First impressions matter, and Clarendon will immediately charm you with its youthful exuberance and friendliness. This buzzy, high-energy urban village is beloved for its walkability, and residents appreciate how everything they need is just steps from their modern domiciles, whether it’s a pricey bungalow or an upscale apartment. Like many local neighborhoods, Clarendon’s development was spurred on by its Metro station, and streets are configured into triangles rather than traditional squares. One unusual landmark amid the contemporary architecture is the stone-covered Clarendon War Memorial honoring Arlington’s fallen service members.
It’s interesting to note that in the 1970s, when thousands of Vietnamese refugees made their home here, Clarendon was known as “Little Saigon.” Today, you’ll find beloved Vietnamese restaurants along with cuisines ranging from Balkan to barbecue. Shoppers have a lot to love, from the high-end chain stores at Crossing Clarendon to independent boutiques with quirky merchandise like British candy and vintage Rolexes. Clarendon’s engaged citizens have helped drive the flourishing coffee-shop culture, as well as the plentiful number of cocktail clubs. Every June, the Clarendon Cup brings in enthusiastic cyclists to compete, and Clarendon Day is a hugely popular October event.
1. Whether you arrive in the morning for a Nutella pop tart or in the evening for a glass of the Côtes du Rhône, Northside Social Coffee & Wine Bar is an ideal place for families, dog walkers, and dates. This bright red outpost on the intersection of Wilson Boulevard and Fairfax Drive has been a Clarendon institution since 2010. 3211 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
2. Where can you order a pint, play a game of chess, and hear an Irish ballad on a brisk afternoon? O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub is where. O’Sullivan’s stocks top-shelf Irish whiskey and serves up wee plates of Gaelic specialties. Sample some Dingle Dots (potato, corned beef, cheese fritters) or shepherd’s pie to fortify yourself before the trivia competition commences. 3207 Washington Blvd., Arlington
3. Walk down a brick staircase to find Baba, which feels like a secret European nightclub. This underground coffee shop and cocktail bar below Ambar has a fireplace, cool artwork on the walls, and a menu geared toward noshing. 2901 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
4. Nam-Viet Restaurant opened its doors in 1983. Today, the family-owned restaurant continues to serve fresh herbs, slivers of crisp vegetables, and flavorful meats and seafood. Locals make this their go-to stop for pho or, for something special, caramelized salmon. 1127 N. Hudson St., Arlington
5. Everything on the menu at Smokecraft Modern Barbecue receives a flaming kiss, as evidenced by an impressive wall of firewood, categorized and stacked beautifully beside the bar. Some menu highlights: wagyu brisket, Chesapeake crab cake, and the Smoke on the Water cocktail. 1051 N. Highland St., Arlington
6. Beyond the award-winning craft beer brewed on premises and a menu of American classics, The Board Room Game Bar and Brewery caters to the love of healthy competition. Select from a wall of board games like Monopoly and Scrabble, or enter a trivia tournament (for ages 20 and above) that will challenge your knowledge about TV shows and history. The brewery has theme nights and special events, too. 925 N. Garfield St., Arlington
7. Embrace your inner child at Kinder Haus Toys, a charming, independently owned kids’ store. Along with shelves of children’s books for all ages, you’ll find clothing, stuffed animals, Thomas the Train sets, science experiments, craft kits, and a selection of capital area–themed books like Washington Superhero and President Amanda. 1220 N. Fillmore St., Arlington
8. Indulge at Artisan Confections, which carries the chocolate handiwork of Jason Andelman and Emily Aranda, both graduates of the Culinary Institute of America. Build a customized box of elegant bonbons for someone special. Or treat yourself with nutty brittle, bittersweet hot chocolate, and hand-dipped caramels. 1025 N. Fillmore St., Ste. H, Arlington
9. The bright Green Pig Bistro specializes in Southern comfort food with a modern twist. Brunch is especially appealing, with favorites like “Big Daddy” Steak and Eggs and the Angry Bird (chicken with waffles). Don’t miss the late-morning desserts, either. 1025 N. Fillmore St., Ste. D, Arlington
10. One woman’s fashion castoffs are another woman’s treasures. Current Boutique, one of the most beloved consignment shops in the region, has a stellar collection of trendy, gently used apparel, shoes, and handbags. 2601 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
This story originally ran in our January issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to our monthly magazine.