Appetite: The People’s Drug Blends Cool and Old-School

Appetite: The People’s Drug Blends Cool and Old-School

If You Go

The People’s Drug, 103 N. Alfred St.

Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight daily.

Try this: “My personal favorite is the quinoa bowl,” said co-owner Teddy Kim. “You can still feel light and enjoy it – (it has) a ton of flavor.”

Walk toward the river on King Street and hang a left at Alfred Street, and you’ll be greeted with a familiar-but-different sight. The People’s Drug, the venerable chain of pharmacies that were prevalent across the D.C. area for so many years, is back – but it’s not serving medicinals and soda this time around. It’s serving cocktails, craft beer and food – and a prescription to get out of the house and hit up the latest neighborhood pub.

The new concept is the brainchild of Teddy Kim and Seth McClelland, two native Alexandrians who were quite familiar with Peoples Drug the first time around, McClelland said.

“Teddy and I have been friends since high school and we are Alexandria guys and really love the community here. It’s just been so great. And we both of course remember going into Peoples as kids and sitting at the lunch counter,” he said.

Gone is the lunch counter; in the bar, a striking white marble affair that harkens back to the old drugstore days. Behind the bar sits a white neon sign spelling out “DRUGS” – a new sign aged to look like it would have come straight out of the old stores.

“We obviously wanted to give it the feel of the drugstore,” Kim said. This meant marrying old with new, including a 1930s-era tin ceiling and plenty of accouterments.

And while the ambiance draws patrons in, it’s the food and drink that will make them stay. McClelland says the team wanted to pull in the feeling of the old lunch counter for a more modern experience.

“That was part of the pairing with the old and the new. For us, the People’s Drug really meant that lunch counter feel. Sandwiches and of course back then when Peoples integrated their sandwich shop in the ’30s to the old drugstores it really created a meeting place. People would stop in for lunch and it was sort of like the old ice houses where you’d go in and end up hanging out because it was a cozy, cool feel,” he said.

Though the food and beverage have evolved from the mid-20th century, the sandwiches served at People’s will be something familiar along with the new twists. That’s by design, McClelland said.

“So many of the sandwiches that we know of as the most popular are primarily immigrant food,” he said, including hamburgers, chicken Parmesan from Little Italy in New York, the Cuban sandwiches from Miami. “We took these iconic sandwiches that we feel are intrinsically American and gave that vision to our chef.”

Not in a sandwich mood? No problem. The menu is rounded out by bowls, bar snacks and side items to cater to varying appetites.

And any stop in to a cocktail bar wouldn’t be complete without tasting one of the libations.

“We’re really focusing on that theme of the craft cocktails,” McClelland said, highlighting syrups and juices made in-house to add a certain newness to the drink. “You’re really going to have the freshness in a cocktail that you don’t really see too often in a lot of restaurants.”

From whiskey-based drinks to tequila and beers hailing from Virginia to Mexico, the beverage options are plentiful and worth trying drink by drink.

One of Kim’s current favorites is the Paloma, a tequila-based drink that blends the liquor with lime juice and grapefruit soda to create a summertime special.

“It’s really refreshing, something you can enjoy while you’re talking with some friends,” Kim said.

Hope Nelson owns and operates the Kitchen Recessionista blog, located at Email her any time at