Best of NoVA 2018 Dish

Best of NoVA 2018

Looking to find the best food in NoVA? From tacos and pizza to sushi and steak, here are your fellow Northern Virginians’ favorites.


Ray’s the Steak
The charm of Ray’s the Steak is its total lack of pretention. No dramatic dark wood or tony service. It’s excellent steak, both classic chops and trendier butcher’s cuts, with little airs—and gratis creamed spinach and mashed potatoes. –SG // 2300 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; raysthesteaks.com


Though ramen is trying to steal the spotlight from Japan’s iconic import, sushi, the enduring appeal of expertly sliced raw fish is still celebrated at the minimal and charming Takumi. The Falls Church restaurant flaunts its daily imports on a chalkboard and also serves sides of Brussels sprouts and bento boxes flush with crispy fried chicken. –SG // 310 S. Washington St., Falls Church; takumiva.com


Moby Dick House of Kabob
What started as a tiny Persian operation almost 30 years ago is now spread across the region with fast-casual shops from Ashburn to Springfield (and all the way to Baltimore). Before Middle Eastern food was really having its moment, when tahini wasn’t a part of the casual eater’s lingo, Moby Dick introduced diners to pita, gyros, falafel and of course, kabobs. –SG // Multiple locations; mobyskabob.com


As national and international imports crowd the ramen scene, and every pan-Asian restaurant tries its hand at the famed noodle soup, Marumen stands out as the antidote. The homegrown Fairfax restaurant offers both classic (shio, miso) and new-wave (short rib, spam) renditions, plus brothless and broth-on-the-side for a curated, but adventure-filled experience. –SG // 3250 Old Pickett Road, Fairfax; marumenva.com


In the last decade, barbecue moved from shacks on the side of the road to an urbanized model thanks to Brooklyn’s stamp on smoked meat. But in Virginia, we’ve always been able to count on Rocklands, a local chainlet (three locations in D.C. and Virginia) serving the classics of pulled pork, brisket and multiple styles of ribs, plus requisite sides and a sweet-hot honey-jalapeno cornbread. –SG // 25 S. Quaker Lane, Alexandria and 3471 Washington Blvd., Arlington; rocklands.com


Pho 75
Expect to wait in line, winter, summer, anytime. Pho 75 is the place for big bowls of broth filled with a nest of noodles and any variety of brisket, flank, meatball, tripe or tendon. A side of vinegar-soaked noodles adds the right tang to the aromatic broth and the Vietnamese-style iced coffee provides the right jolt after all that heavy slurping. –SG // 721 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; pho75.restaurantwebexpert.com

Korean Barbecue

Sure, there’s all that sizzling meat and the onslaught of sides (like that custardy-brothy egg) and K-Pop on the TVs. It’s a place for group dinner birthday parties and a place to keep the kids entertained with tableside cooking. But Kogiya is also about the details: Open the lid of your stool to store jackets and purses so they don’t get smoky. That’s putting the customer first. –SG // 4220-A Annandale Road, Annandale; kogiya.com

Taco Bamba
Photo by Greg Powers


Taco Bamba
This is not just a little taco place. Coming from bold-name chef Victor Albisu, it means there’s a serious commitment to quality ingredients, with some tacos leaning more traditional (carne asada, carnitas, lengua) and others with funky touches (Ranch dressing, bacon, French fries). And just as important: breakfast all-day and craft cocktails. –SG // Multiple locations; tacobamba.com


Jimbo’s Bar and Grill
Jimbo’s take on this tailgate classic comes in orders of either eight or 12 with an assortment of flavorful options to shock the taste buds, among them two dry rubs (mild and spicy) and a number of sauces such as the go-to mild, hot or Buffalo, Thai chili and tangy, honey and spicy barbecue. –RK // 7901 Heritage Village Plaza, Gainesville; jimbosgrill.com


Melt Gourmet
For the last six years, Melt Gourmet has been dubbed the best burger in Loudoun County. It returns this year to take our best burger title, which it won in 2015 and 2016. House-made buns—they have wheat and gluten-free options—hold the half-pound, 100 percent Angus beef burger patties, which can be topped with more than 15 different cheeses and even more toppings, sauces and aiolis. For those that panic when given too many options to choose from, ordering the specialty burger of the month may make things easier. –RK // 525 E. Market St., Leesburg; meltgourmetcheeseburgers.com


Tony’s New York Pizza
Since 1989, owner Tony D’Agostino has been flipping pizzas and serving up New York-style red, white and Sicilian slices of the classic Italian import. Pies, which can be adorned with more than 17 different toppings, come in personal, 12-, 14-, and 16-inch sizes, but Sicilian pies are one 16-inch size only. For specialty selections, there’s a Focaccia-style pizza, deep dish white pizza and a Tony’s Special Vegetable Pizza Primavera, among others. –RK // Haymarket, Bristow and Manassas; tonysnewyorkpizza.com


There’s probably not a better version of gambas al ajillo—shrimp in a fiery garlic sauce—than the one Jaleo produces. Though Jose Andres is lately more famous for his on-the-ground charitable efforts (see: Oscar appearance and the James Beard Foundation’s Humanitarian of the Year award), Jaleo was a pioneer in the local small plates revolution. It’s still the place to find high-end imported Spanish meats (Jamon iberico de bellota), comforting patatas bravas and boozy sangria. –SG // 2250-A Crystal Drive, Arlington; jaleo.com

Dim Sum

Mark’s Duck House
The white walls and red lantern lights may make this Asian spot look just like any other, but, as Gans says in one of our previous 50 Best Restaurants issues, “the flavors are worth the wait” here. –RK // 6184-A Arlington Blvd., Falls Church; 703-532-2125


Blue Ridge Seafood
What began in 1979 as a family restaurant offering only five menu items has grown into a eatery offering, whenever possible, sustainably sourced seafood appetizers, soups, sandwiches, po’boys, tacos, entrees and other edibles from land including steak, chicken and barbecue ribs. Like its cocktail sauce, dessert is made in house here, with seasonal options adding to classics like blueberry cobbler, key lime pie and cheesecake. –RK // 15704 Lee Highway, Gainesville; blueridgeseafood.com


This popular establishment makes an effort to support, when possible, local small and mid-size sustainable farms. Ensuring that they deliver only the freshest ingredients, produce arrives at each location early in the morning, where they are then made ready for your future meal. –RK // Multiple locations; sweetgreen.com


Five Guys
In case you never noticed while waiting inside your local Five Guys, signs on the wall tell you from where your greasy, golden spuds are coming from. Though the standard fries, cooked in peanut oil, rarely disappoint, you can also order them Cajun style if you want a little extra kick. An added bonus: Rather than waiting in line, you can now use the website to order ahead. –RK // Multiple locations; fiveguys.com

Ice Cream

Ciao Gelato
There’s maybe only one thing that makes people happier than pasta and pizza. Gelato. It’s no surprise that the congenial owner of Ciao Osteria, Salvatore Speziale, would open a gelato shop next door. The two dozen flavors include the modern classic salted caramel, the more traditional stracciatella and the fruity mango. –SG // 14117 Saint Germain Drive, Centreville; 703-543-8955

Duck Donuts
Courtesy of Duck Donuts


Duck Donuts
The founding of this sweets company has nothing to do with a bird (its mascot), but rather Duck, North Carolina, where founder Russell A. DiGilio and his family frequently vacationed. The crew loved to eat doughnuts, but couldn’t find any that they loved while relaxing by the beach. In 2012 the business had only four stores, but by 2017 racked up 196, with more on the way. In Northern Virginia alone there are eight locations. –RK // Multiple locations; duckdonuts.com

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