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Can't decide...fun in arlington/DC Saturday

Looking for a place for dinner on Saturday, will be based out of Courthouse but willing to travel a short distance. Somewhere fun with good drinks/beer for 4, but not pretentious at all. No steak, or I would have suggested Ray's (despite the liquor/beer situation)...basically we are simple people, no fine dining, but want something a little more than bar food at Ragtime.

Thanks for your help!

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  1. Go to Eat Bar. It isn't pretentious, they have good cocktails and wine list (not sure on beer I don't drink it, but probably online with Tallula Restaurant as a lot of their cocktails and wine are). It is fun and they have great food, I like their medium plates, although sometimes their small bites are fun too. I go normally on week nights so I don't know how busy Friday night gets, but if you can't get a table you can head through the door to Tallula and eat there. If I were you this is where I would go.

    Another place would be Eleventh St. Lounge although it can be smokey they have good food and good drinks and are not pretentious, although more lounge not as bar at Eat Bar.

    Or what about Guajillo beside Ray's for mexican, maybe not the best beer list, but I am sure they have some. For great beer and decent food there is always Rock Bottom, but it gets packed, and the beer really outshines the food.

    Another place if Grand Cru Wine Bar in Ballston, they have some beer in their fridge section, I am not sure what or what is on tap, the time I went the food was really good (entrees better than just going with small/medium plates) when I went, I am hoping to get back this week. It is in the courtyard by the new Westin by Vapiano.

    Although Eat Bar def my first choice for this...

    2 Replies
    1. re: ktmoomau

      I second EatBar. It is my favorite place to go in NOVA - its upscale without being 'trendy'. I've never had the medium plates, but all the small plates I've had are very good and if you're willing to spend a little more for dinner, the food at Tallula is excellent. Also, I usually get a glass of wine or cocktail (which are great), but I do have friends who are beer drinkers and really like their selection.

      I've been there a couple Saturdays where I was able to walk right in and get a seat at the bar, but other times it has been packed and has been hard just to order a drink. It is easier to get a table/seat at the bar the earlier you get there, but people do leave throughout the night if you don't mind waiting a little while for something to open up.

      1. re: ktmoomau

        i knew you would post about Eat Bar Ktmoomau! i'm glad you turned us on to it; we really enjoy going there too. Haven't eaten in Tallula though.

      2. Right next to Ray's is a place called Guajillo. It is a nice Mexican restaurant. They lean more towards authentic than americanized food and it is not bad. It is a laid back atmosphere and not really pretentious. Staff is nice and the marg's are better than average. There is also Minh's. It is Vietnamese. It is friendly and a good beginner Vietnamese choice as they have a wide variety of types of Viet food. Also, there is Cafe Aisa over there, but they are a little pretentious and I wasn't overly impressed with my meal, but the trendies seem to love it.

        -C.

        2 Replies
        1. re: sekelmaan

          guajillo is awesome!

          great, light chips and amazing fish tacos and lamb tacos!

          1. re: sekelmaan

            I second (or third, or fourth) Guajillo. They hand make their corn tortillas, so if you order something that has a choice of corn or flour, I recommend the corn. The veggie quesadillas with corn tortillas are great (they will combine spinach & mushroom if you ask), as is the enchilada de pollo con mole. Mmmmm! But my all time favorite thing on the menu is dessert--the chocolate tequila flan is to die for. My only complaint is that it can get a little noisy. But it's worth it.

          2. Here are four very good and very different selections:

            Piola-betwen Rosslyn and Courthouse, excellent salds (tuna, whitebeans) and pastas(smoked salmon penne). I avoid the pizza.

            Nam Viet at Clarendon. Highly recommend the lemongrass pork, soft shell crabs, Hue spicy beef noodle spoup, grilled stuffed grape leaves. order many different items and have a feast.

            Yorktown Bistro, Lee Highway, all-around well-executed American with some very nice Italian-American selections like chicken picatta, pesto,etc. Hard to go wrong.

            Clare and Don's Beach Shack in Falls Church, mostly seafood (butsomethingfor everyone), simple preparations, high quality, hearty salads, fun ambience, nice outside area for eating/ drinking/ some live music.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Steve

              You've gotten a bunch of good suggestions that are close to Courthouse: EatBar/Tallula, Nam Viet, Minh's, Guajillo, Village Bistro, Boulevard Woodgrill and Piola all fit the bill.

              Personally, I would go to Eat Bar/Tallula. It's pretty much spot-on with what you're looking for (good drinks, good food, etc.).

              1. re: Steve

                Steve,
                I went to Piola when it first opened up (I think last year) and it was not extraordinary by any means, and for 2 pizzas, 2 glasses of wine and the cheapest appetizer, our tab was $70.00+. The service was also pretty off. Has it improved?

                Guajillo is a great suggestion. They have great margaritas and chicken mole.

                1. re: xena1441

                  I avoid the pizza, at least the one I had was drowned in an insipid tomato sauce. Maybe the next time I go I'll try a white pizza, but I also thought the crust and cheese were pretty much a tasteless waste.

                  The tuna and white bean salad is super delicious and only $10 for a dinner portion. Makes a great light meal. The penne with smoked salmon is expertly prepared and moderately priced. Those are my favorite dishes so far.

              2. If you're willing to head to Alexandria, I'd suggest Rustico. It has a great beer list, with more than a dozen on tap, including a cask conditioned ale every night and a list of several pages of bottles. The food, while not spectacular, is solid and, if you stick to the simple stuff, quite good.

                1. In addition to the great suggestions I gotta say I love Liberty Tavern in Clarendon. The food is great, and it is usually a good place for drinks. I've heard great things about Piola in Rosslyn for happy hour/drinks. I'm also partial to Hard Times in Clarendon for happy hour because of college, they have cheap deals (drink and food) at happy hour and the food is pretty decent bar fare. Guarapo in courthouse (tapas/lounge) was good when I last went a few years ago for drinks and food. Its a little too "upscale" for me though in general so I haven't been in a while.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: chaofun

                    The Vermont Pizza and the grapefruit cocktail at Liberty Tavern are excellent.