17 Places to Have a D.C. Dining Experience in Arlington

Arlington, Virginia has outposts of much-loved D.C. restaurants that bring more of the same delicious eats right across the river in Virginia.

Capital Style Cuisine

You don’t have to go into Washington, D.C., to experience all of the restaurants that have earned the capital accolades like Bon Appetit’s restaurant city of the year or Zagat’s hottest food city.

These hot spots tend to be less crowded in Arlington, where there is a lower restaurant tax and lower hotel rates (on average 20 percent less), promising a more delicious and affordable holiday with less stress.

Sink your teeth into globally inspired dishes, please your palate with celebrity chefs’ signature creations, and revel in meals that highlight the capital’s culinary prowess at these 17 D.C. favorites.

Celebrity Chef Centric

TV personality and restaurateur Spike Mendehlson’s first D.C. restaurant was Good Stuff Eatery, a burger joint that quickly became a favorite of political elites, also located in Capitol Hill.

outside crowd at We the Pizza Virginia pizzeria
We the Pizza

The Top Chef alum also opened a Good Stuff Eatery in Arlington’s Crystal City neighborhood and at Reagan National Airport so you don’t have to cross the river to get a signature burger like the “President Obama Burger” that’s topped with red onion marmalade, applewood smoked bacon and crumbled blue cheese.

Next door to Good Stuff in Crystal City, you will find its sister We, the Pizza (also located in Capitol Hill), serving up Mendehlson’s gourmet pizza creations. The New York-style pies have ingredients like creamed spinach, pancetta and shaved truffles, as well as standards like pepperoni and mozzarella.

Celebrity chef and humanitarian José Andrés has opened so many restaurants in D.C.’s Penn Quarter that it’s been called a Tour de José. Take your tour over to Crystal City’s Jaleo, one of chef Andrés’ largest outposts of his award-winning Spanish restaurant.

shrimp dish at Jaleo Spanish cuisine in VA

Jaleo has more than 60 different hot and cold tapas – small plates meant to be shared – reflecting the rich regional diversity of classical and contemporary Spanish cuisine. Jaleo also offers cured meats and Spanish cheeses, flavorful paellas and tasting menus, as well as sangria and inventive cocktails.

In Arlington's Ballston neighborhood, acclaimed chef Robert Wiedmaier serves mussels in flavorful sauces at Mussel Bar & Grille. Like its sister restaurant Brasserie Beck in Washington, D.C., Mussel Bar & Grille pays homage to the Belgian cuisine of chef Wiedmaier’s youth. Enjoy mussels, oysters, pizzas, roasted seafood and other European dishes alongside the restaurant’s extensive selection of Belgium and other craft beers.

Mussel Bar dish at European style restaurant in VA
Mussel Bar & Grille

Celebrity chef Fabio Trabocchi’s buzzworthy house-made pastas and soft-serve gelatos will come to Arlington’s Rosslyn neighborhood in 2019 with Sfoglina. The Michelin-rated Italian restaurant is “dedicated to the art of pasta making” and currently has two D.C. locations. The Arlington location will serve small plates like calamari and artisan pasta like Roman Tonnarelli Noodles and Spaghetti alla Chitarra in a spacious and modern location.

Casual Fan Favorites

No trip to D.C. is complete without a trip to Ben’s Chili Bowl for a chili-cheese half-smoke hot dog, a lunch that Martin Luther King Jr. occasionally enjoyed when the reverend maintained an office nearby. Ben’s Chili Bowl in the Rosslyn neighborhood has the same menu with the same homemade spicy chili-sauce recipe as the original little D.C. hot dog shop that grew into a landmark revered worldwide. (And if hot dogs are your thing, Arlington has you covered.)

Another neighborhood hub with cultural connections, Busboys and Poets in Arlington’s Shirlington neighborhood, offers the same smart literary atmosphere as the D.C. locations, along with its expansive global menu. The restaurant, bookstore, lounge and theater produces poetry slams and book readings. The menu features everything from vegan “beef” sliders, sweet potato hash laced with kale, and shrimp cakes with Cajun cream sauce.

Busboys and Poets interior wall of photos
Busboys & Poets

In Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, you can experience Matchbox’s thin-crust, wood-fired brick oven pizzas that have made the local chain so popular in D.C. with four locations. The industrial rustic space pairs well with Matchbox’s always casual, cool, contemporary, effortlessly warm dining experience. The menu features the same guest favorites including the matchbox meat pizza, layered with thick cut pepperoni, house roasted spicy Italian sausage and crumbled bacon on top of zesty tomato sauce.

D.C. Brunch Favorites

Just like its D.C. sister restaurant Ambar in Eastern Market, Ambar’s menu showcases Balkan cuisine that is artfully presented with modern combinations that deliver flavor profiles in a unique way. This Michelin rated Bib Gourmand in the Clarendon neighborhood is known for its brunch – named best bottomless brunch in D.C. over and over again. Opt for the Balkan Experience: $34 brings unlimited small plates with items like cheese pies, stuffed cabbage, pork sausage, rainbow trout and drinks for under a dollar.

Balkan cuisine at Ambar

New to the Virginia Square neighborhood, Medium Rare focuses on simple, well-executed dishes like their coulotte steak, very secret sauce and hand-cut, double fried fries. The Arlington outpost is also known for its brunch specials with bottomless drinks and such entrees as fluffy French toast or its signature steak frites accompanied by "the perfect poached egg," topped with Medium Rare's secret sauce hollandaise and served with hand-cut fries.

Cava Mezze, like its Capitol Hill location, serves a modern take on traditional Greek recipes. In its casual, neighborhood setting in Clarendon, you can enjoy signature dishes like hand-rolled grape leaves and spanakopita, tableside flambéed Saganaki cheese and braised lamb shank. It is also a well-liked spot for brunch because of its all you can eat brunch options allowing diners to sample a variety of dishes.

For happy hour deals and eats like specialty burgers, flatbread pizzas and gourmet staples such as tuna Nicoise salads head to Circa at Clarendon. This American bistro features creative seasonal fare that have made the Foggy Bottom, Chinatown and Navy Yard locations busy with the after-work crowd. Locals like to head there on the weekend for its solid brunch menu and affordable mimosas and other drinks.

D.C. Destination Dining in Ballston

A new shopping, dining and entertainment complex, Ballston Quarter will have many beloved D.C. restaurants, all in one brand-new location. D.C. dining includes:

  • Ted’s Bulletin, a modern American diner with a 1920s/1930s art deco vibe offering comfort food dishes with breakfast all day. Enjoy boozy milkshakes and pop tarts like its D.C. counterparts at this “2.0 version of the beloved Ted’s Bulletin experience.”
  • One of D.C.’s favorite BBQ joints, Sloppy Mama’s, dishes up brisket, pulled pork and other classics at their Arlington location.
  • Cucina al Volo shares the popular Italian cuisine that had D.C. diners raving to the food hall at Ballston Quarter.
  • Award-winning D.C. creamery, Ice Cream Jubilee, will bring its innovative creative concoctions –made with all-natural ingredients – to Ballston Quarter.

Author: Kathleen Murphy