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Dulles Corridor Restaurants


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Well, I'm not sure you and I are talking about the same genre or even one genre, but on a few levels you are right Rocks--I should have written more clearly and offer a few caveats:

This thread started way out the Dulles corridor, Reston Town Center, Rt. 28 etc. And that's what was in my head when I started generalizing about "the burbs" not supporting restaurants outside the norm. I do think Clarendon, Courthouse and Arlington are technically burbs--but they are now less burb-like and slightly more vital, they're closer to downtown and have a different neighborhood profile than the way out burbs like Dulles and Reston. I should have been more specific and was really talking outer burbs. I also don't have a lot of Maryland burb firsthand experience.

Rays would probably be successful wherever it is--but it is close in, Rosslyn. It is also steak. Steak kinda sells anywhere. Even bad steak sells when you're in the mood for a hunk a meat. Rays does draw strong neighborhood support, however and even if I lived in DC I'd go to Rays as often as I do. This is a good example to cite but a qualified example perhaps?

Mostly all of the other restaurants you cited do support my overall sense--they're all relatively conservative--they're also expensive, special event, big ticket type of places. A few benefit from their scenic locale--meaning part of what makes them special, gives them staying power, is where they are--a la L'Auberge Chez Francois. Their very nice old food is sustained in large part due to where it is--along with some impeccable service. The Inn has always been special as well, no? You think it is the burbs supporting the Inn or the urban/national/media-hyped tourist & foodie clientele driving out there? Methinks the latter. So might these two also fall under special exemptions--as restaurants which happen to be in the burbs but transcend local burb support?

2941 is a new restaurant--we'll see how it does, if it can sustain itself where it is, and if its neighborhood supports it. I think the jury is still out. Colvin Run is a power place, had name recognition going in but it's somewhat conservative, no? It's giving the Tyson's Corner power lunch and dinner crowd what it wants--a nice safe alternative to other nice, safe, conservative power places and yet Tom loves it and it has managed to attract some foodie attention. Again, we'll see if it maintains or begins to mail it in--surrounded by fast food, a Bertucci's, a Circuit City, a huge Mall which has a few food chains and franchises and will have more soon, including a Lebanese taverna. It's located in an area with very few residents and many other more predictable power places where you order big things by the pound. They're giving their clientele what they want. So in one sense I see you aiding my larger point that those in the burbs haven't demonstrated they want more than what falls within this narrow range and price point.

And bigger picture--Tysons is its own edge city--is it unrealistic to expect MORE here than a quick lunch, Colvin Run and power dining spots a la Da Domenicos, McCormick & Schmick, Legal Seafoods?

More? Well going to the Clarendon Harrys Tap Room is like going to a chain--a good chain but predictable. No better than Big Bowl or Bertucci's around the corner. Locals like me know Boulevard Wood Grill does better eggs benedict and offers better service but Harrys will do just fine as well because of our overall lower tolerance and lower expectations. It's perfectly adequate but that's it. And when Todd Gray opens way out in the burbs yes he'll be bringing Todd Gray cooking out there--high quality, mildly adventurous, very accessible, no surprises, and certainly very very accomplished. We'll see if he tries to make a statement there different from downtown or if it will be Todd lite--mailed in for the undemanding Middleburg crowd. It's not like there is much else there foodwise anyway, but I agree with you--it is an undeniable good sign.

And I agree completely with your point that the District is just as capable of feeding down to diminished expectations--of delivering less than other options nearby. It's just that in the burbs--where more people actually live--less still seems more foodwise than it does downtown. What I'd really like to see is our outer reaches support more than just the big ticket, weekend getaway, destination places--because we're all supporting those places no matter where we live. I'd like to see more openness to that middle ground Bill mentioned--and include the smaller, less ambitious, less expensive restaurant, with more personal and less corporate cooking. I'd like to see our large affluent area support little places like SBC Cafe and enable them to stay right where they are and be profitable. Tom Sietsema has demonstrated that he will cover the burbs, that he won't paint with as broad a brush as I appear to be doing--so he's remedied that old canard about the Post critic only caring about downtown so that was why no chef took chances in the burbs.

There are always complex reasons why a restaurant group, chef and or investors choose to open where they do. Form any list of interesting small places to open relatively recently--Majestic Cafe, Matchbox, Nectar, Palena, Komi, Firefly, Rays the Steak, the criteria doesn't really matter--all opened where they did. Only one or two are in the burbs--and you could make the case that one--Majestic Cafe--is Susan being much more conservative, homey and less nuanced, less interesting than the Susan who cooked downtown--that even she adapted, and compromised somewhat, to her burb. She's working so hard and I hope she finds a way to thrive where she is. But I'm pretty sure she still works everyday just to make ends meet. I've offered up why I think we're aren't ever going to see restaurant depth like this succeed further out in the Reston/Dulles burbs--even why a place like SBC has to feel compelled to move closer the city--what I haven't seen offered up Rocks is a rationale why I'm wrong. And believe me, in this, I want to be wrong.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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I think Steve brings up alot of good points, seeing that this website was designed with the foodlover in mind. But I think if you broaden your scope realizing that the perfect combination of artistic skills in the kitchen, ambiance, independent free standing, and creative thinking, run establishments are very hard to come by no matter where you reside, I lived with chefs who ate at McDonalds when they got off work because they were burned out creating over a 100 meals a shift. I also have worked in many types of restaurants. I have dealt with chefs who refused to alter their masterpieces for any request, and I have worked in a restaurant that caters to customers requests, now you tell me which place is going to make it and which is not! Yannick Cam went back to DC, because of these things, and now La Relais is being bought by the owners of Il Cigno, he hired a chef from Italy to oversee the menu. I think when you have so much expansion like you have seen in Western Fairfax and Loudoun County, the restaurant scene is a little slower to react. Alot of chefs also prefer to work in the secure confines of hotels where job security is higher. There are a few places dotted in and around this area with a nice menu, but alot of them don't last because business is so inconsistent. I think Steve hit the nail on the head when he said most diners go for power, conservative, family friendly restaurants. The steak house seems to do quite well here.

I love to drive downtown for a culinary quest, but parking is a drag, and I hate fighting traffic. I have also eaten at places I don't consider any better than the average waiter owned French or italian restuarant in Vienna or Herndon. I hate Kinkeads, and I am tired of all the hype that Goldoni's and places like Cafe Milano receive. they create some very nice plates but tend to gouge you for a little artistry, I'll take my art hanging on the wall thank you, it's free for all to see.

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  • 5 months later...
  • 1 year later...

In February, my family and I will be in Reston, VA and at some point, we'll be taking the lot of us out to dinner - 5 or 6 adults and 4 kids. I need to find some place that:

1. is appropriate for children.

2. costs no more than about $20/head.

3. is not a chain.

4. is not either too predictable or too unpredictable - most of us are somewhat adventurous, but the kids aren't.

5. Probably nobody will be drinking, so wine lists/prices don't matter.

Does anybody have any ideas? I hesitate to ask my relatives there, as I think they would be too nervous to suggest a place.

Thanks in advance. :smile:

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In February, my family and I will be in Reston, VA and at some point, we'll be taking the lot of us out to dinner - 5 or 6 adults and 4 kids.  I need to find some place that:

1.  is appropriate for children.

2.  costs no more than about $20/head.

3.  is not a chain.

4.  is not either too predictable or too unpredictable - most of us are somewhat adventurous, but the kids aren't.

5.   Probably nobody will be drinking, so wine lists/prices don't matter.

Does anybody have any ideas?  I hesitate to ask my relatives there, as I think they would be too nervous to suggest a place.

Thanks in advance.   :smile:

Perhaps the Big Bowl

Edited by JPW (log)

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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Will the family eat "ethnic?" Otherwise, that's a very tough call at $20/person after tax and tip. The good news is that there's a lot of killer Asian -- particularly Vietnamese -- out that way.

This is a link to Washintonian's Hundred Best Bargain Restaurants. You can search by cuisine or by location (I note that virtually everything out Reston way is Latin or Asian). All recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt. And then another grain. But it's a good place to start.

For what it's worth, my kids are both a bit picky, but the fried rice, noodles and pho at Vietnamese places has been keeping them happy since they were very small.

(JPW -- I hear Peanut's more adventurous and enjoys the curried eel :laugh: )

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Yes, yes, we all would totally eat ethnic. And it can be $20/head before tax & tip & drinks and what have you.

I'm going to check out Big Bowl & the Washingtonian link now. If you have any more suggestions, bring 'em on. Having options is a wonderful thing.

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(JPW -- I hear Peanut's more adventurous and enjoys the curried eel :laugh: )

Hasn't had that yet, but she did like the crispy dried fish appetizer at Thai Derm. :raz:

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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I personally love Clyde's for occasions like you describe- a larger group with kids, all with different tastes. It's part of a local "chain", but IMHO they do an outstanding job.

I can't recommend Big Bowl- from rude treatment by the hosts to having a member of our party slip and fall at their do it yourself stir fry station with nary an "Are you OK?" by any member of the staff...I will never go back. There are lots of restaurants at Reston Town Center, and this one is on the very bottom of my list.

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A few places I can think of that might work -

El Manantial is a Mediterranian place with some pretty good pizzas and decent tapas in the pretty non-descript North Shore plaza.

Also in that plaza is the best Pho place in the area - Reston Pho 75. They also have a pretty good selection of non-pho Vietnamese dishes as well.

At the Town Center, the only non-chain places are the Market Street Grill in the Hyatt and Obi Sushi. The rest of the bunch are Clydes, Paolo's, Busara, Big Bowl, Rio Grande, American Tap Room, Panera, McCormicks and Schmicks and their M&S Grill and a Morton's (think I've spent a little bit of time at the old Town Center :raz: ?). Of these my choices would probably run (in order) Rio Grande, Clydes and McCormick & Schmick's and Busara. I've nver really liked Big Bowl either. The food all seems to taste the same there to me.

Another favorite of mine for good food and no atmosphere in Reston is Reston Kabob, on the other side of the toll road from the town center near Sunrise Valley and Reston Parkway.

In Herndon, a little further out I've come to like Yee Hwa for Korean and am a big fan of Minerva for Indian that doesn't pull any punches.

Another place in Herndon that might do the trick is SBC Cafe.

Bill Russell

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A field trip to all-Vietnamese all the time Eden Center is always a blast. Aside from checking out the grocery stores and markets, there are probably a dozen places to eat. My favorite is Viet Royal, and the crowd-pleasing dish is the "fondue" where they bring a burner to your table, simmer up some spiced vinegar and you dip meat and onions in it before rolling them -- plus fresh vegetables and herbs -- up in a rice flour wrapper. It's an invitation to play with your, kids love it and so do the adults. They also have a lime soda that is absolutely addictive.

Clyde's works well, too. I'm taking my parents and family there tomorrow night, because it was the only place we could all agree on.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Everybody, thanks so much for all these wonderful suggestions! And redglass, thanks for that note on distances - that's good of you to think of that and something I need to know. I think I'm going to narrow it down to three and then ask everybody which they'd prefer of those three. If this dinner does happen, I'll attempt to post about it. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

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Don't ever go to Big Bowl,the chain and the people that run all of them are idiots. (Long story involving 6 year olds birthday party, glass, hospitals, and tongues.)

My favorite sushi place in all of Washington is Hama Sushi. They are located in Herndon which is right next to Reston at the Clocktower same place as SBC cafe.

Paris is a mood...a longing you didn't know you had, until it was answered.

-An American in Paris

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I organized a dinner for my family this past February at San Vito Ristorante in Herndon. The menu is varied, and I do recall the specials sounded more "adventurous" We were a large party so we had a set menu. The food was good, nothing fancy, but the restaurant was great to work with, is very family friendly and affordable.

check out this topic

and this one

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  • 3 weeks later...

Sorry for the hellbump, but this is where I live, so rather than a new topic....

Sylvanas: best pizza in the area, bar none. Unfortunately went out of business last year, but I assume the Med. themed place opening in the same location will be the same restaurant.

Local chain of kabob houses called Moby Dick's has FANTASTIC kabobs, fresh naan (or whatever the persians call that bread), raita, and they have torshi, which just makes the meal for me. It's a spicy pickled vegetable relishy vinegary goodness that makes my mouth water as I type this.

I was heartened the other day, as I went to the brand new Moby Dick's in Ashburn, to see that it was entirely full of customers, and the Jerry's Subs and Pizza (crap) next door was entirely empty.

I will second the Thai Luong recommendation. Best thai dumplings I've ever tasted. Great pad thai, excellent softshell crab, whole crispy fish... Also, I've seen more than one restaurant thaw chicken in the pot sink overnight. Wouldn't stop me from eating there.

The usual recommendations you hear: Clyde's, Morton's, etc, are decent enough I guess, but I never go because I find them boring.

If you want a burger I highly recommend any of the Five Guys Burgers and Fries locations.

I also love Anita's, been going there since it was a one-room shack in Vienna. Delicious texmex.

Recently at at Le Canard in Vienna. Nice place, and they serve a GREAT duck liver pate with the bread and butter. Some standard fare, Duck a'la Orange etc. My mixed grill entree was tasty but the venison chop came med-well instead of med-rare as I ordered it. :( Fois gras terrine was a little grey at the edges, but made of pretty much solid fois gras, which made me wonder why they made a terrine out of it. Scraps? Back to the entree, the veg was ok, the quail tasty, the duck sausage a bit dry.

Probably don't need another recommendation for L'Auberge, but I do love that place.

Also highly recommend the Indian place in falls church, Haandi. It's consistently on the 100 best and 100 best bargain lists. Get the lamb skewers, some raita, some chutney, and some naan, and you will be in heaven.

The best local chinese (hunan style) used to be Cheng's on route 7, but they're under new management and the quality has taken a nosedive. Never order szechuan there anyway, unless you really want a huge plate of stirfried carrots. So I'm learning to make my own. :( At least the most recent Cook's Illustrated has a fantastic hot-and-sour soup recipe.

More props for Da Dominico in Tysons. Great atmosphere, you feel like Henry Hill whenever you walk into that place. It is also not unusual for the owner/manager/whoever that old italian guy is in the tux to suddenly start belting out some great opera music. Really impresses a date!

Oh, pricy, but good, Maggiano's in Tyson's makes some good Italian-American classics. Family style joint, huge portions. Mushroom ravioli is great there. Lots of interesting breads too, since it is also a bakery. It's about the only place I'll eat at in the mall unprompted. Oh, wait, downstairs at the City Grill, they make a pretty good salad with gorgonzola, spicy pecans, ...mmm some other stuff with a tasty vinegrette. Pricy for a burger joint though.

I don't normally go to Sweetwater to eat, but I do eat apps there at the bar. The crab fritters with lobster butter are scrumptious. The chop salad with buttermilk dressing and grilled corn is pretty good too.

If this thread picks up again I'm sure I have more, but I'm getting hungry!

Edited by Busboy (log)
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Here are a few more:

Tarin Thai near Worldgate (intersection of Herndon Parkway and Elden St.): It's a tossup as to whether Tarin or Thai Luong is better, in my opinion. Tarin is less than a year old and is decorated in a slightly toned-down version of the undersea colors and shapes you'll find at some of the region's other Thai restaurants. The duck with basil from the specials menu and the grilled beef salad appetizer are among the best items we've had there. Our 6 year-old is very keen on their chicken satay. The kitchen tends to be a lot faster than Thai Luong's, and for those of us who dine with children, they offer both a virgin mango daiquiri and a young coconut juice, while Thai Luong has neither.

Teocalli Tamale on Elden Street on the flanks of the K-mart plaza: This no-frills outlet offers Mexican-inspired southwestern standards that are miles above the chain burrito joints. My favorite is the Mike's Mexolina (pulled brisket) in soft corn tortillas with the corn salsa. There is seating. The tamales may be among their least impressive dishes--they're fine and tasty, but the cornmeal is pretty uniform in texture and not studded with whole kernels.

Yee Hwa on Elden Street a bit East of Downtown: This upscale Korean restaurant shares ownership with the Yee Hwa in DC, but by all accounts the food is much better here. The quality is up to Annandale standards and there are very good values in the lunch specials. Bento boxes are under $9.00 and the daily specials menu often has a few items that are winners. On a recent visit, the spouse had a bowl of soup from the specials menu that had several kinds of tripe and intestine, while I enjoyed an octopus bibim bap special served in a sizzling hot stone bowl.

Jamaica Jamaica on Spring Street: This new carryout serves downhome Jamaican fare. If you want the jerk chicken for lunch, better get there early since they have been known to sell out before noon. The other menu offerings include goat stew and oxtail stew. Their fried plantains are very good and less greasy than most renditions. They are open for dinner carryout, too.

Sphinx Kabob on Spring Street: Despite the name, they're Persian. There are plenty of good kabob places in Reston/Herndon, but if you want to dine in, the furniture is ornate here while the others are all cafeteria style. They offer a chicken kabob special for lunch which is just a few pieces of chicken (no 3000 calorie lunches!) and rice for about $5.00. At night they transform into a hookah bar. Staff are friendly and there is a great assortment of middle-eastern sodas.

Yoko on Elden St., 2 doors down from Teocalli Tamale: Korean-owned Japanese with very good quality. Get the grilled yellowtail jaw if they have one in stock.

Matsuri on Elden St.: Has a sake bar as well as sushi. A recent review in the Post mourned the passing of some of the more exotic items from the menu. At lunchtime, they're busy with a small but high quality buffet. If you want to order from a menu at lunch time, you're better off a few blocks down at Yoko. At dinner time, the atmosphere is much more serene and they score huge points with my daughter by having a kid's sushi platter with all cooked sushi.

For business lunches where the menu needs to have choices that will appeal to people with limited palates:

Market Street Grill at the Hyatt in Reston Town Center.

El Manatial is hidden in a strip mall on North Shore off Whiele. While the name sounds middle-eastern to me, they offer wood-grilled pizza, pasta dishes, and plenty of other mainstream items. This is one of Reston's hidden gems and the noise level is a lot lower than at any of the restaurants in Reston Town Center.

And while it is a corporate chain, if you want impecably fresh seafood with simple preparation, McCormick & Schmick in Reston Town Center is very reliable. It's where I take my colleages from Minnesota for softshells in season at lunchtime.

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Jamaica Jamaica on Spring Street:  This new carryout serves downhome Jamaican fare.  If you want the jerk chicken for lunch, better get there early since they have been known to sell out before noon.  The other menu offerings include goat stew and oxtail stew.  Their fried plantains are very good and less greasy than most renditions.  They are open for dinner carryout, too.

Sphinx Kabob on Spring Street:  Despite the name, they're Persian.  There are plenty of good kabob places in Reston/Herndon, but if you want to dine in, the furniture is ornate here while the others are all cafeteria style.  They offer a chicken kabob special for lunch which is just a few pieces of chicken (no 3000 calorie lunches!) and rice for about $5.00.  At night they transform into a hookah bar.  Staff are friendly and there is a great assortment of middle-eastern sodas. 

PollyG, where on Spring Street are these located, over in the industrial park area?

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I live in Mclean and end up in Reston/Herndon/Ashburn for business lunches.

I hit Jasmine Cafe in Reston this week for the first time. Good tomato soup with dumplings. The duck confit salads was nice greens with a vinaigrette with decent duck confit. Inexpensive and different for a business lunch.

Another place I like for a business lunch is Euro Bistro in Herndon. It has some dishes that are not intimidating, but Ghoulash and Spaetzl are pretty darn good any cold day.

I like the food at A Taste of the World in Herndon, but the industrial park setting has caused problems with newbies getting lost.

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Jamaica Jamaica on Spring Street:  This new carryout serves downhome Jamaican fare.  If you want the jerk chicken for lunch, better get there early since they have been known to sell out before noon.  The other menu offerings include goat stew and oxtail stew.  Their fried plantains are very good and less greasy than most renditions.  They are open for dinner carryout, too.

Sphinx Kabob on Spring Street:  Despite the name, they're Persian.  There are plenty of good kabob places in Reston/Herndon, but if you want to dine in, the furniture is ornate here while the others are all cafeteria style.  They offer a chicken kabob special for lunch which is just a few pieces of chicken (no 3000 calorie lunches!) and rice for about $5.00.  At night they transform into a hookah bar.  Staff are friendly and there is a great assortment of middle-eastern sodas. 

PollyG, where on Spring Street are these located, over in the industrial park area?

Sphinx Kabob is in the front of the industrial park that is at the Fairfax County Parkway/Spring Street intersection--it's the same one that has Taste of the World hidden in the back.

Jamaica Jamaica is harder to find. It is in the industrial park on Spring Street past the Herndon Parkway intersection (as you are going West) that has the green awnings. They provide directions on their website.

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