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Jan 17, 2013 07:49 AM

Good casual dining options in NoVa

We recently moved to NoVa and are still finding our way around. So far we've had some mediocre food experiences and are hoping to find both casual eating places and good ethnic food. We love neighborhood restaurants and holes in the wall. Any ideas for places to try? Thanks.

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  1. Welcome! This is a really big area. Where are you located? For example, I live near the Fairfax/Loudoun line in Chantilly. I know this area very well, but rarely get to, say, Old Town Alexandria.

    There is lots of good ethnic food in Nova, but narrowing down the area you're interested in will help.

    19 Replies
    1. re: Bob W

      Thanks Bob! We live in Centreville but we're definitely willing to drive for good food.

      1. re: pastamonster

        If you like Korean food, you're in the right place! There is a Bon Chon chicken outlet and many other spots. Others will have to help you figure out which are the best.

        What have you tried so far?

        1. re: Bob W

          Thanks, I'd wondered about Bon Chon. We'll try it soon. We have tried (pretty unsuccessfully) a Thai place and a Vietnamese place, sorry, can't remember the names. Also, SooWon Galbi, (Korean) which actually was not bad. I'd love to find good indian,Thai, Vietnamese, Indian and Mexican. From what I' understand, finding good Mexican out here might be tough, but that's, imo, definitely worth a drive.

          1. re: pastamonster

            Yes, Mexican is tough around here. Check out Picante! in Chantilly -- they have some interesting regional dishes. Portions are very generous.

            For non-Mexican hispanic foods, you might want to venture down 28 into Manassas. There is a Peruvian chicken place called Guapo's down that way. Their chicken is good enough -- not the best around here but ok -- but their real draw is their fried yuca, which towers above the yuca at most places around here.

            For Indian, try Rangoli in South Riding.

            As for Vietnamese, nothing close by jumps out but just for pho and a few noodle dishes, Pho 98 in Chantilly is good.

            Sakoontra in Fairfax -- pretty close to Centreville -- has good Thai.

            1. re: Bob W

              Thanks for all the suggestions. Looks like I've got some eating to do. :)

              1. re: Bob W

                Second to BobW's recommendations. I love Rangoli (easily my favorite Indian restaurant) and Picante and don't get out to Guapo's enough.

                1. re: Hobbert

                  Thanks. Looking forward to trying both.

                  1. re: pastamonster

                    Also in Chantilly, is Karaikudi:

                    And a few doors down are - imo - the best traditional hot wings at Bungalow Billiards. Very casual - it's a billiards hall of course. Get the three mile island tour (it's not anything to sign a waiver for, and I believe is probably largely carrot based).

                    In that area, Williards is passable for burnt ends bbq. 100 degree isn't that far by going East on 50 to get Sichuan (Szechuan Village in Chantilly is okay in a pinch but not my favorite by far).

                    1. re: Dennis S

                      Thanks Dennis. Karaikudi sounds amazing.

                      Always looking for good bbq, and I might try Willards, but "passable" isn't really a rave review. Any really good bbq in the area? (I moved here from Texas and I'm willing to drive for "good 'cue.")

                      1. re: pastamonster

                        Carolina Brothers on Ashburn Road in Ashburn has pretty good barbecue. Can't say if its up to Texas standards, but I like it and they stay pretty busy. The pecan pie is great, too.

                        1. re: Hobbert

                          Thanks Hobbert. I'll be sure to add Carolina Brothers to my ever growing list (and save room for the pie. :))

                        2. re: pastamonster

                          You're welcome.

                          On the BBQ thing first, you have to define. Hobbert obviously leans to TX style, but there are so many options. This is why I specified burnt ends at Williards. They're not KC burnt ends, but they are good. The brisket there is decent as well.

                          Beyond the type of BBQ favored, etc., BBQ on this board is one of the most contentious topics. Mainly b/c of the type argument, but it goes further. There is a lot of commenting, so just search a few key words on this board and you'll find PLENTY of opinions and options to try out for yourself.

                          1. re: Dennis S

                            I'm definitely on board with Dennis's recs of the burnt ends and brisket at Willards. The pork is meh.

                            For ribs, I'd check out the Pit Stop at Gilberts Corner (US 50 @ US 15, just east of Aldie). Weekends only, really good. Pulled pork is good too.

                            Speaking of Ashburn, Urban Barbecue has opened an outlet there. I have not tried it yet.

                            1. re: Dennis S

                              Oops, did not know I had ventured into dangerous territory... I really should have known as BBQ seems to be cause for humorously heated debate among fans in every region. I'll be sure to give Willards a try.

                              1. re: pastamonster

                                pastamonster -- the barbecue around here is, in general, so soul-crushingly mediocre that those of us who have had the real thing (in KC, Texas, Memphis, the Carolinas, Georgia....) are just really bitter. 8<D

                                1. re: Bob W

                                  And I didn't think I'd miss Texas...

                                  Ok... if Texas is known for BBQ, what would you (any of you) say is NoVA's specialty?

                                  1. re: pastamonster

                                    Seafood, peanuts, and ham.

                                    I'm not going to touch the Brunswick Stew argument with a ten-foot ladle.


                                    1. re: monkeyrotica

                                      Definitely the ham. Is the steak and cheese a VA thing or just a DMV thing in general (and yes, steak and cheese, not cheesesteak).

                                      1. re: Dennis S

                                        I'd say steak & cheeses (or cheesesteak hoagies) are a regional thing, like Ledo's-style crackery crust pizza.

          2. The best of the best:

            Falls Church covers a huge area, and some of the best are located there:

            Myanmar. Don't miss the ginger salad. Crispy whole fish.

            Bangkok Golden, ask for the Lao menu. Nam Kao (rice ball salad,) grilled pork neck, mien muang luang (rice paste wrap).

            Nha Trang in Eden Center. Noodle soup with shrimp paste "in the shape of worms." Roast quail, special garden rolls (they will know which ones if you ask).

            Jerusalem, Palestinian food. Get the masukhan and the lamb makluba.

            Hong Kong Palace, Sichuan. Two dishes not listed on the menu, but are posted on the wall in Chinese only. They almost always have the. Chicken with crunchy peppers (you eat the peppers). 1000 lavor chicken. Cold, on the bone sliced chicken in a spicy salad. Cold Chengdu noodle. C

            Open only for lunch:

            Luzmilla's, Bolivian. Saltena, humintas, sopa de mani, very good steaks, tongue. Get the mocochincho to drink.

            Fairfax Inn, ask for the Filipino menu. Daing na bangus (marinated milkfish), dinguanan (pork stew made with blood).

            In Annandale:

            A & J, a chain from Taiwan with only two locations in the US. Northern Chinese food. Sua la mian (ask for the big noodles - these are homemade), niu ro bing (fried beef dumpling with soup inside).

            Shiney's, Pakistani: Bhel puri or chaat papri, karahi.

            Vit Goel, Korean. Specializes in soon dubu (tofu stew). Order the spiciest level.

            In Fairfax.

            Mazadar, Afghan. Baba ganouj, buranee, Kudu palow.

            That should get you started.

            BTW, the #1 galbi (best quality, most expensive), is certainly a bgreat thin to report

            10 Replies
            1. re: Steve

              Wow. I knew there had to be some good food around. So glad I asked. Thank you so much for the list. That should keep me busy for a while. :)

              1. re: Steve

                My post above should read "100 Flavor Chicken" at Hong Kong Palace.

                And the last line should read that the L.A. Galbi is excellent at Soowon Galbi, where you have already eaten.

                1. re: Steve

                  Thanks Steve. I'm so glad you included the best dishes at each of the restaurants. That helps so much.

                2. re: Steve

                  Too bad i live in the single worst dining town in NOVA...springfield. I guess the good part of that is that we spend 99% of our dining time in DC and the other 1% in Old Town or ARL. Does ANYONE know any good places in MY town to eat?? Please do not say Mike's American Grill...always packed, food & service marginal IMO. We were so desperate for close food last night we ended up pearl asion buffet. My stomach still hurts... :(

                  1. re: DCDOLL

                    Food Corner Kabob House was a frequent lunch spot for me.

                    1. re: shake N baik

                      Second Food Corner. Also Thai Noodle House and Gamasot for Korean.

                    2. re: DCDOLL

                      There's actually quite a few varied options near Brookfield Plaza. Rivera does decent Peruvian chicken. Delias does the standard Greek/Italian diner fare, but their Peruvian chicken isn't bad either. Kang Chon does some good, cheap Chinese as adapted to Korean tastes; reminds me a lot of Da Rae Won in Beltsville. There's also an Indian sweets and buffet place that wasn't bad, but the name escapes me.

                      1. re: monkeyrotica

                        Thanks...will check them out! i know exactly where you are talking about. the new Turkish place in Brookfield was decent the 2 times we've been and i forgot, my "hometown" fave is Pho Hong Ahn... i walk in and the owner goes "Large #3 to go?" predictable i guess!!

                        1. re: DCDOLL

                          In this area, I like Thai Ghang Waan (Brookfield Plaza), Bangkok Noodle (corner of Beulah & Commerce, rt. across from Mike's & Blue Pearl), & pho at Le Bledo Bakery (across the street from Brookfield Plaza, next to Chick Fil A). And there are lots of great Korean restaurants to try in Annandale...

                  2. Pomodoro makes a really tasty NY pizza. Very casual. I prefer it to Ciro's, which is also pretty decent.

                    Chutzpah Deli does great breakfasts and solid overstuffed sandwiches. Swamped on the weekends.

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: monkeyrotica

                      Regarding Chutzpah, I'm definitely partial to the breakfast side of the menu. I usually order the "Ooops" -- matzo brei plus lox and eggs. We're going this weekend with friends who live down on the Middle Peninsula and therefore don't have much access to decent deli food. 8<D

                      Speaking of which. Bagel Buddies in Fair Lakes actually has good bagels. Also swamped on the weekends.

                      And one more breakfast spot: Clifton Cafe in little Clifton has very good crepes! And yes, swamped on the weekends!

                      1. re: Bob W

                        Swamped or not, I love crepes! Clifton is close and it positively drips charm. (Sometimes I need to get away from the strip malls.) So far, the only place I've tried in Clifton was the "General Store" (where I had a pulled pork sandwich that wasn't half bad.) Now I need to get over to the Clifton Cafe for their crepes. I think I now have a Sunday morning plan. Thanks.

                        1. re: pastamonster

                          We might be taking our visitors to the Clifton Cafe too. Oh why did I mention it!!

                          1. re: Bob W

                            We went to Clifton Cafe on Monday -- it was a weird day and we got one of the big tables right way. Getting our food was as slow as ever, but the crepes were delicious and our guests were pleased. One note: My daughter got the sweet creep with peanut butter and bananas and thought it had too much peanut butter. Other than that, no complaints.

                      2. re: monkeyrotica

                        Thanks. Good NY pizza is not easy to find.

                        We'll have to try Chutzpah Deli again, this time for breakfast. We did lunch there a couple weeks ago and, to be honest, we were a little disappointed.

                        1. re: pastamonster

                          I usually stick with whitefish, fatty corned beef, chopped liver, or some combination.

                          1. re: monkeyrotica

                            We hit Chutzpah on Sunday with our guests. It was indeed swamped but the wait really wasn't too bad. We got mostly breakfast items. Mrs W got a "regular" size sandwich (corned beef, coleslaw, cheese maybe?) and it was so big she could only eat half. My deli-deprived friend from the Middle Peninsula was quite happy.

                            We got a side of whitefish salad to share and it was sinfully good.

                            1. re: Bob W

                              No self respecting Jewish deli would ever serve dairy with meat :)

                              1. re: dpan

                                I respectively disagree. Mayo may be one thing, but cheese another. What did Bob say that caused you to respond in this way (again, respective - truly).

                                1. re: Dennis S

                                  I think dpan was kidding (at least in part) but you are right -- mayo would be a far more egregious offense these days. White bread too!

                                2. re: dpan

                                  There are very few Kosher delis anywhere. Almost all Jewish delicatessens serve a Reuben - which has corned beef and swiss.

                                  Most really good delis, almost all the famous ones, are 'Kosher-style' which has come to mean no pork and no shellfish. Other than that, meat and dairy is served from the same kitchen on a regular basis.

                                  1. re: Steve

                                    i paid a return visit to DGS on Saturday with Mrs. W, and she tried the Reuben. I got a bite and thought it was very good. Will post my new DGS thoughts on the DGS thread!

                                    And DGS is certainly "self-respecting"!

                        2. The Wine Kitchen in Leesburg is great. You don't even really need to be a wine enthusiast to enjoy it (I'm not a fan of wine). The food and desserts are fantastic. It's a small place in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it location in downtown Leesburg, but it's a really nice, semi-casual atmosphere.