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Jun 19, 2012 10:16 AM

Reasonable, non-chain restaurant good for group dinner in Fairfax, Falls Church, Alexandria, or Arlington?

I'm visiting the DC area later this week from the Bay Area and am trying to find a restaurant for a relatively large (9 people) dinner with my cousins. I've been searching for a restaurant for several days now and haven't come up with much... I'm sure lots of good options exist, I just don't even know where to start and I'm starting to worry that if I don't find one soon, we won't be able to get a reservation. Here's what I/we are looking for:

1) reasonably priced (shouldn't be too difficult to find an entree or two under $15)
2) good for groups and not too loud/dark
3) not to "exotic" or scary for unadventurous eaters -- while I love pretty much all kinds of food, it seems like my cousins are American-meat-and-potatoes type folks who might not appreciate things like Ethiopian or Vietnamese (much to my chagrin) :P
4) willing to take reservations
5) I think everyone has a car, so metro-accessible isn't an imperative, but it might be a bonus.
6) The group would probably be happiest with a place in Fairfax or Falls Church, but I'm willing to expand the search a bit (to Alexandria, Arlington, and...?) if necessary to find what we're looking for.

Thank you, in advance!


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  1. When you say non-chain, would a local chain be acceptable? Because what immediately comes to mind is the Great American Restaurants group -- Artie's, Sweetwater Grill, Coastal Flats, etc.


    Similarly, the local Clyde's restaurants have large menus, plenty of "safe" food, good quality.

    If your cousins live here, they should be quite familiar with both groups.

    I think both will take reservations for large groups.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Bob W

      Thanks, Bob. Yes, local chains are fine... just not Olive Garden-y or TGI Fridays types (which I'm hoping no hounds would recommend anyway! :). In fact, the Great American Restaurants group came up in my initial search and I was considering Carlyle, but my mom said the location would probably be inconvenient for several of my cousins... I'll check out their other restaurants.

      1. re: BayAreaTeacher

        There is a bit of menu overlap at the GAR restaurants. OK, more than a bit. LOL. Coastal Flats tends more towards seafood, Sweetwater and Silverado towards meat. We've always like Artie's a lot. It's right in Fairfax Circle.

      2. re: Bob W

        GAR wasn't very good at accommodating large groups, the last time I tried. But this was years ago, so their policies might have changed.

        1. re: Lori D

          The GAR still don't accept reservations (at least the last time I tried for work, which was fairly recent), but some of them will accept call ahead about 30 minutes prior to your arrival.

          They were the first local chain that came to mind for me too. We like Sweetwater, Uncle Julio's, and Coastal Flats.

      3. Would add- Argia's in Falls Church for Italian. I haven't seen the menu from Pizzeria Orso since Chef Artley took over, but that would be worth checking out too.

        In Arlington- Liberty Tavern might work or Boulevard Woodgrill.

        In Alexandria- Majestic (check price it might be too pricey I can't remember), Overwood, Rustico, Virtue Feed and Grain or perhaps A La Lucia?

        1 Reply
        1. re: ktmoomau

          Argia's would be good for a group. Good food, huge room, some interesting dishes along with things like spaghetti and meatballs. Always liked the foccacia and olive oil, too.

        2. Live life on the wild side and go to the Lebanese Taverna in Arlington.

          5900 Washington Blvd.
          Arlington, VA, 22205

          Order a bunch of the mezze (who in the world doesn't eat hummus?) and an assortment of the of the kebobs.

          Go adventurous with some of the mezze and try to grow your relative’s world a bit. Anybody who tries the kibbeh (fried version) will like it – set it next to kibbeh nayeh (raw version) and let the bolder eaters try them both.

          Fattoosh - lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions tossed with pita bread and a vinaigrette . . . not very different than a tossed salad.

          Fatayer B`jibne (little fried cheese pies) – awesome . . . anybody should be able to enjoy as long as they realize that cheese doesn’t need to come in individually wrapped portions.

          If they can't try a swipe of baba ghannouge (babba ganoush), lebneh (thick strained yogurt) or kafta (ground beef and lamb) kebobs with their hummus and chicken kebobs . . . avoid family gatherings in the future!

          4 Replies
          1. re: drewpbalzac

            drew, Leb Tav is a great place, but I learned a long time ago -- let someone else expand your relatives's horizons!

            1. re: Bob W

              Words of a sage in response to a post by someone with a mischievous handle.

              In all actuality, I started being branded as the "foodie" guy at work. At first I tried to live up to it. Sometimes there was a winner, but many times folks were turned off by this, that or the other, and those things would stick with me (crummy but good became that I like crummy places - not entirely accurate).

              About 2 years ago I started just easing up. Yes, it meant unfortunately that sometimes on travel I'd be forced to Cheesecake Factory or the like, but I also wasn't branded by the unfortunate times when folks misinterpreted the experience at hand.

              1. re: Dennis S

                The problem I've found is that it's usually a long-term process. The first time I took Mrs W to Pho 75, she was really unhappy because there was nothing on the menu besides pho.Fast forward many many years, and she is a bigger pho maven than I am.

                She came from a family in Baltimore that was so out of it foodwise that they didn't even go out for Chinese food. Ever. So I had a lot of work to do! Decades later, mission primarily accomplished -- we can go out for Afghan, Ethiopian, Thai....

                If one relative gets pissed off, it's not worth it.

                But +1 to drew for his handle!

                1. re: Dennis S

                  Mischievous handle?

                  I apprecieate not trying to force relative into places that they are not comfortable.

                  I was just trying to point out that some "ethnic" has actually gone mainstream - humuns in our mainstream supermarkets . . . .kebobs . . . . . and that a place like LT could fit everybody's tastes.

            2. The GAR rec from Bob is what I thought of first. However, you may have to split across two tables. Also, they don't take reservations, but you can call ahead to be put in "line", which works fairly well.

              Clyde's should be able to seat 9. I know you don't say it, but avoid the Reston location. Each is a little different on menu and very different on service. Tyson's has good service (the time or two I've been) but Tyson's is a nightmare in and of itself.

              There's a few options in Arlington (the Clarendon area) though I'm a bit foggy on the options (Harry's Tap Room is one). Del Merei grill in Del Merei (southern Arlington) should also work (it has been a few years since I've been).

              4 Replies
              1. re: Dennis S

                Del Merei Grill closed a long time ago.

                Artie'si by far your best choice, and I highly recommend the Boathouse Salad which, despite the yachting theme of the restaurant, is a steak salad.

                1. re: Steve

                  Did not know about DM. That's too bad.

                  1. re: Steve

                    Dennis is a bit behind the times. Harry's Tap Room is also kaput.

                    1. re: MikeR

                      That's what happens with 3 kids. I'm getting around a little more now that I work in Crystal City. Thx for setting me straight.