When I think of Northern Virginia, I think of many things: typical suburbia, the metro, traffic, proximity to D.C., housing developments, shopping centers, malls, traffic, and of course, home. Food-wise I think of one thing–chains. Northern Virginia is a highly diverse and cultural area, but it lacks places to eat that are truly local.
When I think about what I want to eat, it’s almost always from a large chain. Think Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Sweet Water, Outback, Texas Roadhouse, IHOP, Five Guys, Bonefish, Bonchon, etc. I went to college at UVA and one of the things that I miss most about Charlottesville is the food. Practically every restaurant is local. One of my favorite restaurants there is actually called The Local! So, in my attempt to find local places to eat in the area I’ve started a search for some of my favorite Northern Virginia local eats.
I’ve mentioned a few times that the area is very diverse and has a large Asian population. So, it makes sense that there are a million local restaurants serving Asian food. Asian restaurants are pretty local wherever they are, other than a few outliers like P.F. Chang’s or Panda Express. On that note, for this edition of Local Eats, I share with you my top 3 favorite Asian restaurants.
Like its name suggests, Sakoonthai is a Thai restaurant located in Clifton, VA. Story time! Our former favorite Thai restaurant was called Sakoontra, located in Fairfax. We used to go there all the time because it was my dad’s favorite restaurant. The food was beyond excellent; their menu had a variety of choices. One night we made our way to Sakoontra to get dinner only to find out that it had closed for good. My dad was absolutely heartbroken.
About a year later a new Thai restaurant called, Sakoonthai opened near our house. Could it be a coincidence? Was it worth trying?! We went there the first chance we could, and we were elated to find nearly the exact same menu. The food was just as amazing as we remembered. I asked the waiter if they happened to be the same owners, and they were! Not only had we found reborn-Sakoontra-now-Sakoonthai, it was closer to our house–within the required delivery radius to be exact. Now if we so desire, we can have pad see ew and cripsy soft shell crab brought right to our door! I also highly recommend the honey shrimp because I obsessively love shrimp.
There are two downsides to Sakoonthai. The first is the aforementioned delivery limitations. If you’re not within the radius then definitely still make the trek out to the restaurant. Keep in mind it’s a small place with limited seating. The other con here is the price. All of the best dishes, the Sakoonthai Signatures, are on average $15-20. If you’re willing to splurge a little then you’ll get a delicious savory meal dripping with flavor and classic Thai taste in return.
Mark’s Duck House
Mark’s Duck House is a Chinese restaurant located in Falls Church, VA. My family has lived in Northern Virginia for 23 years. We have been going to Mark’s for exactly 23 years and counting. At Christmas we get siopao (Filipino dumplings filled with meat and a boiled egg) for our noche buena celebration. There have been numerous family events celebrated at Mark’s. And finally, there have been too many meals just because to count.
If you plan on going to Mark’s for the first time, I’d recommend going on the weekend for lunch. You probably won’t get a table right away, but it will be worth every minute you wait. It’s at this time that Mark’s serves dim sum. They serve dim sum daily at lunch but they really go all out during the weekend. All throughout your meal, the waiters will roll their silver carts by and offer you all kinds of yummy goodness. You point at what you want and they add it to your tab. It’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet but you never have to get up to get the food.
My personal favorites are the steamed shrimp dumplings, shark’s fin, pork dumplings, and chicken feet in black bean sauce. The cons here are the price and location. Dim sum is fantastic, but the price goes up pretty quick after you order five rounds of those small dumplings. As for location, Mark’s is actually closer to suburbia than D.C. and it’s a good 30-45 minute drive from me, which prevents me from eating there as much as I’d like. Then again, you’ll never be disappointed after leaving here. Don’t forget to try the duck–peking and roasted. It is a duck house after all!
Pho Bac is a Vietnamese restaurant located in Chantilly, VA. I discovered Pho Bac when I had surgery earlier this year. I was looking for something other than soup to eat, somewhere that would deliver. So, I chose this place because it provided choices other than pho.
I ended up having a rice plate with lemongrass chicken and it rocked my world. At first I thought it was because it was the first truly tasty meal I’d had in a while–remember, surgery–but then I realized it was just all around tasty! My dad had the pho and he loved it. My mom tried the noodle dishes and they are packed with flavor.
Ever since, Pho Bac has made it to our take-out roster and we order from there a lot. The only bad here is that this place also has quite a small delivery radius, so it’s most likely eat-in for those not within those few miles. Other than that, the meals are affordable (and amazing). Even if you’re not in the mood for soup you’ll still find something crazy good to eat.
There you have it! My search for local food in Northern Virginia continues, so look forward to more updates and posts. I hope you enjoyed this Asian edition to Local Eats, and I hope you find yourself enjoying a meal at one of these incredible places soon.