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Lunch near GMU-Arlington, Clarendon, Virginia Square?

  • k

Hi. I'm going to a conference at George Mason U.'s Arlington campus.

Any suggestions for quick-but-delicious lunch spots in close proximity to Founders' Hall (3351 Fairfax Dr.)?


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  1. My favorite is Mario's, for the Lefty's Special Steak and Cheese. It isn't a cheese steak because it has mayo and extra ingredients, but it is delicious. And you will probably be served by Lefty himself.
    You will probably like the sandwich better if you get it without the sweet pickles, though.

    El Pollo Rico is nearby and has good chicken, but Mario's kicks it to the curb.

    1. I'd go for El Pollo Rico on tiny Kenmore St. Consistently the best Peruvian chicken around, which is saying something.

      1. steve, isn't there a new kabob place on wilson blvd. west of mario's but on the north side of the street?

        1 Reply
        1. re: alkapal

          I'm really not up on that, sorry.

        2. Ma La Tang is right there, and serves some very good Sichuan food. They specialize in hot pot, but also have a variety of dumplings and steamed buns, cucumber salad, and pickled vegetables for a quick and excellent meal.

          Full menu as well.

          1. near ma la tang is rockland's bbq on washington blvd., across from the giant.

            (essentially, the back side of the school ).

            1. El Pollo Rico

              Mala Tang

              Mario's is great for cheesesteaks but they have the worst pizza I've had in the area.

              Earl's Sandwiches (Ballston, especially the house made roast beef)

              Those 4 places are better than Rocklands but if you really want BBQ, it is ok.

              -Jason, dcfud.com

              3 Replies
              1. re: Foodgeek

                No cheesesteaks at Mario's. They have the best steak and cheese around, though.

                1. re: flavrmeistr

                  I wish I could find the discussion of cheesesteak vs. steak and cheese, and the history thereof, that was on this site a couple years ago. It was incredibly interesting despite it being just a series of posts regarding the history of Philadelphia cheese steaks vs. DC area steak and cheeses. I mean, we are talking about meat on bread for goodness sake, but it was very cool to see the two areas take slightly different takes on a classic food.

                  1. re: Ziv

                    I'd also be interested in seeing that discussion as well. Is there more nuance to the discussion than simply an alteration of the classic "steak sandwich"?

              2. FWIW, to follow up: we went to Ma La Tang, since it's on the same block as the GMU building. Verdict: Meh. Not terrible, but it's no Peter Chang. I don't think I'd go back.

                4 Replies
                1. re: kagi

                  I went to Ma La Tang because I was really craving a hot pot. It's a bit of the watered-down experience--they clearly cater to making hot pot "accessible." I thought it was good, but didn't satisfy my hot pot craving. I'd recommend it for someone who needed an introduction to Sichuan food, though.

                  1. re: pgm123

                    Mala Tang must have went downhill. It was exceptionally authentic when it opened but its been open a while. Do they still make their own tofu and soy sauce?

                    1. re: Foodgeek

                      Wait, I should clarify. I haven't been there in a while, but I found the flavors are authentic. However, I didn't think the hot pot offered the most authentic experience. They brought a tiny pot for each person rather than a large pot to be shared by the group. I found that very strange and a little off-putting.

                      1. re: pgm123

                        That's their schtick. They offer spicy or mild broth, and either meat based or vegetable based broth. I guess that's non-traditional, but it probably helps to attract more customers who would otherwise be reluctant to eat there.

                        When Mala Tang first opened, it seemed that most of the comments were about the price being pretty steep for not a lot of food.

                        Uncle Liu's Hot Pot on Gallows Road between Arlington Blvd. and Lee Highway in Fairfax is from the same family (same as Hong Kong Palace) and serves one pot per table, which can be half spicy and half hot - there's a divider in the middle. There's one price for the pot, and then the meat and vegetables that you choose to cook in it all have their own prices.

                        But it's not in Clarendon, so not directly applicable to this discussion. It's the way of the Internet.