I don't mean to stress anybody out, but if you're visiting Northern Virginia for the first time, you've got a lot on your plate. No matter how much time you spend here, you'll never be able to eat your way through the criminally delicious selection of food that's spread across our vast and confusingly mapped out counties. If you're from Northern Virginia, you've experienced first-hand the stress of deciding where to eat on a weekend when the night is young and the options are seemingly endless.
Believe me, nobody understands this struggle more than I do. I'm basically a human garbage disposal in that I will eat anything and everything (I once tried grasshopper tacos; do not recommend). The problem with being so adventurous food-wise is that I too frequently find things I love. My stomach (or, more importantly, my wallet) cannot possibly handle it all. And I know that if you're in Northern Virginia, it's tempting to take the short metro ride up to DC for same of their well-known eats, but take my word for it: as great as their city slicker food is, some of the best things you will ever consume are right in the neighborhood (or somewhere along the 66, if you can brave it). Here are some of the things that you absolutely have to try while you're in NOVA:
1. "Grown Up Grilled Cheese" From The Lost Dog Cafe
With locations in Arlington, McLean, and Dunn Loring, there is bound to be one close enough to you that you can enjoy this heavenly blend of cheese, avocado and tomato on wheatberry bread. Also the craft beer selection here is so beautiful, it will bring a tear to your eye.
2. Barbecue From The Honeypig Grill
Based in Centreville, you can try to resist the deliciousness of this table top grilling restaurant. You might succeed—if you're a heartless, stomach-less robot.
3. Duck From Peking Gourmet
Every duck-eater I know raves endlessly about this dish. Plus, this is kind of a hotspot for politicians and local celebs, and has even been visited by several presidents. Just make sure you get a reservation or you're all kinds of screwed.
4. Crab Rangoon With Cream Cheese Sauce At Café Asia
I can't find an actual picture of this Arlington restaurant's creamy delicious delicacies, which is probably for the best because I'd start having violent flashblacks about stabbing my siblings with chopsticks to get to these faster.
5. Pad See Ew And Frozen Thai Tea At Sisters Thai
How many restaurants do you know that do frozen thai tea? This local hot spot is based in Fairfax, if you're in the mood for a twist on a yummy staple.
6. Pizza From Santini's
We used to drive for 45 minutes across NOVA to get this pizza, but thankfully the chain has expanded out to McLean, Reston, Oakton, Sterling and Chantilly. I don't have a picture of the pizza, but you'll be able to smell it within fifty feet of the place and that's a much better sell than a picture.
7. Caprese Eggwich From The Chesapeake Bagel Bakery
We may not have New York bagels here, but this is the best compromise NOVA could have made, with locations Oakton, McLean, Alexandria, Falls Church, and Burke. When you get one straight out of the oven, it is basically bagel nirvana.
8. Chicken Kebabs With Saffron Rice Amoo's Kebab
Nestled in McLean, this place does not get near enough street cred. The kebabs are cooked to perfection and I would sleep in a bed made out of that cherry saffron rice, no question.
9. Edamame Dumplings At True Food Kitchen
I can't even accurately describe the taste of these dumplings to you, because I've never had anything like it. They're so creamy and flavorful. When I say "they melt in your mouth", I mean they melt in your mouth. This is another underrated one, because the first NOVA location of this West Coast-based chain just opened in the Mosaic Center last month, but it is worth the trip.
10. Milkshakes From The Silver Diner
These milkshakes are so good, they'll make you can even. YOU SERIOUSLY LITERALLY CAN EVEN WITH THESE MILKSHAKES, YOU GUYS. Bonus points if you get the mint chocolate Oreo. Snag one in Falls Church, Springfield, Reston, McLean, Arlington, or Fairfax.
11. Sushi Lasagna From Miyagi Sushi
You might not think that cheese and sushi would mix this well, but you would be wrong. This place is so tucked into McLean that you can't even see it from the street, but finding it is like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (though I doubt gold would clog your arteries as fast).
12. Cheesesteak From Al's Steak House
I rarely get into Alexandria these days, but I've heard mention of this place too many times not to post about it.
13. Charcoal-Broiled Chicken From El Pollo Rico
This is another one that would be easy to drive past in Arlington, but the secret is out: good luck getting through the line for this chicken on the weekends.
14. Macarons From Fluffy Thoughts
Macarons have been taking DC by storm (and have even inspired some macaron-themed dessert tours), but you don't have to step foot out of Virginia to try unique macaron flavors—this is located right in McLean.
15. Mimosas from Artie's
It may be getting cold outside, but you can still pretend it's summer for a few blissful minutes with this fresh squeezed paradise in Fairfax.
16. Vegetarian Fare at the Sunflower Restaurant
With two locations in Falls Church and Vienna, this is one of the few local restaurants that caters to both vegetarians and vegans with their inventive and delicious menu items. I'm an unabashed carnivore and even I enjoy their noms.
17. Literally Anything You Could Possibly Ever Fathom At Amphora
This is the place I hope people go after they die. This menu...it just goes on forever. It's my favorite novel. And they serve everything on it all day long . Breakfast for dinner. DINNER FOR BREAKFAST. THIS PLACE IS SWEET CHAOS AND DISORDER UNLIKE ANY YOU HAVE EVER KNOWN, AND THE HERNDON LOCATION IS OPEN TWENTY-FOUR HOURS A DAY. You have no excuse to not eat here. STOP READING. GO.
Images: Lost Dog Cafe, Peking Gourmet, Amoo's Kebab, El Pollo Rico, Artie's, Amphora/Facebook; 50shades_rich, anni3jin d_clemente757, jiddkidd, ginagj725, saeed7rb, katelynecarter/Instagram; ChowNowDC/Twitter; Emma Lord