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Barca Pier & Wine Bar breathes new life into the site of a former shipping pier on the Potomac.
Barca Pier & Wine Bar breathes new life into the site of a former shipping pier on the Potomac.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

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Old Town Has a New Pier Bar That Serves Tapas in Retrofitted Freight Containers

Barca Pier and Wine Bar opens with sangria cocktails, lots of wines, and 16 tapas

Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Barca Pier & Wine Bar, a new two-piece project in Old Town Alexandria, opens today (Wednesday, March 31) atop a pair of retrofitted industrial freight containers that float atop the Potomac River.

Installed on a once-bustling shipping pier, the restaurant sits below the Robinson Landing development. As indicated in its name, Barca takes notes from the Catalonia region on the Mediterranean coast of Spain by paying homage to beach bars known as chiringuitos. One in particular stuck with co-owner Dave Nicholas during a research trip with Alexandria Restaurant Partners.

“After our trip we had a different, bigger, and grander vision that just tables, chairs, and a sun covering,” Nicholas says.

The busy local group behind Mia’s Italian Kitchen, the Majestic, and Vola’s Dockside Grill just received high marks from Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema for Barca’s months-old sibling spot, Ada’s On The River.

At Barca (2 Pioneer Mill Way in Alexandria), executive chef Bryant Haren and ARP corporate chef/partner Brandon Whitestone designed lunch and dinner menus with 16 small plates ($8 to $18) that sprinkle in other Mediterranean touches. Dishes include sautéed calamari, garlicky tzatziki, chickpea hummus, stuffed piquillo peppers, papas bravas, and boquerones (marinated white anchovies).

Both spaces offer platters of meats and cheeses sourced from Spain and Greece ($19-$27). Wines are available by the bottle ($36-$260) and the glass ($9-$17). A selection of ciders and beers costs $6-$8. Cocktails include a stone fruit sangria (rosé, cherry, peach, and orange blossom water).

Some selections vary between the pier platform and the wine bar space. Charcuterie and cheeses are sold by the ounce at the wine bar, for instance. Jamón ibérico de bellota, the highest grade of Spanish ham, comes from pigs who spend the last months of their lives eating bellotas, or acorns. At Barca, it sets diners back $21 an ounce.

The Pier menu also offers a selection of four montaditos ($8-$15), or miniature sandwiches, filled with Spanish ingredients like yellowfin tuna confit, piquillo peppers, shaved red onion, parsley and lemon-guindilla pepper aioli.

During the dead of winter last December, restaurant-ready shipping containers made in Charlotte traveled up to Baltimore before reaching their final destination. ARP installed them (very) carefully with awaiting infrastructure and plumbing.

ARP’s partners ate and drank their way through Spain for over 10 days. “We went to 15 restaurants a day,” Nicholas reports. Barca’s whole smoked tomato with olive oil, coarse salt, and basil stems from a memorable meal in Madrid starring a “standout,” yet simple, tomato served a similar way. Nicholas says the group studied José Andrés’s Zaytinya and “gazillions” of other competitors while building its menu.

At full capacity, Barca Pier seats 210 customers in an open air atmosphere that sports retractable components for the winter. The 65-seat wine bar, splashed with oceanic and aquamarine tones, centers around a marble bar that’ll be populated with seats once Virginia eases more COVID-19 restrictions.

ARP also controls two floating docks on each side, which will be monitored and cleaned by a dock master so that “it’s not a Georgetown party, so to speak,” Nicholas says.

The Pier portion is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. with a midnight closing time on weekends. The wine bar side is open weekdays 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. (and midnight Friday) and weekends starting at 11:30 a.m., with brunch on both sides going until 4 p.m.

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