You’re driving from Northern Virginia and you start to notice red brake lights ahead in the distance. Quick, take a detour! Use the closest exit and grab some food at one of these restaurants right off of Interstate 95. Hopefully, a little break will clear up the traffic. If not, at least you won’t be hungry!
The last stop on I-95 before the intersection with I-495, Walker’s Grille believes in farm-to-table dining, utilizing local ingredients to create seasonal dishes. Chef Duane doesn’t stop there, though; he focuses on eco-friendly operations that make use of recycled materials and energy-efficient practices. Proceeds from the restaurant even support an array of local charities, including nearby schools, the Symphony Orchestra League of Alexandria, and the Yellow Ribbon Fund, a charity that supports injured veterans returning to civilian life.
Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant—Alexandria
At the historic home of America’s first president, the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant is open for brunch, lunch, and elegant candlelit dinners. The Colonial atmosphere complements the menu, made up of Southern favorites. Start the meal with the restaurant’s famous Virginia peanut soup, then move on to the entrée portion of the menu, featuring home cooked options like the bacon-wrapped meatloaf or the shrimp & grits. If you have time, get tickets and tour the expansive grounds of the Washington family, but tickets are not required to dine at the restaurant.
Cock & Bowl—Occoquan
The Cock & Bowl crafts authentic European fare, from fresh Prince Edward Island blue mussels cooked to perfection in butter and garlic to a German-style pretzel served with a homemade sweet-hot mustard blend. Take Exit 160B to reach the Cock & Bowl, and if possible, grab a seat on the brick patio to enjoy your meal. While the patio is pet-friendly for well-behaved dogs, the restaurant is not ideal for children, as they do not have a kids menu. However, if you have a designated driver, take a peek at the beverage menu, featuring over 60 Belgian beers.
The Secret Garden Café—Occoquan
For those traveling with children, the Secret Garden Café is a wonderful alternative to the Cock & Bowl. Everything in the restaurant is made from scratch, from the house-made crab cakes to the stir fried noodle dishes. The kids menu has just a few items, but with enough variety that children will find something to their liking. The outdoor patio in the restaurant’s namesake garden should be your first choice for seating.
Tidewater Grill at Potomac Shores—Dumfries
Located at Potomac Shores, a Jack Nicklaus designed golf course, Tidewater Grill serves regionally inspired cuisine using locally sourced ingredients. Their specialties include crab cakes, the Potomac Burger (hamburger topped with bacon, cheddar, a homemade BBQ sauce, and thin slivers of fried onion), and freshly baked beignets that are like little sugary pillows of deliciousness. You’ll discover excellent service and food, as well as a pleasing ambiance at the Tidewater Grill.
BONUS: RESTAURANTS ALONG I-495/CAPITAL BELTWAY:
Elephant Jumps Thai—Falls Church
For authentic Thai in an unexpected location, make a pit stop at Elephant Jumps Thai in Falls Church. Owned and operated by a couple that hail from Thailand originally, the restaurant’s cozy, minimalist atmosphere welcomes you, with the basic décor allowing the incredible dishes to shine as the real star. Not a fan of extra spicy Thai food? The dishes can be customized for your spice level to ensure you don’t regret your meal.
Taco Bamba—Falls Church
Skip the cheap taco chains and add Taco Bamba in Falls Church to your list of must-try food stops off of I-95. Chef Victor Albisu, the genius behind this Mexican street food spot, won Chef of the Year in the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s competition in 2015, and then was named a semifinalist in the 2016 James Beard Foundation Awards for the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic category. The restaurant appeals to those looking for more informal dining, with a standup takeout counter and casual outdoor seating. Two more locations for this fantastic Mexican restaurant open later this year in Vienna and Springfield.
When you dine at the classic bar/restaurant combination of the Vienna Inn, you must order one of the location’s famous chili dogs, of which they sell over 10,000 a month. Grab a seat at the vintage booths and you’ll immediately feel at home surrounded by the eclectic décor and wood-paneled walls. The classic diner look reflects the 56 years the restaurant has been open, and they owe their success to the locals that come back again and again for the outstanding yet basic American fare.
2941 Restaurant—Falls Church
Experience an upscale yet casual dining experience at 2941 Restaurant. The contemporary façade provides hints to the menu offerings, with dishes echoing Modern American French cuisine as well as taste of the Mediterranean. When it comes to pricing, expect to pay a little more at 2941 Restaurant, but for the cost, your palate can’t do much better. While you feast on delicious options like the fennel ravioli with braised lamb shoulder or the Daffy burger, a duck patty topped with foie gras and a sweet and sour onion mixture, take in the restaurant’s serene atmosphere. The building is surrounded by lush landscaping, koi ponds, waterfalls, world-class artwork, and a lakeside view. Reservations are recommended for dinner.
Mad Fox Brewing Company—Falls Church
If you want to sample local craft beers while grabbing a casual bite to eat, Mad Fox Brewing Company in Falls Church should be on your itinerary. This restaurant specializes in traditional American brewpub fare and doubles as a brewery, creating seasonal beers and ciders that pair well with the menu. The restaurant uses locally-sourced and sustainable products in their dishes, whipping up a seasonal, made-from scratch menu.
Avoid the fast food chains and plan a pit stop at one of these popular restaurants off of I-95 exits from Northern Virginia to Dumfries to add a little extra flavor to your next road trip.
I really appreciate the suggestions for places to stop and eat off of the highway. To be honest, I can’t believe I haven’t thought of doing this before. Most traffic is gone in about an hour, and that is about how long it takes me to eat if I go into a restaurant. However, I would only ever be able to do it on road trips. I don’t think my wife would want me to spoil my appetite too many times on the way home from work :).
I’m looking forward to stopping by Taco Bamba for some great Mexican street food. I’ve lived in the area for quite some time now, but haven’t had the chance to stop by. Chef Victor Abisu, I’m coming to see you soon! (And congratulations to Chef Victor Abisu for his Chef of the Year Award)
We ate Secret Garden in Occoquan tonight!! Beautiful cozy place, Delicious food- go check them out!!