Opened by four friends — Chad, Justin, Larry, and Teddy — Mason Social is a neighborhood restaurant on the northwest corner of Old Town Alexandria. The approachable menu features such international touches as empanadas with chimichurri and jerk pork sliders with smoked pineapple and habanero BBQ.
The layout offers something for everyone. We choose a tall corner table on the bar side, which is more casual than the restaurant side. We start with a half-off bottle of wine (offered every Wednesday!) and four crisp pork dumplings, which are served with creamy Sriracha mayo and a sprinkling of scallions. The pork flavor is distinct and complemented by a crunchy shell and the creamy mayo. Next, roasted acorn squash salad: It’s fresh enough, but there’s nothing new or notable about it.
We’re tempted by the burger, which gets good reviews, but go with the Mason fried chicken, and are not disappointed. Lightly breaded and fried, it has a coating that is crunchy but gives easily. Mac & cheese is creamy, a nice partner to the chicken. Brussels sprouts are the star side — sweet and crunchy, with just the right amount of salt.
We round things out with a churro ice cream sandwich. You can pick your ice cream. We go with salted caramel (there are also chocolate and vanilla): a fun, sweet dish, and though the batter is slightly underdone, we devour it all.
Ingredients are sustainably and locally sourced where possible, with meats and produce from farms and co-ops in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The name is a nod to former Alexandria mayor Thomson Mason, who also once owned a farm. The inside is comfortably industrial, and the bathroom has entertaining quotes from classic movies framed in gold (“You had me at hello.”, “There’s more to life than being ridiculously good looking.”).
There’s a certain sense of community here, that I imagine will only get better with age, as locals and visitors continue to seek it out for an affordable drink and comforting dinner.