Best of NoVA Food as Picked by Northern Virginia Magazine Readers

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They say you are what you eat. If that’s true, then our readers are a diverse bunch. From Greek food alfresco to vegetarian Indian specialties, these are the places that define our region and keep us exceptionally well-fed. 

Alfresco Dining 

Winner  

Kalypso’s Sports Tavern 

Live music on Fridays and twice-weekly karaoke are just part of what makes this repeat winner a draw. The main attraction is the location on Lake Anne, which translates to a view that makes dishes like grilled Halloumi, moussaka, and kebabs even more compelling. 1617 Washington Plz. N., Reston 

Runner-Up  

Circa at Clarendon  

3010 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington  

Bakery/Pâtisserie 

Winner  

Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe 

Few businesses can claim that they’ve consistently satisfied the community since bell bottoms and “The Hustle” were all the rage. This German-style bakery can. From petits fours to wedding cakes, the European sweets here conjure memories of past celebrations but never taste dated. Trust us, black-and-white chocolate mousse cake is just as delicious today as it was in the ’70s. 2150 N. Culpeper St., Arlington 

Runner-Up  

Bakeshop  

1025 N. Fillmore St., Ste. G, Arlington; 100 E. Fairfax St., Falls Church  

Barbecue sandwich from Odd BBQ
Photo courtesy Odd BBQ

Barbecue 

Winner  

Mission BBQ 

Your mission? Diving into both barbecue classics such as Texas-inspired beef brisket and unusual specials like smoked rib-eye with Hawaiian pineapple glaze. This Maryland-based chain claims to “proudly serve those who serve,” with highlights like hand-pulled pork, as well as generous donations to military-focused charitable organizations. Multiple locations  

Editor’s Pick  

Odd BBQ 

Located inside Ono Brewing Company, this smoked-meat joint from Mokomandy alums could easily hold its own alongside some of the country’s best barbecues. The Hawaiian-style rice plates feature meats such as gochujang pork belly and sides that include an addictive sesame-ginger slaw, but don’t forget to add a crispy, salty cheese biscuit. 4520 Daly Dr., Chantilly  

Breakfast 

Winner  

Cafe Kindred 

Fruity Pebble pancakes are a colorful reminder of childhood meals, while avocado toast and Greek yogurt parfaits offer healthier options. Diners here can also feast on biscuits and gravy, eggs Benedict, or a breakfast poutine. Weekends are laptop-free, allowing you to focus your attention on the most important meal of the day. 450 N. Washington St., Ste. F, Falls Church  

Runner-Up  

Chloez Cafe  

5622 Ox Rd., Ste. F, Fairfax Station  

Eggs, potatoes, and pancakes from Chloez Cafe
Chloez Cafe (Photo by Christin Boggs Peyper)

Brunch 

Winner  

Chloez Cafe 

The secret to a well-balanced brunch is both breakfast and lunch options that will sate diverse cravings. This comfy café serves breakfast anytime in the form of Benedicts, omelets, and burritos, but it also offers a choice of 11 different burgers. Looking for something on the healthier side? Order a smoothie or salad. 5622 Ox Rd., Ste. F, Fairfax Station  

Runner-Up  

Wilson Hardware  

2915 Wilson Blvd., Arlington  

Butcher  

Winner  

Oliver’s Corner Butcher Shop 

High-end delicacies including wagyu beef and Iberico pork share space here with exotic meats such as elk and alligator. A rotating cast of housemade sausages brings in devoted fans, as does The Ham Bar — excellent, limited-edition lunchtime sandwiches offered exclusively on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 9912 Georgetown Pk., Ste. 102-C, Great Falls  

Runner-Up  

The Organic Butcher of McLean 

6712 Old Dominion Dr., McLean  

Chinese 

Winner  

Peter Chang 

In the pantheon of DMV food celebrities, it can be argued that Peter Chang is seated at the head of the table. The Sichuan chef serves approachable fare inspired by his homeland. That includes his signature scallion bubble pancakes, as well as classics such as cumin lamb and mapo tofu. 2503-E N. Harrison St., Arlington; 1771 Carl D. Silver Pkwy., Fredericksburg  

Editor’s Pick  

Cheng’s Asian House  

Whether they’re in search of authentic dishes or Chinese American fare, fans of this restaurant continue to be attracted to its gingerly prepared, reasonably priced food. Don’t miss the hand-pulled noodles, which are served both in soups and the memorably savory zha jiang mein. Though a departure from China, flaming desserts like cherries jubilee are worth a visit on their own. 4090 Airline Pkwy., Ste. G, Chantilly  

Italian sandwich on cutting block, from The Italian Store
The Italian Store (Photo by Rey Lopez)

Deli/Sandwich Shop 

Winner  

The Italian Store 

Most delis are satisfied to serve just one version of the meaty Italian sub. Here, there are six, and that doesn’t include the Muffaletta or the Philadelphia-style version. The Tramonte family has been dedicated to sharing a love for Italian imports — also including pizza and wine — since 1980. 5837 Washington Blvd.; 3123 Langston Blvd., Arlington 

Runner-Up  

The Sandwich Shop 

132 Church St. NW, Vienna 

Doughnut Shop 

Winner  

Duck Donuts 

Named for the North Carolina Outer Banks town where the chain originated, there are now more than 100 locations where you can get these hot, freshly fried treats. Quirky flavors include favorites like the Bacon in the Sun, which combines crispy pork with maple icing and salted caramel. Multiple locations  

Runner-Up  

Good Company Doughnuts & Café  

672 N. Glebe Rd., Ste. Retail 1, Arlington  

Farmers Market 

Winner  

Falls Church Farmers Market 

Since 1984, this year-round market has fed the community. At Falls Church City Hall, shoppers snap up meats and fresh vegetables, but also a world of prepared foods. That includes everything from Japanese taiyaki to Turkish börek. Whatever you score, you can feel good knowing you’ve kept it local. 300 Park Ave., Falls Church  

Runner-Up  

Reston Farmers Market 

1609 Washington Plz. N., Reston  

French  

Winner  

L’Auberge Chez François 

Nothing says “classic French indulgence” like a prix fixe menu. Here, the meal begins with the storied bread service and ends with mignardises to prolong your enjoyment. In between, diners elegantly gorge on crêpes, escargot, and foie gras. It’s a lucky thing, then, that the sweet soufflés weigh little more than air. 332 Springvale Rd., Great Falls  

Runner-Up  

La Petite Auberge  

311 William St., Fredericksburg  

Fried chicken, french fries, and dipping sauces from Queen Mother's
Photo courtesy Queen Mother’s

Fried Chicken Sandwich 

Winner  

Open Road Grill 

The comfort food here goes far beyond a battered bird, but for those seeking poultry, there’s a slew of choices. The Roadhouse Wing Co. menu allows diners to select chicken bites, classic wings, or tenders. Get them flavored with options including Old Bay and spicy apricot sauce. 1201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 8100 Lee Hwy., Falls Church  

Editor’s Pick  

Queen Mother’s 

Is mere chicken not enough bird for you? Get it fried in duck fat. That’s how Hell’s Kitchen winner Rahman “Rock” Harper differentiates his chicken sandwiches in a crowded field. For heat seekers, it’s available tossed in Buffalo sauce, but we like it topped with a melting mound of honey butter. 3505 Columbia Pk., Arlington 

Fries 

Winner  

Five Guys 

French fry fanatics know that the best of the best fries are cooked twice. At Five Guys, they go the extra mile and not only double-fry their spuds, but they also offer an off-menu “well-done” option for diners who like their potatoes extra crispy. Think regular fries are boring? There’s a Cajun-spiced version, too. Multiple locations  

Runner-Up  

Open Road Grill  

1201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 8100 Lee Hwy., Falls Church 

Ice Cream/Gelato 

Winner  

Jake’s Ice Cream 

This scoop shop employs a staff of adults with disabilities who are dedicated to serving up small-batch ice cream made on site. The extraordinary results include pistachio ice cream flavored with honey-roasted nuts, tart lemon chiffon with citrus zest, and chunky coconut patty. Get any of them in a sundae, shake, or float. 6353 Columbia Pk., Falls Church 

Runner-Up  

Campbells Frozen Custard  

4125 Merchant Plz., Woodbridge  

Indian food plated in seashells, from Celebration by Rupa Vira
Celebration by Rupa Vira (Photo by Rey Lopez)

Indian 

Winner  

Celebration by Rupa Vira 

Seasonal specials keep the offerings fresh at this upscale Ashburn restaurant. Most recently, that’s included surprises like the Glow Gappa, “an electric twist” on classic pani puri, flavored with green mango. Though chef Rupa Vira creates dishes for omnivores, separate vegan and Jain menus mean that there’s something for any diet. And that’s something to celebrate. 44260 Ice Rink Plz., Ste. 120, Ashburn 

Runner-Up  

Haandi Indian Cuisine  

1222 W. Broad St., Falls Church  

Italian 

Winner  

Thompson Italian  

There’s twice as much creative Italian fare to love thanks to this year’s addition of Thompson Italian’s Alexandria location. There and in Falls Church, the cuisine is far more interesting than spaghetti and meatballs, with dishes including tender octopus or Arctic char on seasonal vegetables. 124 N. Washington St., Falls Church; 1024 King St., Alexandria 

Runner-Up  

Osteria Marzano  

6361 Walker Ln., Ste. 140, Alexandria  

Kebabs 

Winner  

Arlington Kabob 

Afghan kebabs are available each day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. That’s ample opportunity to pair lamb chops, chicken, or spicy chapli kebabs with sweet and savory carrot-and-raisin-topped Quabli Palaw. Naan baked fresh in the tandoor comes with every meal, as does a choice of piquant vegetable stews. 5046 Langston Blvd., Arlington  

Runner-Up  

Moby Dick House of Kabob 

Multiple locations  

Korean Barbecue 

Winner  

Honest Grill 

Our region’s recent trend for upmarket Korean barbecue started at this Centreville restaurant. Meats, such as Angus prime rib-eye, are dry aged in-house. They’re available à la carte or as part of a “guide.” The combinations help diners pick the most appealing meats and sides, which run the gamut from bacon-speckled corn cheese to garlicky stir-fried Brussels sprouts. 14215-H Centreville Sq., Centreville 

Editor’s Pick  

Gogiville 

If you’re craving quality but don’t want to break the bank with your KBBQ, this is the place to go. Casual, but with reliable service, a meal here includes all the banchan and sides you could hope for. Whether it’s one of the hot sauces for dipping, the memorable salad dressing, or the just-right bulgogi marinade, sauces here stand out. 14101 St. Germain Dr., Centreville  

Modern American 

Winner  

TRIO Grill 

Cocktails and steaks combine for an evening that goes down easy for everyone involved. A barrel-aged maple old-fashioned provides just the right lubrication for decision-making. Will it be the bison New York strip, the filet mignon, or the boneless rib-eye? Whatever you pick, it’s available Oscar-style for ultimate surf-and-turf surrender. 8100 Lee Hwy., Falls Church  

Runner-Up  

Ruthie’s All-Day  

3411 Fifth St. S., Arlington  

Ramen 

Winner  

Jinya Ramen 

With five locations in the DMV alone, this is a case of a restaurant that’s earned its popularity. A range of classic ramens is on the menu, but what really makes Jinya stand out is its devotion to fulfilling the needs of vegans and vegetarians. Even an avowed meat eater will savor bowls such as the Tsunami White Pearl. Multiple locations  

Runner-Up  

Marumen 

3250 Old Pickett Rd., Fairfax  

Sushi  

Winner  

Yume Sushi 

When money is no object and flavor is everything, this modern sushi bar proves that small bites can make an impact. Uni pasta melts with creamy sea urchin, while The Winner centers around a rosette of tuna paired with foie gras and caviar in truffle oil and a balsamic reduction. 2121 N. Westmoreland St., Ste. A-2, Arlington 

Runner-Up  

Tachibana 

6715 Lowell Ave., McLean  

Tacos 

Winner  

Taco Bamba 

This year, chef Victor Albisu’s local chain marks 10 years of serving global tacos. To celebrate, the number of locations now stretches into the double digits. Each branch has several distinct dishes, which makes it important for completists to taste their ways through the whole collection. Multiple locations 

Editor’s Pick  

Tortilleria El Molino 

Where better to get your tacos than a tortilleria? This colorful and casual counter-service spot boasts a salsa bar that helps it stand out from an excellent Manassas pack. Add cilantro and salsa verde to everything from crunchy carnitas to picante chorizo inside warm, freshly made tortillas. 8456 Centreville Rd., Manassas Park 

Plate of rice and other assorted foods, from Esaan
Esaan (Photo by Rey Lopez)

Thai 

Winner  

Esaan 

In Thailand, Chiang Mai is competing for Bangkok’s crown as the country’s most popular tourist destination. Is it any surprise, then, that northeastern Thai food is emerging as a favorite among American diners? Here, the region’s sharp, spicy flavors are represented with Esaan sausage, five varieties of pounded salad, and more dishes that go gloriously beyond basic curries. 1307 Old Chain Bridge Rd., McLean  

Runner-Up  

Sisters Thai 

Multiple locations  

Vegetarian-Friendly 

Winner  

Rupa Vira’s The Signature  

Chef Rupa Vira’s first restaurant is fully vegetarian, so for those avoiding meat, the whole menu is fair game. That includes a section of Indo-Chinese options such as Hakka noodles and paneer chile. Not sure what to try? Order one of the thalis for a tasting of small plates that changes daily. 21760 Beaumeade Cir., Ste. 120, Ashburn  

Runner-Up  

True Food Kitchen 

Multiple locations 

Vietnamese 

Winner  

Four Sisters 

The Mosaic District location stood on its own as a bastion of well-made Vietnamese cuisine, but it closed this year. Before it shut its doors, fans voted it as the winner one last time. Those missing the family’s recipes can find them at Four Sisters Grill in Clarendon and 4 Sisters Asian Snack Bar in Ashburn. 3035 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington, foursistersgrill.com; 43670 Greenway Corporate Dr., Ste. 106, Ashburn, foursisterssnackbar.com  

Runner-Up  

Nam-Viet 

1127 N. Hudson St., Arlington  

Wine Shop 

Winner  

Arrowine & Cheese 

Post-pandemic, entertaining in your home is cool again. That means a lot of pressure for hosts. The superbly informed staffers here make it easy to choose wines, cheeses, and other accoutrements that will impress even the most demanding guests. Charcuterie and beer help round out the offerings. 4508 Cherry Hill Rd., Arlington  

Runner-Up  

The Wine House 

3950 University Dr., Ste. 212, Fairfax  

Waterfall at 2941 restaurant
2941 (Photo by Rey Lopez)

Restaurant with a View 

Winner   

2941 

When you hear that 2941 is inside an office building, an impression of sterility is bound to prevail. The moment you turn in to the driveway, this will be a distant memory. The art-filled restaurant is surrounded by forest. Prefer fauna to flora? Sit at the bar for a view of the koi pond. 2941 Fairview Park Dr., Falls Church 

Runner-Up  

Ivy by the Lake 

46110 Lake Center Plz., Sterling 

This story originally ran in our June issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to Northern Virginia Magazine.



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