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Scrambledeggs' Culinary Travails in Alexandria, VA & Environs

Well I use this board to find recommendations, so I thought that I would share my experiences from my current trip to the DC Beltway (starting specifically the Alexandria Area and up the line to the Pentagon). To my surprise, the recommendations I've gotten from here haven't quite met my expectations.

Lebanese Taverna (Pentagon Row) -- Horrible service, only time in my life the waitstaff didn't ask me if i wanted a drink or appetizer, or dessert. I had to initiate all such requests. While the food was good, it was not as good as the white tablecloth or prices would have made me think it would be. More like a good immigrant run foodstand. Waitress also brought me their bread without the dipping oil, which again I had to specifically request. No refills. Maitre D pointed me to a bad table squeezed between two loudmouth parties (I was alone), again I had to request a much better spot still within the same area. BAD.

Tavernak Greek (Old Town) -- Garden was nice. But my order of the "special", portions of their main four entrees ($16) was a shock in a bad way. Tasted like a good whole foods like deli, well made but sitting under heat lamps for awhile. They brought it all out within 10 minutes, and there is no way they could have made fresh spanikopita that quickly. I can taste the lack of freshness. Lazy, cheap cookery, hiding behind ethnically authentic owners and white tablecloths. Avoid.

Bumblefish (Old Town) -- Went for 'Tart Frozen Yogurt'. Never had it before. They couldn't speak English well, eventually the manager (who still had a thick accent) came to the rescue to answer my question that they were out of the fruit toppings. Oh well--but you have granola? Yippee. To my surprise, even the untopped Tart Fro-Yo was fantastic, finally something for dessert that isn't childishly sweet. Loved it.

Murphy's Grand Irish Pub (Old Town): Ordered Corn beef and cabbage, knowing by experience that simple places make simple things better. A bit unseasoned and bland; Carrots look like they were frozen and then steamed? Desperate for seasoning, I had to request the old salt & pepper shakers, a sign of lackadaisical kitchen work on their part. Despite this it still wasn't bad considering it was cheap. Ok.

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  1. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy some of the food recommendations (I actually haven't been to any of the places you've mentioned...). I don't know what you originally requested, but if you are ever in Alexandria again, for a truly excellent dining experience you must go to Restaurant Eve. Incredible food, drinks, and service.

    1. Agree about Lebanese Taverna at Pentagon Row, as well as the Woodley Park location. The food is just meh, but at those prices, I expect a little better than meh.

      Do you mean Taverna Cretekou? If so, been there twice and thought it was fine. Nothing like what you'd find in Greektown in Baltimore, but alright. I prefer the Greek place that's in the old Dixie Pig building, Vaso's, even though they tend to run out of everything.

      The only Irish place I eat at in Old Town is Eammon's Dublin Chipper. They do a couple things very well. Most Irish pubs in and around DC tend to do LOTS of things poorly, particularly the oddball stuff like "irish nachos."

      Definitely try Eve if you have the cash.

      1 Reply
      1. re: monkeyrotica

        Have you been to Daniel O'Connell and tried their Guinness braised short ribs? We've been to dinner there once and didn't order it because it was only on their bar menu.

      2. Murphy's is for drinking, not eating!!

        1. I'm not sure where you got these recommendations from, as you've avoided most Alexandria recommendations on this board! Restaraunt Eve, Eamon's, the Majestic, Vermillion, the Dairy Godmother, Cheesetique...these are the places to go in Alexandria. The places you named are the places to go if you were reading an advertising supplement review.

          1. Yes I meant Cretekou -- food was deli quality, like they made giant portions and just keep it under heatlamps. Not up to restaurant standard.

            I'm not done with my tour, the first post was just the beginning.

            Oh yeah, I did go to Lebanese Taverna in Tyson's a few months ago on vacation, and it was FANTASTIC. I think they overexpanded.

            I did in fact get these recommendations from the board--by searching past messages of "where should I dine out in Alexandria Old Town", etc.

            1 Reply
            1. re: scrambledeggs

              Thanks for your reports. I hope your next round of restos leaves you a bit happier!! Stick with the newer suggestions here-or perhaps list your itinerary so we can give up to date feedback.
              As far as TC, yes, I totally agree. Authentic Greek family and gorgeous setting. Food is.....well....touristy.

            2. Murphy's is for drinks - food is an afterthought.

              17 Replies
              1. re: wayne keyser

                Update: Went to "Bastille Restaurant", Alexandria 1201 N Royal St. Another disappointment. The atmosphere was great -- as was the presentation and plating of the food. Haute. Gourmet. But the actual food was another thing. My request for a lemon was acknowledged and then ignored. The Prix Fixe's salad, Fresh Mozzarella & Tomato, was ok. But the hangar steak was a disaster. Burnt on the outside, way too chewy and tough on the inside. The side was a giant mound of pomme frites, a sign of a much lower level bistro, and not the fine dining aura that Bastille was supposed to be. The "gourmet ketchup" like thin sauce for the fries was also bland. The entire mean was in fact bland; it all looked perfect but tasted weak. Not salt shaker in sight.

                Dessert of Peach Tartin (a minature version) was the highlight of the dinner, although the bottom pastry tasted a bit tough. I wonder if their 'pastry chef' hand rolled that puff pastry . . . My puppy who accompanied me in the outside table ate most of the steak anyway. She loved it. I didn't. Another tourist trap hiding good cuisine? Or does Alexandria suck for dinner? Not happy. Stopped by trader joe's on the way home to supplement the overpriced 'bistro'.

                This town's dining seems like touristy concentration on the dining room and the appearance, and almost nothing on actual cuisine.

                1. re: scrambledeggs

                  "Does Alexandria suck for dinner?"

                  Um ... yeah. Others may disagree, but IMO nothing there worth driving to Old Town Alexandria for (and for me that's 3 miles).

                  On the other hand, you may want to look in Alexandria along Mt. Vernon Avenue (the neighborhood is called Del Ray):

                  Cheesetique is my favorite (though not a complete dinner venue) - they have cheese and charcuterie platters and a variety of wines.

                  An incredible array of ethnic options in Arlington and Annandale, all cited heavily on this board.

                  1. re: scrambledeggs

                    Again, you seem to be looking at some obscure threads for your recommendations, as none of the places you've gone are anything that I've seen anyone heartily recommend on this board in the last few years--someone might occasionally recommend one for a specific purpose, or an outlier might praise them, but the vast majority of posters would echo the recommendations of Jason1. I'd also throw in:

                    Southside 815 in Old Town for southern food (although that seems to be a place people either love or hate);

                    MoMo in Old Town or Akasaka in Landmark for sushi;

                    Satay Sarinah (Landmark) for Indonesian;

                    Vaso's in Old Town for better greek than Cretekou (though still not great); or

                    Pita House or Layla's (Old Town) for better Lebanese than Leb. Taverna.

                    And stay away from King St the closer you get to the water; that's definitely where the touristy concentration is, since that's where the tourists are...

                    1. re: sweth

                      So far every place in NoVA i've been to sucks -- and I got the rec's from here, old thread or not. I checked the prices at Eve, it is astronomically high. Is it necessary to spend over $100 a person to have a gourmet experience? I might try one place more before I take the show to the Pentagon City mall's food court.

                      In fact NoVA is so bad thus far that I am going to do what I have never done before -- return the next meal that fails to meet my standard. And as a rule I hate returning things. But this is enough. Call the cops, whatever you want -- I'm not paying for any more white trash level food at a white tablecloth establishment. God damn I hate the south. Why is every restaurant in a former slave state subpar? Do these people not have taste?

                      1. re: scrambledeggs

                        You don't have to blow $100 at Eve. All the cool kids eat lunch at the bistro. And you don't have to go broke.


                        1. re: monkeyrotica

                          I did get the recommendations from here:

                          "There's also Bastille at the north end of Royal. I had a very good dinner there recently and am looking forward to going back."

                          "For French, instead of Le Gaulois, I would recommend Bastille. The food's definitely French bistro-ish, it’s very good, and the atmosphere, to me, seems perfect for a first date."

                          "Went for the first time last night and had a very pleasant evening."

                          Although now that I search I found this older one

                          But still, I got the rec from here. Weak dudes, weak. My faith in chowhound is broken.

                          1. re: scrambledeggs

                            Some of those recs are close to a year old. This just proves that restaurants in DC can go from great to closed in six months.

                            1. re: scrambledeggs

                              I can sense your frustration, and I feel your pain. There’s nothing worse than paying a bunch of money for crappy food. That said, I don't particularly appreciate you taking your anger out on the posters here - especially since you seem to be picking the somewhat obscure, albeit casually recommended, restaurants.

                              I'll take full responsibility for my endorsement of Bastille and stand by the fact that I've had several tasty meals there. But why are you ignoring Majestic, Vermillion, Farrah Olivia, Eamonn's, Evening Star, lunch at Eve, etc.? They are CONSTANTLY recommended and talked about on this board. Give yourself a fighting chance and get some fish and chips from Eamonn’s. Sit down at one of the crowded tables and eat it immediately. Don’t forget the curry sauce for the chips or the fried Mars bar for dessert. I promise, it will be the best $9 you’ve spent thus far.

                            2. re: monkeyrotica

                              Just go to Eamon's or one of the other recs if Eve is too pricey (it's by far the most fine dining option). Seriously...you're killing me with these choices. I just feel bad for you, and I can't imagine where your getting these ideas from. Could you just give us a little warning...where else are you planning on eating over the next few days? Maybe we can comment on these places before rather than after as disasterous meal.

                              1. re: Jason1

                                OK, I have your new recs written down. No doubt they will be an improvement,but at this point, NOTHING could be worse. I've been to expensive and bad, the worst combination, so anything at this point is likely an improvement. Anyway at this point a lot of my gourmet budget is gone (wasted).

                                It also is a bad sign if half the restaurants are inedible. In fact, so bad, that I am double-thinking about living in Alexandria. I first saw old town and though "OMG this place is fantastic! Finally I have real restaurants!" And . . .ick . . .

                                Oh yeah-- update on Bumblefish. Went back the next day for more Tart Fro-Yo, machine was broken. Great.

                                1. re: scrambledeggs

                                  "NOTHING could be worse. I've been to expensive and bad, the worst combination, so anything at this point is likely an improvement."

                                  Clearly, you've never been to Del Merei Grill.

                                  1. re: scrambledeggs

                                    Hmmm, I normally read Old Town, Historic, etc. to mean tourist trap, not great restaurants. I think great restaurants in historic districts are usually an exception.

                                    1. re: Jason1

                                      Pita House: (407 Cameron St) Beef Schwarma Entree for Lunch. Ok, finally Alexandria has approached edible level. However after the previous disasters, anything mediocre would be an improvement.

                                      It was good -- but expensive for it. The beef was spiced very well, just as I would have liked, although it was a bit dry .Too dry for me. The bread was adequate, but had that "take out of the oven a few minutes too soon" white pasty look to it that cheap restaurants seem to like. Brown the bread, dude, it just needs five minutes more. If I wanted wonder bread I'd go to the bakery thrift store. Rice was white and barely seasoned, although it had this good texture to it by the addition of something else I couldn't identify.

                                      This was the near eastern version of say, Daphne's Greek Cafe chain, only about 50% more expensive. Not sure if everything in NoVa is this expensive, but I'm not sure it was worth it.

                                      Gave me the feeling of a midlevel place that office workers go to because they work nearby and want 'ethnic', not a true ethnic eatery.

                                      Overall, it was ok . . . considering the price I probably might not return.

                                      BUMBLEFISH Update: Went back to Bumblefish for the Tart Fro-Yo again, this time the machine was working, but again, out apparently every topping except granola. Not the best run place, but damn, i LOVE the tart!

                                      1. re: scrambledeggs

                                        I'm not sure you've necessarily chosen great places to try; I think you've been a bit unlucky; I think that Alexandria is not an obvious sure-fire, great-restaurant area; and I think you're inclined to be a bit negative. Give Lebanese Taverna in N. Arlington (Westover) a try; Ray's the Steaks (or Ray's Hell-Burgers for a less expensive meal) also in N. Arlington; Village Bistro in the same strip as Ray's; Argia's in Falls Church; El Paso in S. Arlington on Pershing. I think all these restaurants are quite reliable. Also, you can spend a lot of money at those places or you can find ways to scrimp a bit--for example, order mezze (appetizers) at Lebanese Taverna. And maybe try and start your meal with a smaller chip on your shoulder about some of these places.

                                        1. re: scrambledeggs

                                          Hi scrambledeggs - so sorry that you've had a bad experience in Alexandria! I've lived in Alexandria for 6 years and generally avoid Old Town because many of the restaurants are "tourist traps." Even the good ones tend to be priced higher than other areas because they know they have a "captive" audience in the tourist trade. This does NOT excuse anything, but does explain some of your (regrettably) bad experiences.

                                          I love the boards on Chowhounds, but have learned that there is a WIDE variety of opinions on the board - that's all for the good, as everyone is entitled to their own opinion. What I do is find a few Chowhounders whose opinions I agree with and look for their opinions.

                                          Okay, so what is there to eat in Old Town? People have already mentioned the higher end, fine dining: Restaurant Eve and Farrah Olivia are great, but hard on the wallet. I like Fontaine Caffe & Creperie on Royal Street - it's a little pricey, but relative to other restaurants nearby, it's worth it for the great flavors. For sushi, try Momo Sushi. Eamonn's is great for a quick chow as well.

                                          If you're willing to travel a little North of Old Town, many like A La Lucia for casual Italian. It's also reasonably priced. My personal favorite is Vaso's Kitchen, a home-style Greek diner. Vaso runs the kitchen herself and her Greek specials are great! Don't try the bbq there - just go for the Greek food!

                                          If you're willing to head west, there's great Korean bbq at Hee Been, Vietnamese food at Saigon City and Japanese/Thai at Yamazato. Many on this board are fans of Temptasian as well...I'm not 100% sold on the place. Further down Little River Turnpike, you will find a great array of Korean/Asian restaurants.

                                          Anyway, I hope you'll try a few of the places in Alexandria that I've listed below and let us know what you think!

                                          Happy Chowing!

                                          728 King St, Alexandria, VA 22314

                                          A La Lucia
                                          315 Madison St, Alexandria, VA 22314

                                          Fontaine Caffe & Creperie
                                          119 S Royal St, Alexandria, VA 22314

                                          Momo Sushi & Cafe
                                          212 Queen St, Alexandria, VA 22314

                                          Vaso's Kitchen
                                          1225 Powhatan St, Alexandria, VA 22314

                                          Heebeen Restaurant
                                          6231 Little River Tpke, Alexandria, VA 22312

                                          Saigon City - Vietnamese Food
                                          4711 N Chambliss St, Alexandria, VA

                                          6303 Little River Tpke Ste 120, Alexandria, VA 22312

                                      2. re: scrambledeggs

                                        You're not the first person to say "Old Town sucks" and, in general, I'm inclined to agree that most of the food there is either mediocre or overpriced. But I'd say you're probably beyond objective analysis at this point. Time to cut your losses and call it good, amigo. I'd just have a few drinks and book a seat out of town on the next thing smokin'.

                                        1. re: scrambledeggs

                                          I have to throw in my impression that scrambledeggs is paying a lot of attention to the image and hype generated by individual restaurants, and not so much to the reports from those who have actually eaten there.

                                          Any greasy-spoon is going to pitch itself as a gourmet's delight - any owner can spend a bunch on design and decor and never deliver (or can lose control over time) in the kitchen. Worse, according to so many recent reports here and in the POST, even establishments with great credentials can get along for a long time with miserable service.

                                          It's clear that scrambledeggs prefers dining that is way beyond my budget. Dragging someone with those tastes into the places I go would really not satisfy them. Nonetheless, I always wonder how it happens that I can have never (or rarely) encountered any of these problems at my ethnic (and even "hole in the wall") favorites, and had genuinely world-class meals, while dozens of recent printed/posted reports say "we spent $200 on this meal and it was inedible, and the service was insulting ... I hope it doesn't happen the next time we go there."