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price: between $12 and $25

stars: ***

This outside shot of Del Merei Grille doesn’t look like too much, neither does the strip mall it’s located in, towards the end of the Del Ray neighborhood in Alexandria, off Route 1. But the restaurant deceives appearances, proving that it is what’s on the inside that counts. 
The interior of the restaurant is fairly dark, with long, thick curtains that blocked out the icy snow falling on our car outside. This strategy seems useful for a storefront made up of mostly window. I’m sure in the summer those curtains are pulled back to let in the light. The decor fit together well, not cheesy, as some might expect to see in a restaurant within a strip mall. Sometimes I get all caught up in how terrible a place looks so that the food starts to taste bad too. Even if I had thought that here our waitress, with her charming helpfulness, would have blown that out of the water. I was eating with two other people (one of whom picked up the check) and we decided to get a bottle of wine. But only for two of us, the Billpayer was drinking beer. So we take a look at the wine list, and I really recommend you do if you know anything about wine (I think we’ve established I don’t) because it seems like a good list. Instead we asked our waitress what she recommends for two ladies who like red but really just like alcohol. She suggested either a pinot noir or the house red. Not only did she suggest those, she brought us samples of each to try. It was such a nice touch, so helpful and an extra step that I immediately gave them ten more points in my head. We went with the pinot noir, the house red just tasted bitter after trying it. 
The menu at Del Merei is Southern cooking with a twist. Items you might see at, say my mother’s family reunion, except much, much better. For example, one of the starters was Deviled Eggs, but these Deviled Eggs come topped with bacon as well as the traditional paprika. And they sit on a bed of field greens. 
One person had the Vienna Chili Hot Dog, which was two hot dogs topped with a well seasoned beef chili (no beans or tomatoes though) and served with a side of tater tots which made her extremely happy. I’ve never seen a grown woman so excited about cafeteria food holdovers. Granted, the tater tot is getting some love these days, and they were pretty good. Not what your lunch lady made. 
the Billpayer had lentil soup and salad because he’s a wuss, oh wait, he did pay the bill. He had eaten late. The lentil soup was pretty good. Nothing spectacular, but the carrots were nice and tender. 
I had the Sweet BBQ Scottish Salmon. With a sweet corn and red pepper maque choux (like a creole succotash), tarragon aioli and thinly sliced and fried onion ‘tangle’. Someone should explain to Red Lobster that overly sweet sauces work best when they’re put onto the seafood before cooking it, like they did here. It was the most delicious salmon steak I’ve ever had. Tender but flavorful throughout. The maque choux was great, especially when scooped up with the tarragon aioli. The only thing I wasn’t thrilled with was the onion tangle. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, but a little hard to eat. I had to push it to the side and try slicing it with my knife. They weren’t crispy enough, is what I’m saying. That’s all. But overall, I’d definitely recommend it and eat it again. 
For dessert I got the bread pudding, which while tasting good, I expected more from. Perhaps because everything else had been so good and because I thought it might look like how I make bread pudding. But my dinner partners helped me finish it off and liked it too, so I’m sure I’m just a little nuts. ABOUT DEL MEREI!! Try it out if you find yourself in Del Ray. Ohh, look at the way they tied the names together.