Vola’s and Hi-Tide Open Today in Old Town
Vola’s Dockside Grill and Hi-Tide Lounge, 101 N. Union St., Alexandria on Old Town’s waterfront opens today.
The casual seafood restaurant and hideaway bar replaces the short-lived Waterfront Market in the Torpedo Factory. It is from Alexandria Restaurant Partners, which also owns The Majestic and Virtue Feed & Grain in Old Town, Lena’s Wood-Fire Pizza and Tap in Yates Corner and Palette 22 in Shirlington.
The 4,800-square-foot restaurant seats 95 in Vola’s, another 40 at the Hi-Tide Lounge and 87 on two outdoor patios, including one that has unobstructed views across the Potomac River. The entire restaurant will have unobstructed river views once Old Dominion Boat Club moves to its new location on Prince Street and the building in demolished in late 2017 to build a city park.
The restaurant, which was named for former Alexandria city manager Vola D. Lawson, was designed by Paul Beckmann of Beckmann Architects in Old Town. The interior features vintage reds and blues with decorative tin stamped with stars above the bar, distressed concrete floors, exposed brick walls, dark woods and exposed ceilings. The wall behind the bar is made with distressed wood painted in light blue, beiges, brown and light green.
Black and white photos of Alexandria from the Alexandria Library’s special collections taken between 1861 and the 1960s line the tops of the walls and posts in the restaurant. One post features a photo of Lawson in her teens or early-20s, while a post at the bar features photos from the Andrew Whitney family documenting 100 years of an African-American family’s history in Alexandria. Other photos depict the Torpedo Factory, when torpedoes were made there, the Ford Motor Plant, the Virginia Shipbuilidng Co., the Alexandria Flying Boat Co., the 1939 library sit-in, late 19th Century oyster houses and a horse-drawn oyster and fresh fish cart.
The Hi-Tide Lounge, accessible through a hallway from the restaurant or through an entrance at King and Union Streets, is decorated in a Mad Men meets tiki bar motif with vintage posters, album covers from the 60s hanging on the walls, screens hanging in the windows to obstruct the view from the Torpedo Factory’s halls, high top tables, retro bar stools and lounge furniture.
The lounge features bar bites priced from $7-$14 along with Weihenstephaner’s Hefe Wiessbier Dunkle and rotating seasonal Port City beers on tap. Others by the can or bottle include beers from Erdinger, Bold Rock, Widmer Bros., D.C. Brau and Flying Dog. Beers are priced from $5-$8. The Hi-Tide also features cocktails priced from $11-$13, two draft cocktails including the Hi-Tide ($11) with rum, gin, honeydew, honey, lemongrass and ginger syrup, and the Don’s Hemmingway ($12) with rum, pisco, cinnamon syrup, grapefruit and lime juice; and two frozen drinks: the Missionary Melon with rum, melon liqueur, cinnamon, white pepper-peach syrup and basil, and the Tide & Fog ($13) with rum, gin, cognac, sherry, lemongrass-ginger syrup and citrus juices. There are also 20 wines by the glass ranging from $7-$17 or bottle from $22-$64.
At Vola’s, corporate executive chef Graham Duncan and executive chef Santiago Lopez have designed a seafood menu with selections coming from the Chesapeake Bay and up and down the East Coast including lobsters from Maine, conch fritters from southern Florida, mussels from Prince Edward Island, crab cakes from Maryland and oysters from Virginia.
Lopez said a whole new kitchen was installed because Waterfront Market didn’t have exhaust hoods and therefore couldn’t have fryers. “Our menu is heavily seafood and inspired by the East Coast and the Chesapeake.”
When asked about the competition from other neighboring seafood restaurants including Blackwall Hitch and the Chart House, Lopez explained, “We are casual and laidback. We want to focus on the locals. You can come in in your flip-flops and get oysters and a drink.”
A raw bar features oysters, clams, shrimp and mussels. The restaurant expects to shuck 1,200 oysters a day, marketing manager Jeremy Brandt-Vorel told DC on Heels last week.
Shareable starters range from $7-$14 and include a smoked fish dip with house-smoked fish, pickled vegetables and everything crackers; skate fingers with southern slaw and pickled jalapeño tartar sauce; pimento cheese-crab dip with lump blue crab, sharp cheddar, pimentos and everything crackers. Soups and salads, priced from $8-$10, include a Chesapeake Bay chowder with blue crab, cherrystone clams, bacon and gold potatoes; and a dockside iceberg wedge with smoked bacon, hard boiled eggs and buttermilk-blue cheese dressing.
Sandwiches and rolls, priced from $13-$22, include pickle brined chicken with shredded lettuce and chipotle mayo on a potato roll; lobster or crab roll with lemon mayo and celery on a buttered New England-style roll; and fried oyster or shrimp po’ boy with lettuce, tomato and remoulade. Entrees, priced from $18-$29 include Florida grouper blackened, grilled or broiled with two sides; shrimp scampi with garlic butter and linguini; and Atlantic cod fish and chips with Old Bay fries, southern slaw and jalapeño tartar sauce. There are also two steamer pails: the Carolina Low Country Boil ($28) with jumbo shrimp, smoked kielbasa, sweet onions, corn on the cob, lemon and red potatoes; or the New Englander ($42) with a 1-pound Maine lobster, clams, corn on the cob, lemon and red potatoes. Desserts, which range from $7-$8 includes Key Lime pie, bourbon pecan pie, a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich and pineapple upside down cake.
The beverage program features a larger selection of beers and wines along with a frozen piña colada or strawberry daiquiri (both $12) and a spicy pineapple margarita ($11) and hurricane ($13) on tap.
Vola’s Dockside grill is open from 11:30 a.m.-1 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-1 a.m. Sunday. Brunch is served from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Hi-Tide Lounge is open from 3 p.m.-1 a.m. Monday through Thursday, noon-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday and noon-1 a.m. Sunday.
Editor-in-Chief Mark Heckathorn is a journalist, movie buff and foodie. He oversees DC on Heels editorial operations as well as strategic planning and staff development. Reach him with story ideas or suggestions at dcoheditor (at) gmail (dot) com.