50 Best Restaurants: Vermilion slides into No. 2 as a night out best saved for grown-ups

Tasteful, meatless entrees and duck hearts on toast bring the Old Town restaurant to the top of the list.

scallops with purple flowers on plate
Scallops snuggle with bitter radicchio for a stunning autumnal scene at Vermillion. (Photo by Rey Lopez)

By Stefanie Gans and Rina Rapuano

Alexandria | Modern American | $$$

There was nothing sexy or sophisticated about carrot falafel. But it was good. It was a rare meatless entree as a composed plate—with strips of roasted turnips and a citrus yogurt sauce—and not a trio of sides dumped haphazardly.

This post originally appeared in our November 2019 issue’s 50 Best Restaurants cover story. For more food reviews, subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

spaghetti from vermilion
Photo by Rey Lopez

In the age of fake-bleeding burgers, it’s still a shock to see a thoughtful, vegetable-forward dish. Venerable Vermilion plays the meat card too, starting with duck hearts on toast and packing on the proteins with a scallop dish given heft with braised veal cheeks.

purple vegetable at vermilion
Photo by Rey Lopez

The produce was not forgotten here either, with barely wilted, bright green whole pea leaves covering much of the plate, with big, fat plumb peas scattered underneath. Cooler weather brings bitter radicchio to accompany the shellfish.

interior of vermlion
Photo by Rey Lopez

As Old Town loses one of its patron saints, Cathal Armstrong, to the city, and developer Teddy Kim ushers in a new era of cool, casual dining, Vermilion remains a night out best saved for grown-ups. // 1120 King St., Alexandria

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