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Cheap & Cheerful in N. Arlington

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Hi gang:

I'm trying to plan a dinner out this week with a couple we're friends with. They are definitely foodie types too.

I'm looking for some suggestions for a place to head for dinner that's "cheap and cheerful". Somewhere the food is still delish and atmosphere is fun!

Also are there any new places in Arlington to try out?

Any suggestions are welcome. I'd like to present them with a few suggestions to choose from.

Thanks in advance!!

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  1. Cheap and Cheerful:

    Eat Bar- their menu is online if you look up Tallulah Restuarant. I always leave full with a cheap food bill, perhaps not on the drinks.

    Ravi Kebab- the lamb dish for two is great but definitely for at least two, I haven't had a bad meal there, it isn't white tablecloth or anything but it is cheerful in the way that there is normally a fairly good crowd of people happy that they are eating good stuff.

    Laylinia- Good Middle Eastern, also the Lebanese Butcher is good for that, but in Falls Church not Arlington.

    Eleventh St. Lounge- although later int he evening they turn on the thump thump music and it can be smokey.

    Liberty Taven would be at perhaps the top of my list, the Vermon Pizza, Flat Iron steak or cornmeal crusted fish are all great, and the servings are huge, I just got a salad and side last time. The entrees are a little pricier, but you can get the pizzas and etc for less. Also they have a good cheaper bar menu.

    Ray's Hellburger is cheap and cheerful!

    Guajillo for Mexican- very cheerful.

    Tons of options for Thai, like Thai Square, etc.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ktmoomau

      I second the vote for Guajillo- great food and fun atmosphere. Highly reccomend the huge pitchers of sangria, and the food is an interesting combination of very authentic tasting and very unexpected (don't ask me how it can be both simultaneously, it just is).

      1. re: ktmoomau

        Another vote for Ray's Hellburger or Guajillo.

        1. re: Steve

          Ray's Hellburger or Guajillo are fun, but not in a fun location. You want to go to eatbar or Liberty Tavern.

      2. Arlington is blessed with a ton of ethnic options that are both "cheap and cheerful", and Ravi Kabob may be one of the best of the best. The chickpea curry in the new cafe is just as good as the slightly more worn original place, and the pork chops are phenomenal at both. The Karahi for two is very spicy but outstanding.
        Layalina is a very nice place, excellent welcome, great people, but kind of expensive. For Lebanese with friends the Lebanese Taverna near the Lost Dog is a good choice. Great family run place, very good food and decent prices. I really like the kibbeh, the chicken shawarma and the hummus (sp) is very good here too. Not as good as Lebanese Butcher but that isn't in Arlington and the whine of the occasional bone saw can throw you off your food.
        Thai Square and Bangkok 54 on Columbia Pike are are a perfect pair, TS the dowdy but authentic sister, while BKK54 is the sophisticated one that went off to university. Curries are good at both, with just a touch more heat at Thai Square. The crispy squid and the duck are phenomenal at TS and when its peelers time, the soft shell crabs are outstanding. The crispy pork belly is my favorite at BKK54.
        Rays Hell Burger has some of the best burgers anywhere, excellent beef, great preparation, excellent sides, and no atmosphere other than the friendlieness of the place and the customers. It is simply a great burger, and the draft root beer is good too.
        For Vietnamese I used to be all Huong Que, but Minhs near Courthouse, is starting to edge it out. I am a vermicelli nut, with bbq'd pork, very good. The crispy rolls are very good too. The caramelized fish is pretty good, but don't come here if you are in a hurry. For Pho, Pho 75 in Rosslyn is still the winner but it is not the place it once was.
        For Persian, Kabob Bazaar is my favorite, the Dizi (sp) is very good, kubideh is outstanding and the lamb kabob is very good. My persian friend asked for the crackling on the bottom of the rice where it cooks up, she loved it. I was ok with it. They serve a feta appetizer that is kind of odd, cheese, bread and mint and herbs with hummus, it was good in an odd sort of way.
        Arturos on Washington Blvd south of Courthouse and Clarendon is pretty good Bolivian, the silpancho is the limit of my knowledge though because I always order it. Start with rice and fried potatos as a base, then add green chilis, diced tomatoes and onions, throw a thoroughly beaten flank steak on top and then garnish with a fried egg and more chilis.... A completely delicious heart attack in the making! Saltenas here are good but not great.
        Cafe Asia looks like an industrial-chic barn, but their sushi is thoroughly ok, the tobuki is pretty good and their crunchy spicy tuna roll is fairly good, and I have seen some asian specialty dishes zipping by, wafting fragrant scents in a nearly wanton manner, on their way to other tables so this is a place I have to explore in more depth.
        And, finally, Taqueria el Caminante Charito on Wash Blvd next to Arturos is phenomenal! I usually just order 3 tacos for $6, I like lengua and pork, but the beef and chorizo are good too, goat only fair. Outstanding with touches of radish and cilantro, and the salsa is nicely warm. This isn't Tex-Mex, I think it might actually be, shockingly, kind of similar to real Mexican food, if that is possible in NoVA. Also the torta sandwich with avocado is outstanding. It is carry out for the most part but the Lyon Park (on Fillmore Street) tables make a great place to have a picnic!
        Sorry about the rambling response, but good food is something I really enjoy.
        I hope where ever you and your friends go turns out to be the perfect place!

        10 Replies
        1. re: Ziv

          I came in here to post, but can't really follow up on this!

          1. re: Ziv

            The rice at the bottom of the rice pot is called tahdig. (tah-deeg). Do they have the dizi at Kabob Bazaar all the time? I thought it was basically a kabob place that also makes maybe one stew per day.

            1. re: Steve

              where is kabob bazaar?

              1. re: alkapal

                alkapal- speaking of cheerful, I passed. I got to go to Tachibana last night to celebrate, but I am thinking I might have to plan to go somewhere big...

                1. re: ktmoomau

                  res ipsa loquitor. congratulations! where might be the "big" place? inn at little washington? yeah, blow your first coupla day's salary (er, that's pre-tax) -- and do it soon before you are working 60+ hour weeks!

                  btw, how is tachibana these days? it used to be right close by at old lee hwy and near quincy. i liked it before i had a clue japanese food was "the thing"....

                  1. re: alkapal

                    It was good, they had a lot of things you don't fin at normal sushi places, like Japanese Snapple, Flounder fin, etc... I thought the fish was fresh and they had some interesting appetizers. It was a nice dinner. They also have a nice sake list.

                    I am thinking maybe citronelle, komi, the source or obelisk I haven't eaten at IALW, have you? I wonder how much that tab is compared to Citronelle. Where would you go?

                    1. re: ktmoomau

                      kt, to myself, i cannot justify paying IALW prices. i like to cook, and do so pretty well, so i always end up analyzing the resto dish and figuring how it could be improved. if i can typically do a type of a dish better, i am reluctant to pay big bucks just to have someone serve it to me in quaint or trendy surroundings, with a plate piled up to make i.m. pei a little jealous. thus, i am more of a home cook than a restaurant goer. however, there are times when i don't have the time or inclination, but love the dish, e.g.: quenelles de brochet with sauce americaine or bouillabaisse or zuppa de pesce, or a good steak (i'll go to ray's) -- it is THOSE dishes for which i will seek out the best exemplar in a restaurant.

                      my suggestion: what is your current craving? who does it best? that is where you should go! ;-) make a weekend of it! (maybe even head up to nyc.)

              2. re: Steve

                Steve, I don't think that either the tahdig or the dizi were on the everyday menu, my friend asked for them and they served them to us. I am not sure what she asked because it was in farsi, but I am pretty sure the dizi is a special on Saturdays.
                Alkapal, Kabob Bazaar is just to the left as you come up Clarendons metro escalator.
                Again, sorry about the length of that last post, I knew it was long, i didn't realize it was THAT long...

                1. re: Ziv

                  Thanks, I"ve heard many good things about their stews.
                  Tahdig is never on the menu. Unless they make it expressly (which doesn't taste as good), there is only a limited portion with every pot of rice. Usually reserved for the favorite customers, but if you are the first to ask......

              3. re: Ziv

                I second Minh's. If your friends are from out of town and aren't accustomed to great Vietnamese food, you should definitely bring them. The Northern Style Grilled pork (#24) is amazing, as are the vietnamese spring rolls, broken rice dishes, and just about anything with grilled pork in it. And don't forget to get the black sticky rice pudding for dessert....incredible, and a bargain at 2.95.

              4. Pie-tanza, The Italian Store, are good cheap and cheerful N. Arlington places. I have not been to Thirsty Bernie's but I have heard good things. Also Spider Kelly's is pretty good and no smoking!

                1 Reply
                1. re: chaofun

                  Also il radicchio is pretty good, cheap.

                2. too late for the op's needs, but useful to add for future reference:

                  deli next to pasha cafe (near quincy/military and lee hwy) has the best darned gyro i've had in a very long time. only $5.50. try it...you'll like it. ;-) oops, not good for dinner, i think. will check it out.

                  pasha does a big gyro meat/salad/bread platter in the evening for around $15. gooooood if you're craving that delicious savory gyro meat. mr. alka thought it expensive, but i thought it was generous amount of meat. resto not very busy....

                  don't bother with the stuffed grape leaves, though.

                  like nam viet -- good value and outdoor seating (good for a while)
                  like pie-tanza
                  like ghin na ree thai (but not nearly as much as thai square)
                  the thai in the arlington govt. complex is pretty decent, too.
                  i don't think king street blues is bad at all, for what it is.
                  like italian store, but not too large a pizza (gets gloppy).

                  don't care for yorktown bistro, though they mean well.

                  who can forget ray's the steaks???? cheap? yeah, for the great steak you get!!!

                  also see this thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/521522