>> See the full best of Fairfax guide here.
We’ve often been tempted to bypass dinner and go straight for the warm chocolate waffle with a scoop of house-made vanilla ice cream. But the thought of pecan-crusted trout with lemony arugula, jumbo lump crabcakes, or hickory smoked rib eye with a loaded baked potato always makes us reconsider. One of the first of the Great American Restaurants (Carlyle, Sweetwater Tavern, Jackson’s are among the others), Artie’s still draws crowds with plates big enough for two, perky service, and updated American cooking. Reservations are limited, but a call-ahead policy makes it easier for big parties.
3260 Old Lee Hwy.; 703-273-7600. Entrées $9 to $30.
The Auld Shebeen
This wood-paneled pub is a lively spot to while away an afternoon or evening. The kitchen turns out standard bar food until you get to the Irish plates: a shepherd’s pie of prime beef with a creamy mashed-potato crust; crisp beer-batter fish and chips; flavorful Guinness beef stew; and a burger finished with Cahill Irish Stout cheese. Sunday afternoon is open-jam day, which means you’re likely to find a dozen Irish-music enthusiasts playing soulful ballads and lively jigs. On Friday and Saturday night, tunes are left to professionals, with Irish bands performing from 7 to 9:30. The lower-level bar has music nearly every night into the wee hours.
3971 Chain Bridge Rd.; 703-293-9600. Entrées $9.95 to $19.95.
Koji Terano, sushi chef at DC’s much-lauded Sushi-Ko and a Fairfax resident, brings his family to this traditional Japanese-owned eatery. Besides expertly cut and rolled sushi—we like the medium fatty tuna and plump botan shrimp—there’s a lengthy menu of tasty small plates such as fried baby octopus, wasabi shu mai, and tsukune, a skewered teriyaki chicken ball. Beyond that are soba-noodle bowls, tempura, hot pots, and other familiar picks. Intrepid eaters will want to check out the multi-course kaiseki dinners, which should be arranged in advance and are testimony to how food can transport you.
9440 Main St.; 703-425-7555. Rolls $2.75 to $10.95; entrées $10.95 to $24.95.
The staff doesn’t break out in song, but there are celluloid shots of Bollywood stars on the burnt-orange walls. And in an area where there’s no shortage of Indian restaurants, Bollywood Bistro stands out with a creative spin on traditional fare. Look for raita made with tangy olives as well as offbeat chutneys such as pomegranate guacamole. Among the best starters: mango aam palak chaat—a cool, crunchy salad of green mango, flash-fried spinach, and spicy tamarind—and shrimp glazed with wine and honey. Savory chunks of charred goat join the usual suspects from the tandoor, while Malabari Chicken is a heady brew of coconut and curry leaves. Add to that a small but serious wine list and you have a restaurant as easy to warm to as a Bollywood extravaganza.
3955 Chain Bridge Rd.; 703-273-0031. Entrées $8 to $15.95.
Craving the crab-and-rock-shrimp fritters at Coastal Flats but don’t want to brave Tysons Corner crowds? Check out the Fairfax outpost. This yellow clapboard beach house has an identical menu and a similar look—it also has a roomy patio out back. Plates to go for include fat crabcakes, fried salt-and-pepper shrimp on a grilled bun, and steamed sea bass with soy sauce. As at Artie’s—owned by the same restaurant group—reservations are limited, but you can call ahead to put your name on the waiting list.
11901 Grand Commons Ave., 571-522-6300. Entrées $12 to $24.