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Bahn mi and fish tacos- NoVa

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Plan to be down in Fairfax City visiting my parents for Xmas. Is there anywhere in NoVa, preferably <30min (non rush hour) drive where I can get a good bahn mi or fish tacos? They have had them both while visiting me in Cambridge, and I'd like to show them where to get them down there.

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  1. I don't know what fish tacos or bahn mi are like in Cambridge. There are several bahn mi shops in the Eden Center (borderline between Arlington and Falls Church) and a few others in that area. None are reported to be particularly bad and a few have been reported as favorites by a few posters. Most all of them are carry-out with no real space to eat inside (and it's getting a little cold to eat outside). I like DC Sandwich on Arlington Boulevard and Graham Road for the variety of sandwiches and other packaged goodies that they sell. Quibblers like to discuss who has the most authentic bread.

    About the closest you'll find to a California fish taco around here is at the many Baja Fresh restaurants. As with any chain, some are better than others. Of the ones I've visited, I'm partial to the one in the Pan Am Center at Lee Highway and Nutley St. in Fairfax.

    4 Replies
    1. re: MikeR

      You can get fish tacos at Alegria in Vienna and Bamba in Falls Church.

      1. re: Worldwide Diner

        Well, if we're just naming places where fish tacos are available, I'd add District Taco (Tuesdays and Fridays only) and California Tortilla.

        I've had a fish taco at Taco Bamba and didn't think it was any better than those at a good Baja Fresh. I haven't tried Alegria because all I've heard about them is along the lines of expensive (confirmed from looking at the on-line menu) and not exceptionally good. But tastes, and what you get when it reaches your table varies.

        1. re: MikeR

          They're all about the same quality. I actually like the fish tacos the On the Border.

      2. re: MikeR

        I'm not an expert on either, but I assume that the fish tacos in Cambridge/Boston and the banh mis aren't the most authentic or cheapest. Around $4/taco and bahn mis range from $3.50ish-$8.00. But they do taste good and satisfy the craving.

        Over 10 years of them living in Fairfax and I still haven't made it over to Eden Center. This time I will.

        Baja Fresh in the Pan Am Center is convenient for them, and if it works great.

      3. We are big fans of the banh mi at Song Que in Eden Center. As you are facing the center, it is in the left-hand corner, behind the fountain. It is a deli with a few tables. We don't eat in. We bring them home.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Just Visiting

          I've eaten my banh mi several times at their tables in the back. It's not great ambiance but it is clean. I just read my newspaper there while eating my sandwich. Totally fine.

        2. I like the fish tacos at La Mexicana Bakery & Tacqueria.

           
          1 Reply
          1. re: monkeyrotica

            Damn, that looks great. I so rarely make it down to Alexandria but I may have to find some way to visit La Mexicana next time in down that way.

          2. Bahn Mi DC Sandwich (3103 Graham Rd, Falls Church, VA 22042). Cash only. No seating so you'll eat in your car. Get the pork. The meat may look rare, but trust me, it's fine...and delicious. I've had bahn mi from at least a half dozen places and they make my hands-down favorite version.

            I've had bahn mis from the noted Song Que, but I don't think much of their bread, and a good baguette can make all the difference in a bahn mi. The baguette's they use at at Bahn Mi DC absolutely perfect for a bahn mi.

            The Eden Center does however have some wonderful restaurants. It also has one of the most nerve-wracking parking lots in the area. Keep your eyes peeled for rare open spots and pedestrians walking out in front of your car, and keep a good well of patience.

            La Bamba has good fish tacos, but I'm no expert when it comes to that area. My fave fish tacos are at Adega in Silver Spring and The Argonaut in DC.

            14 Replies
            1. re: The Big Crunch

              The bread at Song Que seems to vary. Most times it is terrific but we have been there a couple of times when it has been sub-par. I wonder if they had supply problems.

              Ditto on the parking lot. We just park at the outside edge and walk.

              1. re: Just Visiting

                Interesting about the bread. I will say it's been a couple of years since I was there, so maybe it was an off day, and certainly it could have improved. Both times I was there it was too dense and pillowy...more like Italian bread than a proper baguette.

                Though the OP will probably not go there at all, Saigonese, in Wheaton, has fantastic bahn mis, though everything else they serve is just average. Hmmm...is the word "bahn mi" it's own plural?

                1. re: The Big Crunch

                  So, in the interest of my stomach, I had to try Saigonese. Let me say that it is a lovely place. One would not want to sit at one of the few tables at the rear of Song Que to eat. Not pleasant. We always do take-out (often munching our banh mi at Gravelly Point as the planes come in to land - a fine DC experience!). Saigonese is really nice inside. Comfortable and pretty. The bread was good but no better than the usual bread at Song Que. Your description of the sub-par bread is exactly what we experienced on those couple of off days but every other time it was just like we had today at Saigonese - light, crisp crust. The fillings at Saigonese were tasty but - and this could just be personal taste - didn't do the trick. They were missing the zing of the jalapeno and the pickled daikon. They had cucumber, carrot, and cilantro. Good but not as good as Song Que by far.

                  We also had the vegetarian spicy lemongrass soup with tofu. Very good but not at all spicy.

                  I would go to Saigonese again if I happened to be over in Wheaton whereas I would and often do make a special trip to Eden Center if I want banh mi.

                  1. re: Just Visiting

                    Wow. No daikon and jalapeno? I've eaten Bahn MIs there at least 20 times and never had that issue. If anything, I find they tend to give more jalapeno than Bahn Mi DC. Of course I always order with extra veggies, so maybe that makes a difference? Maybe the biggest difference is that they do NOT use mayo, whereas Bahn MI DC does use it. Usually I love mayo on anything, but I'm not sure it adds much to a Bahn Mi. In any case, I wouldn't really go out of my way to try Saigonese, but it's a couple of blocks over from our dobro player's house where we have band practice ever Thursday in the winter, which means pre-practice Bahn Mis are a common stop for me. That said, the new Korean place up there is going to significantly cut into those visits. If you're in Wheaton again and haven't tried it, I highly recommend Seoul Food.

                    I'll give Song Que another shot when I'm down near Falls Church in a couple of weeks. Sounds like I was just there on a couple of bad days. Who knows, maybe they didn't get a shipment o bread by the time I went those days and were using previous day's loaves.

                    1. re: The Big Crunch

                      Oh no. I have to give you more bad news. These banh mi at Saigonese definitely had mayo yesterday. I agree 100%. I don't think the mayo adds anything at all.

                      Maybe there is a different chef at lunch time?

                      1. re: Just Visiting

                        Wow! Maybe it is different at lunch. I've only been there around 7:30 at night. I'l give my evening bahn mi a closer look next week to see if there is, indeed, any mayo, but I'm pretty sure they've always left it off. Maybe they just go much lighter than Bahn Mi Dc which I suppose might go too heavy on the mayo or some folks. I can also attest to the fact that the iced coffee at Saigonese is pretty weak and tastes a bit overly sweet and watered down and the crispy spring rolls are far too greasy.

                2. re: Just Visiting

                  I live within walking distance of Song Que, so I am there regularly. I have never had a problem with the bread, so I think you've been unlucky.

                  Also, I haven't a clue why you object to eating inside as you posted downthread. It is spacious and spotless.

                  1. re: Steve

                    I'll definitely be giving it another try when I'm down that way next weekend. I'm not sure what you mean about me objecting to eating indoors at Song Que - both times I was there I ate at a table in the back, and thought it was fine. I did however point out that Bahn Mi DC is counter service only, and thus not exactly ideal for eating indoors.

                    1. re: The Big Crunch

                      My post was not in response to you…...

                      1. re: Steve

                        Oops, Sorry. My bad. No offense intended.

                    2. re: Steve

                      I was the one who made the comment about eating at Song Que, not Big Crunch. Yes, it is spacious and spotless but not really the kind of place where you want to eat in. Just not an eat-in environment IMHO. This is to each his own.

                      Yes, we did have problems with the bread twice but that's out of dozens of visits.

                  2. re: The Big Crunch

                    i'm gonna let you in on my best parking secret. park BEHIND eden center. shhhh, don't tell anyone.

                    1. re: alkapal

                      Except that at the moment, there is a huge piece of heavy equipment blocking that access driveway behind the Eden Center.

                      1. re: Just Visiting

                        there are two entrances to the back -- one off sycamore, and one off wilson blvd.

                  3. For a pretty place to enjoy your Bahn mi, try Dickson Wine Bar, near the 930 Club in the district. Very lovely and good bahn mi too.