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Arlington, Virginia: Where to Eat Around Clarendon/Courthouse

Written by Anna McCarthy

Crowd-Pleasing Brunch: Tupelo Honey

1616 N Troy St, Arlington, VA 22201

Between my strong southern Grammy and the years I spent living in the south, I’m a sucker for good biscuits and fried chicken. Just about every meal’s menu (lunch, dinner, brunch or happy hour) is delicious, but I most frequently find myself at Tupelo for brunch – especially when I’m choosing for a group. I’ll warn you, no matter the size of your party, either make reservations or expect to wait a couple hours for a table. It’s hard to avoid ordering the Shoo Mercy Griddle (I’m a sucker for sweet potato pancakes), but when I manage to pick something else it’s usually the Southwestern Omelet or the Old Skool Breakfast Bowl. At the end of the day, all that matters is what everyone else orders because, let’s be honest, you’ll want bites off everyone’s plates.

Hangover Food: Brooklyn Bagel Bakery

2055 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201

CASH ONLY. I start there because I can honestly tell you there is nothing worse than dragging a severely hungover body into the deliciously perfect scent of Brooklyn Bagel and discovering you cannot buy anything. The cash-only policy makes the line move fast, so don’t be alarmed when you show up on a weekend to a line stretching out the door. Figure out what you want quickly, and pay attention – there will be anywhere from 5 to 10 people behind the counter taking orders and you may be called on before you even make it to the counter. Brooklyn Bagel is a well-oiled machine, and you’ll be out of there before you know it. These are some of the best bagels I’ve found in the DMV, but I try to limit myself to one - a blueberry bagel with cream cheese, or a sausage egg and cheese on an everything bagel (psst they’re real eggs they crack right on the griddle), or even just a plain bagel with butter, because seriously, they’re that good.

To Satisfy that Deli Craving: Earl's Sandwiches

2605 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201

I feel like a bit of a fraud here, because the original Earl’s is in Ballston, and I’ve only ever been to the one that sits snug between Courthouse and Clarendon. But hey, at least I’m better than my parents – since my sister first moved here 5 years ago (followed shortly after by me), my parents have been here countless times, and we’ve taken them to some incredible DC restaurants. And yet, every time they are here, without fail: “which day are we going to Earl’s?” - “well we’ll have to make a pit stop for lunch at Earl’s” – “but maybe we just eat a light breakfast, because today we’re doing lunch at Earl’s?” My parents love a well-made, hearty, warm and filling sandwich, and Earl’s delivers their wildest dreams. Oh, and I guess I can mention that I’ve gone a few times without my parents too. Try one of my favorites, like the Turkey Cranberry or, if you’re there for breakfast, Sausage & Egg on sourdough.

A Cozy Saturday Afternoon: Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery

1515 N Courthouse Rd, Arlington, VA 22201

My years in Nashville spoiled me – as soon as I moved to Arlington I was on the hunt for a good coffeeshop. It helped that I was unemployed and also on the hunt for a job, so I spent quite a bit of time exploring my new neighborhood for a space to write cover letters. Everything I wanted, I found in Bayou. Their plain-old drip coffee is delicious, and comes with a Mardi Gras coin to turn in for a free refill. The back of the shop has a few armchairs next to a big cozy couch. Their biscuit sandwiches and coffeecakes are a perfect afternoon snack. All of this is set amongst NOLA décor that makes time slow down a bit. No matter how much exploring I did, I always came back to Bayou.

Burgers & Beer: Heritage Brewing Co.

1300-1398 N Fillmore St, Arlington, VA 22201

I love a good brewery. I’ve really acquired a taste for beer over the last few years, and this tiny tucked-away brewery in the middle of a block on Fillmore is my favorite spot for a pint – often accompanied by a German Style Pretzel (because I’m a sucker for Everything Spice), or more often by a burger and fries. They have plenty of other items on their menu, and everyone I’ve ever brought here has enjoyed what they’ve ordered, but the only thing I can truly recommend is the burger, because this is where I go when I’m craving one. Ever since Citizen Burger closed (RIP, friend), I’ve turned to HBC for a burger and a beer quite a number of times. You can count on this place, and their friendly waiters, and the southern feel of their interior. A homey spot for comfort food.

Happy Hour: Ambar

2901 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201

I love this happy hour. Everything is $5, drinks and small plates. Plus, you get to enjoy the beautiful tiled walls, mirrored ceiling, and gorgeous bar. I’ve met folks here for drinks after work, taken friends who are visiting from out of town, and even sat at the dainty high-tops on my own, sipping sparkling wine while wrapping up my day’s work. Try their spread tasting (everyone I’ve taken has a different favorite), snack on their almond crusted chicken, and always, ALWAYS, get an order of their Ambar fries. Unless you think you need more than one order. Maybe one per person.

The Best Takeout After a Long Workday: Liberty To Go (operated by The Liberty Tavern)

3195 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201

This is a true side-door operation of Liberty Tavern that’s the opposite of fast food (oh, except yes, it is fast. And food.). Liberty Tavern is a well-known spot in Arlington, particularly because of its enormous buffet brunch and wide-ranging dinner menu. Yet somehow, I’ve only sat down inside Liberty Tavern… 3 times? and I’ve ordered takeout from Liberty To Go more times than I care to count (or admit). After a long day at work, when I couldn’t fathom stopping at the grocery store – much less cooking – Liberty To Go saved my weary work-beaten heart, and added a bright point to otherwise murky days. My go-to is a fried chicken sandwich, but I feel confident recommending just about anything from this place.

Sitting Around at a Bar: The Board Room

925 N Garfield St, Arlington, VA 22201

As a person who’s easily bored (I’ve been known to pull out a deck of cards in plenty of borderline-inappropriate settings), a bar with games to play is basically my heaven. The $2 charge is totally worth it for a chance to flex your Clue skills or bend the rules in a game of Trivial Pursuit. It gets plenty crowded on weekend nights, so make sure to go early enough that you can stake out a table; you may have to get creative when finding a spot to play. The lively energy and friendly mood of everyone inside will make the hours fly by.

When You Need a Glass: Northside Social Coffee & Wine

3211 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201

We all need a comforting wine bar in our life. Northside Social does a lot of things (coffee shop, restaurant, caterer, bakery), but I think their greatest accomplishment is their wine bar. They have an adorable patio strung up with lights at nighttime, or a welcoming upstairs with tables and plenty of bar space. This is always my recommendation when I’m trying to grab a glass of wine with a gal pal, but more than that, it is my favorite place to read a book or write for awhile when I want to be out of the house but feel like I’m home.

Where You'll Want One of Everything: Cava Mezze

2940 Clarendon Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201

I cannot say enough about Cava. The title I gave it is accurate – this is the place where you’ll want one of everything. And I’m about to prove it by spending more time talking about the food here than I have for any other restaurant. All four of their dips are incredible, so try to convince your group to just get the dip tasting right off the bat. For veggies: the roasted cauliflower is mouth-watering, the falafel is delicious, and I am pretty sure I’ve dreamt about the brussels sprouts. The MOST IMPORTANT thing you need to order is the saganaki… “tableside flambeed…” enough said. My favorite of the chicken options is the lollipop chicken, but I also love the chicken souvlaki. The short rib will melt in your mouth, the lamb meatballs will leave you wanting more, and the lamb chops are well-worth the upcharge. Don’t forget about lamb sliders – I want to figure out how to make these at home, even though I’ll never do them justice. I rarely order seafood here, but if you can’t tell from this entry… try one. of. everything. You won’t regret any order in this haven.

Mexican Food (& Remarkable Margs): Guajillo Mexican

1727 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22209

Guajillo is a favorite spot I hold close to my heart – and not only because they serve cheap margs in full-size water glasses (seriously, take note. You will get a water and a marg and they will be served in the same glasses. It’s heaven.) Be careful not to fill up on salsa before you order, which to be honest would be easy to do - their salsa is delicious, and always tastes just a bit different, which is how you can tell it’s homemade. Their quesadillas are my comfort food, but I can’t help but switch up my order whenever I go, because I have yet to try something that isn’t yummy. Cozy, warm, tucked away and generally under-appreciated, a meal at Guajillo is good for the soul.

Splurge (Let's Pretend We're Celebrating): Green Pig Bistro

1025 N Fillmore St, Arlington, VA 22201

Green Pig has been a go-to of mine for celebrating birthdays, toasting promotions, or hosting parents for a special night out. It’s also where I go to splurge for no better reason than the food is delicious and the specialty cocktails are fun. Start with their onion soup or cavatelli, add in their pork chop or sous vide chicken, and finish the night with warm chocolate cake or peach cobbler. You won’t be disappointed. If you want to swing by without breaking the bank, stop at their bar for a late-night cocktail and snack – I tend to opt for a Pepino Fresco to go with my order of french fries.

Anytime and Always: Screwtop Wine Bar

1025 N Fillmore St, Arlington, VA 22201

I believe in the power of online advertisement through food blogs. And Screwtop is my favorite restaurant – not just in DC. So I won’t tell you to go here. Don’t bring your crowds and make my wait on Friday (and sometimes also Saturday) night even longer. I won’t tell you that I’ve tried everything on the menu – yes, including the items that rotate seasonally – or that I’ve never found another place that always has something on the menu that fits exactly what you’re in the mood for. I won’t explain how this is my favorite place to bring out of town guests, or that the bar stools are comfortable enough to fall asleep sitting up, or that the bartenders help you try options and taste a variety before committing to a glass of wine. I will accidentally ignore the fact that my sister and I cannot go here without ordering empanadas to split, and forget to mention that you can build your own wine flight (on top of the seasonal flight pairings they offer). And there’s no chance you’re getting me to admit that somehow even their side salads – the ones that are normally an afterthought next to a sandwich – make me want to lick the plate. Oh, and it’s very affordable, especially compared to other spots in Clarendon. I’m not telling you any of that. No need to stop here, folks. Keep walking.

Any other suggestions? Let us know!

Written by Anna McCarthy

Photos by Emi Lungmus


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