Think about the food you crave when you finish off a day at the beach still covered in sand and salt air. Just about every dish you could dream up—from lobster rolls and fried chicken to conch fritters and crabs cakes—will be on the menu at Vola’s Dockside Grill opening in August on the waterfront in Old Town, Alexandria. You’ll just have to fudge the fact that you’ll be gazing at the Potomac River instead of the Atlantic Ocean. “I call it my flip-flop bar,” says partner Scott Shaw. “I can walk down there in my shorts and get a good cocktail and a dozen oysters.”
The 160-seat restaurant next to the Torpedo Factory is from Alexandria Restaurant Partners (ARP), which operates other restaurants in Northern Virginia including Virtue Feed & Grain, Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap, Palette 22, and The Majestic. It replaces the short-lived Waterfront Market restaurant owned by Jody Manor, who is also a partner in Vola’s Dockside Grill.
The Vola’s Dockside Grill debut is actually two openings in one for ARP because the property will also boast a “hideaway bar” called the Hi-Tide Lounge. The 38-seat bar, outfitted in 1960’s era vintage posters and album cover art, capitalizes on the current tiki craze with drinks like frozen piña coladas.
Corporate Executive Chef Graham Duncan, Executive Chef Santiago Lopez, and Chef de Cuisine Walter Silva will man the kitchen. Other menu highlights include bacon cheese tots, crab po’boys, a full raw bar, Atlantic cod fish & chips, and pails of seafood with kielbasa, potatoes, and corn. Vola’s Dockside Grill will serve an all-day menu for lunch and dinner Mondays through Fridays, plus Saturday and Sunday brunch and dinner. Both the restaurant and the Hi-Tide Lounge will offer weekday happy hour from 3-7 p.m.
The restaurant is named after Vola Lawson, a revered former Alexandria city manager who passed away in 2013. Lawson was named a Living Legend of Alexandria, and you learn about her story in the Virginia Women’s Hall of Fame. “I’d gotten a chance to get to know Vola before she passed away,” Shaw says. “She was a really admirable figure who was at the center of it all as Alexandria grew from Southern town to progressive modern city. Her sons were accommodating and gave us permission.” Another nod to the restaurant’s location? A wall devoted to photos depicting the history of Alexandria’s waterfront from the1880s to the 1950s.
Chart House and Blackwall Hitch Seafood Restaurant are steps away, but Shaw says his spot is different. “Chart House and Blackwall Hitch are 400-500 seat restaurants that cater primarily to tourists. We’re building this for the locals,” he says. “You should be comfortable coming in for a bowl of chowder in January and a cold beer.”
Vola’s Dockside Grill and Hi-Tide Lounge, 101 N. Union St., Alexandria; (703) 935-8890; volasdockside.com