Best of Fairfax: “My Number-One Spot”

Five locals recommend places for a meal, a movie, or an afternoon with the kids

By: Sophie Gilbert

George Mason basketball coach Jim Larranaga is a fan of Brion’s Grille, where the team’s memorabilia is on display. Photograph by Chris Leaman

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Jim Larranaga is in his 12th season as men’s basketball coach at George Mason University. In 2006, he took the Patriots to the Final Four in the NCAA tournament.

My number-one spot is Brion’s Grille (10621 Braddock Rd., Fairfax; 703-352-7272). The owner, Brion Sumser, is a former George Mason basketball player, and the entire back wall is dedicated to our 2006 run to the Final Four, with pictures of everything that happened during that March Madness. The food is delicious. Some of my friends kid me because there’s a Jim Larranaga burger on the menu. I generally like to eat the angel-hair pasta with Alfredo sauce and the garlic chicken.

I’m from New York, so I love Italian food. On a Friday night, we like to go to Pomodoro (12152 Fairfax Towne Center, Fairfax; 703-273-7405) for a nice dinner, some pizza or pasta, and then to a movie. The restaurant is special because of how warm and welcoming the staff is. Tony, the owner, is from Naples.

Our favorite movie place is Fairfax Corner 14 (11900 Palace Way., Fairfax; 703-502-4060), and we go almost every Friday. Fairfax Corner has very much a family atmosphere. There’s an open park there where they sometimes have entertainment.

Lisa Whetzel is executive director of Our Daily Bread, a nonprofit that serves underprivileged people in the Fairfax area with financial mentoring, a food pantry, and an Adopt-a-Family holiday program.

Fairfax City is terrific because it has a small-town feel, with lots of community events like the Chocolate Lovers Festival (February 6 and 7) and the Spotlight on the Arts (April 1 through May 1), but you also have access to a major metropolitan area.

The Fairfax Museum & Visitor Center (10209 Main St., Fairfax; 703-385-8414) is a great place, and there’s also Blenheim House (3610 Old Lee Hwy., Fairfax; 703-591-0560), a historic home. An educational visitors’ center just opened there, and they have beautiful grounds. There’s a Civil War reenactment every May.

One of the places that our family loved when the kids were younger is Burke Lake Park (7315 Ox Rd., Fairfax Station; 703-323-6600). It has a little train that parents and kids can sit in and a carousel, an ice-cream bar, and a Putt-Putt golf course.

I’m a cyclist, and Fairfax has plenty of good bike trails. The Connector Trail goes through Fairfax City all the way down to the Occoquan River. Oasis Bike Works (10376 Main St., Fairfax; 703-273-4051) is a great shop. The owner used to be a biology teacher, and four years ago he opened his shop and it really took off.

A great movie theater is Cinema Arts (Fair City Mall, 9650 Main St., Fairfax; 703-978-6991). After audiences have seen the trailers, the owner will come out and ask which movies they’d like to see. They often have movies for kids and sometimes indie movies.

Michael Replogle is founding artistic director of the City of Fairfax Theatre Company. He has performed at the Kennedy Center, Signature Theatre, and Round House Theatre.

The Wine House (3950 University Dr., Suite 212, Fairfax; 703-352-2211), which has been here about two years, is a wonderful place. It’s not just run-of-the-mill wines—they order new things all the time, and they really like you to go in and try them. The sommelier is terrific, and in the evening they often have good food as well.

I play golf at Fairfax National (16850 Sudley Rd., Centreville; 703-631-9226). It’s what I would call a fair golf course, and it’s great for an average golfer. You can’t get into too much trouble as long as you put it in the fairway. I’ve never had to wait to get on. They also have a driving range.

Sharon Bulova is chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and a member of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission. She previously served as chairman of Greater Washington 2050, which works to improve the region.

One of my favorite contemplative places is the trail around the lake at Royal Lake Park (5344 Gainsborough Dr., Fairfax; 703-324-8702). It’s a 42-acre lake, and the trail is about two miles. It’s one of the prettiest, most comfortable places to run.

Another place that’s really nice for a run is Lake Accotink (7500 Accotink Park Rd., Springfield; 703-569-0285). It was originally created for drinking water during the first part of the last century, but now it’s a recreational lake and people can go boating and fishing. There are also lots of picnic areas and concerts in the park.

Fair Oaks Mall (703-359-8300; shopfairoaksmall.com), in Fairfax, is very close to my house, and I’ve invested a lot of money there over the years at Macy’s. It’s not as large as Tysons Galleria, so for some people it’s more manageable.

For good coffee, there’s Saxbys (10637 Braddock Rd., Fairfax; 703-278-5400) in the University Shopping Center. It’s very homey and has great coffee and pastries.

George Mason University’s Center for the Arts (4400 University Dr., Fairfax; 703-993-8888) has wonderful programs featuring different things—classical music, holiday performances, and an annual event showcasing the arts programs at the university.

Michael Hensley owns Victoria’s Cakery in Fairfax, a business started by his mother in 1984. A former industrial designer, he took over the store in 2002.

I like the Auld Shebeen (3971 Chain Bridge Rd., Fairfax; 703-293-9600) a lot. It’s an Irish pub just down the street from my shop. There’s good food and a great atmosphere, and on weekends it usually does Irish music. At night it gets a good crowd.

Dogfish Head Alehouse (13041 Lee Jackson Memorial Hwy., Fairfax; 703-961-1140) is a pretty good place for a date. It’s a little ale pub. They brew their own beers and also have a lot of local beers, so there’s plenty to choose from. They have awesome crab dip, and I’ve had the fish and chips, which was good.

My kids love to go to Van Dyck Park (3500 Old Lee Hwy., Fairfax; 703-385-7858). My son is almost three, and he loves to watch the older kids on the skate ramp. They have the typical swings and slides, and there are always a ton of kids around.