From Lovettsville to Middleburg, and everywhere in between, you are sure to find a meal to satisfy almost anywhere in Loudoun County. No matter what cuisine you’re in the mood for, make sure to bring your appetite when you stop by one of these Best Restaurants.
Restaurants were reviewed by Olga Boikess, Ashley Davidson, Dawn Klavon, Alice Levitt, and Renee Sklarew.
Ashburn / Indian / $$$
It’s an unfortunate fact that in the West, Indian food has taken on a casual air. Yes, its distinctive flavors often lend themselves to traveling home in takeout containers. But at chef Rupa Vira’s modern restaurant, the cuisine begs for a more formal reexamination. Here, gold leaf, dry ice, and frothy foams all play a role in a theatrical meal.
The visual appeal of dishes like pansy-crowned tandoori salmon or a gold-bedecked lamb shank doesn’t mean that they are lacking in spice. Each of Vira’s dishes is just as compelling on the palate as it is to the eye. Butternut squash kofta (satiny vegetarian meatballs) are sunken into a creamy sauce that’s flecked with sweet-and-sour goji berries and microgreens. Pair it with chicken tikka meatballs in a smoky, piquant tomato-based sauce. Jeera rice and breads, like the buttery chile and paneer kulcha, cost extra but are necessities that never take a back seat.
Ashburn is awash in Indian options, from pizza to Vira’s own vegetarian restaurant, The Signature. But for the furthest thing from Curry in a Hurry, Celebration hits the high notes worthy of its name.
See this: The festive atmosphere takes a cue from pops of color in each of the bright, painting-filled rooms.
Eat this: Lotus stem chaat, butternut squash kofta, chile and paneer kulcha
When to dine here: A craving for Indian spice is leading you to the opposite of takeout.
Middleburg / Modern American / $$$$
Dry ice is usually a cheap gimmick — literally just blowing smoke. But not this time. Not here.
Your server proffers a plate of scallops, served in a jauntily placed shell. Then, she begins to pour herbal tea over a hidden layer of dry ice. The result is a minty vapor that envelops you as you tuck into the seafood that’s flavored with chermoula, which is a refreshing Middle Eastern sauce, as well as coconut and cashews. The result is transformative, a dish that truly relies as much on aroma as flavor.
Resort fare usually earns its reputation as stodgy and safe. And yes, you can get a steak at Harrimans, located at the Salamander Resort, but you’re better off ordering from the ever-changing list of signature entrees. Those composed plates are full of surprises. Think homemade pappardelle with mustard-flecked short rib ragout that’s topped with huckleberries and hazelnuts. Or kampachi flavored with kumquats, salty local guanciale, and baby artichokes.
Desserts are equally inspired. And yes, there’s a good chance there will be a puff of smoke included with those, too. But don’t ever think that chef Bill Welch’s kitchen is one that relies on gimmickry.
See this: A newly remodeled dining room profits from soaring windows that reveal the resort’s well-manicured fields.
Eat this: Agnolotti, Maine diver scallops, Sweet As Salamander Honey
When to dine here: The comfort and upscale service of a resort are calling, but you prefer more forward-thinking fare on your plate.
Ashburn / Nepalese / $$
The vibrant South Asian population of Ashburn isn’t just limited to natives of India. This becomes abundantly clear with a visit to the city’s newest hit, an elegant paean to the regional cuisines of Nepal. But while you’ll likely see more than a few Himalayan families dining on thalis and hulking servings of biryani, an international crowd fills the cavernous restaurant and bar.
Entrées include curries that range from tender pork with mustard greens to a take on butter chicken, emulsified with cashews and rich yak butter, but the best way to enjoy the broad spectrum of flavors is by ordering from the large pool of appetizers and sides.
The crispy kale, a take on Indian palak chaat, is a reliable crowd-pleaser with its satisfying crunch, sweet-and-spicy tamarind sauce, and soothing drizzles of yogurt. Momos, Himalayan dumplings, are another must. They’re available in a barnyard’s worth of fillings (including a vegetarian version), but well-spiced yak stands out with its unctuous meatiness.
With a recent boom of dining options, Nepalese food appears to be the next big thing in our region. And there’s nowhere better than Himalayan Wild Yak to taste it.
See this: Meet Rocky, the taxidermy yak who greets guests at the entrance they sit down in the high-ceilinged dining room.
Eat this: Crispy kale, yak momos, chicken sekuwa
When to dine here: You’re ready to diverge from tapas but still want to share small plates.
Ashburn / Thai / $$
Thai cuisine is one of the traditions most widely represented in our region. That often means much of the pack blends together, one thin curry after another. But Sense of Thai St. brings the heat in more ways than one.
A stylish, modern aesthetic draws in a vibrant crowd for bar manager Jeremy Ross’ forward-thinking cocktails. They’re sipping tipples like Tummy Time, which combines tequila with Asian ingredients such as lychee, lime, grapefruit, and Thai basil. Fans of fiery drinks are best off ordering the elote cobbler, which benefits from the burn of Thai chile, along with tequila, calmed by summer corn–oat orgeat and lime.
And on plates? The som tum, a staple in Southeast Asian kitchens, grabs spice lovers by the throat with its mix of tangy lime and chile that dresses pounded green papaya and a range of fresh vegetables.
Get it on the side with the street fried rice, a spicy tamarind-based dish that’s native to the Southern Chumphon province of Thailand. Sweet Thai sausage provides a foil to what might be the most complex (and moreish) dish on the menu. This is one Thai restaurant that stands out from the crowded field.
See this: At this perpetual hive of activity, look for servers in Hawaiian shirts to bring delights from the enviably stocked bar.
Eat this: Street fried rice, lychee duck curry, som tum
When to dine here: You and your date aren’t afraid of spicing things up.
Leesburg / Eclectic / $$$
The majority of diners at The Conche are there for one thing: chocolate. After all, the restaurant from pastry chef Santosh Tiptur is named for a piece of equipment that smooths the rich cacao-flavored slurry before it becomes bars or truffles. From chocolate-beer-battered crispy calamari to indulgent desserts like guéridon-melted The Conche Entremet, chocolate is a major part of the restaurant’s identity. But it’s not everything.
Increasingly, Tiptur’s menu proves this with dishes that feature none of the signature ingredient at all. The bill of fare flits from Italy to Morocco to the American South effortlessly, proffering outsize flavors along the way. Take, for example, the spice-crusted Rouen duck breast. An earthy spice mix crackles across crispy skin, providing a robust base for an onslaught of flavor that includes curry-scented baby carrots and sweet coconut grits.
At a restaurant where even the burger is enhanced with chocolate barbecue sauce, it might seem like madness to finish the meal with a monkey bread sundae. But salty caramel sauce and peach compote dripping from the warm, soft pastry prove that The Conche is more than a gimmick.
See this: Chocolate-themed posters reinforce the theme, but before dinner is served, make sure to watch it really come to life as chefs prepare desserts in the open kitchen.
Eat this: Fried burrata, spice-crusted Rouen duck, monkey bread sundae
When to dine here: You’re willing to pay a premium for an eminently satisfying meal in a casual setting.
Lovettsville / Modern American / $$$$
You’ve never had a better biscuit than the one served on the Lovettsville hill that’s known as Patowmack Farm. The warm pastry crumbles and flakes in buttery bliss, aided by the addition of soft, salty maple butter and homemade strawberry preserves.
The nine-course Progression Menu is a longtime standout at this farm and restaurant, made even better for the past two years by chef Vincent Badiee. But it’s not the only way to enjoy the intensely seasonal edible riches. This fall, Badiee debuted Ology, a casual Sunday supper that replaced his restaurant’s popular brunch.
At both, diners will find forward-thinking ideas backed by serious chops, both in the kitchen and among the dining area’s hyper-informed staffers. Badiee brings his training in Italy (as well as in the kitchens of big American names like José Andrés, Daniel Humm, and Daniel Boulud) to dishes like guanciale-topped risotto made mostly from ingredients grown in-house.
Presentation is just as important as sheer delectability, meaning the captivating surroundings aren’t the only thing to excite the eye. But ultimately, what brings diners back here for a world-class experience is as small as the flake of a biscuit.
See this: Natural beauty, including the hills, trees, and mighty Potomac, are all part of your dinner experience.
Eat this: What’s fresh on the farm is what’s on your plate — it’s key to be open-minded here.
When to dine here: You’re in search of an experience that begins with a country drive and ends with treats from the kitchen for the next day.
Leesburg / American / $$$
The extensive American menu at the restaurant better known as Tuskie’s is bolstered by daily specials. It offers something that will delight a world-traveling foodie or a picky octogenarian and just about everyone in between. Game is featured daily. Hefty, laudably grilled venison chops are paired with wickedly rich mashed potatoes. Admirably tender, juicy, and flavorful flank steak is enhanced by an earthy, bright chimichurri.
Tapping into Northern Virginia’s vibrant beer culture, Tuskie’s offers craft IPAs from outstanding local breweries. Schwarzbier, a dark lager from Richmond’s Väsen Brewing Co., pairs well with the flank steak. For a pale lager from Caboose in nearby Vienna sets off a Reuben sandwich’s rich-but-not-greasy corned beef at lunch.
Virginia’s Southern heritage is reflected in a flavorful yet light-handed version of shrimp and grits that subs creamy polenta for the usual base. Lashings of ham and greens flavor its Madeira-brightened, not-too-buttery sauce. The succulent texture of a lobster appetizer is further testimony to the kitchen’s skill with seafood.
Indulgent desserts include its signature cheesecake beignets, whose crispy crust contrasts with an ethereal, tart-sweet, creamy filling. Raspberry sauce and graham cracker crumbs add flavor accents. The caramelized apple crisp is another crowd-pleaser. So is Tuskie’s.
See this: A handsome, lofty, wood-beamed bar and main dining room are packed with fascinating relics of the mill it used to be.
Eat this: Flank steak, shrimp and grits, cheesecake beignets
When to dine here: A comfortable fit for just about any occasion, you don’t need a special event to inspire a visit.