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Arlington, Virginia has outposts of much-loved D.C. restaurants that bring more of the same delicious eats right across the river in Virginia.
While the COVID-19 has impacted the entire restaurant industry significantly, each of these restaurants are doing their best to offer the same experience through take-out or socially-distanced dining.
You don’t have to go into nearby 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 18 D.C. favorites.
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.
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. We, the Pizza also has a location in the Ballston neighborhood with the same delicious pies.
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. 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. Try the "liquid olives" for a true taste bud explosion.
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 Belgian and other craft beers.
Celebrity chef Fabio Trabocchi’s buzzworthy housemade pastas, small plates and soft-serve gelatos has come to Arlington’s Rosslyn neighborhood with Sfoglina. Trabocchi is known for his Michelin-starred Fiola and sister restaurants Fiola Mare, Del Mar, and two other Sfoglina outposts in D.C., but this is his first foray into Northern Virginia. The Michelin-rated Italian restaurant is “dedicated to the art of pasta making” and features a mozzarella bar, only available at the Arlington location. The restaurant also serves small plates like calamari and artisan pasta like Roman Tonnarelli Noodles and Spaghetti alla Chitarra in a spacious and modern location.
No trip to D.C. is complete without a trip to the iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl for a half-smoke hot dog served with their signature chili, mustard and onions, a lunch that Martin Luther King Jr. occasionally enjoyed when the reverend maintained an office nearby. Ben’s Chili Bowl in Reagan National Airport has the same menu with the same famous spicy chili recipe as the original location on U Street in Washington, D.C. And don't worry which terminal you're flying in or out of, they're located outside of the security checkpoints.
Another neighborhood gathering spot 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 combination restaurant, bookstore, lounge and theater also 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.
In Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, you can dig into Matchbox’s thin-crust, wood-fired pizzas that have made the local chain so popular in the region - there are a total of 9 locations throughout the DMV now. The industrial rustic space pairs well with Matchbox’s casual, contemporary dining experience. The menu features the famous Matchbox meat pizza layered with thick cut pepperoni, house roasted spicy Italian sausage and crumbled bacon on top of zesty tomato sauce.
Just like its D.C. sister restaurant in Eastern Market, the menu at Ambar showcases Balkan cuisine that is artfully presented with modern combinations that deliver flavor profiles in a unique way. This Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant in the Clarendon neighborhood is known for its brunch, frequently named one of the best bottomless brunch in the region. Opt for the $34 Balkan Experience, which offers unlimited small plates like cheese pies, stuffed cabbage, pork sausage, and rainbow trout.
In the Virginia Square neighborhood, Medium Rare focuses on simple, well-executed dishes like coulotte steak, Medium Rare's 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 signature steak frites accompanied by "the perfect poached egg," topped with Medium Rare's secret hollandaise sauce 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, 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 ranging from specialty burgers to flatbread pizzas, head to Circa at Clarendon. This American bistro features creative seasonal fare that have made its various downtown locations busy with the after-work crowd. Locals like to head there on the weekend for its solid brunch menu and $4 mimosas and other cocktails.
A new shopping, dining and entertainment complex, Ballston Quarter's food hall Quarter Market brings together many beloved D.C. eateries all in one brand-new location. Local favorites include:
Author: Cara O'Donnell