A few streets over from Main Street in Arlington, there’s a tiny little neighborhood with crooked fences and old sidewalks overrun by dandelions. An unassuming metal building faces the street, with arcane symbols painted on its side.
This is Urban Alchemy, a hidden gem that’s become a staple both for university students’ coffee-sipping study groups and day drinkers looking for a place to sample unique wines.
I’d been aware of Urban Alchemy for about a year, but as my visits to my hometown grow fewer and farther between these days, visiting it was still on my to do list.
…Until one afternoon when I made the trek off the beaten path to try it out. A wave of blessedly cool air washed over me as I walked in from the sweltering July heat. Distressed leather couches, industrial chic metal tables surrounded by wooden chairs, and a wooden bar occupied the open plan room. It was like a hip coffee house and uptown wine bar fell in love and had a beautiful baby.
Though my eyes were drawn to a cool graphic portraying winemaking as alchemy over the bar, I soon found myself immersed in the menu.
For appetizers, cheese boards (you can build your own) and other typical fare abound, but a standout pick is popcorn with herbs de Provence and olive oil. Pro tip: pair that fancy popcorn with the Pierre Sparr Brut Rose and prosper.
The all-day breakfast menu looked tasty too—mostly elevated basic brunch dishes, with pastry as well as egg-based options.
For lunch, salads and sandwiches are the main choices, the most appealing of which is a grilled cheese with Manchego and apple. They even have a small dessert menu. Bananas foster panini, anyone?
The best part of Urban Alchemy, hands down, is their healthy wine list. Grüner Veltliner* from Austria featured alongside Rose Cremant d’Alsace, and a host of other wines from the road less traveled by most eateries—a wine enthusiast’s daydream come true. I enjoyed the Cremant d’Alsace** as an aperitif, then switched to a big glass of Primitivo*** to pair with Texas wild boar sausage – divine!
I’ve since returned to Urban Alchemy to try the coffee. They have a great cold brew that’s perfect for this time of year.
So, if you’re in Arlington and you want to study in a laid-back environment with a cappuccino, or ring in a Friday afternoon with a glass of bubbly and a charcuterie board, head over to Main Street and check out Urban Alchemy. You won’t be disappointed!
*Grüner Veltliner: A white grape commonly grown in Austria, known for its “green” or vegetal flavors and refreshing, crisp acidity. This wine is a match made in heaven for salad, grilled asparagus, and other veggie dishes. Vegetarians, take note.
**Cremant d’Alsace: Sparkling wine (cremant) made in Alsace, France rather than in the Champagne region.
***Primitovo: An Italian red wine that’s genetically related to Zinfandel. It’s a big, bold wine that’s nearly black in color and features jammy fruit flavors, medium tannins, and relatively low acidity.