I will be staying in Arlington for a conference and would appreciate any tips for good food close. I could always take the train into DC but if someone has any recommendations right in Arlington I would appreciate it! I hear the quarterdeck is good for crabs, any agreement there? I also love any ethnic cuisine. I live in a small mountain town so I don't get the opportunity to eat it often, so I'm looking for recommendations that lean towards the exotic. Thanks! Wendy
If you are staying in Ballston, I would strongly recommend Willow restaurant. I have always had a great meal there with good food and service. You mention "ethnic cuisine" in your original post, and the replies have largely been about ethnic food, but I am not certain if that is your top priority. You can always view the Willow men online because I would not describe it as "exotic." At the very least, if you need a snack, the bar menu is fantastic.
If you like ethnic cuisine grab a Red Top cab and go due west about 3 miles to Eden Center. It's the largest Vietnamese shopping area east of the Mississippi, and on weekends draws Vietnamese folks from all over the Eastern USA.
I've included a link to the Eden Center web site below, and specifically to the restaurant page of the site.
My recommendations are Huong Viet for dining, Pho Xe Lua for pho, Cho-Lon for carryout, Banh Mi So #1 Coffee for banh mi sandwiches, Cha Kim Phung for hi-test iced Vietnamese coffee (tell them "no jelly" or else you might get the little jelly bits).
The web site seems a little out of date and you have to poke around under Restaurants, Cafe, and Deli, but here you go. By the way just ask almost anyone there if you need some help.
If you haven't had Peruvian rotisserie chicken (pollo a la brasa) I would recommend giving that a try. It is delicious and we do it best here in the DC area. There is one (my favorite, but this is highly debated on CH) in Ballston called Super Pollo. Another is El Pollo Rico between Clarendon and Virginia Squar metro stops (beware they only take cash and don't have the great sides that Super Pollo have such as the spicy garbanzos).
Note: Steve thanks for the heads up on Cafe Assorti, I had no idea it was there.
hey there wendy! we need you to tell us where you're staying in arlington and whether you will have access to a car.
ps, depending on how many meals wendy can eat "out", i wouldn't necessarily send her for ravi kabob (crowded, loud, and not better than nicer places with similar food and prices). nor would i send her for rotisserie chicken.
my friend says present was fine so long as you got the few dishes recommended early on by hounds like Joe H, but when she ventured off these, the meals were less and less satisfactory. so for present, it was a "three strikes" situation -- they're "out".
Cafe Assorti is a Khazak Bakery and Cafe open for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. 4 blocks form the Courthouse metro stop. They have excellent salads (beets, carrots, or marinated vegetables), mushroom soup, borscht on special, and large dumplings called 'Manti.' Ask for the pink sauce. Their specialty is stuffed breads, little "piroshek" filled with cabbage or eggs n' green onion are my favorites.
Thai Square is in S. Arlington, not metro accessible, but the tile fish appetizer is great. Ask for the duck noodle soup, not on the menu, you just have to ask. Definitely worth going out of your way for.
And for a real eye-opening experience, maybe you could get to Nha Trang at EdenCenter. Eden Center is a Vietnamese Shopping Center with about 23 restaurants. Nha Trang is tucked away inside the Saigon East corridor. Hard to find but worth it. #11 Rice Noodle Dish is fantastic, features shrimp paste in the shape of '"worms" according to the menu. Highly delicious stuff. The #10 Appetizer, A kind of Garden Roll, comes with a dynamite orange sauce. Also great roast quail and Bo Luc Lac (a gorgeous grilled beef dish aka "shaky Beef.")
That should get you started.
I'm guessing you'll be in the ballston or rosslyn area and without a car? Or are you in the pentagon city area? Location and having a car are important factors.
If you are in the ballston/rossyln/clarendon area I would higly recommend Minhs (get the grilled pork Northern style, I cant recommend that dish highly enough).
I also love Ravi Kabob for pakistani (great chicken kabobs, rice, chickpeas, dal, bread) and Super Pollo or El Pollo Rico for cheap but delicious Peruvian Chicken, an area delicacy that you really should try....all of these are close to ballston.
Delhi Club is pretty good for Indian in Clarendon...i like the channa masala especially, also pretty good naan, good range of curries.
pho 75 in rosslyn is good for pho if you're into that.
wendy, here's a good thread to start you out.
quarterdeck for crabs is recommended, yes. it's hot to sit outside and divey inside...and crowded. get a reservation.
my local regular joints are:
indian -- raaga (bailey's crossroads -- not far).*** highly recommended. get their tandoori lamb chops, saag (like creamy spinach), chicken tikka, with masala sauce ON THE SIDE. great lunch buffet.
thai -- lunch special at ghin na ree, harrison street shopping center,
also thai square on columbia pike ****(recommend pad kee mao, som tum).
chinese: hong kong palace at seven corners *** highly recommended you check it out, esp. since you want something a little exotic compared with your small town eats. get the chicken with sesame peppers! http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/514931
lebanese -- lebanese taverna market, lee hwy and old dominion (where lorcom lane meets lee hwy).
cuban sandwiches & good cuban sides -- caribbean grill, lee hwy and george mason drive
IF YOU CAN JUST MAKE TWO OR THREE:
hong kong palace
i'd be remiss if i didn't mention "ray's hellburgers" or "ray's the steaks" for highest quality beef at good prices. not really too exotic, but always raved about here.....
Agree with the last list's first two (I haven't had Raaga, so I can't say).
Would add Nam Viet in Clarendon, and the ever popular (but definitely great) Ray's Hell Burger, or Ray's the Steak for steak.
For counter style mexican try El Charrito Caminante and get either goat or chorizo tacos/burritos - not the chicken (beef and pork are good as well).
I would also add Caribbean Grill in North Arlington on 29 - get the fried yucca as a side and watch for them to cook it. The 1/4 chicken is much like Peruvian chicken which is big around here and great.
I think the OP won't have access to a car. At least, that's the way I'm interpreting her comment about taking the train to a DC restaurant. That said, here are a couple of ideas:
I think the flagship restaurant, Lebanese Taverna, on Washington Street is a better suggestion than Lebanese Taverna Market. Getting to the Arlington Restaurant will involve walk or taxi ride along Washington Blvd from East Falls Church Metro, but is more accessible than the Market. (The market closes at 8:30 p.m. The restaurant closes at 9:30, 10:00 or 10:30 p.m. depending on the day of the week) There's a branch of Lebanese Taverna on Restaurant Row near Pentagon City that's entirely accessible by Metro, but I think the food at the flagship restaurant on Washington Blvd is better than all the other branches in this small local chain.
Hong Kong Palace isn't conveniently accessible by Metro (although you can shorten the length of a taxi ride by traveling to the East Falls Church Metro Station), but the food is worth taxi fare if you like spicy Sichuan food. Don't be misled by the name of the restaurant. The owners didn't have the money to buy a new sign so they just kept the name despite the disconnect between the two styles of cuisine.
Getting to the best Vietnamese restaurants requires a car/taxi. However, there are still a couple of very good restaurants within range of the Metro in the Clarendon area: Minh's and Nam Viet.
Present is the current front runner for Vietnamese food, but that's outside of Arlington. Ditto for the good options in Eden Center. If you still want to eat at Present, check the many threads that either recommend dishes or link Present's fanciful names to more familiar names for the dishes.
If the OP truly needs everything Metro accessible, perhaps he/she ought to clarify that so our suggestions will be more useful.