Arts & Entertainment

Restaurant Spotlight: Asian Wok Cafe

The orange beef at Asian Wok Cafe is spicy, sweet and delicious. (Photo: News-Press)
The orange beef at Asian Wok Cafe is spicy, sweet and delicious. (Photo: News-Press)

Asian Wok Cafe is a great no-frills eatery on one of the edges of Old Town Alexandria. Although patio season is virtually over, the restaurant has patio furniture to help give it the cafe feel that its name implies. The inside looks like a standard Chinese food carryout, which could be comforting for those looking for something plain in Old Town’s sea of fancy.

Asian Wok Cafe is also cozier than other hole-in-the-wall Chinese food restaurants. There are four or five tables for two set up against a wall decorated with calendars with Chinese zodiacs and their meanings.

There are stacks of to-go menus on the counter and many more stacks in boxes occupying what could otherwise be used as a lunch counter. Then, near the end of the counter, a few feet away from the cash register there is a white Buddha statue on top of a large plate filled with change.

And another thing that sets Asian Wok Cafe apart from other carryout spots – and other restaurants in Old Town, or even the Northern Virginia/Southern Maryland region – is a full vegan menu. There are 26 vegan entrees at Asian Wok Cafe.

The owner of the restaurant said that she likes to have plenty of vegan entrees on the menu to serve vegans and vegetarians in the region who are starved from lack of cruelty-free menu options. She said plenty of customers venture over from Maryland and for good reason.

Asian Wok Cafe has great Chinese food. The restaurant’s menu is expansive and diverse with options for meat eaters and vegans and vegetarians.

There aren’t any really unique, or flashy, menu offerings – most of the menu can be found at any old carryout, although some of it is moderately uncommon. But the cooks cook well and audibly have fun while they doing it.
Vegetable spring rolls, for example, are common to carryout restaurants, but not all carryout restaurants have good spring or egg rolls. Sometimes they need activator (read: sauce) to make them tasty. But Asian Wok Cafe’s Vegetable Spring Rolls are a tasty standalone – no sauce needed.

Then there are menu options like the Fried Donuts ($3.99), the BBQ Spare Ribs ($6.75) or the Shrimp Toast ($4.95), which can be found at some, but not all, Chinese food restaurants. The Spicy Tangy Wontons ($4.25) are very spicy, nearly overbearing to the point of not being able to delight in the dish’s rich flavor, but could still be a delight to fire breathers.

Asian Wok Cafe’s vegan entrees are all staples of Chinese cuisine, with mock meat substituting for animal meat on most of the dishes. And they don’t lack anything because of the fact that they aren’t made with meat.

The Veggie Orange Beef ($12.95) is spicy and sweet with barely steamed broccoli serving as the bedding for the dish. The texture of the mock meat is satisfying enough for a meat eater to enjoy. Asian Wok Cafe’s Veggie Mu Shu ($12.95) can be ordered with pork or chicken. It’s subtly seasoned enough to eat for breakfast leftovers.

With a common vibe and simple, but well-executed menu items, Asian Wok Cafe is a great go to for ordering in or carrying out for a night in or going on a low-pressure, laid back date.

Asian Wok Cafe | 828 N. Washington St., Alexandria | 703-837-8811 | asianwokcafefood.com