First time tourists coming to the Washington D.C area often exclude much of Northern Virginia on their itinerary.If it doesn’t house the President, what’s the point of visiting? Well, I am here to tell you that Northern Virginia is worth visiting. I’ve met up with friends in the area, and was introduced to several delicious restaurants, fun hikes, and memorable nightlife spots. If you Google up Northern Virginia stuff to do, you will also get a comprehensive list (more so than my own); however, these recommendations are personal and no one is paying me anything to promote them. So I guess it’s up to you to decide which article and or guide you will trust. One written by someone who loves the Northern Virginia area or one written by a travel writer who is paid to flatter businesses with fat wallets.
If you are java addict like me or want to eat like royalty, I recommend the following locations:
Busboys and Poets
Come to the Shirlington location and order the Morrocan stew. This location has shorter lines, more windows, and enhances a chill ambiance for both book and food lovers. Although Busboys is famous for their coffee, check out their tea too.
This is not the right place for pedestrian foodies. I only recommend this delicious dinner spot located in Old Town to those who appreciate fine dining since much of the fare is artistically crafted with home grown peppers, Asian fusion sauces, and with care and consideration.
A Victorian style gourmet food shop that also sells fresh baked cakes, cookies, and pastries. I accidentally crashed a party there once and was able to divulge myself on charcuterie, olives, and a colorful array of cheeses. Sometimes, you don’t have to crash a wedding to have a great time. Again, I only recommend this place to those with a classy, trained palate.
Bread & Chocolate
Great spot for lunch! If you have a sweet tooth, check out their Neapolitan desserts too. You will not be left disappointed. If you are in a French mood but don’t want to shell out mad cash, this is the place for you.
It’s pretty much a Mom and Pop shop that sells cookies the size of your head (unless you have a really big head but then again, this is not something I can help you with). Although service can be a bit slow, the cookies and pies are totally worth it.
I really like the service here. I know I bring it up often, but let me be candid with you. Not all restaurants in Northern Virginia have great service, sometimes servers can get snooty and uptight. So when I say that service is good, it’s legit. There’s a wide-range of coffee to experiment with and if you love music, you will get impressed, like me, with their colorful posters and decor.
Anita’s New Mexico Style Mexican Food
A part of me will always miss New Mexico. What I miss most about the state is the red and green sauces. I was overjoyed when I found this restaurant and noticed that much of their cuisine has authentic New Mexico spices, sauces, and service. I tried their chicken enchilada dish and it was really good.
This is Northern Virginia’s best kept secret. Only here can you eat freshly baked donuts that use breakfast cereals, girl scout cookies, and red velvet cake batter. My personal favorites are the chocolate coconut and the samoa. You can also pair your sugary finds with black cherry soda or with Zeke’s coffee.
Whoah! Service is amazing, there’s like 12 different gelatos to choose from, and you can spruce up your coffee with 40 different flavors. One day I had lavendar coffee and the next day I had cake batter flavored lattes. The sky is the limit at this delicious coffee spot.
You can’t go wrong with their steak, pork, or chicken selections. Their fresh made salsa, guacamole and chips are also too good to be true. Forget any other taco joint and just come here. I normally don’t like soft tacos but this may be the only soft taco spot I ever go to–again.
The teas have a fragrant taste, and the coffees pack a rich, bold, flavor. I recommend snacking on their crumbly, dark chocolate cookies caked with powdered sugar. Your sugar cravings will get quenched.
Larry’s Ice Cream
The company’s name may be prosaic but the ice cream flavors are quite the opposite. Only here can you get lavendar, mango, Cleopatra, lychee or Vietnamese coffee flavored ice cream. They often close on 11 p.m. on weeknights and it’s the perfect snack after bar hopping around Clarendon.
Northside Social Coffee & Wine
Often voted as the number 1 coffee shop in Arlington, I don’t know if I can attest to that. Their scones are delicious but theirservice was very poor. The coffee was decent but I didn’t like the store’s ambiance. The furniture was outdated, the store was a bit overcrowded/ overrated, and I just wasn’t feeling it.
The gyros were remarkable. The lamb had a nice roasted finish and service was stellar. They not only made my order fast (under 10 minutes) but the store’s interior suggested that they wanted to give customers back a slice of Lebanon.
If you love Southern cuisine and also love fine dining, this place is right up your alley. Their fire roasted okra and hand fried calamari will make you weep. It was so good. I can see why this is a great spot for dinner.
Well, I wouldn’t recommend this spot for dinner. I do recommend it for Happy Hour. They have great wings, veggies, and appetizers for those hungry enough to get their bellies full.
Lost Dog Cafe
So many hot dog choices, not enough time to decide. I often get the groovy dog because I love olives, spinach, and anything Greek. Apparently, they are also known for having a wide selection of beers, ales, and ciders. Who knew?
My favorite happy hour joint. I had scrumptious meatballs, tacos, nachos and the entire world at the palm of my hand. The drinks are reasonably priced and are made using unique ingredients. If you want to catch up on Football, this is where you should really go. I highly approve it.
Osteria Da Nino
I can easily see why people on Yelp love it. This is the best Italian restaurant that is reasonably priced in all of Shirlington. I had the best bolognese pasta there and I am still missing their mushroom soup dish.
I wouldn’t call this place the best but they do have memorable sticky buns. Service can get pretty slow and cumbersome in the mornings, but, all in all, it’s a decent spot to get Starbucks coffee.
Circa at Clarendon
If you are a wine, and cheese snob than please go here. I had a delicious Riesling from here and paired it with their brie, goat, and gouda cheeses. The prices are a bit exorbitant but the atmosphere is beyond fitting. I felt like a princess inside and the service was remarkable. Totally go here if you want fine dining!
I really love their Flat White Coffee! This is the best (probably only) New Zealand coffee shop I have ever gone to. The service is top-notch, coffee tasted sweet, even bodied, and had a rich texture and the atmosphere is breezy.
Portion sizes may be small but everything else was grand. I recommend saving $$$ to come here though since there is a wide variety of hand-crafted dishes to choose from. Moreover, their top chef won a James Beard award for their pastry-making skills, fyi.
This is the one of the best fancy-schmany Russian restaurants I have ever gone to. I love the Uzbekistan meat dish I tried, and love the caviar encrusted appetizers too. You really do feel like you are in Russia when you walk inside.
Although this is a comprehensive guide, it doesn’t mean that I have visited every single restaurant, bakery, or cafe in NoVa. Is there a spot that you love that I didn’t mention? Do you have any recommendations for tourists? Comment below!