The tiny sandwich shop Earl’s feels like a small-town lunch counter. You don’t come here to eat delicately: Fried-egg breakfast sandwiches, pork sandwiches piled with French fries, and buttery roast-beef-and-cheddar melts with horseradish mayo are the standouts.
There’s always sure to be one thing at Ray’s the Steaks, the flagship of restaurateur Michael Landrum’s empire: a full house. His high-quality steaks—New York strip slathered in blue cheese, rib eye with horseradish cream—are mostly less than $25 and come with free sides of mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. There’s an interesting and affordable collection of wines assembled by former Citronelle sommelier Mark Slater. Although waits are common, the restaurant takes a limited number of reservations and tables turn quickly.
With its carved-wood dividers and deep-red walls, the flavorful Lebanese mezze at Me Jana add up to a much smaller bill than the stylish setting and attentive service would suggest. Meals start with warm balloons of puffed-up house-baked pita; smoky baba ghanoush, eggplant whipped with lemon and garlic; hummus with chickpeas both puréed and whole; and little fried mounds of falafel with a tangy slaw of diced tomato, parsley, and mint. For a meat fix, try chicken shawarma, silver-dollar-size pressed sandwiches with lemon-marinated shredded poultry.
At Chez Manelle, Washington’s only Tunisian restaurant, you’ll see influences from that country’s neighbors: Turkey, Italy, and Morocco. The result is fresh produce in the form of omek houria, or carrots mashed with garlic and olive oil; spicy eggplant spread with lemon and tahini; and a stew with tomatoes, peppers, and onions, made into a good meal with a fried egg, sausage, and French fries.
One of the best new additions to the neighborhood is Fireworks Pizza (2350 Clarendon Blvd.; 703-527-8700; fireworkspizza.com), which favors the same organic ingredients and nitrate-free meats as the original location in Leesburg. Two to try are the Smokey Blue—which marries Gorgonzola, locally made bacon, rosemary, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar—and the Virginia Luau, elevated with country ham and roasted pineapple. A Caesar salad has good garlicky flavor, but ask the kitchen to go light on the dressing.>> Next: Clarendon restaurants