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50 Best Restaurants: Evening Star Cafe & Front Porch challenges expectations

The Del Ray restaurant attracts differing talent, letting personalities sway the menu, most recently from Southern to modern American with a Hawaiian touch.

Photo by Rey Lopez

By Stefanie Gans and Rina Rapuano

Evening Star Cafe & Front Porch

Alexandria | Modern American| $$$&$

Though it’s been a neighborhood staple for more than two decades, Evening Star Cafe shapeshifts according to who’s in the kitchen. The Del Ray restaurant always attracts interesting talent, letting personalities sway the menu, most recently from Southern to modern American with a Hawaiian touch.

Photo by Rey Lopez

This is thanks to Jonathan Till, a Hawaiian-born chef who weaves together a menu of mainland staples, like burrata with peas and carrots and housemade gnocchi with mushrooms foraged by the chef himself, and Asian-leaning dishes, like Korean barbecue fried cauliflower with miso mayo and a clever play on poke, using hot pink doppelganger watermelon instead of tuna, tossed with peanuts, shaved cucumber and watermelon rind.

Photo by Rey Lopez

Many of Till’s dishes (plus a roster of casual plates) are also offered next door at Front Porch, an outdoor-only, seasonally open spot that is probably the hardest restaurant to get into on Mount Vernon Avenue: Order the mushroom bruschetta, some funky sour beer and understand the enduring appeal of Evening Star. // 2000 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria

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

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