Whether you’re ordering takeout or venturing out to a socially distanced dining room, you deserve a great meal right about now. Restaurants could use your encouragement, so why not choose one of the best? To guide you, peruse this list of Loudoun County’s very finest food purveyors, extracted from our Best Restaurants of 2020.
Sterling / Burmese / $$
There’s a reason that the late Anthony Bourdain kicked off Parts Unknown, his beloved CNN show, with a trip to Myanmar. The cuisine of the Southeast Asian country also known as Burma is not well represented in the United States, but it should be. An amalgam of Indian, Chinese, Laotian and Thai traditions, the food is at times fiery but always soothing.
The friendly service at A Taste of Burma will make you feel at home even if you’ve never eaten anything quite like the fermented tea leaf salad or spicy fish soup before. But one taste, and that first visit will fast become one of many.
See This: Embroidered wall hangings and statues from Myanmar dress up a small, homey strip mall space.
Eat This: Split yellow pea fritters, goat curry, semolina cake
When to Visit: You want to expand your horizons without venturing to a hole-in-the-wall.
Ashburn / Modern Indian / $$
Rupa Vira may be self-taught, but you’d never guess it when you see her elegant, gold-decorated creations. And when you taste her spice-laden oeuvre? There’s no question this woman is a chef to be reckoned with.
Creativity, a bright color palette and bold flavors run wild across artistic plates at this new restaurant. Vira takes Indian classics and re-creates them after a trip through her creative mind. Street foods like dahi puri are reborn courtesy of modernist methods with tricks like blueberry pearls in place of chopped veggies. Yes, Vira’s dishes look great, but they taste even better.
See This: Colorful Indian art decorates the purple and lavender main dining room. By the bar, tones are bright shades of green instead.
Eat This: Seashell Scallop, dum ki sunehri nalli, rasbhari ka ghosla
When to Visit: You’re craving Indian flavors and want to get a bit dressed up.
Leesburg / Mexican / $$
You’re in luck. Watermelon is plentiful at 10-acre Fairbrook Farm. Chef Jason Lage’s farm supplies Cocina on Market, as well as his other restaurants, Market Table Bistro and Market Burger Fries & Shakes. But tonight, the meal is Mexican. You’ll enjoy a lime-brightened watermelon margarita and ahi tuna ceviche that’s dressed up with pickled watermelon. Another night, blackberry tres leches cake comes courtesy of a harvest at nearby Nuts About Berries Farm.
There are few places where it’s as smart to eat entirely off the specials list as it is at Cocina on Market, but you’ll be just as happy feasting on menu staples such as queso fundido flavored with mushrooms and mole or carnitas tacos made from local pork and topped with salsa verde, pink pickled onions and a single chicharrón.
Your almost suspiciously well-informed server will guide you to the dishes you’ll love, and that includes dessert. The crisp churros are a delight, presented on a plate delicately drizzled with warm, spiced chocolate sauce that will have you wishing for more of everything. Luckily, it’s always churro season.
See This: Orange tones, colorful art and a lamp above the bar that resembles an agave plant set the scene indoors, or get a view of Leesburg from the rooftop patio.
Eat This: Ceviche, carnitas tacos, churros
When to Visit: You’re craving Mexican that’s a cut above.
Leesburg / Eclectic / $$$
We believe in food as medicine. And what better medicine is there than chocolate? Fortunately, it’s in practically everything at The Conche.
Not many restaurants are led by a pastry chef like Santosh Tiptur. Fewer still employ a master chocolatier like Sara Dobson. That is the cacao-driven magic of this unassuming restaurant in the Village at Leesburg.
Dishes that you’ve never seen with chocolate before have just enough for you to get the impact. Crispy calamari, bright and beautiful with Fresno chile aioli and pink pickled radishes, has chocolate stout in its batter. The flavor of the burger is grounded by a deep, dark chocolate barbecue sauce. The short ribs? They’re in a chocolate-espresso sauce.
It’s no surprise that the actual desserts are overwhelmingly of the chocolate variety and mind-bogglingly delightful. The Illanka, for example, centers on a dark chocolate butter cake and gilds the lily with chocolate cremeux and almond-cacao nib streusel, then gilds it some more with smoked chocolate ice cream. It might sound excessive, but it’s actually an adventure in pure pleasure, a swim in a chocolate fountain without the messy cleanup. And no doubt, you will be renewed—and full.
See This: Historical posters from French chocolate companies decorate the walls, but the real attraction is watching the chocolatiers at work behind a large window.
Eat This: Crispy calamari, harissa chicken, Illanka
When to Visit: Just a little bit of chocolate simply isn’t enough.
Middleburg / Modern American / $$$$
Foodies often pooh-pooh beef tenderloin as flavorless. They haven’t been to Goodstone Inn. There, the meat is cooked to perfection, with just a bit of fat left on the exterior to allow the beefy flavor to come through in every bite. It’s amplified by a pool of rich demi-glace that enrobes every element on the plate in a savory meatiness. There are the garden vegetables, which means multicolored carrots and cauliflower from the garden on-site, not some faraway farm. The thin bar of au gratin potatoes melts and stretches with cheese.
It’s a dish your grandparents would have loved, likely their grandparents, too. And that’s what Goodstone Inn exists for: elegant meals in a space that will wow, and service that’s so refined you’ll barely notice it.
Splurge on the prix fixe, and you’ll be treated to four courses of chef Jan Van Haute’s most seasonal handiwork. Whether it’s white asparagus and morels or a honey-roasted peach with green almonds and white chocolate, it’s fresh perfection you’ll never forget.
See This: Sit by the pool, facing the adjacent farm. In the colder months, dine in the glass-covered dining room for a light-filled meal. It’s especially pretty in the rain.
Eat This: The prix fixe changes with what’s at its best for the season. It’s the most direct path to freshness.
When to Visit: Celebrations or an intimate date night with a partner who loves the classics
Lovettsville / Global / $$$$*
Want to taste chefs having fun? The larder at The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm is stocked with produce grown on-site. The little that can’t be grown in the hills of Lovettsville comes from within 40 miles of the restaurant. It’s a culinarian’s dream.
But they don’t ground their menus in the local traditions that the ingredients could easily dictate. Instead, they educate themselves anew each week, flitting from Vietnam to the Democratic Republic of Congo with prix fixes that provide a feast that pleases the eyes as much as it does the palate. There’s no question that diners will delight in the results just as much as the chefs enjoy making them.
See This: If you’re lucky enough to dine in the summertime, you’ll be under a tent or inside a gazebo with views of the Potomac. Inside, string lights make it feel like a perpetual celebration.
Eat This: This is a time to trust the chefs. Whatever is on the prix fixe is sure to impress.
When to Visit: It’s time to treat that special foodie in your life.
Ashburn / Thai / $$
Whether you’re looking for the drunken noodles and curries you’ve been craving since you were a kid, or you want to indulge in a lesson in the cuisine of the southern-coastal Chumphon region, this restaurant is for you. Fans have long flocked to this One Loudoun eatery for Jeremy Ross’ cocktails, but the food can be just as worthy of a pilgrimage.
Order the Siam tray for a meaty meal built around green papaya salad (som tum) that will make you sweat. Just mix it with sticky rice and an Old Bay-flavored Chesapeake Bay cocktail for some relief. And yes, you can order pad thai, but skip the basic one in favor of the crab-filled Chumphon version or co-owner Porntipa “Pat” Pattanamekar’s take, upgraded with roasted pork shoulder and bok choy.
See This: Thai movie posters and ironwork roosters decorate the chicly colorful interior.
Eat This: Siam tray, Pat pad thai, Thai tea creme brulee
When to Visit: You’re hoping for a Thai-hot date night.
Leesburg / Modern American / $$$
For well more than a century, people have been gathering in the attractive space now known to regulars as Tuskie’s. Tuscarora Mill opened as a grain mill in 1899. Though the pulleys no longer turn and the scales don’t measure the weight of any grain, the building still has the same purpose—feeding the community.
That starts with drinks. The lengthy cocktail list includes four mojitos alone. (We like the strawberry-ginger-basil one.) Other options range from classics, like the Old-Fashioned, to the Sweet Baby Rye—whiskey infused with peach and maple and flavored with walnut bitters.
It’s enough to make you almost forget the food, but don’t. From grilled goods to indulgent desserts, you’re sure to leave satiated—and a little tipsy.
See This: Antique milling equipment makes it obvious that this historical building once was just as bustling as it is today.
Eat This: Grilled duck breast, grilled beef and scallops, butterscotch bread pudding
When to Visit: Times when drinks are just as important as the main course
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