Welcome to the Northern Virginia Restaurant Blog.

Restaurant reviews in Tyson's and surrounding area... mostly

Sunday, September 2, 2018

LAZY MIKE'S Homemade Ice Cream and Delicatessen, Falls Church, Virginia

7049 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22046
Telephone: (703) 532-5299

On a hot, sunny, lazy August Sunday, we headed to Lazy Mike's for a lazy brunch. After Long John Silver's closed its doors in this small stand-alone bungalow on the busy corner of Leesburg Pike (Rte 7) and Shreve Road, owners of a well-known Falls Church City establishment, Clare and Don's Beach Shack (where we have yet to visit!), quickly swept up this high traffic location and Lazy Mike's made a move up the street.

We never visited Lazy Mike's at their old location on N. West Street, Falls Church, where they were since 1996, according to their website. They moved their current digs in late 2017 and caught our attention. The bright natural light from windows and the vintage New Jersey and New York license plates decor on their walls, coupled with a low-overhead one-room seating area, including even some counter seating with 50s style stools, gives it an-almost Jersey-Diner-kind-of feel.

Great homemade fare, breakfast served all day, busy lively family atmosphere and great service make Lazy Mike's an all-around neighborhood restaurant where you'll really feel like home.

It's hard to imagine someone who won't find something to their liking on the extensive menu. Even vegans have a diverse menu here from which to choose. One of the new items on the burger menu is the vegan version of a burger - the "Impossible burger," that just saw the very ingredient that makes it taste like more like a real beef approved by the FDA in July of this year.

We ordered a delicious Reuben with a side of fries, which are only $1.50 if ordered with a sandwich.  The Reuben was juicy, flavorful and delicious. Though a far cry from a Reuben you'd get in a New York Deli, for the Northern Virginia area, this was quite good. The fries reminded us of McDonald's fries, which were a little thicker and very good.

The burger menu at Lazy Mike's is quite extensive, and all burgers can be ordered "Impossible," so we went ahead and ordered a Mushroom Swiss Impossible Burger. The waitress suggested that if we're trying a vegan burger, why not top it off with a vegan cheese, which was a great suggestion - if you're going to do vegan, do it all the way, so that's exactly what we tried. In fact, Lazy Mike's must be highly commended for being one of only a handful of restaurants in our area that offers the Impossible Burger. You can find all the locations that serve it up on the website of Impossible Foods

The Impossible Burger was somewhat of a disappointment, as it tasted little like meat. Perhaps it was something about how it was prepared (flimsy and soft, not charbroiled in flavor or texture) or maybe it had something to do with its ingredients, but it was not as exciting as it had been built-up to be by its advertising (does anything really live up to its advertisements?). Nonetheless, it was a good meal.

It goes without saying that the homemade Brownie Sundae was absolutely the best possible ending to our Lazy Sunday brunch at Lazy Mike's. Both the Brownie AND the Ice Cream are homemade here, in fact 80% of their desserts are homemade, the rest come from an Arlington bakery. The ice cream at Lazy Mike's was so good, that we soon returned to buy 3 of their pints that are available in a freezer to take home. Though one of our friends noted that their ice cream is a little too sweet for his taste, it is still pretty amazing. 

Lazy Mike's is a one-room low-overhead operation with a small outside seating area, offering a total capacity of just under 100 people. They do not sell alcohol, except for special occasions, but they do offer a warm, welcoming, lively family atmosphere with a true-blue neighborhood vibe. 

We can't wait to return to try all the other options on their menu.

Lazy Mike's is located on a busy intersection across from the Giant Plaza in Falls Church City, VA

Reuben with Fries

Mushroom Swiss "Impossible Burger" with Fries

Impossible Burger Up Close

Brownie Sundae

New Jersey and New York vintage license plates adorn the walls, makes us wonder whether the owners Clare and Don are from our own home state NJ

Homemade Ice Cream lots of flavors available for take-out

So many choices, it's hard to pick just one

Low overhead contributes to the homy feeling

Homemade Apple Fritters

Lazy Mike's well-deserved rating

Fun architecture on the side of the building

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Aldeerah Saudi Arabian Restaurant in Vienna, VA

262 Cedar Lane
Vienna, VA 22180
Telephone (703) 992-9994

In a quiet out-of-the-way small shopping plaza in Vienna, VA, Aldeerah shines as a one-of-a-kind restaurant in Northern Virginia. For someone whose familiarity with Middle Eastern cuisine is centered around those common in our area, such as Lebanese, Iranian, Moroccan or Israeli, this is a uniquely new experience. Aldeerah serves up a distinct taste of the Arabian Gulf, offering some dishes that are very different from the familiar flavors.

If you were not aware of Aldeerah's existence, you're not alone: the restaurant notably caters to the Saudi population in the Washington, D.C.'s suburban Northern Virginia area, with no particular penchant for accommodating "American" tastes.  The very friendly staff is happy to provide a small plate to taste an unfamiliar dish to newbies, which is highly welcome, as the menu is quite different from the typical Middle Eastern restaurants that are abundant in Northern Virginia. 

The setting is colorful and traditional. The restaurant is split in half, giving you the option to sit on floor rugs, surrounded by pillows, or, on the other side of the wall, at tables adorned by cultural reminders of Saudi Arabia, down to the salt and pepper shakers depicting a man and woman clad in native traditional Saudi garb.

We arrived with an open mind willing to try new dishes. Not ready to commit to something that could potentially result in diner's remorse, we were offered a taste of two items on the menu that we were considering, namely Jireesh and Qursan with vegetables, both pictured below. We are thankful to have been offered a taste, as neither of these appealed to us. Had we ordered them, we would not have enjoyed them.

Some of the familiar appetizers and salads, like the Samboosa, or the Tabbouleh, are available, as well as Hummus, and a few other items that one can find in other Middle Eastern restaurants. But we chose to forgo those. 

Any chicken dish you order here will come with the same roasted half-chicken served intact, roasted to perfection so that the meat falls right off the bone. We opted for the traditional Chicken Mandi dish, which has two ingredients: RICE and CHICKEN. It was deliciously prepared, though very simple. It did not not disappoint in flavor.

The ambiance was pleasant with soft Arabic music playing the background and quite a few happy patrons in both dining halls. Patrons were both families and same-gender groups, seemingly regulars. The restaurant offers silverware, though the regulars eat with their hands. There is also no alcohol served here.

The all-Indian staff was friendly and knowledgeable. We appreciated their help navigating the menu and learning from them about Saudi cuisine. We had a great dinner and a lovely experience, though unlikely to return for dinner any time soon, as nothing on the menu looked worthwhile to explore for those of us who are not lamb eaters. If do we go back, it will be on a Friday for a $14.99 lunch buffet to try a variety of options that are not typically available on the regular menu.

 Samples of Jeerah (left) and Qursan (right). Both were bland and thick.

 Aldeerah does not skimp on the traditional decor, and offers a 20% student discount Monday - Thursday.

 Groups and families are the norm in Aldeerah.

 Chicken Mandi was delicious, wonderfully complemented by a side order of Yogurt Labneh.
  Delicious Chicken Mandi falls off the bone and the rice cooked and seasoned to perfection.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

2941 - French-American Modern Upscale Cuisine in Falls Church, VA

2941 Fairview Park Drive
Falls Church, VA 22042
Tel: (703) 270-1500

The best (and only) thing that the 2941 restaurant has going for it is the setting.  Those who can afford to splurge will be welcomed at the entrance with a large a koi pond adorned by miniature fountains and lighting effects that distract from the tall office building that looms over the restaurant. Gigantic floor-to-ceiling windows offer an impressive daytime view of nature, though as darkness falls, this view disappears, save for a handful of illuminated trees.

What 2941 lost in luster, it gained in arrogance. 

When 2941 first opened in Falls Church back in 2001, it was all the rage, deservedly so. Our several meals there between 2001 and 2007 were spectacular. Each experience was marked with top-notch customer-focused white-tablecloth service and excellent food.  After numerous reincarnations over the last decade, all that remains from the once-breathtaking dining is solely the beautiful setting. 

We contemplated a spot in the Northern Virginia area where to mark a special occasion on a cold Fall evening. Armed with a gift card we received from an acquaintance, we browsed 2941's website's Fall 2017 menu, pre-selected what we would like to try, including appetizers, entrees and desserts, and on a Thursday afternoon phoned the restaurant to make a Saturday dinner reservation. As one of us is a flexitarian, leaning vegetarian, we inquired with the courteous young lady who took our reservation on the phone whether it would be possible for the restaurant to whip up something vegetarian off the menu that is other than the two seemingly vegetarian options listed on their menu - a heavy cream Porcini Risotto and a mushroom dish that includes Shitake mushrooms and Portobello mushrooms in a mushroom broth (whew, both are for an avid mushroom lover!).  The courteous young lady asked whether we were celebrating a special occasion, indeed, we answered, we were. 

She assured us that on Saturday afternoon we will receive a call from the restaurant telling us exactly what vegetarian meal the Chef will be preparing and she noted our special occasion on the reservation.  We never actually requested to know what exact dish will be prepared, only made an inquiry and voiced our preference. To our surprise, our phone rang only one hour later on the same Thursday afternoon, re-promising us a call on Saturday.  

Ironically, the twice-promised Saturday call never came.  When we arrived at the restaurant on Saturday evening for our celebratory dinner, it was clear that not only was neither the staff nor the Chef aware of our vegetarian dish request, they were also unaware of our marking a special occasion.

We decided to overlook the obvious miscommunication among the restaurant staff and make the best of our special evening. However, what followed was a series of disappointments from confusion among servers to seating changes to hot radiators to wobbly (very wobbly) tables to dirty napkins to tragically bad food and an overall dismissive attitude.  We will spare you all the peripheral, though pertinent, details that contributed to our unpleasant dining experience, and get straight to the food.

The restaurant's printed menu (pictured below) carried a title identical to the menu on their website, namely "Fall 2017," however differed significantly in the selection. We were told the website does not keep up with regular updates.  Oh, well. 

We ordered two appetizers that by a strange coincidence were listed both on the website and on the printed menu - The Mushroom Tartine and the Crispy Calamari.  The Mushroom Tartine arrived on a wooden slab, as pictured below. The rustic bread served as a grease-dripping boat for the bland chewy mushrooms.  It was difficult to eat, as picking up one of the bread slices caused the mushy middle to collapse into a heaping mushroom mess on the table, yet cutting the rock-hard bread crust with the dull butter knife at the table was similarly difficult.  Folks, rarely something is so bad that we send it back to the kitchen, in the case of this mushroom appetizer, it was not a difficult choice to make. As for the Crispy Calamari, it contained more "crispy" than "calamari," and the accompanying sauce, which we left barely touched, tasted like 3/4 vinegar and 1/4 mayonnaise, highly acidic and unpleasant. 

As a side note about mushrooms, we like mushrooms as much as the next person... however, the restaurant seems to offer a noticeable mushroom overload on its menu, it is some sort of a mushroom obsession. Just because something is in season, doesn't mean you have to rely on it so heavily, especially on a menu as small and limited as the one in 2941. Bottom line here, people, if you like mushrooms, run! don't walk to 2941, quick, while their "Fall 2017" menu is still in effect.

For our entrees, we ordered the Nantucket Bay Scallops from the printed menu. Unfortunately, the Spiced Corn Ravioli with lobster, scallops, clams and chorizo turned out to be one of the numerous website menu mirages. The $37 scallop dish came in a wide-rimmed kitchen bowl measuring probably about 8" in diameter with tiny scallop bites. What looked like a white sauce with some potential for dipping was actually a leak-laden viscous "sweet potato confit" beneath the scallops... sadly it was barely 1/4 inch deep and was quite bland. 

We asked our waiter to request that the Chef make a vegetable dish, preferably with no squash, for us. Our waiter brought out this beauty pictured below - a square plate with two arched slabs of blanched cabbage drizzled with balsamic vinegar and two crisp paper-thin crostinis encircling.... you guessed it, our friends!!! two tiny piles of bland MUSHROOMS!!! The blanched chewy cabbage, again, was impossible to cut with the butter knife provided on the table, so we asked our waiter Jean-Mark for a steak knife. Paradoxical, yes. The saddest part of that was that when we were able to finally cut and taste the food, it was so tasteless, that we had to send it back, to chase the bad appetizer.  As a result, one of us was left with neither an appetizer nor an entree.  Even an attempt to dip a piece of bread into the "sweet potato confit" proved futile, as there was so little sauce in that tiny bowl.

A small aside on the topic of vegetarian-leaning flexitarians, or vegetarianism, if you will permit us. The trend across restaurants, up and down the scale, has recently maximized on offering its patrons delicious vegetarian creations, be they listed, or not, on the restaurant's menu. A strong case can be made that Chefs can (and should) be unabashedly judged on their creative flexibility to concoct impromptu phenomenal vegetarian dishes for a vegetarian that accompanies their flexitarian or carnivorous friends to restaurants. Anyone can season a chunk of meat, soften it with some salt or vinegar, call it an exotic name, and place it on a plate with some garnish. Making a great vegetarian meal takes a lot more imagination and skill. 

As an example, we recently dined at L'Auberge Chez Francois, which is truly one of the best restaurants in the D.C. metropolitan area. Here, the Chef, with no prior warning at all, improvised a beautiful delectable vegetarian dish in one of the most amazing sauces we ever tasted. This is really the value of a truly great Chef - the ability to create an amazing dish with the ingredients on hand, per customer's dietary request, and make it amazing. 

Speaking of vegetarians or vegans no longer having to be limited to bread and water, the absolute best thing about 2941 was Edwin, who not only kept our water glasses filled and our bread bowl replenished (after all, for one of us that was the entire meal!), but he also had a positive energy and such a pleasant demeanor, that he ended up being the only staff in the restaurant who brought a smile to our faces and made us feel welcomed! Thank you, Edwin!  

To try and salvage what little of our celebratory spirit was left, we were determined to order the rich dessert for which we had prepared our taste buds when browsing the restaurant's menu online only two days earlier - The Chocolate Napoleon! The description made our mouths water, especially because it came with maple ice cream! Once again, 2941 did not cease to disappoint.  AND YOU GUESSED IT AGAIN! The dessert for which we trekked out to 2941 was unavailable! It was another website menu mirage.

There was no apology, no conciliatory gesture from the restaurant for anything. In fact, the arrogance and dismissiveness was so thick you could not cut it with our dull butter knife that was on our table.

While the restaurant still gets busy, there must be some appeal to some, no doubt, as its own website touts it as "one of the most celebrated restaurants in the metropolitan area."  The ambiance of high ceilings, larger-than-life paintings and meditative style music has its admirers. The real draw for repeat customers is a welcoming staff and delicious food.  That's what counts. And that's where 2941 falls short. Very very short. 

Much-ballyhooed Koi Pond at the restaurant's entrance

THE REAL 2941 Fall 2017 Menu, not to be confused with the menu on its website by the same name

 Bread, water and butter - for one of us that was the entire sad meal

 Calamari appetizer with dipping sauce that tasted like 3/4 vinegar and 1/4 mayo

 Mushroom Tartine Appetizer - A grease-dripping mushy boat of bland mushrooms garnished with grass, it was so bad we sent it back

Nantucket Scallops entree in a tiny bowl with barely a quarter inch of sweet potato confit sauce 

A Chef-improvised attempt at a vegetarian creation, which was bland and tasteless, also sent back 

 Unrolled napkin with black spots all over it, on a wobbly table that had to be wedged by our waiter, so it wobbled less

 THE REAL 2941 DESSERT MENU Fall 2017, different from the one on the restaurant website, which, as explained to us, does not get updated regularly, and even the print menu may change without any notice 

Some kind of a dry jelly square that was rolled in layer of thick sugar. One bite was more than enough.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse and Salad Bar - Tysons Corner, VA

1775 Tysons Blvd, Suite 50
Tysons, VA 22102
Telephone: (703) 556-0200

Hidden away amidst tall modern office and apartment buildings in the new Tysons Corner, VA (now known simply as Tysons, VA), Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse is a new upscale eatery with high ceilings, wide open spaces and an amazingly delectable selection of meats and salads. 

It is both an entertainment / business venue as well as a family restaurant that can satisfy a broad range of gastronomical preferences. 

If you have never experienced the hospitality and the flavors of South Brazil's churrasco grilling, this is the place to come.

Meats are seasoned and roasted to perfection by the very same gauchos who bring them around to the tables. The salad and soup buffet that spreads as far as the eye can see, offers a colorful extensive array of traditional, as well as exotic, flavors guaranteed to inspire anyone to return for seconds and thirds. 

Vegetarians will definitely be happy here with the array of options that are flavorful and welcoming. 

Those whose taste buds that crave stronger flavors like jalapenos and pungent cheeses - Fogo does not shy away from those! 

We could not get enough of the Chimichurri sauce that accompanies the meal, along with the warm fresh cheese rolls. 

The a la carte menu has some great choices. We picked the Salmon, which was a tad too salty, but nonetheless very tasty, complementing the bed of asparagus on which it was served. The dessert is not to be missed. The chocolate mousse cake, fried plantains, and basically anything you choose from the dessert menu will not disappoint. 

Keep the Caipirinhas, coming! The bartender Lisa makes a killer drink!

The overall experience at Fogo de Chao will leave you feeling like royalty. Not surprisingly, it comes with a hefty price tag. Lunch will run you about $37.00 per person. No complimentary parking, either, it's all valet. But heck, gosh almighty... don't you deserve to be pampered? 

 Two of the fabulous Gauchos

Open kitchen where you can watch the Gauchos work their magic

 Pineapple Old Fashioned ($16.00), medley of Brazilian desserts, including fried plantain, and a medley of sauces STARRING THE MOUTHWATERING CHIMICHURRI SAUCE

 A La Carte Salmon ($18) with a delicious Cucumber Mint Smash cocktail ($15) from the bar

Brazilian Lemonade ($4.75)

 Stars of the awesome Fogo de Chao Tysons team: Marinho, Shannon, Lisa the Master Bartender, and Brittany our smiling waitress

Sweet ending to a top-notch meal - Chocolate Mousse Cake ($9.75) & a Cappuccino ($5.50) 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

1000 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria Fast Casual - Arlington, VA

3400 Columbia Pike
Arlington, VA 22204
Tel: (703) 920-9000

Everyone knows that when pizza originates in New Jersey, it's gonna be good. Nuff said. 

Straight out of Bridgewater, NJ, the brainchild of an Italian American, the first Northern Virginia storefront of 1000 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria opened in Arlington about a month ago.  It is only the third one in the State of Virginia. 

We went for a Sunday lunch.  Here is what we thought. 

If you are from the New York - New Jersey area, like we are, you undoubtedly appreciate good pizza and lament its lack outside the Empire and Garden States. Our favorite go-to in this area for just under a decade has been The Italian Store.  While 1000 Degrees Pizza is very different from The Italian Store pizza, it was definitely a pleasant surprise. 

To be clear, 1000 Degrees Pizzeria doesn't claim the New Jersey taste or make lofty promises of tri-state authenticity. But both in its concept and its execution it's definitely New York - New Jersey. How? Easy. First, it offers a ton of topping choices - all for a flat price, depending on one of two crust sizes. Have you ever taken the subway in NYC? If so, you know that for one flat price you can go anywhere you like in any of the boroughs. Same with this pizza. There is literally no limit to how many toppings you can put on your pizza. All the sauces, all the cheeses, all the meats, and all the veggies combined in any quantity any way you like. Split the pizza in half, or even in quarters, if you choose to do so. It's all up to you - no extra charge.

The second way this pizza demonstrates its tri-state origins is speed - it's ready in TWO MINUTES. Yes, you read that right. The pizza with ALL your toppings goes into the oven and comes out fresh and delicious in two minutes, thanks to the high heat of the brick oven.

Even though the restaurant is "Fast" Casual, there is a lot of preparation done by the friendly staff ahead of time to make every part of the dining experience pleasant and speedy. Staff mix and bake the dough on premises two days ahead of baking it. There are no trucks that drop off frozen crusts that have sat on dry ice for many miles. Ingredients are fresh and numerous. The crust is not thick, it is not thin - it is just right. You can customize every aspect of the pizza toppings - about 6 or 7 sauces, 6 or 7 cheeses, and even more meats and veggies. Note - the jalapenos are not for the wimpy at heart. They are goooood.

You can get a 10" or a 14" pie and either eat-in or carry-out. As you move down from the sauces to the cheeses to the meats to the veggies, the staff assembles your pizza exactly how you tell them.  If you choose from the menu of pre-selected combinations, like The Classic New Yorker, The Philly, or The Trenton Tomato Pie, you simply can't go wrong. But you can also tap into your own creativity and design any kind of pie you want. Then watch the whole thing come together right in front of your eyes from start to finish.

Getting there and parking is easy. The newly-opened restaurant is on the first floor of a brand-spankin'-new residential building. The spacious modern dining room is shiny and clean with large ceiling-to-floor windows. Parking in the building is free and relatively plentiful, or at least it was relatively plentiful on Sunday at lunch time, when we went. So, the logistics are great.  

And for the added bonus - they serve wine AND beer.  AND ice cream. Seriously, how can you go wrong here?

Below are pictures of the restaurant and the food we had, all of which was fresh and delicious. We will definitely be back.


 Sauce Choices

Cheese Choices
 Meat Choices

Veggie Choices

Dough gets mixed by hand on premises.... 

 .... and crusts wait for about 48 hours to be baked

Pizza assembly in progress

Sunny. our pizza artist!





 Brick-oven where it all comes together

 Our own creation half and half with marinara sauce, mozarella and veggies

 Half Athenian Half and Smokey Pollo (hold the bacon)

 Half The Meatza and Half The White Out

 Wine and Beer Menu

Save room for the Ice Cream Bar