Atop the grounds that used to be a beloved Del Ray garden nursery comes a new sort of garden — a beer garden. What was once a haven for perennials, annuals and trees of all stripes is now a spot that plays host to dozens of beers on tap, plus a versatile food menu … and even some beignets on Saturday mornings.
Welcome to The Garden, the newest opening from the folks that gave Alexandria such staples as Live Oak and Charlie’s on the Avenue. It took a little time to get up and running, but co-owner Jeremy Barber is happy with the final result.
“When we took over Fireflies and opened up Charlie’s, we always looked at the space next to it when it was Greenstreet Gardens,” Barber said. He and his partner always thought it would be a great outdoor space.
“We always thought it would maybe be a patio of some sort,” he said.
The owner of the land that Greenstreet Gardens was situated on reached out to Barber and chef Justus Frank to gauge their interest in taking over the property for a new restaurant space.
“It sounded like a terrible idea,” Barber laughed, adding that they had “no business” opening a third restaurant in three years. But the seed was planted, and soon after, work began to conceptualize the new beer garden, and the building-from-scratch process began in earnest.
“Both (Live Oak and Charlie’s) were restaurants when we took them over. The bones were there,” Barber said. “This was a whole new ballgame.”
Over the course of the next few months, the former nursery was transformed into a proper beer garden, complete with 16 taplines, a new kitchen, plenty of open space and more. The Garden opened on July 7, and the customers started flowing in as quickly as the beer flowed through the taps.
Open every other day of the week at 11 a.m., The Garden does something special for Saturdays.
“The best part about Saturday is that we open up at 9 a.m.,” Barber said. But for once, the beer isn’t the star of the show. Rather, 9 a.m. on Saturdays is when the beignets and coffee show up, getting the weekend off on the right foot before the day’s chaos begins.
“We didn’t know how (customers) would respond, because it’s not your typical beer garden,” Barber said. But on the first weekend of beignet service, “we sold out of beignets at 10:15.”
The Garden’s everyday menu ranges from tacos to paninis, winding back around to salads and sliders, but at the end of the day it’s really the beer that people are there for. And the taps are teeming with local and regional brews from the likes of Aslin, Port City, Right Proper, Old Ox, 3 Stars and more.
Though it’s hard to believe now, in due time the weather will cool off and the outdoors may become less hospitable. Barber and his crew are prepared.
“We eventually would love to be open year-round,” he said, adding that their first year, the goal is to successfully launch, take feedback, then adapt.
But for now, The Garden has its doors wide open, the beer flowing, the food departing the kitchen to waiting hungry tables of customers. As with any garden, it continues to grow with the passing weeks and months.
If You Go
The Garden, 1503 Mount Vernon Ave.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Friday; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday.
Try this: The blackened fish tacos. “I really like how fresh the fish is, and the spice on it is very nice,” says co-owner Jeremy Barber.
Hope Nelson owns and operates the Kitchen Recessionista blog, located at www.kitchenrecessionista.com. Email her any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.