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Neighborhood Guide: Shirlington

This Arlington neighborhood is home to tasty cheeses, gourmet goodies, and one-stop shops.

Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Where to Grab a Bite

Everyone needs a place like Carlyle (4000 Campbell Ave.; 703-931-0777) on speed dial. Grandma coming to town? Last-minute date? Tired of another night of Project Runway? No reservations are needed, but you can call ahead to minimize (or eliminate) a wait. This boisterous eatery’s American comfort classics will be your reward. Go for crunchy salt-and-pepper calamari, gingery two-noodle shrimp salad, a chunky lobster roll, or hickory smoked black Angus rib eye with earthy mushrooms. Portions are generous, so sharing is an option—especially if you’re saving room for the flourless chocolate-macadamia waffle with a scoop of vanilla.

A Sweet-Tooth Fix

The cupcake roster at Best Buns Bread Company (4010 Campbell Ave.; 703-578-1500) may not be as varied as some, but what’s made here is made well, be it carrot cupcakes studded with walnuts and swirled with pleasantly sweet cream-cheese frosting or moist toffee-frosted chocolate cupcakes that deliver a sweet-salty finish. You’ll also find other treats such as bacon-cheese scones, coffeecake muffins, monkey bread, rosemary/olive-oil bread, and gooey chocolate cookies known as espresso chews.

Gourmet Goodies

An easy way to lose an hour, Ah Love Oil & Vinegar (4017-B Campbell Ave.; 703-820-2210) offers a mouthwatering selection of artisanal olive oils and infused vinegars. Sample the lemongrass-mint-infused white balsamic or the tongue-tingling honey/serrano-chili balsamic. Then make your way to the rich oils, in varieties from sweet Greek-lime and blood-orange to mushroom-sage and bacon. Make sure to check out the other items, both edible (lemon-fig chutney, spiced sour-cherry tapenade) and nonedible (such as the store’s house-made olive-oil body products). Tip: This is the only store in the area selling the most recent pressing of Laconiko’s peppery, earthy, fresh-as-you-can-get-it unfiltered oil.

Where to Find Tasty Snacks

Shirlington foodies flock to the Cheese & Wine Bar at Jill Erber’s Cheesetique (4056 Campbell Ave.; 703-933-8787) for menus designed with pairings in mind. A deft staff helps you build cheese samplers with such accoutrements as glazed grilled figs, Marcona almonds, and olive tapenade, then match them with beers or wines.

Where to Find Unique Gifts

In search of a gift? Head for Le Village Marché (2800 S. Randolph St., Suite 110-A; 703-379-4444), which charms effortlessly, thanks to its Parisian flea-market motif and stellar selection. Lavender abounds, and French cafe music sets the mood for the shop, which owner Angela Phelps curates to fit a Francophile’s dreams: Ladurée recipe books, vibrant Jean Vier kitchen towels, and fragrant candles poured into vintage-style hobnob glass are just a few standouts. A cheeky selection of letterpress notecards and cute baby gear round out the offerings.

One-Stop Shop: periwinkle

Bright, cheerful displays and a head-to-toe concept make Periwinkle (4150 Campbell Ave., Suite 104; 703-379-5242) a one-stop shop for a playful, hue-happy look. Color-blocked shifts and paisley wrap dresses from such designers as Julie Brown, Trina Turk, and Lesley Evers line the walls, while whimsical shoes from Butter and Beverly Feldman and the ever-popular bubble necklaces are chosen to coordinate with the store’s styles. A highlight: This shop is among the few places to stock the perfect-fitting button-ups from local designer Rochelle Behrens’s The Shirt.

Pretty & Practical Underthings

Bloomers (4150 Campbell Ave., Suite 101-A; 571-970-4756) may be a lingerie shop, but don’t expect waist-squeezing corsets or itchy lace. The vision of owner Kim Putens (who also cofounded the Alexandria beauty store Bellacara), Bloomers sells the kind of bedtime wear women want to buy—and aren’t embarrassed to be seen in around the kids. That means simple yet chic sleepwear and comfy yet cute foundation garments, with a true focus on fusing style and practicality. The result? Female-favorite brands such as Hanky Panky, Eberjey, and Mary Green fill the shop, all in super-soft jersey with equally soft (and pretty) lace detailing and truly supportive unmentionables.

Musicals and More

The winner of a Tony Award for best regional theater in 2009, Signature Theatre (4200 Campbell Ave.; 703-820-9771) has been around since 1990 but moved into this $16-million complex in 2007. Artistic director Eric Schaeffer is known as a Sondheim interpreter, and the company has a strong reputation for musicals, staging classics several times a year as well as running the American Musical Voices Project, which funds new works. Signature has also had success recently with drama, staging the world premiere of Paul Downs Colaizzo’s hit, Really Really, last year.

Catch a Show

Dedicated to neglected 20th-century works, American Century Theater offers plays by the likes of Gore Vidal, Orson Welles, Lorraine Hansberry, Eugene O’Neill, and Lillian Hellman. Productions take place at Gunston Arts Center (2700 S. Lang St.; 703-998-4555). In June, the company presents Biography, a comedy of manners by playwright and screenwriter S.N. Behrman.

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