Strip malls and industrial parks: They’re a not-so-beloved feature of living in the suburbs. But there are reasons to celebrate them. Their ever-presence means that some of the best food you’ll find in NoVA is cached in plain sight.
9612 Grant Ave., Manassas
Where you’ll find it: Behind the food truck in the Grant Avenue Shopping Center
What you’ll get: A bustling taqueria and panaderia in one. Just past the counter, watch a cook carve chile-rubbed pork from the spinning trompo for some of the best tacos around. Wash it down with a Topo Chico before the sweet satisfaction of a slice of chocolate tres leches cake.
46900 Cedar Lake Plaza, Sterling
Where you’ll find it: Inside Coco’s Food International Market
What you’ll get: Both Laotian and Hawaiian specialties. Dine at a table in the market or take it to go, but don’t miss the nam khao, crispy rice dotted with zesty Lao sausage and a generous portion of chiles. Prefer Hawaiian? Get a plate lunch filled with marinated short ribs and macaroni salad.
21760 Beaumeade Circle, Suite 130, Ashburn
Where you’ll find it: In an industrial park adjacent to marble and granite shops
What you’ll get: The best of India and Italy, together on a chewy crust. The tiny pizzeria is strictly for takeout and delivery, so don’t plan to stay, but chances are you’ll be returning soon after you try your first butter chicken pie. The paneer poppers and crisp tandoori wings are worthy of repeating, too.
1136 W. Broad St., Falls Church
Where you’ll find it: In Falls Plaza, right by a Staples
What you’ll get: Vegetarian and vegan Vietnamese food. The cheerful restaurant serves many of the Viet dishes that omnivores crave but without the meat. The highlight? Truly spicy bun Hue, a noodle soup hot with chile oil and jalapeños.
4520 Daly Drive, Suite 100, Chantilly
Where you’ll find it: Inside an industrial park adjacent to Ono Brewing
What you’ll get: Krissee and Mariano D’Aguiar make bean-to-bar chocolates in this petite factory and store. There are classes where you can learn to make your own bars or hot chocolate bombs, but it’s just as delicious to stock up on ready-made products like truffles, tasting kits and CBD-infused bars.
470 Elden St., Herndon
Where you’ll find it: In Herndon Centre, the development that contains Herndon’s Lotte Plaza
What you’ll get: Central American fare with a twist. Tacos and tortas are available filled with bulgogi and spicy Korean pork, but the best reasons to eat here are the giant pupusas. The most diminutive of these, the size of a small pizza, is $4.49. Order a large one filled with loroco, pork and beans to feed the whole family.
10123 Colvin Run Road, Great Falls
Where you’ll find it: Next to a hairdresser and a gym in a small strip mall
What you’ll get: Fine Afghan dining. Owner Dor Niaz presides over a gem of a restaurant that’s elegantly decorated and stocked with exceptional dishes. The lamb shank, for example, comes with apples and spinach, but don’t forget to start with the thin-skinned mantu dumplings.
This story originally ran in our April issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to our monthly magazine.