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New to DC area - Restaurant suggestions for Arlington and area

I am taking a new job in Arlington in a few weeks and wanted to get the low-down on what restaurants i should hit up. I am hopelessly unaware of my dining options. I will be staying in the Ballston Metro stop area but obviously have some mobility. So I am kindly asking for input on the following:

Must-eat joints - i assume mini-bar and jaleo are in this category. What else?
Asian - is there any decent vietnamese, for example? I am pretty much open to anything. I am currently in New York so some of the obvious ones we can forego.
Any other interesting ethnic restaurants?
BBQ - I am hoping my BBQ options will improve as i move south. true?
Anything else that i should be looking for

All help is appreciated.

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  1. Anyone from anywhere that has BBQ as a native cuisine will tell you that you're SOL on that front; for someone coming from NYC, though, what's here might satisfy you. The closest place to you will be Red Hot & Blue, a chain that started in this area that specializes in (a version of) Memphis-style 'cue. If you're not a purist, it's perfectly acceptable, as is the brisket at Famous Dave's (another chain but one that I don't think extends to NY).

    Re: Asian, there's tons of good Thai & Korean in the area, although Korean (mostly located in Annandale, just south of Arlington) will be harder to reach if you don't have a car. Search to board and you'll find lots of rec. There's also pretty good Vietnamese, mostly clustered around Eden Center (in Falls Church, just west of Arlington--searching for Eden Center will find you lots of info); there are also a handful of Vietnamese places along the Orange line in Arlington like Minh's that you can try. (Dennis S will almost definitely chime in now with a recommendation for the sweet & spicy salmon soup at Nam Viet near you. ;) Many others like it, so it's probably a good rec, but it's just never done anything for me.)

    One area where DC shines for ethnic food in comparison to even most other big cities is Ethiopian; most good places are in DC proper, but are metro accessible. In Arlington proper there's Meaza and Lalibela and a few other pretty good places.

    Re: "must-eat" places, if you're into moleclular gastronomy and tasting menus and have a big budget, then try for MiniBar (though be warned that seats are very hard to get). There are many other top-notch places in DC proper, but in Arlington, I can't think of any must-eat locations; the closest might be 2941 in Falls Church, and I haven't been there since it opened and it's gone through a lot of changes since then so I don't know if it's as stellar as it originally was.

    Jaleo, like all of Jose Andres' non-MiniBar restaurants, is very hit-or-miss; when it's good, it can be quite good, but it's nowhere near "can't miss".

    Oh, one last rec: Ray's Hell Burger. Mentioning it will probably start yet another flame war among the adherents who think it's the best burger ever and the doubters who say it's nothing special. If you aren't adept at making your own burger from quality meat, though, then it's a fairly affordable option that, when the kitchen is firing on all cylinders, is very good, and worth a try. (It's also often swamped by tourist crowds after visits from Obamas, though...)

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    Eden Center
    Falls Church, VA, USA, Falls Church, VA

    Minh's
    2500 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201

    Nam Viet Restaurant
    3419 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., washington, dc, DC 20008

    Meaza Restaurant
    5700 Columbia Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041

    Lalibela Restaurant and Bar
    3111 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204

    Famous Dave's
    10500 Owings Mills Blvd, Owings Mills, MD 21117

    12 Replies
    1. re: sweth

      Ha! Thanks Sweth. And to the OP I have no affiliation - I just love the place and that soup (and the curried squid). (and I will add his post is very accurate on what is covered).

      Look for posts about Arlington and the different metro stops.

      Halal Cart is right at Ballston and is damn good. You've close to El Charrito Caminante which may be the best taco in the area. Also the kabob place at Pershing and Glebe.

      Thai - like Sweth said - you're closest to the best in the whole area - just get down to Columbia Pike.

      Ask more specifics.

      -----
      El Charrito Caminante
      2710 Washington Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201

      1. re: Dennis S

        Also in Ballston area - on Saturdays and Sundays there is a pupusa truck (Pupuseria Diana) on Henderson at the corner of 4th Road North. In addition to Pupusas it has carne asada, tacos, and something else (limited menu, but for what they have it is Highly recommended -- beats out El Charrito Caminante.)

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        El Charrito Caminante
        2710 Washington Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201

        Pupuseria Diana
        N Henderson Rd 4th Rd N, Arlington, VA 22203

        1. re: Dennis S

          Sorry it took me awhile to get to any of these places. Apparently when you are staying in a hotel for a week everyone in the office feels it is their duty to take you out for drinks. Finally slowed down after a week! So....

          Got over to Minh's last week. I was very excited to finally get some vietnamese and although it scratched an itch, I need to go back and try out some of the other dishes. I had the shredded pork rolls, a cup of pho tai, and grilled pork/shrimp with thin noodles. The pork roll was fine. The pho was a bit lacking in my opinion - didn't get the usual accoutrements and the meat was not that great. I am chalking this up to getting just a cup instead of a whole bowl. Also thought the broth could have used some work. My main dish was mostly fine but kind of basic. And i mean that in the sense that it is a basic dish and i knew that when i ordered. I intend to get a little more adventerous in my next visit. I will also get to this other place and try this salmon soup you are talking about.

          So a decent start. but need to get out more. Does anyone know anything about this food truck that serves bahn mi sandwiches? Apparently they are in ballston once a week.

          -----
          Minh's
          2500 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201

          1. re: StrongIsland

            If Minh's is anything like Nam Viet (which I believe they are similar), then the pho will lack. For some reason, if a place is good at pho and has a more full menu, the rest of the menu won't be very good and vice versa. So if and when you make it to Nam Viet, don't get the pho.

            I think Sauca might be the truck you're talking about?
            http://www.eatsauca.com/menu-saucas

            -----
            Minh's
            2500 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201

            Nam Viet Restaurant
            3419 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., washington, dc, DC 20008

            1. re: Dennis S

              No, it's Rebel Heroes. They only stay in the Arlington area so I haven't tried them yet. Look at their twitter for info on current location:
              http://twitter.com/rebelheroes

              There's also a taco truck that's only in Arlington, District Taco.
              http://www.districttaco.com/

              1. re: hamster

                I think that's the truck that was intended, though Sauca does a bahn mi (I can't vouch for either - haven't yet been).

                1. re: Dennis S

                  Yeah. My fish taco experience at Sauca was not good, though the flat bread they serve everything on is amazing. I will give them another shot, but probably won't be trying the "banh mi" after woodleyparkhound's report. Perhaps they have improved their sauces by now.

                  1. re: hamster

                    I would strongly advise avoiding the "banh mi" at Sauca. It is neither a banh mi, nor is it tasty.

              2. re: Dennis S

                Tried Rebel heroes. 10 minute line wait, then 25 mins for sandwich. Sandwich was light and not a bahn mi. So back to the drawing board. Will check out the taco truck soon.

                1. re: StrongIsland

                  In addition to District Taco, there is another taco truck which parks at about 14th and N. Queen in the Rosslyn area - though the residential part. I see it in the afternoons/ early evening. Truly Mexican. YMMV

                  DId you say you've been to Taqueria El Charrito Caminante? The goat taco there would be the priority.

                  -----
                  El Charrito Caminante
                  2710 Washington Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201

              3. re: StrongIsland

                Pho 75 in Rosslyn is where you want to go in that area for Pho. Generally Pho is not as good in restaurants that serve other things I agree with Dennis S on that.

                1. re: ktmoomau

                  its rebel heroes. I will try it next week. And i am hoping to hit up Rays hell burgers and one other place recommended on here.

                  I agree on the pho comments. But that doesn't mean i won't persevere and eat through all the vietnamese places I can. And Rossly is not too far away on metro so I will deffo make it there.

          2. In Arlington itself:
            For lunch there is also a Crepe cart now in Ballston

            Pupatella down Wilson Blvd is good, especially if you get the specials they have pizza, sandwiches, etc.
            I also really like the flatbreads at American Flatbread in Clarendon
            Earl's in Clarendon is really good for sandwiches

            I think the must eats in Arlington are Liberty Tavern and Eventide.

            Willow can be hit or miss for me, but they have good happy hour specials.

            In Ballston Big Buns is good, and Iike their fish sandwiches as much as the burgers.

            If you have a car and can wander I think La Carenquena is worth checking out get the shredded beef dishes and saltenas, the Italian Store for a sub, Lebanese Butcher and definitely the Eden Center.

            For Korean both Honey Pig and Han Gang are really good for Korean BBQ and not a far drive away.

            Also Pizzeria Orso in Falls Church has great Neapolitan pizza and their clam appetizer is really good too.

            If you want steak go to Ray's the Steaks their key lime pie and crab bisque is really good too.

            In DC there is a world of options.

            -----
            Lebanese Butcher & Restaurant
            109 E Annandale Rd, Falls Church, VA 22046

            Italian Store
            3123 Lee Hwy, Arlington, VA 22201

            Eden Center
            6763 Wilson Blvd, Falls Church, VA 22044

            The Liberty Tavern
            3195 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22201

            Pupatella
            5104 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22203

            10 Replies
            1. re: ktmoomau

              Second Liberty Tavern. I just recently went there for lunch and had an amazing gnocchi dish with brown butter and fresh squash. Husband had the lobster roll which was good, but the fries were really, really good.

              I'm also a fan of the new Rebel Heroes sandwich truck, which moves up and down the Orange Line corridor in Arlington. I think it's in Ballston on Mondays. My favorite so far is the pork meatball banh mi, but I also like the pressed cubano.

              Rays is a favorite, if only for the crab bisque (incredible IMHO), but I'm a fan of their steaks as well. Oh, and the chocolate mousse.

              -----
              The Liberty Tavern
              3195 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22201

              1. re: mjhals

                mjhals, the gnocchi had summer squash?

                1. re: alkapal

                  Not in the gnocchi itself, but in the dish, yes. It was like a vegetable saute mixed with the gnocchi in a light brown butter sauce. I believe the saute also had heirloom carrots (there were chunks of deep purple carrot-tasting items along with the squash). I believe it also had fresh sage. It was just a very, very good dish. Inspired me to make gnocchi that weekend.

                  1. re: mjhals

                    that is an interesting combo for gnocchi. i usually associate gnocchi with cooler days. were they potato or semolina? did they use ricotta? <see sara moulton's really easy ricotta gnocchi recipe here: Ricotta Gnocchi with Sauteed Cherry Tomato Sauce http://www.saramoulton.com/weeknightm... >.

                    i adore gnocchi with sage-brown butter sauce. it speaks "autumn" to me!

                    ~~~~
                    ps, the vegetable side at mister days there in clarendon this season is always a nice melange of fresh green beans, squash, red bell pepper and onion in a lightly seasoned sauté preparation. i always sub the veg for the fries. ps, they have a super lunch deal on a prime rib sandwich on mondays and wednesdays.

                2. re: mjhals

                  Hit up a bunch of the recommendations this weekend when Mrs. StrongIsland was visiting.

                  Liberty Tavern – really enjoyed this place. I had the trout and the Mrs. had the arctic char. The rest of them menu looked great, esp. the pork chop, but due to a bbq lunch could not summon the power to go for it. The trout came with Moroccan lamb sausage which was really good, fingerling potatoes and a chanterelle sauce. I could have used with more chanterelle sauce, but not a big deal. I will be returning to this place.

                  Pho 75 – classic Vietnamese place – situated in a strip mall, cafeteria style, low (or non existent) décor, food that arrives about 1 min after you order it, etc. The Pho was pretty good. I had Pho Tai and the Mrs. had Pho Ga. Broth was just about right although mine was a little weak on the anise which was fine with me. Slurped the whole thing down and I was a happy puppy.

                  Zaytinya – a recommendation of a friend. I didn’t realize this was Mike Isabella’s place (my friend he was no longer there so maybe I am wrong on this). I didn’t care for him on Top Chef but this restaurant was great. We had lunch and had series of mezze – all kinds of things, cod, sweetbreads, kebbe, sausages, and some veggie dishes and spreads. Everything was really great. Would recommend this as well.

                  Willow – hit this up because we were staying in Ballston and needed something nearby. I think this place has its detractors (at least in my office) but we thought it was fine. I had the fish stew and I couldn’t even finish it. Now, I probably would not be using pumpkin with fish stew but it kind of worked. I will need to hit this up again for another sampling to really

                  NoSo – in clarendon. We had lunch there today. Pork Belly sandwich – this should have been better but it was salty and had broccoli rabe on it. The thing with pork belly (and pork) is that it is easy to get it too salty. I have done the same many a time. So the key is to accompany it with something that stands up to it and hits a different taste bud. Think of the pork buns at Momofuku in NYC – pork belly with the pickled cucumber. Great combo. But I digress this sandwich didn’t do it for me. But I really liked the place and will return, especially when the weather is still nice.
                  Again, thanks for everyone who recommended places to me. I will continue to post here as I eat through Arlington and the surrounding area. Thanks again.

                  -----
                  Zaytinya
                  701 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

                  The Liberty Tavern
                  3195 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22201

                  1. re: StrongIsland

                    hey SI-I'm a fellow long islander who just left manhattan after 6yrs for arlington. it has only been a week so i can't offer much yet but i do appreciate your posts. sawatdee for casual, yummy, well priced thai food is really good. it is in courthouse plaza. also the italian store off lee highway is a good spot for an italian hero.

                    1. re: rogs

                      LOL. Welcome! I am commuting down here most weeks so these recommendations are invaluable. Let us know how you find some of these places.

                    2. re: StrongIsland

                      I agree on that pork sandwich it needs a really good grainy mustard or something, as you suggested, to cut the richness and bring out the flavor. I felt the same way about the sandwich. I wish they would tweak it a bit, I think it has potential.

                      Speaking of a great sandwich, if you go to Eventide for brunch get the roast beef sandwich, the bread is good, the meat is good, the accompaniments make it pop.

                      Steve, if you read this post, seriously if you haven't tried the brunch roast beef sandwich at Eventide you need to, I think you will appreciate the bread quality and combo of ingredients.

                      1. re: ktmoomau

                        eventide is on the list for a dinner. maybe tonight as i need to go check out some soccer at summers.

                        1. re: ktmoomau

                          I didn't realized Eventide had a brunch! I hope to check it out some time. Thanks for the recommendation.

                  2. Some of the best Arlington has to offer:
                    Taqueria El Charrito Caminante: Goat tacos
                    Chez Manelle, Tunisian, get the brika and the carrot salad
                    BBQ: Chopped pork sandwich at Rockland's. They also do a few other things great like a grilled catish sandwich.
                    Jaleo, like you mentioned, I recently had a great meal especially the spinach with raisins and apples and the baby wrinkled potatoes.
                    Lyon Hall, Alsatian. Dinner only. Get the suasage skillet platter.
                    Pupatella, Napolitan Pizza
                    Thai Square, the tile fish appetizer and the lacey catfish appetizer, the pork knuckle stew, beef jerky with chinese broccoli, and from the thai-languag emenu the sour curry and the duck noodle soup.
                    Eden Center, Vietnamese - almost Arlington. My favorite meal is at Nha Trang, the noodle soup dish labbeled as having "shrimp paste in the shape of worms."
                    The manti (large dumplings) and any of the stuffed breads at Cafe Assorti (Eastern European), the slads, and soups are good too.

                    www.edencenter.com

                    -----
                    Eden Center
                    Falls Church, VA, USA, Falls Church, VA

                    Thai Square
                    3217 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204

                    El Charrito Caminante
                    2710 Washington Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201

                    Nha Trang
                    6757 Wilson Blvd Ste 7, Falls Church, VA 22044

                    Cafe Assorti
                    1800 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201

                    Pupatella
                    5104 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22203

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Steve

                      Wow, thanks for all the great recommendations.

                      NY BBQ is pretty lacking but I do have my own smoker and make my own rub and sauce so it sounds like I may not find much of interest. Oh well. Ethiopian I have had years ago but will give another shot at. And, thanks for the burger joint. Here in NYC all the rage is the shake shack burgers, as well as any Pat Lafrieda burgers. I will gladly try this place out.

                      Thai and Vietnamese never get old. Vietnamese is not that great here in NYC but I have heard that I should find some good places down there. Glad to get the suggestions.

                      And, not sure I mentioned this, but I am a huge fan of street carts so i am happy to see that I will be able to indulge this as needed.

                      Goat tacos? Where do I sign up, Steve? This will be fun.

                      Anyways, thanks for all the recommendations, I will be starting in a few weeks and will be living in a hotel 3 nights a week so these will all come to good use. I hope to come back and let you know my experiences.

                      1. re: StrongIsland

                        Don't cut yourself short at TECC, either - get the chorizo as well. Best I've ever had.

                    2. In addition to the other suggestions, I would also note El Pollo Rico or Super Pollo for Peruvian style rotisserie chicken. Pretty much a "must" and cheap!

                      -----
                      Pollo Rico
                      7643 New Hampshire Ave, Takoma Park, MD 20912

                      1. Must agree on El Charrito Caminante. Made my first stop in this weekend for a chorizo taco and one of their pupusas. Fresh and delicious. Total cost of the meal -- $3.50. I'd make this a permanent stop if I were hanging out in Arlington. And nearby Lyon Park has a few shady spots to eat it.

                        Not sure if it's still up to chowhound standards, but Lebanese Taverna Market (just a bit north of Ballston) used to have good lebanese takeout, with a few spots to eat inside as well. We particularly like anything slathered in their garlic sauce.

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                        El Charrito Caminante
                        2710 Washington Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201

                        Lebanese Taverna Market
                        4400 Old Dominion Dr, Arlington, VA 22207

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: kelewis

                          their garlic sauce is out of this world!