Brunch means different things to different people. I learned that by spending one Sunday Funday at A-Town. It’s not so much eggs Benny, bacon and hash browns as it is drunken debauchery. Champagne arriving with sparklers. Grown men throwing shot glasses on the floor. Blow-up safari animals as tablemates. Little persons dressed as bears. It’s a show. / A-Town, 4100 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington
9. Chicken Skins at Gypsy Soul
I have been waiting for Gypsy Soul to open, more or less, since I started as dining editor at this magazine three years ago. R.J. Cooper is a big deal chef and while I’d like to think the suburbs attract serious culinary talent, many kitchen stars prefer to cook in the city. When it finally opened in Mosaic District this summer, I popped in much earlier than the usual 6-12 weeks I usually wait and grabbed a snack and a cocktail at the bar. Even though my husband and I already ate a full dinner at TRIO Grill, we needed to try the chicken skins.
It’s not cool to love food trends, especially as a professional food writer. I should be above what’s hot and care about what’s perennially good. But I just love cataloging what is happening on menus, what ingredient chefs care about and what is making New York go crazy—because it will eventually hit Northern Virginia.
Two of the year’s big food crazes, the Cronut and the ramen burger landed in NoVA and I couldn’t have been more excited to spot its suburban existence. Oh, and I shouldn’t forget about bulletproof coffee… / The Unique Bakery, 9557 Braddock Road, Fairfax &Parallel Wine Bistro, 43135 Broadlands Center Plaza, Suite 121, Broadlands
6. Kal Gook Soo at Palace Home Style Noodle INC
I am a noodle junkie. I like them in Uzbek cuisine. I like them sauced with cream (see #2). I like them dyed with squid ink. I like them in soup. And even after completing January’s Noodle issue—on newsstands December 28th—I still am not sick of these lovely strands.
One of my favorite dishes from the Noodle issue, which focused strictly on Asian noodles, was from a little shack of a place inside the Lotte grocery store in Fairfax. The broth was beefy, the noodles were chewy and I pretty much loved every second of slurping. / Palace Home Style Noodle INC, 3250 Old Lee Highway, Fairfax
5. Smoked Rainbow Trout Hash at Hank’s Oyster Bar
It was cold and I was just starting research for May’sBrunch issue. I knew I had a lot of Saturday and Sunday morning eating ahead and I was hoping to find an early winner; it’s hard to leave the house on windy weekends when I could easily slow-scramble an egg (currently working on acing this friend-recommended technique) at home.
Anyway, I put on my boots and winter coat and found a seat at the new bar at Hank’s. I adore rich, creamy dishes, especially if they have eggs involved so I ordered the trout hash. I also love smoked fish so this dish was definitely in my wheelhouse. And it succeeded. It was everything I wanted it to be, basically a mess of a meal that I could clean up with lots of toasted bread. Because I have to get through so much of the menu at restaurants, I rarely order the same dishes on return trips. But when my sister visited me a few months later, I ordered this again. It’s that good. / Hank’s Oyster Bar, 1026 King St., Alexandria
4. Gallo en Chicha at Don Lencho
Sunshine. That’s what I kept thinking about when I first took a bite of this chicken dish from a new Mexican restaurant in Manassas. It’s bright and delicious and makes me feel happy. Just like the sun. / Don Lencho, 9116 Mathis Ave., Manassas
3. Nam Khao at Bangkok Golden The first time I ate at Bangkok Golden I liked the food, obviously, but I was sitting on a faux leather seat held together with animal print masking tape. This just wasn’t a restaurant I could put on 2013’s 50 Best Restaurant list. But I went again and found this crispy, spicy, rice salad that I could eat every day. And you know? Tape be damned. This was making 2014’s list. / Bangkok Golden, 6395 Seven Corners Center, Falls Church
2. 48 Hours of Fettuccine Alfredo
When I finished the 50 Best Restaurants issue I should have gone on a juice cleanse. Instead, I decided to eat what I wanted to eat. For 48 hours I ate fettuccine Alfredo from Buon Appetito in Chantilly and Pines of Florence in Alexandria. I split each order in half and ate some for lunch and some for dinner. For two days straight. I liked Buon Appetito’s version better but it was all glorious. Can’t wait for next year. / Buon Appetito, 13932 Metrotech Drive, Chantilly & Pines of Florence, 1300 King St., Alexandria.
1. Snails, Scallops and Mussels at Le Mediterranean Bistro
I let my dad pick out our lunch, which consisted of snails (a first for my dad), mussels and scallops. The food was great, so classy and well done (Le Mediterranean Bistro really deserves more attention), and my dad’s face was alight in the sheen of chazerai. / Le Mediterranean Bistro, 4008 University Drive, Fairfax