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Oct 13, 2009 08:40 AM

"cheap eats" lunch for one near Fair Oaks Mall, weekday (NOVA)

I've got an appointment next week near Fair Oaks Mall (Fairfax, in case there's another mall with that name in this board's area) and will be on my own for lunch. Doing a quick search, Hunan Gourmet in the mall itself got praise for noodle soups and bubble tea, which sounds perfect. Depending on my mood that day, looks like there's also Chutzpah nearby (I've been to the one by Tysons, but not in a long time).

I thought I'd ask for opinions on those places, or suggestions for others that would be convenient and good. I get confused about NOVA's geography, so I'm wondering if there's a chowhound favorite nearby that I don't realize? (I'm afraid I'm an unsafe driver when in the suburbs, keeping my eyes on the strip malls, instead of the road, to see if I recognize a place I read about here.) I'm willing to explore some, but I'll be hungry and a little pressed for time, so don't want to go too far out of my way. I'll be heading back to DC after lunch.

Many thanks if anybody has ideas for me.

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  1. The Wegman's in Fairfax has a good foodcourt. My favorite is the sub shop. For about $5, their subs use very fresh ingredients and are some of the best I've had. The rest of the offerings (pizza, Asian, gourmet) aren't bad either.

    1. Over by Chutzpah in the Fairfax Towne Center there's a Moby Dick kabob place, which is good for a reasonably healthy quick lunch.

      As for Chutzpah, we've heard that the Fairfax location is better than Tysons. I've enjoyed the reuben, among other offerings. Good kasha varnishkes too.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Bob W

        Pomodorro pizza, next to Moby Dicks, is good, especially for the Quattro Stagione (sp?). I second Chutzpah.

        There is good sichuan, pho, and bbq not too far West on 50, it's really not a trek to get there (I believe you can do it).

        1. re: Dennis S

          I 2nd Pomodorro and for the eggplant fan, they do incredible eggplant parm.

          1. re: Dennis S

            In the other direction towards Oakton (rt 123 exit off I-66), you have Bombay Bistro and Minverva with their AYCE buffets on weekdays.

            1. re: dpan

              Minerva and Bombay are both right by my office and they are great for when I want something different than my packed lunch. And not far from getting back on 66 either (1-2 blocks) although a little bit further from the mall, but I get lost way easily too and I didn't think it was that bad.

              I really like eating at Wegman's though, the fish counter and the specials at the prepared food section are good.

          2. re: Bob W

            Chutzpah is hit or miss for me and I've only been to the Fairfax one. Soups are way too salty. Pastrami not fatty enough. I like the oops breakfast but not the bagels. I think it's gone downhill since the first time I visited. It's okay, if I'm in the area and not in a hurry (slow service, too). I haven't been to Moby Dicks there but have liked it in Kingstowne.

          3. Avoid the chinese bar at Wegman's. It has sucked me in multiple times and I'm always dissapointed. I've vowed never again!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Meg

              I'm Chinese, and IMHO the food is pretty good Chinese American, but it's pretty pricey at about $8 a pound.

            2. Thank you all so much, I really appreciate all these replies and will make a note of all the suggestions. Sounds like there's not a really top chowhound place right around there, but plenty of solid choices, depending on my mood.

              There is a Moby Dick's in DC that's pretty convenient for me, so that wouldn't be too special, but good to know it's there. Also glad to know there's a Wegman's nearby.

              And Dennis S, I do know my way around 7 Corners and somewhat Falls Church, not really well, but okay -- the last time I was out that way, I did take 50 back to DC and ended up stopping at Loehmann's Plaza, got take-out from Banh Mi DC. Also Hong Kong Palace is maybe my favorite restaurant in the DC area, not that I get to go often (I haven't been to Joe's Noodle). I was just thinking if I tried to stay closer to Fair Oaks I might increase my eating and geographic knowledge a little.

              Thanks! I'm looking forward to the drive more now.

              16 Replies
              1. re: mselectra

                HKP is my fave place (in fact just stopped in for Chengdu noodles and dry beef takeout after a Saltena run).

                I was actually referring to Sichuan Village in Chantilly.

                If you head west on 50 from Fair Oaks, it's on the left at Centerville Rd. If you go, don't get the buffet, just order from the menu.

                For BBQ, taking that left, then a right onto Willard would put you at Willards BBQ, which is really good.

                In the plaza to the North of 50, behind the KFC, is a place that at least used to be good for pho (and the other end of the plaza holds Bungalow Billiards for great wings).

                1. re: Dennis S

                  This is great, thanks! I thought you meant heading back east on 50, didn't read carefully enough, sorry -- something like this could be fun. I don't usually think of going alone for Chinese food, since I always want to order a bunch of stuff and share, but why not if I'm in the mood? I'll go back to check the other threads where Willard's comes up, instead of asking here what it's like... (I used to live in North Carolina, miss bbq.)

                  1. re: mselectra

                    If you end up at Williards, the pulled pork is not overly impressive (not bad, but not what to go for). I think the burnt ends and brisket (more TX and KC stuff) is very good, though.

                2. re: mselectra

                  If you head out west on 50 from that area, there is a shopping complex on the left with a Bonefish Grill and Buffalo Wing Factory--I can't remember the name of the complex but there's a kebab/Afghan place that's excellent. A hole in the wall place facing the street, in between the Bonefish Grill and Buffalo Wing Factory. They cook each meal to order so don't expect to get a fast lunch but it's really good. If you're heading east on 50 as far as Loehmans, on the way there is Miu Kee which has excellent dumplings and won ton soup, especially w/ HK style noodles. They're perfect as we get to cold weather. I like most of the dishes I've had there, and they do a good smokey chow fun. If I can come up w/ more details about that Afghan place, I'll post it. It's about 2-3 miles up the road from the Mall, past Stringfellow.

                  1. re: chowser

                    You are referring to the Greenbriar Shopping Center. It's between Fairfax County Parkway and Stringfellow Rd. I think the Kabob place is the one next to the Starbucks, across from the McDonalds? Note that the Dogfish Head Ale House just opened in that center where the old Beacon Street / Sweethearts used to be.

                    1. re: dpan

                      I haven't been since the Dogfish Head Ale House opened so it's been months. It's in the section with just a few stores that face the street. Do you know the name? It's something unremarkable.

                      1. re: chowser

                        I recall it's something like "Flame Kabob." It's between the Starbucks and a check cashing place (or a cell phone place) across the McDonald's parking lot.

                        1. re: dpan

                          Thanks--that sounds like the place. I just googled and found that they have a location in Springfield which is much closer for me.

                          1. re: dpan

                            Thanks again! The Miu Kee soup does sound perfect for this weather. All of this is going on google maps, and I will use the info sometime if not next week.

                            1. re: dpan

                              I'll play contrarian on Flame Kabob. We got takeout from them once, and it was just awful. Everything was dried-out, almost dessicated if you will. With all the kabob joints around here, I don't bother with bad ones.

                              Regarding Willard's, as a NC barbecue aficionado let me say their pork is not bad, but to me the better choice at Willard's is the beef -- either the brisket or the KC burnt ends. Trying to find real NC cue up here is next to impossible. The Weenie Beenie in Shirlington makes a respectable NC bbq sandwich.

                              The Bungalow (FKA Bungalow Billards) has very good bar food. In addition to the wings, the fish and chips, chicken tenders, ribs, and fried pickles (!) are quite tasty.

                              There's also a Thai place in that plaza (SIla Thai) that's good, and a decent Vietnamese place (Pho Bac). Also one of those pizza places (It's like Tony's in Fair Lakes) that has all kinds of slices.

                              1. re: Bob W

                                I've just been reading reviews on Flame Kebab and it sounds like it's hit or miss. Sometimes excellent (when I've been) and sometimes terrible, as with your experience. I've only eaten there off times, and not that often, so everything was freshly made and very good.

                                1. re: Bob W

                                  I posted my reply above to Williards before seeing Bob's similar post.

                                  For anyone going, I really think Bungalow's wings are the best in the area for traditional-ish bar style (not like the wood-flamed wings at Johnny's, for instance). But you must get the 3 mile island sauce on the side.

                                  1. re: Dennis S

                                    And, whatever you do, avoid Buffalo Wild Wings. We left most of them and our meals.

                                    1. re: Dennis S

                                      Thanks -- and still taking careful notes....

                                      I wouldn't go looking for NC cue here, but when I run across it, it's a nice reminder of another time in my life. It's just so inherent in living there (listening to discussions about it as much as eating it), it's one of those types of food I don't really think about separate from the place. If that makes sense.

                                      I don't have any associations with KC style, so Willards might be a good intro to it.

                                      Wish I was one of those people who could eat a few lunches in one day.

                                      1. re: Dennis S

                                        Dennis, I am honored that your post indicates that my humble opinions might actually be somewhat accurate!

                                      2. re: Bob W

                                        I agree about Flame Kabob. Pretty awful. And Pho Bac isn't bad at all. I enjoy the pho and my husband really loves their broken rice dishes.

                            2. Many thanks again -- this thread turned out to be super useful to me, not just for my lunch last week but will be in the future as well. (In particular, I think I'll be stopping at Minh's and Bombay Bistro fairly soon, when I'm driving out more often towards Fairfax, and although I didn't have time to stop at Wegman's this time, that'll be useful some other time, too.)

                              I had no idea where I'd end up, but when the day came I knew it had to be Willard's. I had the burnt ends as a sandwich, with slaw, and sweet tea. I probably should have gotten a platter to try some sides, but I couldn't remember any being recommended, and I wasn't sure I was hungry enough -- plus it throws me off not to have hush puppies available. I have no idea what burnt ends actually are, but I liked the bits of blackened meat, sort of like pulled pork in texture (I think I prefer the taste of pork, though, all things being equal -- maybe it's obvious that I'm not a frequent meat eater, actually). I liked it even better once I put on some of their NC vinegar bbq sauce, to give it some kick.

                              This is really not a place I can imagine stumbling on by accident, and it wouldn't have occurred to me to try to find it without the advice here -- thanks!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: mselectra

                                Yeah, it's definitely not on a main pathway - or overly visible. If you go back, you can substitute a side for the cornbread; so you can get one more side with a platter (which can be a LOT of food - but it keeps well). I learned that little fact here, as well as info about the place.