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Arlington local institution

Hi everyone!

I will be visiting Arlington VA in the summer. My family and I love all of the comfort foods. Where should we go for the best local food? We want to go to the places that have been around for decades and whose names are known by the locals. Burgers, hot dogs, pizza, fried chicken, etc.


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  1. Arlington's not really a "local" spot. Not sure how familiar you are with the area, but it's pretty much just another urban section of DC that happens to be across the Potomac so it's in Virginia. (Over)populated by young singles and people with kids in the last decade (count me among that group). DC "proper" is right outside your door, depending on where you are it's even walkable -- so don't limit yourself to eating in only Arlington.

    The closest you might get to institutions and comfort food are some good ethnic spots and a couple of old greasy spoon diners that are still hanging on, but not remarkable IMO. Otherwise it's a land of trendy-ish restaurants and happy hours for the most part. There are good pizza and burger options, but they're newer places as far as I know.

    With that disclaimer, the one place that comes to mind is the Quarterdeck up by Ft. Myer. Old-school crab house that's quite popular in the summers. You will need reservations for about any evening you want to go -- and you'll have to call to make one. No open table.

    4 Replies
    1. re: rachelcp

      There are different types of local places. Some of the old school, traditional ones are just not good. Back from when Arlington looked more like West Virginia. You half expected to see people chasing their dinner in the yard.

      Some of these places still exist (Jay's Saloon, The Broiler, Whitlows, Arlington Diner, Linda's, LA Bar and Grill, Rhodeside, Bob & Edith's), but you wouldn't want to eat there. Some are in South Arlington, an area that the PP seems to be unfamilair with. The one exception for me is a guilty pleasure: the cheeseburger sub at Mario's on Wilson Blvd. (it's not even on the menu anymore, you just ask) and a pizza square topped with bbq or sausage patty. Pretty disgusting stuff, but maybe right up your alley. Seating on outdoor picnic tables or standing at a counter.

      Rays to the Third is a newer place that makes Hellburgers, cheesesteaks, fried chicken, and some killer 'adult' shakes, but it looks completely new. High marks for the food all around. There is counter service to the right, table service to the left.

      If it's convenient for you, there is also a new location for Ben's Chili Bowl, the iconic DC landmark. Go for a half-smoke with everything. Cheap delicious fun.

      I like the mini-burgers and the chili at Backyard BBQ (not very old), but I don't like the bbq. For a bbq pork sandwich, go to Rocklands. Also get their bbq pork egg roll.

      My favorite burger in the area is BGR which is a fast spreading local chain, cooked-to-order.

      Then there is the cuisine from all around the world. Taqueria El Charrito Caminante has great tacos de cabrito and papusas, Next door is Sibarita for Bolivian food. There is Gahrer Khabar for Bengali, Pupatella for Neapolitan pizzas, Lyon Hall for Alsatian, Thai Square, Little Saigon, the dongbei menu at Hunan Gate, Peruvian rotisserie chicken at El Pollo Rico, Sichuan Hotpot at Ma La Tang, Middle Eastern food at Astor, Korean fried chicken at Bon Chon, and the list goes on.

      If you haven't had Korean fried chicken, this is a MUST. I order it with the soy garlic flavor, not the spicy version.

      Then there are some traditional places that are right over the 'border' of Arlington into Falls Church, VA. Flavors is known for their fried chicken, but I am not that fond of the other offerings.

      1. re: Steve

        steve, is backyard bbq still there?

        by the way, cowboy café (lee hwy, north arlington) has a decent bbq sandwich! check it out.

        1. re: alkapal

          I drove by recently, but it was late at night long after closing hours. Still looked like it was in business.

          1. re: Steve

            yes, i see their website is still up -- and on FB. i thought that the sign was gone from the corner "shopping center menu" signage on corner. i'm usually driving, so didn't get a good look.

            by the way, fwiw, i saw a catering truck for "bootheel bbq" yesterday -- and they do whole pig bbq. i'll post this on that thread, too (asking about companies who did this). wish the guy had had a sample! ;-). http://www.bootheelcatering.com/quote...

    2. Ledo Pizza (I know others will advocate for Mario's, now named "Marino's", but it's carryout and it's awful).

      2 Replies
      1. re: wayne keyser

        i would not send a stray dog to mario's.

        1. re: wayne keyser

          "Marino's" is not Mario's. Anyhow, the steak and cheese is where it's at. Pizza is okay only when it's right out of the oven.

        2. Weenie Beenie for the Chili Half-smoke.
          Quarterdeck for Blue Crabs, preferably outside.
          Linda's or Bob & Edith's for a greasy spoon breakfast.
          Mario's for Lefty's Special. And, yes, that is Lefty serving you, so know what you are ordering and get out of everyones way after you order. Hold the pickles. And, no, a steak and cheese isn't the same as a cheese steak.
          Ray's HellBurger is new but great and reasonable.
          5 Guys is a chain but it started here in Arlington.
          Arlington really does ethnic better than old Virginia. Think Vietnamese or Thai, 7 Corners and Columbia Pike, respectively. Pho 75 on Wilson is pretty good too.
          Arlington doesn't do pizza or fried chicken very well.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Ziv

            ah, right, forgot about quarterdeck. the must stop for crabs!!!

          2. You like pizza? Go to Pupatella on Wilson Blvd. Has not been around for decades, but you'll be hard-pressed to find better pizza in the DC area. It's beloved. Very family friendly.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Bob W

              I will give them a try. I haven't liked the pizza I have tried in Arlington so I quit looking for it. Although I have to admit that the Antipasto Personal Pizza at Pietanza on Harrison isn't bad. It just isn't great.

              1. re: Ziv

                Try one of the arancini and the homemade meatballs too!

                1. re: Bob W

                  I really liked the Arancini! It was crispy on the outside and chewy and rich on the inside. Didn't like the pizza as much but it was fairly good. I will have to try the appetizer sampler next time. It has two types of arancini and one or two other things I can't remember, hopefully the meatballs are one of them.

                  1. re: Ziv

                    Their panzarotti - the 'mashed potato' version of the arancini- are excellent as well. I'm not sure what kind of pizza you had, but the burrata is my favorite.

                    1. re: Steve

                      I had the diavola, three of my favorite ingredients, mozarella, basil and salami are in it. But the fat/grease from the salami ponded on it a bit deeper than I like.
                      I normally don't like Napolitan margarheta type pizzas or white pizza either, but I think those might be the way to go at Pupatella.
                      They know what they are doing, I think I just ordered poorly. I think the fritura sampler (?) had four types of appetizers, two types of arancini and two other things. And their beer special was half price drafts and the Tartan was pretty good, too.

            2. The Broiler. 55 years and counting. Steak & cheese. The pizza's kinda Ledo's style, if that's how you roll.


              Bob & Edith's. Good diner grub.

              1. For fried chicken - Flavors. They cook to order and it takes about 20 minutes.

                1. ravi kabob on glebe rd, nearish ballston. with your kabob of choice (i like seekh kabob), get the chole (chick pea) side. the "family restaurant" across the street (also ravi kabob -- near the cvs) has a good gingery-tomatoey stir fry with two seekh kabobs -- i forget the name, but it is very good. not as frenetic/crowded/hard to park as the smaller ravi (the original) across glebe (catty-corner).

                  vietnamese around since 70's: nam viet (clarendon area).

                  carlyle grand has been around for many years, and has consistently served quality food. (shirlington area).

                  not around for years but hands down best pizza is at pupatella -- look for burrata (see if they'll make you the platter, if not try it on pizza), arancini, too. near ballston on wilson blvd. good craft/local draft beer selection.

                  rio grande near ballston has best beef fajitas. good patron margarita from scratch, too.

                  diner-wise, i love the greek spinach pie w/ greek salad at metro 29 diner, lee hwy and glebe.

                  good breakfasts at silver diner in clarendon area. i like the eggs benedict, then add a side of fresh sautéed garlic-spinach...with french fries and extra hollandaise for dipping. make sure they toast WELL DONE the muffin. the ham on there is terrific!!! lots of "locally" sourced ingredients (read "regional"). weekday breakfast specials are very well-priced. swamped on weekends. good weekdays without the crowds.

                  agree thai square is good. love the som tum and the seafood salad starters, then pad kee mao (they'll mince the chicken, if you ask) with "extra well done" request for wok char. good crispy fried whole fish, but not inexpensive.

                  go just beyond arlington to falls church at seven corners for excellent lao and szechuan food: bangkok golden and hong kong palace, respectively. check other threads for recommendations. i'll give you one suggestion: the crispy rice ball salad with lao sausage (can get sour sausage if you like). ask for lao hot and you'll need to be prepared to have your ears smoke. their thai (better than the lao version) som tom is great! at HKP, cumin lamb, pork belly, and that chicken dry-stir-fried with sesame-stuffed dried peppers (?) are must-haves.

                  best pastries are at "pastries by randolph"-- a notch or two above heidelberg bakery (much fresher tasting and less frenzied). napoleons, custard tarts, almond claws, croissants, "almond flat"coffeecake and ALL SORTS OF DELIGHTS. fabulous eclairs!

                  and just a wee bit out of arlington -- on old dominion, in mclean: amoo's. *superb* persian. highly recommend fish kabobs, lamb chops. if the stuffed beet or saffron ice cream is available as a special, go for it. get doogh to drink. though not in arlington proper, it is the top one i'd pick, then bangkok golden. then pupatella.

                  1. They have excellent bauernwurst awith sauerkraut for lunch at Heidelburg Pastry Shoppe, and they can put them on their terrific pretzel rolls. This may be the best combo of "Old Arlington" and great cheap food, but it's not open for dinner.

                    1. Hmmm ... Randolph or Heidelburg?

                      I got wonderful cakes from Pastries by Randolph, but sadly I did not keep them ice-cold and the icing softened enough to make the layers slide around. A mess, albeit a yummy one. THAT SAID, HOWEVER, I think their tarts and smaller pastries are great.

                      Went to Heidelburg last year, and had THE ... BEST ... ECLAIR ... EVER! Seriously dangerous, because I could eat nine of these in an afternoon. I wish I had an idea of their other items, but in this case I had sent someone else inside in my place.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: wayne keyser

                        If you're ever in Baltimore, try the eclair at Vaccaro's. It's pretty obscene. Between two adults and two kids, we had a hard time finishing it.


                        1. re: wayne keyser

                          we can have an "eclair-off" -- start dieting now to prepare. ;-).

                        2. This area generally (greater DC Metro area) is known for fantastic food from all over the world. It would be a shame, IMHO, to come here to eat stuff you can eat at home (burgers, dogs) when you can have Persian, Ethiopian, Thai, Vietnamese, Laotion, Ghanaian, etc. Of course, I'm assuming you don't have that kind of thing at home. Maybe you do.

                          In any case, don't confuse "been around for decades" with "the best local foods." There are all sorts of places around here that have been around forever and no one can figure out why. Some truly horrible places survive (money laundering?) and many of the best places are newish, such as Ray's Hellburger, as others have mentioned.

                          For pizza, you need to specify what style you like as we have many different styles here. And this is actually a good example. Around forever = Ledo's. Now, this was a famous local institution serving thick, puffy crusts in a rectangular shape. I never liked it - not even the original. Then they expanded and the branches are considered not very good (by most people). So if you asked for "been around for decades and names known by the locals" someone is sure to say Ledo's. But it may not be a style of pizza you like and most say it really isn't very good.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Just Visiting

                            We used to describe the pizza at Ledo's in College Park as "meat soup pie". It was an acquired taste.

                            1. re: Just Visiting

                              We get Ledo's maybe once or twice a year. What I like about it is that they offer green olives as a topping. I need something really salty like that to balance the overly sweet sauce.

                              1. re: Bob W

                                Agreed. Deluxe with anchovies for me. Its the only way to compensate for the sweet sauce. Reminds me of the old "Godfather" pizzas In the '70s that had everything. And as someone who never cared for cold pizza, two squares of cold Ledos Deluxe makes for a tasty "sandwich."

                            2. Lots of places already mentioned, but The Italian Store has been around forever and has great subs and pizza. They have a few outdoor tables, but it is mainly take out. But worth a visit.

                              El Pollo Rico and Carribean Grill have been around a long time and are worth a stop too. Cassatt's Cafe has been around a long time too, although I haven't been in a while. I really like Lebanese Taverna Market which has been around a long time too, but these aren't pizza, burger type of places.

                              Lost Dog Cafe has been around for a while and has pizza, we go there from time to time and it's a fun stop.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: ktmoomau

                                lebanese taverna market -- kibbeh and spinach fattayer. YUM. we cannot live without their garlic sauce for chicken…and kabis picked turnips.

                                1. re: ktmoomau

                                  ktmoomau, Carib Grill now has saltenas. And they are pretty good! Not as good as La Union grocery store used to have, but I think they are as good as Luzmilla's, which is pretty good. I think they are noticeably better than Pike Pizza's.

                                  1. re: Ziv

                                    I know! I l think they are good too! I can't resist getting one, then end up over ordering because well it's about a meal in itself.

                                  2. re: ktmoomau

                                    I don't recommend the food at Cassatt's (a Kiwi Cafe), but they make a good flat white.