for a quick bite or a glass of wine. Black and white photos of the Poteaux family, including Christophe’s fighter-pilot father and his pastry chef grandfather, adorn the walls.
The cuisine is “more expressive,” and more contemporary, than the typical French classics — and Christophe and Michelle, who serves as the pastry chef, add in Mediterranean influences as those from Thailand and other Asian cuisines.
Lost Dog Cafe: This latest location of the Arlington-based pizza parlor chain opened in early January, the work of a new franchisee for the brand in Sisk. The restaurant was the first retail tenant to open in the 360-unit Belle Pre, a luxury apartment building at the corner of U.S. Route 1 and Madison Street.
The location offers Lost Dog’s extensive menu of pizza, sandwiches and salads, and has a large bar with more than a dozen craft beers on tap. Pizza delivery has started and Sisk hopes to add craft beer delivery to the menu soon as well.
Sugar Shack Donuts: This donut and coffee joint is a spinoff of the Richmond original, making it the fourth Sugar Shack in Virginia and the first in the D.C. area. The venture, which is a partnership between Del. Rob Krupicka and Carter Batey, serves Zeke’s coffee and signature doughnuts such as the Samoa, which is inspired by the Girl Scout cookie, and the peanut butter bacon. Plans to turn the shop into a bar in the evenings have also been floated, but right now, it’s just doughnuts.
Mason Social: Last but not least, a new neighborhood bar and restaurant, Mason Social, is aiming to open by early February, according to managing partner Chad Sparrow. The restaurant, located in the former Esmeralda’s space at 728 Henry St. — across the street from Belle Pre — will serve New American cuisine from chef Joe Lennon.
Sparrow wants the food and service to be good, but not stuffy, he said during a quick interview in the space. The decor will utilize milk bottles and other industrial touches to pay homage to the Belle Pre Bottle Co., which was located across the street at the site of the similarly named apartment building in the early 1900s.Read the full story from the Washington Business Journal.