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Best of Arlington: Dining Guide
In the mood for a juicy burger or a sublime lemon cupcake? Here’s where to go. By Ann Limpert
Comments () | Published September 1, 2009

Pizza Fix

Wood-oven-baked pies aren’t the only reason to pull up a chair at Clarendon’s Liberty Tavern—chef Liam LaCivita excels with delicate salads and rustic roasts—but the pizza is terrific. We head for the rounds dotted with fennel-scented sausage or done up with a Vermont-inspired mix of white cheddar and apples.

At the two locations of Lost Dog Café, you can go classic (salty pepperoni and onions) or creative (garlic butter and crabmeat). We also like the mess of veggies on the Rin Tin Tin and the not-too-sweet barbecue-chicken pie.

Larry Ponzi pays homage to two great styles of pizza at Crystal City’s Café Pizzaiolo, and both have their merits. The brittle-crusted Neapolitan pies are best suited for simple basil and mozzarella or a light scattering of mushrooms, while the New York–style rounds can handle a pileup of toppings.

It’s Italy all the way at Pupatella, a tomato-red food cart that pulls up by the Ballston Metro (between Stuart and Ninth sts.) on Thursday and Friday. Can excellent Neapolitan pizza come out of a tiny propane oven? One bite of the crisp Margherita turned us into believers.

Hefty Sandwiches

Your head says no, but your stomach says bring it. We’re talking about the house specialty at Earl’s (2605 Wilson Blvd.; 703-248-0150): a ciabatta roll brimming with roasted pork, sweet pickles, chipotle mayo, and . . . French fries. We were dubious, but it was delicious.

At Jackson’s Famous Roasting & Carving Co. (933 N. Quincy St.; 703-312-1073), the meatloaf sandwich slathered with Thousand Island dressing and cheddar is worth at least a week of field-greens penance.

Many a sub—from the double-ham Milano to a simple hard roll with Genoa salami and hot and sweet peppers—has a following at the Italian Store, and for good reason. The old-school sandwiches are generously layered with high-quality ingredients, and they’re cheap. Call in your order ahead of time to avoid a 45-minute wait.

Spice Addicts

At the Delhi Club in Clarendon, the walls are the color of cayenne—a clue that the kitchen doesn’t hold back when it comes to spicing. Whether you go for tandoori-charred chicken wings, Bengali shrimp, or lamb rogan josh, your mouth will likely feel the burn.

The biggest drawback to many Thai restaurants is that dishes are often too sweet and tamely seasoned. Not at the darkly lit, sleekly appointed Bangkok 54. Chilis enliven a square of tofu, show up in the pleasantly fiery minced-chicken salad called larb gai, and cut the sweetness in a toss of fried, lacquered duck. It makes for some of the most assertive, brightly flavored Thai food in Washington.

Chefs to Watch

Barry Koslow landed near the top of our 100 Best Restaurants list when he headed the kitchen at Georgetown’s Mendocino Grille & Wine Bar. Earlier this year, he took up residence at another wine-focused dining room—Tallula in Arlington’s Lyon Park neighborhood. His creations so far—hamachi with green gazpacho, halibut in a saffron-clam sauce—prove that the neighborhood regulars and date-night couples scattered among the tables have much to look forward to.

Eventide might appear to be all about its dramatic decor: glittering black chandeliers, sapphire-blue velvet drapes, whimsical vintage mirrors. The rooftop dining area is pretty special, too. But some of chef Miles Vaden’s plates, such as linguine-like strands of summer squash and a lovely salmon over spring-pea ragoût, have grabbed our attention just the same.

A Little of Everything

The Crystal City spinoff of small-plates master José Andrés’s Jaleo is great for groups—tapas are meant to be passed and shared—but just as good for solo diners, who can sample three or four dishes at the bar. There’s lots to explore on the Spanish menu, but we keep coming back to the bacon-wrapped dates, marinated mussels, tomato-rubbed flatbread with Manchego, and jamón Ibérico.

It’s the same concept, different cuisine at the often-jammed EatBar, where you can graze on an eclectic array of dishes such as Old Bay–spiced shrimp, steak tartare, mini-burgers, and bruschetta. The bar serves nearly 70 wines by the glass.

In the mood for mezze? You’ll find nice Lebanese dips, salads, and kebabs at Me Jana in the Courthouse Neighborhood and at both locations of Lebanese Taverna (1101 S. Joyce St., 703-415-8681; 5900 Washington Blvd., 703-241-8681).

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Posted at 05:00 PM/ET, 09/01/2009 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Articles