Welcome to the Northern Virginia Restaurant Blog.

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

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

When you're in Hampton Roads, VA, ya gotta eat at these two Thai restaurants - Bangkok Garden (Virginia Beach) and Rama Garden Thai (Norfolk)

Bangkok Garden
2029 S Lynnhaven Pkwy
Virginia Beach, VA
Tel: (757) 282-6189

Last week, we ventured into the deep south of Virginia to enjoy a few days on the beach.

Wherever we go, we always seek out Thai restaurants, well one of us does anyway, and the other one accommodates.  Seriously, folks, isn't that what marriage is all about?  So, when we were on a short beach vacation, we Yelped Thai restaurants in Virginia Beach and came up with Bangkok Garden.  It is located in a nondescript strip mall along a major traffic artery in Virginia Beach, which, as we recently found out, is the largest city in Virginia. 

It is a large restaurant with two traditionally decorated, though a bit darker than we prefer, dining halls and tattered seats... and the food is delicious! For under $9, each lunch entree comes with a veggie spring roll and a salad, so the value is way great. Service is attentive and friendly. Considering the plethora of lunch options in the area, there were quite a few patrons here, which is definitely a good sign for us. 

In short, we had a great experience here and would come here again next time we are in the area.

Salad with delicious peanut ginger dressing and veggie spring roll

Garlic Vegetable Stir Fry $8.50

Pad Ka-Na Chicken Stirfried with Broccoli $8.50

Rama Garden Thai Cuisine
441 Granby St

Norfolk, VA
Tel: (757) 616-0533

Just a short drive north of Virginia Beach in Norfolk, when we (well, one of we) was again craving Thai (admittedly, a natural state of existence for some of us), there was another pleasant surprise (Yelp to the rescue!) - in the quaint walkable, downtown area - lunch at the Rama Garden Thai Restaurant. This downtown area has quite a few cute restaurants and shops, it is clean with lots of little mini parks with benches and is dog friendly. And though during lunch time this area seemed a bit deserted, especially compared with the crowded walking areas inside the Beltway that we are accustomed to, Rama Garden was quite busy with lunchers. There was only one waiter, who did a great job serving all the tables.

The decor here was a blend of traditional and nouveau fun, service was wonderful, and the food delicious! We ordered the Papaya Salad as an appetizer, and altough it was served along with the entrees, which is not what we expected, it went along perfectly with our entrees as a side dish. The Papaya Salad was not spicy, like you'd get, say at Bangkok Golden at Seven Corners, but fresh and delicious. Both entrees we ordered - Siamese Beef and Spicy Mango with Veggies - were served kinda soupy, which was a bit different, but absolutely great. And great value, too!

One of us prefers their food dry and not spicy, the other one loves spicy and saucy (yes, we are opposites, that's why we're married) - and we were both very happy with what we got here.  The Spicy Mango dish was seasoned so perfectly that no additional sauces were needed and the medley of vegetables was fabulous.

Will definitely return here, maybe will even seek it out next time we're in Norfolk!

Papaya Salad (bottom left) ($5.95), Beef Siam (top) ($7.50) and Spicy Mango with Veggies (bottom right) ($7.50)

  • Business website

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Flavors Soul Food Restaurant - Falls Church, VA

3420 Carlyn Hill Drive
Falls Church, VA 22041
Bailey's Crossroads
(703) 379-4411

I SO WANTED TO LIKE THIS PLACE. When I lived in New York City's Hell's Kitchen (today known as Clinton) in the mid-90s, there was a fantastic Soul Food carry-out on 9th Avenue between 45th and 46th Streets.  It was my absolute favorite default dinner joint until they closed in the late 90s. When I heard that there is a soul food restaurant at Bailey's Crossroads,  I was thrilled and kept it in the back of my mind as a place I'd love to try.  Being from New York, I consider Virginia to be almost the deep south, so the soul food should surely be even more fantastic here, right? I so miss the sweet yams, the tangy collards, the creamy mashed potatoes, the crunchy fried chicken with those wonderful spices and textures and that southern hospitality from that awesome NYC dive.

Recently, I was running errands and found myself driving along Columbia Pike about to turn off on Rte. 7 when I noticed it just to the side on Carlyn Hill Drive - there it was - Flavors Soul Food! Since I was in the middle of errands, I didn't have time for a proper sit-down lunch, but I definitely couldn't pass up an opportunity to stop in for at least something small to see whether this is a place I could return to when I had more time.

The standalone small restaurant (right behind Meaza) is a run down shack. Potentially, this could be good, I thought. Looking around, it's pretty obvious that overhead spending at this restaurant was not just minimal, it was nonexistent. Torn up chairs behind the cash register with their guts hanging out. The wood paneling and the rest of the decor looked like it was not only original to the restaurant, but perhaps even pre-dated it.  The grimy door leading to some kind of other room next to the kitchen behind the counter was quite ominous. The good news was that on a Sunday afternoon in-between standard meal times, there were at least some patrons dining here, so it had to be somewhat good.  

I approached the counter and began studying the menu hanging above. Despite the dilapidated feel of the place, the prices were quite average, or even above-average.  Since I could only carry out something small, I inquired with the serious-looking big guy behind the counter about the chicken sandwich. Specifically, I asked him what does it come with? "Bread," answered the big guy, who perhaps doubled up as the cook.  No lettuce, tomato, pickle or any special sauce? "NO." Okaaaaaay - no fresh vegetables, which would make the overhead even smaller than I thought! How about mayo or ketchup? "Only packets of mayo over here," he replied, "No ketchup." I asked what was the spiciest thing they had on the menu? I'll take that. "Nothing spicy, unless you add some of this hot sauce."  Wow, what a disappointment already, and on top of that not much hospitality, either.

I ended up ordering a veggie platter comprised of 3 sides for $10.95 - Collard Greens, Mashed Potatoes and Cole Slaw. It came with buns. To tell you the truth, I was particularly looking forward to some warm home-baked real soul food southern buns! Guess what - the buns turned out to be regular generic store-bought Giant (or elsewhere) buns you'd get shipped from a warehouse. The Collard Greens and the Mashed Potatoes were probably made at the restaurant, but they'd have to really convince me that the Cole Slaw was made at the restaurant - it looked and tasted store-bought, just like the buns. In short, the Collards were overly sour, the Mashed Potatoes were pretty bland, and the Cole Slaw was... well, it was not bad for store-bought.

Ok, ok, I didn't have the one thing that may have probably been THE ONE thing to have - their Fried Chicken and Waffles. If I ever came back, this is definitely what I would get.  But honestly, I am not sure it is worth returning here, even for that.  I think I asked the big guy how long the restaurant had been there and he told me it was 30 years or something to that effect, even though their Twitter page says they were established in 1997, which would make them about 18 years old. Either way, that's a pretty long time, so, it obviously has its dedicated clientelle. Unfortunately, I just won't be one of them.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

German Gourmet - Purveyor of Fine German Foods in Falls Church, VA

5838 Columbia Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041
Bailey's Crossroads
Tel: (703) 379-8080

There is treasure trove of German, Swiss, Austrian, and Norwegian food right here in Northern Virginia and it is called German Gourmet.  

The German Gourmet was founded in 1962 in Washington, D.C. Shortly afterwards, it relocated to  Northern Virginia. Since its establishment, it has changed several owners, both German and Swiss. Its current Swiss owners opened the Bailey's Crossroads location in 2007 and began offering a breakfast and lunch dine-in menu served in a small sectioned-off area near the counter with several tables.

Here you can get the Frikadellen sandwich, which they call "European Hamburger," made with ground beef, pork, parsley, onions served on a Brioche bun. Or a Weisswurst sandwich with a side of tyrolean cabbage, beet or spaetzle salad.

For the most part, German Gourmet is a grocery / carry-out. Much of its business is from its online mail-order service and its grocery carry out with an extensive selection of regional delicacies. 

But it is nothing short of a treat to visit its brick-and-mortar location!

You can sample a delicious variety of its groceries, including bratwurst, sausages, coldcuts, cheeses, breads, homemade salads, chocolates, cakes and pastries, beer and wine, and party platters. While their grocery prices may seem a bit on the higher end, its unique and rare offerings are an exceptional find! The eat-in prices for breakfast and lunch sandwiches are a bargain ranging between $4.95 and $7.95. The choices are quite extensive and different from what you would get anywhere else.

Because the dine-in area is small and often hosts visitors, we suggest calling ahead to see whether any events are planned when you are setting out to come here to eat in.  Don't forget to pick up a souvenir on your way out, almost as if you actually traveled to Germany or Switzerland.

We will definitely be coming back here for their wine tastings and their amazing decadent Sacher Torte!


 Small dining area