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Culinary Meetings in Northern Virginia

Easily extending D.C.’s influence as a culinary hot spot, neighboring Northern Virginia offers wide-ranging epicurean experiences for groups. From homegrown and globally influenced cuisine to nationally ranked craft breweries and internationally acclaimed wineries, the region has all the ingredients for full-flavored meetings and events.

Urban Eats And Bleisure

Attracting a host of 2018 accolades, including fourth Best Small City in the U.S. in Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards, Alexandria—270 years young this year—is a leading bleisure destination for conferees. Capitalizing on this leading trend, Visit Alexandria promotes diverse “Extend Your Stay” itineraries.

New reasons to book pre- or post-agendas include the 2019 expansion of Waterfront Park at the foot of dynamic King Street. The tall ship Providence also debuts this summer as a permanent waterfront attraction. Appearing in the international blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean, this full-scale replica of a 1768 U.S. Continental Navy warship is available for tours, charters and educational programs.

Culinary Alexandria is another on- and off-agenda draw. Partnering with the Providence for beer cruises, Port City Brewing Company headlines a strong base in craft beer, cider and spirits. Offering a full menu of programs for corporate events and groups, Port City was named the nation’s best small brewery at the Great American Beer Festival in 2015. This summer, top-ranked Virginia brewery Aslin Beer Company relocates to Alexandria, offering private event space and tasting room in its new headquarters.

Brooklyn-born Jamie Leeds, who trained under NYC restaurant maven Danny Meyer at his famed Union Square Cafe, has been a local culinary champion since relocating to D.C. in 2002. Her restaurant group includes Hank’s Oyster Bar (after her seafood-loving father) on King Street and Hank’s Pasta Bar in North Old Town, both hosting private events.

Recent newcomers include Mia’s Italian Kitchen. Featuring a first-floor bar and second-floor sofa lounge and chef’s table, the concept, from Alexandria Restaurant Partners, hosts 200-capacity private groups. Scott Shaw, a partner with the company, led the drive to bring the Providence to Alexandria.

January 2019 debuts include Urbano 119 from acclaimed Mexico City chef Alam Méndez Florián, offering authentic Mexican fare, innovative cocktails and private dining for 40. Bistro Sancerre is a brand-new upscale French-American restaurant and wine bar, flexibly seating 100 for exclusive events.

The D.C.-based founders of Carpe DC Food Tours combine culinary and heritage explorations with giving, devoting a portion of each ticket sold to provide food for a day to a local in need. In March 2019, the D.C.-based company expanded to Old Town Alexandria, private tours included.

Global Cuisine Shines

Diverse global opportunities distinguish the Arlington culinary scene. Representative examples include Ambar in Clarendon. Serving traditional Balkan-inspired cuisine, the restaurant accommodates 100-person buyouts, semi-private events for 40 or sit-downs for 25. Groups also have the convenience of the $45 per person all-you-can-eat option.

Liberty Tavern, also in Clarendon, hosts 125-capacity functions with additional event space at siblings Lyon Hall and Northside Social. Brother-owners Mark and Stephen Fedorchak also recently expanded into Falls Church with Liberty Barbecue.

Dating to 1979, Lebanese Tavern combines catering with five full-service area restaurants with private space. Arlington locations are Westover, with group cooking classes at the Tavern’s nearby Market, and Pentagon Row.

The chain extends into Fairfax County, at Tyson’s Galleria. Flavorsome other Fairfax choices include utilizing the destination’s signature event spaces for specialized dining experiences. These include the following:

  • Dinners and receptions under the soaring atrium at Tysons Corner’s Valo Park, amid stirring exhibits at the National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, or on the Tysons Tower’s panoramic 25th floor rooftop deck.
  • Combining a summertime concert at Wolf Trap, the country’s only National Park for the performing arts, with a catered picnic wine dinner on the venue’s private deck.
  • Wine tastings and pairings in a private room or outdoors at the Paradise Springs Winery or The Winery at Bull Run.
  • For larger groups, catered meals paired with craft beer at Mustang Sally Brewing Co., Fair Winds Brewing Co. or Caboose Commons.

Groups can also enjoy an authentic taste of whiskey at the event-capable reconstruction of the Distillery & Gristmill at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.  

Culinary Garden dining
Culinary Garden dining

Slated to open in 2020, the new 185,000 square-foot National Museum of the United States Army at Fort Belvoir will offer dynamic event spaces such as Veterans Hall. On-site catering partner FLIK Hospitality Group reportedly

will provide locally sourced menus to guests and groups.

Hotel developments scheduled for 2019 include meeting space enhancements at the Hilton Washington Dulles Airport, Hyatt Regency Dulles, Westin Tysons Corner and Sheraton Reston, which is also opening a new restaurant.

Country Cooking

Pastoral Loudoun County, “D.C.’s Wine Country,” offers a bevy of dining and viticultural options.

Founded in 1787, charming Middleburg is home to perennial group magnet Salamander Resort & Spa, where groups have their choice of memorable indoor and outdoor dining options. Harriman’s, the resort’s “Virginia Piedmont Grill,” offers a 20-person private room and four-person Chef’s Table within the Cooking Studio, where groups can also take cooking classes. Outside, groups can dine amid the flowers and vegetables of the Culinary Garden.

In town, minutes from the resort, Market Salamander offers private dining, chef-led programs and catering. Close by, the Red Fox Inn & Tavern is a historic option from 1728.

Historic Leesburg, the county seat, has unique lures like The Conche. Inspired by the early 18th century technique of “conching,” or prolonged churning and stirring, this boutique restaurant offers chocolate-infused cuisine along with event space and classes. Updating a landmark 1888 bank, Lightfoot Restaurant serves American-inspired cuisine amid hand-painted Venetian chandeliers and vintage poster art. Wine is stored in the bank’s former vault. Versatile event spaces include the Marshall Room, after WWII Gen. George C. Marshall.  

Other Loudon County restaurants include Magnolias on the Mill in Purcellville, with private rooms for 45 and 55 guests, respectively.

As a major seat of Virginia’s nearly $1.5 billion wine industry, Loudon is home to more than 40 high-quality producers.

On Hogback Mountain south of Leesburg, Stone Tower Winery specializes in customized tours and tastings for groups. Event spaces include the rustic Harvest Barn; the Tank Room production area; Wild Boar Hall; and a new conference facility featuring the Vineyard View Ballroom for up to 230 seated guests.

Urbano | Credit: Misha Enriquez for Visit Alexandria

Other scenic group-capable area wineries include hilltop Bluemont Vineyard in Bluemont, offering tastings, live music, event space and panoramic views, and Cana Vineyards & Winery just outside Middleburg.

Prince William County coordinates include the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Va. With its 210-foot, Iwo Jima-inspired architectural mast, this commanding building offers five venues for co-sponsored events, including the Tun Tavern, after the Philadelphia tavern where the first Marines were recruited in 1775, and cafeteria-style Devil Dog Diner, offering mess hall-inspired menus.  

Home to 20-plus award-winning craft breweries, distilleries and wineries, Prince William offers unique experiences such as tasting tours along the Steins Vines and Moonshine Trail.
Located halfway between D.C. and Richmond, the Fredericksburg scene features several craft breweries and historic venues such as the nine-room Kenmore Inn, serving locally sourced fare and offering ballroom and event space. Serving fine French and regional cuisine since 1981, family-owned La Petite Auberge Restaurant & Lounge offers private dining for 25 up to 125-person buyouts.

Northern Virginia CVB Information

Arlington Convention and Visitors Service

Greater Fredericksburg Tourism Partnership

Loudoun Convention & Visitors Association

Visit Alexandria

Visit Fairfax

Visit Prince William Virginia

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About the author
Jeff Heilman | Senior Contributor

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based independent journalist Jeff Heilman has been a Meetings Today contributor since 2004, including writing our annual Texas and Las Vegas supplements since inception. Jeff is also an accomplished ghostwriter specializing in legal, business and Diversity & Inclusion content.