Northern Virginia: Local Eats [part 2]

In my continuing effort to find truly local cuisine in an area that has chains in all directions, I put together another edition of Local Eats. Before I get to the important stuff (read: the food) let me just say that it’s also been a challenge to find local eats that are not Asian! Anywhere you go you’ll find local Asian cuisine.

RELATED: If you missed [part 1], read it here

Northern Virginia: Local Eats [part 2] // Serve With Rice

So, I’m trying to branch out beyond that. But it is difficult since NoVa has a high Asian population. It’s also been hard to find places that only have one location. Almost all places have at least two or three. Technically that still makes it local–especially since the locations are all still within NoVa, so I’m bending the rules a bit. It’s my blog and I’ll do what I want to! Now let’s get to local eats, part 2!


1. Marumen

Okay. So I can’t really get away from Asian restaurants. One day I’ll write one of these posts without one. But today is not that day. When I went to Texas last month, raved about my first experience with ramen. You know, other than the kind that you get for nearly nothing at the grocery store. When I got back in town, I told my parents all about that place and we immediately decided to look for great ramen in the area.

Northern Virginia: Local Eats [part 2] // Serve With Rice

My best friend, Sara, was in town again after a month away working in Latin America. Without even bringing up my great Austin experience, she told me that we should try out this ramen place she’s been to in Fairfax. This is one of the many reasons that I love Sara. She and I are somehow miraculously always on the same page. I told her, yes definitely. Lunch date set!

I’ve since been to Marumen for ramen twice–once with my parents and once with Sara. I had the seafood ramen special and the shoyu (soy sauce seasoning ramen). Both were incredibly tasty and full of bold flavor. If you get the shoyu, I would get extra pork. The sweetness in the pork’s marinade really helps balance out the saltiness in the soy sauce seasoning. If you get the seafood ramen, order milk. It’s really spicy–and I have a pretty good tolerance! Admittedly, this isn’t as glorious at the ramen in Austin, but it is still really really delicious. I wouldn’t recommend it if it wasn’t! Next time you’re in the Fairfax/almost Falls Church area, check it out!

2. Cupcakes Actually

I have to give credit for this one to Sara yet again. Sara worked part-time at Cupcakes Actually in Fairfax Corner. She kept talking about their specialty flavors, their gluten-free cupcakes, and their smooth buttercream. She also kept taking home extras after her shift and fattening up everyone around her! (Not that I’m complaining).

Northern Virginia: Local Eats [part 2] // Serve With Rice

I remember when this place opened, and it’s changed a lot since then. Now they not only serve cupcakes, but they’ve got coffee and gelato as well! If you’re a dog person like me, they even sell pupcakes–little bite-sized treats for your pup. I vaguely remember a time when I didn’t really think much of this place. When I first tried their cupcakes they weren’t really all that. It usually had a small cake, and way more frosting than any person ever actually needs. Frosting is not my favorite part of cupcakes, so I put this place on the back burner.

But just like I said in my most recent post…sometimes you just have to rediscover things and fall in love with them when you’re a bit older and wiser. Now the cupcakes are perfectly proportioned between cake and frosting. The frostings are light and airy, with a slight buttery taste and a smooth finish. The cakes are moist in all the best ways, even the gluten free and vegan ones–yes, they have those healthy diet-conscious options too! Wander in when you’re around. I absolutely recommend the red velvet or gluten free chocolate. Though be warned! The flavors are so rich that you may only get through half a cupcake at a time!

3. Taco Bamba

Last but not least! Sometimes the best places are the ones you find by accident. My dad and I just happened to stumble upon this place in Vienna one day. We went to Vienna’s local pharmacy and right next door was Taco Bamba. I’d never seen this place before so it must be relatively new. It was lunch time and the area was so busy that it took us at least 20 min to find parking. We decided to stop in for lunch since we were there anyway.

Northern Virginia: Local Eats [part 2] // Serve With Rice

So, I walk in and there’s stools against the front and tables along the walls. The line is nearly out the door. To the side is the area where the tacos are being made to order and you can watch as you wait. There are huge signs on the wall with the menu on them. You could either go traditional taco (boring!) or specialty. The specialty flavors include Japanese tempura taco, Korean bulgolgi taco, and the “el gringo” with a cheddar quesadilla.

I had a middle eastern inspired taco called the Arabe, which I urge you to try. Each taco is $3 to $4, and some are so big that you really only need one. I ask you: What is better than a fantastic, expertly-made taco with surprising and delectable flavors that costs you less than $10 for a meal?! If you find the answer, let me know so I can put it on part 3 of local eats!


That’s all I’ve got for this edition of Northern Virginia: Local Eats. I hope you discovered something new and interesting to try. If not, then look out for part 3! As always, I love to hear your thoughts and input. If you think there’s a place I should try, then leave it for me in the comments. I’m constantly looking for new places to eat, especially local places. Until next time…

What do you think of these places? If you’ve ever been, I want to hear about it!