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Café 44 and River Bend Bistro Sweep Alexandria’s Cherry Challenge

ALEXANDRIA, VA – The winners are in!!! Over 40 restaurants participated in the George Washington Birthday Celebration Cherry Challenge which began on January 26th with dozens of entries for the top prizes determined by popular vote.

Two restaurants dominated the competition, Café 44 and River Bend Bistro, but there were exceptional entries from Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub, Lori’s Table, Smallcakes Cupcakery and Swing’s Coffee that garnered each an honorable mention (complete winners’ list below).

Café 44’s “Lady Jane” cocktail is a winner made with cherry and peppercorn-infused tequila, lime, agave, and sparkling rosé, topped with a cherry, and wrapped in a lime peel.  (Photo: Debby Critchley)

Café 44

Café 44, the stylish eatery soaring above the waterfront captured the most hearts in the beverage and entree categories, while also picking up an honorable mention for their submitted appetizer.

Chef Nicki Lewis of Café 44 put together the winning entrée, a zesty Cherry Brie Flatbread and captured an honorable mention for her Cherry Bites, a ricotta and cherry croissant appetizer.

Café 44’s Cherry Brie Flatbread with smoked cherries, creamy brie, shaved steak, micro radish, bleu cheese (optional)

“I think my background in both pastry and savory helped me make great stuff,” Chef Nicki Lewis told the Zebra.

Bar Manager Joe Quintero, who created the winning “Lady Jane” cocktail, said, “We are putting it on our Spring and Summer menus!”

River Bend Bistro

No stranger to wins in the Cherry Challenge is the award-winning River Bend Bistro and Wine Bar in Hollin Hall. They picked up an appetizer win this year with their “can’t get enough of it” Cherry and Goat Cheese Flatbread.

River Bend Bistro’s Appetizer – Cherry & Goat Cheese (Photo: Flatbread. (GW Birthday Celebration)

Diners could also not get enough of their decadent Chocolate Cherry Chess Pie, which gives them the Best Cherry Dessert in 2020.

River Bend Chef Caroline Ross told Zebra during a very busy Valentine’s Day lunch rush, “We are flattered and thrilled to win, and looking forward to being in the parade on Monday.”


Dessert Winner: River Bend Bistro Chocolate Cherry Chess Pie. (Courtesy ohoto)


Judging is based on three criteria: taste, presentation, and creativity. Diners rate each item from one to three cherries for a maximum score of 9 on each ballot. Point totals for each dish are divided by the number of ballots to get the average score. The highest average in each category won.

Patrons were encouraged to Tweet photos and descriptions of the cherry items they tasted by using the hashtag “#GWCherryChallenge” or by posting them to the George Washington Birthday Celebration’s Facebook page.

The Winners

The Lady Jane (Café 44)

Honorable Mention:
Cherry-Cascara Cappuccino (Swings Coffee)

Cherry & Goat Cheese Flatbread (River Bend Bistro)

Honorable Mention:
Cherry Bistro Bites (Café 44)

Cherry Brie Flatbread (Café 44)

Honorable Mentions:
Duck a la Cherry (Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub)
Cherry Exploration (Lori’s Table)

Chocolate Cherry Chess Pie (River Bend Bistro)

Honorable Mentions:
Cherry Chocolate Chip Cupcake (SmallCakes Cupcakery)

The George Washington Birthday Celebration Committee (GWBCC) is a city-appointed volunteer committee whose responsibility is to run each year’s birthday celebration that includes the parade and events all across the city. For more information and a schedule for this year’s events, please visit

RELATED: Cherry Picked: Councilman John Chapman Named Honorary Chair of Alexandria’s 2020 “Cherry Challenge”

#GeorgeWashingtonBirthday  #GeorgeWashingtonParade  #Cherry Challenge

Mary Wadland

Mary Wadland is the Publisher and Editor in Chief of The Zebra Press, founded by her in 2010. Originally from Delray Beach, Florida, Mary is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Hollins College in Roanoke, VA and has lived and worked in the Alexandria publishing community since 1987.

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