Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month this May and show your support for the #StopAsianHate movement by getting to know some of Alexandria, VA’s Asian American business owners. Find new favorite spots to enjoy throughout the year and see what these owners want you to know about their businesses. Keep reading for inspiration on where to plan your next date night, go rock climbing, add to your art collection and more.
If your restaurant or shop is Asian American or Pacific Islander-owned and located within the City of Alexandria and you are interested in joining this list, please email the author at [email protected].
AR Workshop, Old Town’s boutique DIY studio and gift shop, offers so much more than in-person workshops. In addition to classes, owner Katie Nguyen Wells (pictured above) and her team offer DIY-To-Go Kits for you to enjoy at home. Don’t have time to DIY, or need a gift that is handmade, sentimental and personalized? AR Workshop can create a custom order for pick up and shipping, and also offers a lovely gift shop onsite filled with local art, books, activities and stylish and affordable decor and gifts.
Most Popular Projects: The “double skyline” project is a popular service for customized gifts. See an example created by Katie below. She captions this piece as follows: “When your mom is from Hanoi, Vietnam and immigrated to the U.S./D.C. in 1980 and hasn’t been ‘home’ since…”
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Kyo Gallery on S. Patrick Street is an international art gallery showcasing the most talented artists from around the world. Gallery Director Jason Longfellow and his team often coordinate two simultaneous thematic exhibitions, with works available in three gallery showrooms. The gallery also has a robust online presence for collecting virtually.
Exclusive Coupon Code: Throughout May 2023, use the coupon code AAPIKYO23 on the website to receive a 20% discount on all artwork.
Restaurants and Sweet Spots
Avanti Holdings Group Restaurants
Teddy Kim (pictured above) is an Alexandria native and principal of Avanti Holdings Group. Visit one of Teddy’s four Alexandria eateries. Sip a drinkable work of art at The Peoples Drug, sample tacos served from a revamped car garage at Chop Shop Taco, taste fresh-made temaki from The Handover and order a round of rare Japanese whiskeys from The King’s Ransom. Try takeout from any of these Old Town spots for the perfect riverside picnic.
The Peoples Drug’s Must-Try Dishes: The People’s Burger and Roasted Garlic Egg Salad Sandwich.
Chop Shop Taco’s Must-Try Dishes: Crunchy Brisket Tacos, the smashed avocado appetizer and popular weekly specials.
The Handover Must-Try Dishes: Sushi, nigiri and maki rolls shine here. Plus, frosé flavors change weekly!
The King’s Ransom Must-Try Dishes: Cocktail are the star here – try the Old Fashioned, Manhattan, VA’s only Toki Highball Machine and rare Japanese Whiskeys.
The water-view restaurant Hummingbird, owned by Philippines-born Meshelle Armstrong (pictured above), is an energetic bar and kitchen inspired by the American spirit of cherished traditions: Clambakes and crab boils, fish fries and oyster roasts. “Our menu follows the rhythm of the seasons and celebrates the seafood pride of our favorite coastal waters,” says Meshelle. “It’s the little things at Hummingbird!”
Must-Try Dishes: Oysters on the half shell; bronzed crab-and-corn fritters; lemony lobster linguine; and whatever whole grilled fish is being offered.
Located in the West End’s Alexandria Commons shopping center, KungFu Kitchen serves Northern-style authentic Chinese food. Owner Amy Liang and her team specialize in dishes such as soup dumplings, hand-pulled noodles, handmade dumplings and wok recipes.
Must-Try Dish: Soup dumplings – made to order little buns filled with soup.
Pasara Thai Restauarant
Owner Thia Kongubol (pictured above) helms Pasara Thai, with locations in Carlyle and Kingstowne. For more than a decade, Pasara Thai has served the freshest, healthiest and most flavorful Thai food in the DMV area.
Must-Try Dishes: Savory and spicy drunken noodles and roasted duck curry, which features the perfect balance of chili paste and coconut milk.
Pho Nam on King Street offers traditional recipes designed to spotlight authentic Vietnamese comfort food, served fresh in a rustic setting perfect for friends and family. Owner Quang Nguyen emigrated to the U.S. in 1977 and opened the original Pho Nam in Gaithersburg 20 years ago. His nephew, Ryan Le, is the general manager of the Old Town location. Explore the hashtag #theGreatTastefromYesteryear to explore mouthwatering menu items.
Must-Try Dishes: Famous pho bowls and Vietnamese sandwiches
D.C. native Lynn Umemoto and her husband Tom Voskuil deliver a taste of Mexico City via Taqueria Picoso in Alexandria’s West End. Voted number 3 in WTOP’s “Top Ten Best Tacos” competition, Taqueria Picoso has quickly become one of the region’s best taquerias during its 14 months of operation – most of which has overlapped with the pandemic. Lynn is a fifth-generation Japanese-American and is also a principal owner of Grafik, a branding and marketing agency that has called Old Town home for more than 40 years.
Must-Try Dishes: Crave-worthy orders include the tacos al pastor (check out the vertical roaster behind the counter!), barbacoa and birria tacos and elote (street corn).
Sisters Thai and The Magnolia Dessert Bar
Owner Tammie Disayawathana and her team opened Sisters Thai and the Magnolia Dessert Bar in late 2020 with an Instagrammable interior, drinks and cuisine at the growing EDENS development at 530 First Street. Sample one of Chef Moo’s Thai specialties, such as pla yum mango—crispy tilapia topped with spicy mango salad—followed by decadent, decked-out desserts like lychee raspberry cheesecake.
Must-Try Dish: Chef Moo’s Crispy Duck Krapow and Honey Toast for a sweet finish.
Spice Kraft Indian Bistro
Spice Kraft Indian Bistro is a family and friends-owned and operated restaurant which satisfies every customer by serving authentic Indian food in a contemporary way. Pick up raved-about samosas and palaak chat from the menu built by partners Anthony Sankar and Executive Chef Premnath Durairaj.
Must-Try Dish: Lamb shank rogan josh, which Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema says “looks impressive and taste ambitious.”
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Located on the heart of King Street, Thai Signature offers unique dishes inspired by various types of street food across Thailand, enhanced with the freshest ingredients and paired with craft cocktails.
Must-Try Dishes: Taste regional plates such as E-Saan chicken named for the northeastern region of Thailand, consisting of grilled marinated chicken served with papaya salad and sticky rice. Or, try Bangkok-based Khao Mun Gai for steamed pilaf ginger rice topped with steamed chicken served with cucumbers and ginger bean sauce.
Wooboi Hot Chicken
Must-Try Dish: The Sando, featuring a chicken breast, ciderslaw, butter pickles and “Comeback sauce” on a potato bun.
Yunnan by Potomac Noodle House
Dr. Zongmin Li (pictured above at center) brings the “soul food” of her childhood in China’s Yunnan Province all the way to Old Town North. To develop Yunnan by Potomac’s menu, the owner/general manager and her team traveled to southwest China to sample mixian rice noodles and glean secrets from local chefs. The silky, gluten-free mixian noodles form the perfect base for braised beef, shiitake mushrooms and more comforting combos.
Must-Try Dishes: In addition to the mouthwatering mixian options, try the new Spicy Fried Chicken Bao Buns, Garlic Butter Crab Dumplings and family-style Pu’er Tea Smoked Duck.
More Alexandria Businesses
Get Fit Studio
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Get Fit Studio is an Old Town fitness boutique specializing in HIIT and strength training, providing one-on-one and small-group training as well as group sessions across levels. Let the team helmed by Philippines native Carlo Pascasio and his wife, Ann Pham, help you reach your personal wellness goals.
Most Popular Service: Personal training with the skilled and motivating Get Fit team.
The Lion’s Den
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A Filipina-owned small business, The Lion’s Den is an inclusive, community-driven, welcoming space providing dance and wellness classes, performances and events. The Lion’s Den team believes that how you move in your body impacts how you move in the world. Threading mindfulness, movement and mental health, The Lion’s Den creates a holistic approach for its community members. The Lion’s Den loves collaborating with Alexandria organizations, getting their start in 2017 at the Safeway Grocery Store on King Street, to currently hosting weekly classes at Local Motion Project in the city’s West End. The founder Lauren DeVera has been an Alexandria resident since 2016 and is excited to continue building the community here in the DMV.
Most Popular Offerings: The Lion’s Den’s most popular offerings include the weekly adult open-level dance classes, outdoor yoga at Goodies Frozen Custard, meditation and writing workshops and more.
Petal’s Edge Floral Design
Founded by Lead Designer Gerry Rogers in 2004, Petal’s Edge Floral Design specializes in custom floral design for D.C.-area weddings and events. In 2018, the team established the Old Town shop and continue to expand flower offerings for daily occasions, birthdays and other celebrations.
Most Popular Order: None! Clients consistently tell Gerry and her team that they appreciate the designers’ range and that they are not “one trick ponies.”
Sportrock Climbing Centers
Lillian Chao-Quinlan (pictured above) helms Sportrock Climbing Centers, whose largest location is off Eisenhower in Alexandria. Chao-Quinlan’s goal is to make Sportrock an inclusive and uplifting place, one where everyone can train and grow stronger together as climbers, as humans, and as a community.
Most Popular Class: Sportrock’s Introduction to Rock Climbing class will teach you the ins and outs of the facility and let you experience bouldering and top-rope climbing for yourself. Sportrock’s instructors will walk you through what bouldering on the shorter, steeper walls is all about and will also do all of the rope work for you on the taller walls. No prior experience necessary.
Header Images, left to right: Get Fit Studio (Courtesy Image); AR Workshop; KungFu Kitchen