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18 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.

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.

Capital Style Cuisine

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.

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. We, the Pizza also has a location in the Ballston neighborhood with the same delicious pies.

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.

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

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.

Casual Fan Favorites

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.

Busboys and Poets interior wall of photos
Busboys & Poets

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.

D.C. Brunch Favorites

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.

Balkan cuisine at Ambar

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.

D.C. Destination Dining in Ballston

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:

  • Ted’s Bulletin, a modern American diner with a 1920s/1930s art deco vibe, offers comfort food dishes with breakfast all day. Enjoy boozy milkshakes and pop tarts as well as classic diner fare with a twist at this updated version of this D.C. area favorite.
  • One of D.C.’s favorite BBQ joints, Sloppy Mama’s dishes up brisket, pulled pork and other classics at its Quarter Market location.
  • Cucina al Volo dishes out the popular Italian cuisine that had D.C. diners raving.
  • Award-winning D.C. creamery Ice Cream Jubilee serves up its innovative creamy concoctions made with all-natural ingredients. Try the honey lavender flavor!
  • Turu's by Timber Pizza Co. serves up the bubbly Neopolitan-ish pizzas fresh from the wood-fired oven that made its D.C. location popular.
  • Named best doughnuts in D.C. for four years running, District Doughnut comes to Arlington with its scratch-made Vanilla Bean yeast dough in delicious flavor combinations.

Author: Cara O'Donnell