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Neighborhood Guide: Virginia Square and Ballston

Covet specializes in handmade clothing and accessories. Photograph by Erik Uecke.

Community Arts Hub

Founded in 1974 and housed in a for-mer school, Arlington Arts Center (3550 Wilson Blvd.; 703-248-6800) hosts visual-art exhibitions, studio space, and classes in painting, drawing, photography, and more. The 17,000-square-foot space features nine galleries, with exhibitions taking a bold, often experimental bent. Coming this summer is “Green Acres,” an interactive, indoor-and-outdoor show exploring art and agriculture.

Something Different

Hard-to-impress foodie friends in town? Whisk them to Rus Uz (1000 N. Randolph St.; 571-312-4086). Chances are that they haven’t encountered Uzbek cuisine before and that they’ll like it—a lot. Manti are delicate pasta squares stuffed with spiced lamb and drizzled with yogurt. Plov, the national dish, is the Uzbek answer to fried rice, with savory bits of baked lamb, currants, and shredded carrots. And beef stroganoff is tweaked with tomato-spiked sour cream and a raft of roasted potatoes filling in for noodles. Until this engaging and intimate dining room gets its liquor license, the house-made cherry-apricot juice is the drink of choice.

Best for Beer Lovers

A gaggle of taps crowds the bar at Rustico (4075 Wilson Blvd.; 571-384-1820), the Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s airy beer bar and wood-fired-pizza place. (The original is in Alexandria.) Beers, by the full or half glass, are handpicked from European and American breweries by suds guru Greg Engert and presented in categories such as Soft & Silky and Fruity & Vinous.

Taste of Asia

At Red Parrot (1110 N. Glebe Rd.; 703-351-7880)—a pan-Asian eatery that nods to China, Thailand, Japan, Korea, and India—you can have a mini-sandwich of sweet-sauced duck tucked into a pillowy steamed bun. There are also worthy hits such as the house curry rice noodles that don’t stint on spice, credible bibim bap with house-made kimchee, and some of the best samosas we’ve had.

Date Night

With sexy oxblood walls, low lighting, and conversationally spaced tables, Willow (4301 N. Fairfax Dr.; 703-465-8800) is romance-ready. Chef Tracy O’Grady’s menu is all about lush flavors and textures. Will it be the crackly tonno flatbread with green olives and spiced, smoked tuna? Fried chicken stuffed with foie gras mousse? Or sausage-crusted miniature rack of pork? And though you may have something else in mind for dessert, the bourbon-chocolate pudding cake gilded with salty-caramel ice cream is sublime.

Perfectly Prep

Fornash (4238 Wilson Blvd., Second Floor; 703-525-3206), done up in coral walls and aqua accents, makes a cheerful statement inside Ballston Common Mall, where it recently relocated after ten years in Georgetown. The wares are unabashedly preppy. Trellis prints? Yup. Bamboo bracelets? Of course. Anchor accents, equestrian motifs, and horse-bit detailing? Check, check, and check. Even if Palm Beach panache isn’t your thing, come for the rainbow of stackable enamel bangles, oversize link necklaces—including a trendy Lucite version—or leather wrap bracelets, complete with chunky gold hardware. Don’t miss the darling extras, including chevron-print totes, polka-dot ice packs, and glossy lacquered jewelry trays.

Whimsical Appeal

On the top floor of a charming house, Covet (5140-B Wilson Blvd.; 703-247-9797) oozes adorable, starting with the hot-pink front door and Smiths lyrics stenciled onto the stairs. This boutique is the place to discover local and small-production designs for the Etsy-loving set and their stylish kids. A few of the many highlights: Sydney Hale Co.’s fab-smelling candles, hand-poured in Arlington; a cheery selection of local ADMK Jewelry’s sparkly gemstone earrings; insanely precious 3 Sprouts baby gear; and sassy list makers gonna list notepads from Sapling Press.

Secret Garden

About a mile and a half from the Ballston Metro in Bon Air Park, you’ll find the glorious Bon Air Memorial Rose Garden (850 N. Lexington St.; 703-228-6525). Its 135 varieties of roses—hybrid tea, grandiflora, floribunda—are in peak bloom during the summer months. Bon Air Park also has azalea, shade, sun, and ornamental-tree gardens as well as grills, picnic tables, and basketball, volleyball, and tennis courts.

Read Our Arlington Neighborhood Guide ››

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