Loudoun County and its nearby independent towns are home to many great restaurants that offer diners top-of-the-line food, atmosphere, and service. Our critics have selected these nine restaurants as some of the very best in Northern Virginia, earning them a place on the 2023 Best Restaurants list.
By Olga Boikess, Dawn Klavon, Alyssa Langer, Alice Levitt, and Renee Sklarew
Price Key: Entrées = $ 15 and under | $$ 16–25 | $$$ 26–40 | $$$$ 41 and over | * = prix fixe only
Ashburn | Modern Indian | $$
There’s been much (probably too much) written about the fact that millennials and Gen Zers are in love with big, bold flavors. These are also the generations in their prime to be dining out. It’s no coincidence that a restaurant like Celebration by Rupa Vira would be a hit.
Equipped with a creative chef who uses spices as her artistic medium, this is one restaurant that makes every meal an experience. Dry ice, colored lights, and gold leaf are all part of a dinner here.
To take full advantage of Vira’s showmanship, begin with the seasonal starter, currently known as Golden Shots. (Last summer it was Glow Gappa.) A play on gol gappa, also known as pani puri, the interactive dish featured crispy shells ready to be filled with a fruity spiced liquid. But first, the server pours water over the dry ice, allowing diners to take time to immortalize the ritual with their phones.
But it’s not all cheap tricks here. Even if the curries are presented with edible flowers, it’s the balance of spices that stands out, whether it’s a stew of crispy vegetables or tender bone-in chicken. And you don’t have to be a member of a younger generation to appreciate that.
See This: At dinner, large parties swarm the colorful dining rooms, filled with art that matches the plates of food with their brightness.
Eat This: Golden Shots, sabzi mandi, chicken purana
Service: Mixed; cordial servers have a way of disappearing later in a meal.
When to Dine Here: Your friend group is seeking new hues and flavors for dinner.
Ashburn | American | $$$
This restaurant from José Andrés–trained chef Jorge Chicas entices diners with well-crafted classics. The dishes here light up guests’ taste buds with the best of them, thanks to quality ingredients and a bit of culinary alchemy.
Chicas’ cuisine focuses on transforming local meats and seafood into comfort food that delights a local audience. Rib-eye steak hails from Seven Hills Food Co. in Lynchburg. It’s dry-aged, seasoned to near-perfection, and served in a red-wine jus with a topping of garlicky chimichurri. Smashed fingerling potatoes on the side are by turns crisp and creamy. Asparagus is marked by the grill but left to speak for itself.
The neighborhood diners who come here do so to escape their day-to-day responsibilities, so it’s only natural that they must order dessert. The chocolate pot de crème is the best bet. Intensely flavored with dark chocolate and enhanced with coffee cream and a shower of nutty pistachios, it tastes new somehow, though its path is well established. And that is the subtle genius of Farm & Fork Kitchen.
See This: Posters of produce conjure the theme, but the open kitchen brings it to life.
Eat This: Watermelon and feta salad, dry-aged rib-eye steak, chocolate pot de crème
Service: Helpful when present, but apt to slip away
When to Dine Here: Mom and Dad are able to get some time away from the house and let someone else cook for once.
Middleburg | Modern American | $$$$
An artful blending of nature and tradition defines the dining experience at this luxurious destination. Strolling through the surrounding park’s natural beauty is a delightful prelude to an impressive culinary event. The lofty main dining room offers a contrast between the clubby feel of polished wood and leather-lined booth seating and the wraparound windows that bring the surrounding greenery’s charm indoors.
The Salamander Resort’s must-visit garden comes to the table in appealing ways. A baby-corn and artichoke appetizer — spiked with leeks, pickled snap peas, and grated Parmesan — is a crisp sampler. Vegan mushroom ravioli is anything but Spartan. Flavor-packed mushrooms — some sliced, some whole, some chopped — shine through a decadent sauce. Its creamy mouthfeel would satisfy the most stubborn skeptic.
True to the upscale vibe, high-quality meat and seafood options range from steaks to lamb loin, braised short ribs, duck, and lobster. A focus on local and regional sourcing refreshes the traditional dishes. Seared Hudson Valley foie gras offers a rich counterpoint to a honeyed tangerine purée. Grilled octopus is bedded on black-eyed peas sparked with the contrast of chorizo.
One dessert blends house-grown lavender and berries with pistachio ice cream and a dense chocolate cake. Garden meets tradition in every bite at this restaurant.
See This: You know you’re in horse country with the stable-style entry into a country club–like dining room with landscaped views.
Eat This: Mushroom ravioli, foie gras, wagyu filet
Service: The staff manages to be both friendly and highly accomplished.
When to Dine Here: The big round booths are perfect for special occasions, but why not simply cap a country drive with an elegant meal?
Sterling | Modern American | $$
Fluffy, porous, crusty, and just a bit chewy, an excellent slice of bread can be an elusive thing. But not at this new Cascades restaurant. Order the bread plate with cultured butter, olive oil, and sea salt, or better yet, get it with the loaded labneh dip. The tangy strained yogurt is the foundation for cucumber slices that buttress fried shallots.
Married couple Ally and Michael Stebner, Sterling locals, serve a menu of seasonal, freshly prepared basics that your parents would likely make if they were professional chefs. The word “wholesome” applies, but don’t let that deter you. Instead, enjoy the grill-charred salmon. It’s served over a healthy quinoa tabbouleh and is flavored with oregano-dotted lemon vinaigrette.
That doesn’t mean that you’ll be eating rabbit food. Pastas are a centerpiece here. The housemade noodles range from pappardelle piled with blue crab to fusilli in a lightly spicy vodka sauce.
But don’t miss the Lo-Pro lamb burger. It’s available at both lunch and dinner for a reason. The juicy meat is piled with pickled peppers, arugula, and roasted tomatoes on a pillowy sesame focaccia that’s spread with more labneh. It’s yet another reminder that when in doubt at Local Provisions, get the bread.
See This: Wallpaper portraying tins of sardines will catch your eye almost as much as the open kitchen.
Eat This: Chargrilled scallops, loaded labneh dip, Lo-Pro lamb burger
Service: Green but eager
When to Dine Here: The family requires its daily bread — and pasta.
Ashburn | Thai | $$
Here’s an unpleasant truth for you: Too many Thai restaurants in our region trade in thin, soupy curries and too-sweet pad Thais. Even the well-respected ones are often a disappointment for experienced diners.
But not Sense of Thai St. For seven years now, the One Loudoun centerpiece has assaulted the senses in a delightful way. From the bright, spacious dining room to the creative cocktails and sometimes incendiary dishes, this modern classic hits all the right notes.
It starts with service that is friendly but never too familiar. Lamb lollipops are a sensible entry point to an impressive repast. The trio of grilled goodies is marinated for an easy bite that transcends mere tenderness but never falls apart, thanks to a thin jacket of char. Served with a basket of sticky rice and tamarind chile sauce, it prepares the palate for the complexity to come, whether it’s an unassumingly floral curry or heat-packing plate of drunken noodles.
The moral is that it doesn’t really matter what you order at Sense of Thai St. It will doubtlessly be among the best Thai dishes in NoVA.
See This: Vintage Thai movie posters and old family photos remind diners of the past, while the busy bar with its forward-thinking cocktails propels them into the modern age.
Eat This: Lamb lollipops, crispy whole fish, mango and sticky rice
Service: Solid and seamless, despite a usually packed dining room
When to Dine Here: You want Thai food and need it done right.
Leesburg | Modern American | $$$
Get your chocolate fix satisfied at The Conche. This convivial Leesburg spot impresses at every cocoa-covered turn. There’s even a glass-enclosed chocolate lab mid-restaurant for your viewing pleasure.
The cocoa-themed destination subtly delivers chocolate additions across the board, from mussels to burgers to poke, adding that je ne sais quoi that elevates each item. Caesar salad is exceptional with grilled romaine and cocoa nib brittle shards.
Braised short ribs display incredible richness in a chocolate-Burgundy reduction atop garlic-infused goat cheese–potato purée. Even tiny details, like lightly fried tempura Brussels sprouts or mouthwatering house-marinated heirloom cherry tomatoes, exude quality.
Talented chef Santosh Tiptur has earned a loyal following for masterminding traditional dishes with creative twists and unusual ingredients. Meals are beautifully displayed, whether á la carte or in three-, five-, or seven-course prix fixe offerings. Servers and managers tag-team tables, providing insightful commentary and recommendations, along with gold-standard service.
Splurge on the $24 spaghetti and sweet balls dessert for an entertaining presentation mimicking the classic Italian meal, except created with chocolate-filled cream puffs and raspberry caramel sauce.
From start to finish, The Conche is a chocolate lover’s dream come true.
See This: The executive pastry chef and chocolatier create magic in the glass-encased chocolate lab.
Eat This: Caesar salad, scallops, spaghetti and sweet balls
Service: Well-informed staff enhance the experience.
When to Dine Here: Visit this comfortable, unpretentious spot for a date night or special occasion.
The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm (No. 2)
Lovettsville | Modern American | $$$$*
Most of the restaurants on this list will provide a filling repast that will live on only in photos and reminiscences at best. A dinner at Patowmack Farm is an unforgettable experience, and one that follows you home.
Under newly minted executive chef Colby Janowitz, an alum of Sonoma County’s famed farm and restaurant, SingleThread, the eight-course Progression Menu begins with a bloom-festooned basket packed with goodies. On a given day, it might include a collection of amuses-bouches such as charred, pickled mushrooms that taste like bulgogi; earthy housemade seed crackers; peaches wrapped in ham; and crumbly biscuits with soft, salted butter. The term “gift from the kitchen,” does it no justice, though it does feel a bit like unwrapping a birthday present.
From a corn custard served over tastebud-slapping pesto, to olive oil–poached striped bass with a vast collection of preparations of squash, to pâte à choux filled with chocolate mousse and surrounded by blueberries, each plate will remain fresh in your mind long after it’s been digested.
The kitchen sends guests home with a treat for the next day, not that they will need a smidgen of help remembering such an event.
See This: In the warm months, your dining room is all of the outdoors, with a view of the hills surrounding the Potomac. When it’s cold, settle into the greenhouse.
Eat This: The working farm supplies what’s on plates, so be ready for a surprise each visit.
Service: Be prepared for an event that fills the whole evening, spent with a staff of food lovers who aren’t just earning a paycheck.
When to Dine Here: That special someone is planning a memorable night.
Middleburg | Modern American | $$$
The chorizo is on fire. Fortunately, it’s supposed to be. A server tends the rum-based blaze, spooning boozy flame over each link, blistering it for a crisp skin. She mixes the remaining 151-proof liquid into a bowl of aioli for dipping. Welcome to Tremolo Bar.
Oenophiles already know owner Jarad Slipp as former estate director of RdV Vineyards. Pizza lovers have tasted his pies just down the street at Knead Wine. His newest project combines his Michelin-recognized pedigrees in food and wine again with flavor-forward dishes intended to be paired with a glass or two.
But don’t expect anything too formal. The relaxed vibe translates to a menu labeled “snacks,” featuring small plates that range from house-fried potato chips with four-onion dip to slices of hanger steak sunken into a line of piquant sauce au poivre.
Dishes lean Mediterranean but include surprises that will wake up any palate. Persian cucumber salad, for instance, combines funky fish sauce with miso and bird’s eye chiles for a zap of Asian-inflected heat. Cool it down with a bowl of labneh that’s flavored with pomegranate, mint, and pistachio. The chorizo isn’t the only thing on fire here — bring your paramour, and your heart will be, too.
See This: The spare white dining room serves as a blank canvas for a wine-soaked night.
Eat This: Persian cucumber salad, labneh, chorizo al infierno
Service: A mix of serious professionals and newbies
When to Dine Here: You want to keep things light for an evening of romance.
Leesburg | American | $$$
Tuscarora Mill is the Swiss army knife of restaurants — there’s a little something for everyone. The crowded Leesburg landmark draws diners again and again for what will most assuredly be a tasty meal in a comfortable spot.
Set in a rustic grain mill, Tuskie’s (as the locals call it) caters to every palate with interesting options to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. It’s upscale, it’s casual. It’s curated cocktails, it’s craft beer. Tuskie’s checks off boxes for excellent service and creative fare in a warm setting.
We recommend the atrium room for dining, with its dappled sunlight and sprawling plants. Persuasive menu starters like barbecue bacon-wrapped shrimp deserve attention, especially thanks to its zesty corn salsa, grilled onions, and mild chipotle cream. Another winner: pork belly tacos, enhanced with Korean slaw with a touch of sweet chili.
Basics like grilled Angus burgers, garnished with smoked cheddar and a side of fries, take diners to their happy place, but more daring dishes like grilled Creole-seasoned trout deliver exponentially. Don’t miss warm butterscotch bread pudding for dessert with Bruster’s ice cream and a generous caramel drizzle.
Any way you slice it, Tuskie’s impresses diverse diners with its comfortable cuisine, jovial service, and agreeable digs.
See This: Remnants of the 1899 grain mill’s massive working parts can be seen near the hostess stand.
Eat This: Pork belly tacos, barbecue bacon-wrapped shrimp, grilled Creole-seasoned trout
Service: Brisk but efficient and accommodating
When to Dine Here: Come for lively family dinners or an upbeat dinner with friends.
Feature image of Celebration by Rupa Vira by Rey Lopez