Words and Photos by Melissa Groth
The Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria is a growing destination spot full of great independently owned restaurants and shops. Bon Vivant, which started out as an area farmers market vendor, has a shop and cafe on Mount Vernon avenue, selling wholesome, homemade and locally sourced food. They are all about real local farm food and have put years of work into cultivating relationships with local farms. They’ve created a menu of unique items and classic favorites, and featuring a wide selection of gluten-free options. You’ll find only grass-fed meats and pasture raised eggs here, and they’re open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner so you can get a homemade meal round-the-clock.
I’d been a resident of Del Ray at the beginning of Bon Vivant’s tenancy on the main drag. I never got a chance to stop in, so I was excited to go back and see what they were all about. I went for dinner, and ended up returning a couple days later for breakfast because owner Jawad Laouaouda piqued my interest with his description of bulletproof coffee. More on that later.
To start, the server brought out a glass teacup of 72-hour beef broth, which is apparently a pretty well-known supplement for skin and digestive health (I’m the last person to know about the latest thing in the health world). It was odd to drink broth from a teacup, but it’s a big seller. People get it in to-go cups for breakfast. I liked that it wasn’t super salty. The flavor was pretty mild, actually. Overall a pleasant health supplement and kind of a guilty pleasure.
Sticking with liquids, the next dishes were soup. One was salmon chowder, another was their special kale and chickpea soup. I’m not a huge fan of chowder. Something about the word “chowder.” That being said, the salmon variety is tasty and a preferable alternative to clam, if you like salmon that is. I thought it was good but the real star is the kale and chickpea soup. It was sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. You’ll want this as your new comfort food.
For an appetizer they offer salmon tartare, which was my favorite thing I tried. It’s placed atop a bed of arugula and avocado, and tastes fresh with a hint of citrus. It’s simple, clean and satisfying.
The menu is loaded with sandwiches, my favorite food. I sampled the tarragon chicken salad, which was a smoother chicken salad than I’m used to. I preferred the roast beef with blue cheese dressing and zucchini. The blue cheese dressing is subtle so the flavors of the roast beef and zucchini aren’t overwhelmed. The Milano is great if you’re craving meat and cheese; it’s a pared down Italian (which they also offer) with salami, mortadella, and smoked gouda. The bread, a crispy soft baguette, is also amazing and shouldn’t be overlooked. They offer gluten free bread as well.
Dessert was a key-lime parfait which they sell in the store-front shop in little plastic containers. It’s made with avocado and sprinkled with chocolate shavings.
You can stop by Bon Vivant in the morning for a cup of bulletproof coffee, which is coffee made with coconut oil and butter to prolong the buzz and quell your body’s fat cravings. I stopped in on Saturday for a cup and a bagel. They were brewing a batch of the bulletproof as I walked in, so I got a nice fresh steamy cup of oil-coffee. They use cinnamon for a bit of extra flavoring. Drinking it takes some getting used to, but not much. It’s actually quite good, and you don’t need cream or sugar. As far as stopping the fat cravings, I did feel pretty satiated for the rest of the day. I’m thinking of starting a regimen of the beef broth and bulletproof coffee. Broth to cleanse, coffee to coat. I’ll be free of toxins in no time.
The folks at Bon Vivant are passionate about their locally sourced, grass-fed, gluten free, pasture-raised menu. They’re also super friendly and knowledgeable. They put together an inspired menu. Stop by for lunch, grab a sandwich, a salad, and feel good about what you’re eating.