Blurbs from the ‘Burbs is written by Arlington resident Jeff Zeeman. Jeff previously wrote about Public Art in Bluemont Park.
In my first Blurbs from the Burbs post, I noted that I’d been pleasantly surprised by the quality and variety of ethnic food available in Arlington and Falls Church. Now that I’ve had a chance to sample even more top-notch local restaurants, I thought I’d share more details on a few places that are worth the trip on the Orange Line. I note that in no way does this list claim to be comprehensive, as I’ve only lived in the area for a few months now. For example, I’ve yet to try any of the purportedly stellar Korean restaurants in the area. Here are my favorites as of today:
Hong Kong Palace is easily the best Chinese food I’ve tried in the D.C. area. The cooking is Szechuan style, and the flavors and quality are closely comparable to foodie favorite Peter Chang’s China Cafe near Richmond (which, by the way, I also highly recommend). Note that if you are averse to spicy food, or prefer your Chinese food covered in sticky-sweet sauces per the typical Americanized Chinese, HKP is not for you. The fried chicken with dried chili peppers is a must-try. I also recommend, as appetizers, the dan dan noodles and chengdu zhong dumplings.
Continues after the jump.
Simply awesome, and awesomely-priced, Mexican / El Salvadorean cuisine, on Wilson Blvd in Arlington. My favorite is El Tipico, which includes really tasty and tender steak, perfectly-cooked plantains, avocados, refried beans and cheese. I also love their fresh salsa — it’s addictive. You simply can’t beat the bang for the buck here. Really friendly staff, to boot.
Another Wilson Blvd staple, Fettosh serves my favorite Middle Eastern food in the D.C. area, and features both a Moroccan and a Lebanese menu. The hummus is wonderfully fresh and delectable, and the chicken shwarma and grape leaves are also highlights. Be sure to solicit recommendations from the owner, whose enthusiasm is infectious.
I have yet to explore many of the well-regarded Vietnamese restaurants in Falls Church, mainly because I keep going back to Four Sisters, which has yet to disappoint. I loved the shrimp and pork papaya salad, the shrimp toast, and all of the beef dishes that I’ve tried.
Fettoosh’s next door neighbor Pupatella is highly-acclaimed, and for good reason. I’d call it a rich man’s Redrocks, featuring a similar Neapolitan style of pizza, but far superior in every aspect. In fact, I’d say Pupatalla edges out Menomale as the best pizza I’ve had in the D.C. area. All of the ingredients are top notch, in particular the wonderful San Marzano tomato sauce and the stellar meatballs, but he amazingly consistent crust is what truly sets Pupatella apart from its peers. When they have their eggplant parmesan appetizer available, be certain to order it.
Located in the same Falls Church strip mall as Hong Kong Palace. I have not tried their regular Thai menu, although it is reputed to be pretty good. What Bangkok Golden is known for, however, is the special Laotian menu, which you need to specifically request. The style of food is similar to Little Serow’s northern Thai cuisine, and while the caliber is not quite Little Serow-level, it is not too far behind, at about a third the cost, and without the wait. You will certainly experience the same sort of really intense and unusual spices, vegetables, and aromas. The food is fresh, plentiful, and cheap. Like Hong Kong Palace, you have to enjoy spicy food — the Laotian menu is not for the faint of heart (although it is available in different spice levels … if you can handle “Laotian hot,” you are a braver man or woman than I).
I realize most area kabob-lovers talk up Ravi Kabob, but I actually prefer Moby Dick’s in Clarendon … the meat was slightly more tender and succulent, and I also much preferred the accompaniments, particularly the Greek salad. Either way, Arlington is the place to be for Kabob-lovers. NB: I’ve not yet tried Kabob Palace, which also receives good reviews.
This Falls Church landmark is made famous by its many celebrity government clients, in particular former regular George H.W. Bush (the walls are lined with photos of prominent customers). Its signature Peking duck dish is absolutely succulent, albeit a bit pricier than the other restaurants listed here. You can also get your Peking duck fix at Mark’s Duck House, but I think that Peking Gourmet, while slightly pricier, offers better-quality duck. That opinion, however, is not unanimous in my household.