Help a Hound!
Howdy DC Hounds,
I'm headed your way this coming Sunday-Monday-Tuesday to tag along on my husband's business trip. We'll be staying at Tyson's Corner. I will have a car and my GPS. Looking for some interesting casual spots for lunch for me (love everything from ethnic to sandwiches, no chains unless they are local) and a place for dinner for the two of us on a Monday night (open to anything from very casual on up - we just like good food, but want someplace nice to sit and relax).
Also, I'll have my days free to explore, so if there are any foodie destinations I should not miss, please throw those out there too - I know I'll be going to Penzey's and Whole Food's (I know these aren't special, but we don't have them down here in VA Beach)- any other recommendations? Is Shoppers Food Warehouse worth a trip?
I've been searching the archives, but there are SO many places that I'm having a hard time narrowing it down - especially trying to figure out what is feasible given traffic.
Thanks so much for your help!
Go to Myanmar in Falls Church for the ginger salad. That and some rice is a meal, but if you want to get more then add the pork with fresh mango or mutton curry or whole roasted fish. Ask for the fish to be crispy and spicy.
My favorite place in Northern Virginia.
Destinations; In Arlington, Bakeshop for the cupcakes. Unreal. Next to that is Artisan Confections for their sea salt caramels.
You also might want to try a saltena, which is like an empanada, but it is soupy inside - so be careful, can be messy to eat. I'm not sure if there's anything better in life. In Bolivia, these are eaten early in the day, so I'd suggest going about 11:30am - Noon to Luzmilla's in Falls Church when they'll be hot and fresh. Get a mocochincho (spiced peach juice) to drink. Lots of good food at Luzmilla's, open for lunch only, near Penzey's.
A trip to Fall Church's Penzeys will bring you close to some good casual places that you may not find in Virginia Beach. Steve mentioned Luzmilas and Myanmar, both good and cheap, cheap, cheap! I like the mango salad at Myanmar better than the ginger one, but both are good. Also very close is the Lebanese Butcher. Good lamb, chicken shawarma sandwich, and kibbeh. Also a good, but tiny, Middle Eastern market next door. There's a funky and very local deli called Kasha's Kitchen near Penzeys as well. The power veggie and lentil burger are great.
But IMO the Vietnamese gems in the nearby Eden Center are more worth seeking out than any of those. Its the cuisine this region specializes in better than most others.
If you know Vietnamese food well you'll be able to find stuff yourself--there are over 30 restaurants in Eden, most of which seem to have at least a few good dishes. If you dont eat a ton of Vietnamese food but want to try it I'd go to Huong Viet and get some spring rolls, a platter of grilled meat (the beef is good), a shrimp or chicken stir fry with lemongrass and chilies, and maybe a salad or soup. Standard Vietnamese food done really well.
If you like super spicy there's also Hong Kong Palace, a beloved board favorite with plenty of Szechuan food that's pretty close to the Penzeys.
Back in the Tysons area options are a bit more limited and more expensive. If you're close to Vienna you could try Rose Cafe for Persian (perhaps that could be where you have your "relaxing" dinner). Good persian stews and good kabobs. I've heard Plaka Grill and Amma Vegetarian are good but havent been to them. If you want to go super-fancy in Tysons, Inox seems to be the place, but I've never been myself.
You're options can expand exponentially depending on how far you care to drive and what foods in particular you want. Like if you wanted to get some Peruvian Chicken or Pakistani kabobs--both area strong suits--you might want to trek out to Arlington.
Like you said, there are SO many options out there. You just have to think about what your preferences are.
Coconut Milk is right, you are near ground zero for Chowhound. If you like garlic, the chicken shawarma sandwich at Lebanese Butcher is righteous. Rose Restaurant in Vienna is one of my favorites, more for the stews. Some of the appetizers, like the pickles (torshi), garlic roasted in balsamic, and the spiced yogurt will add some powerful flavors to your meal.
Eden Center is not only a place to eat, it is a destination in its own right. Great to go there on a Saturday night. Investigate the three interior 'courtyards' to find many more shops and restaurants hidden from view.
Plaka Grill is a couter service Greek place that has some nice soups and is otherwise fair. Amma's is nice enough, nothing too exciting.
If you like spicy and haven't had good Sichuan, I heartily second Hong Kong Palace. Chengdu noodles to go (munch on them for a couple of days) and either cumin lamb or the chicken and pepper dish on the wall (mouth mouth something - say all this and they should be able to set you up).
For good kebabs or peruvian chicken you can also head west to Reston/Herndon, which may be easier to navigate. To get a meal with good sides, I'd choose Charcoal Kebab or Grill Kebab (the latter gives you another option, which is Indo-Chinese next door at Masala Wok - Chinese made by Indians!).
For the Peruvian chicken and a full menu of Peruvian fare, Pollos Inka is terrific!
If you're willing to venture as far as Hong Kong Palace and if you don't like super spicy food, you might want to consider XO Taste. (To clarify a confusing situation, Hong Kong cuisine is Cantonese, but Hong Kong Palace serves Sichuan food in spite of its name. The restaurant was undercapitalized when it opened and couldn't afford a new sign. The misleading name has stuck. XO Taste serves classic Hong Kong Cantonese cuisine.) For many of us whose idea of Cantonese food is the indifferent Americanized stuff that dots the landscape, the real deal is a subtle but delicious revelation. For example, the broth on the wonton soup is laced with ginger and the dumplings are ginormous and over-loaded with shrimp. There are lots of lunch specials at many price points.
Rose Restaurant serves excellent food, but you might be disappointed by the stark flourescent lights and formica ambiance as a husband-wife dinner.
Lebanese Taverna, located in Tysons Galleria shopping mall (locally nicknamed Tysons Galleria) is one of a small local chain with excellent Middle Eastern food. My husband and I usually make a meal of assorted mezze plates rather than ordering one of the large entree plates. Favorites: Camel wings, lentil soup, hummos topped with meat and pine nuts, arak shrimp, shakshouky and spinach and/or cheese pies.
Thank you CoconutMilk for all the great information. I'm trying to figure out how to get it all in. I know nothing about Vietnamese food (having not lived as an adult anywhere where this cuisine is prevalent) so many thanks for the specifics.
I LOVE Shawarma and will def. be hitting that place for lunch. It's been a long time since I've had one.
For a whole experience, Eden Center is it. And you should work in time to walk around the mall in general either before or after eating. If you just want Vietnamese to eat (and not just pho), my first rec is Nam Viet in Clarendon (Arlington) - largely to cut the distraction of everything else (basically - you don't want to end up at Eden Center your first time with only an hour to eat).
To clarify all my posts here - if you're just after specific food, I stand behind everything. If it's Peruvian or Kababs, and just food, then going West to Herndon/Reston is generally more clear cut than Arlington can be (though I love Arlington). However, outside of pho, for Vietnamese, it's either Eden Center, Nam Viet or maybe Minh's (Which I haven't tried, but respected posters on this board have offered multiple times - also in the Clarendon area).
In addition, the Super H on Route 50 is a mind-blowing supermarket if you don't have much in the way of Asian supermarkets at home. It is HUGE, with a substantial produce department.
As we told my daughter's friend on a recent first visit to the Eden Center, "welcome to Vietnam." It is 30 or so Vietnamese restaurants and cafes in a single plaza. The food here has not been dumbed down to match American tastes (once you venture too far from the Eden Center you find fewer herbs, more sugar, and heavier sauces) and yet it is still very accessible to the American palate. Huong Viet's spring rolls are going to change your standard for what a fried roll should be. If you are in a soupy mood, their yellow noodle, roast pork and shrimp soup is a winner. The difficult to eat shrimp fritter on top seems to be a standard part of this dish. If you are feeling the need for something very heavy on vegetables, their lotus rootlet salad is delicious and full of interesting textures. Just be aware that the white hairs are from the lotus rootlets and not a kitchen mishap! The salad is more than enough for one person as an entree.