8 Spots In NoVa's Restaurant Boom
Hot is the best word to describe Northern Virginia's restaurant scene. From fine dining to casual joints, there's something for everyone across the river. These eight are worth a visit.
1. Kapnos Taverna - Ballston
Inventive seafood towers from a raw bar sets Kapnos Taverna apart from Kapnos, the DC version of the Mike Isabella restaurant that opened in 2013. Mike's first spot in Virginia is also in partnership with brothers Nick and George Pagonis. There is little duplication between the Ballston and DC menus, except for some large preparations found in the “for the table" section and the dips and spreads. "We want people from DC coming to Virginia and vice versa," Nick tells us. Wash down marinated mussels, king salmon tartare and chilled king crab with playful cocktails that often give hat tips to the kitchen by using cooking ingredients like harissa, Greek honey and oregano.
Address: 4000 Wilson Blvd
2. Mason Social - Alexandria
Four first time restaurateurs took a vacant building in the Parker-Gray neighborhood where they grew up and made magic. Mason Social, named for former Alexandria Mayor Thomson Mason, is a handsome American eatery serving beer mussels, bone marrow burgers and hanger steaks. “There’s nothing like this in Alexandria,” partner Chad Sparrow tells us. “We’re trying to bring the Rose’s Luxury vibe of having really good food but remaining casual.” We snapped Chad (center) with partners Teddy Kim (left) and Larry Walston. In the kitchen you’ll find Joseph Lennon, who most recently cooked at Bourbon Steak. Despite his fine dining experience, Chad says they’re determined not to price out the neighborhood. Entrees fall below $30. Wash your order down with the signature cocktail—The Parker Gray made with earl grey infused Catoctin Creek Rye.
Address: 728 North Henry St
3. Tazza Kitchen - Arlington
Both the Baja peninsula and coastal Italy serve as inspiration at this new restaurant where wood-fired ovens take center stage. That's why you’ll find flautas and prosciutto & arugula pizza on the same menu. Craft cocktails play an important role in the beverage program, with creative concoctions like “Smoke Break” made with mezcal, agave, lime, fresno pepper and strawberry. Then there’s the wine list featuring rare finds from small producers. There are also outposts of Tazza Kitchen in other parts of Virginia, plus the Carolinas.
Address: 2931 S Glebe Rd
4. Citizen Burger Bar - Clarendon
Farm fresh, grass-fed beef burgers have arrived in Clarendon with the addition of Charlottesville, VA, transplant Citizen Burger Bar. The owner, Andy McClure, is Northern Virginia born and bred, having grown up in Alexandria. He therefore has an appreciation for all things local, including Virginia craft beer. The menu allows you to customize your burger order, or you can choose one of seven specialty burgers like “The Southern” with Black Angus beef, house pimento cheese, Nueske’s bacon, yellow mustard, iceberg and tomato.
Address: 1051 North Highland St
5. B Side - Merrifield
The bustling Mosaic District in Merrifield has been attracting top talent. One of the newest restaurants is B Side from Neighborhood Restaurant Group. Named for the side of the record that doesn’t contain the hits, B Side is a quaint space to enjoy Chef Nathan Anda’s charcuterie, plus other savory meaty treats like pig wings, pork belly pupusas, bresaola croquettes, beef fat fries and burgers you’ll remember for months. They’re so pork-obsessed that their foamy cocktails often come with a pig stamp (pictured). The wine list has depth with close to 150 selections, including a special section for sherry lovers.
Address: 8298 Glass Alley
6. Reserve 2216 - Del Ray
Perched atop Del Ray Pizzeria is a new restaurant with the feel of a supper club. Reserve 2216 serves dinner Thursday-Saturday, plus the occasional Tuesday for a wine or beer dinner. Adding to its charm are the hanging cast iron pans, a communal table, and the fact that only six people run the joint. “If you eat here, there’s a 100 percent chance I cooked your food and a 100 percent chance you were greeted by the GM,” Chef Eric Reid tells us. His food leans elevated Southern comfort, like this take on chicken and waffles we snapped. Eric draws inspiration from his favorite city, New Orleans. On nights Reserve 2216 is not open, it can be rented out. But, you won’t find a set menu. “That's my set menu,” general manager Darrell Bernard says pointing to Eric, who's willing to cook anything.
Address: 2216 Mount Vernon Ave
7. Highline RXR - Crystal City
Come 4:30 in Crystal City, suits and ties will start rolling into Highline RXR for happy hour to sip 31 types of discounted draft beer and play board games. The drink program is a bevy of buzzwords: draft wine, craft cocktails, and even cold-brewed Zeke’s Coffee (also on draft!). The presence of a strong coffee program symbolizes the bar’s goal to serve as both a bustling nightlife spot and a place to post up with your laptop during the day. Highline RXR (named for the area's history as a rail hub) is from the team that brought DC Penn Social, Rocket Bar and Buffalo Billiards. Like some of those establishments, it’s also enormous. Sports fans will dig that there are six giant projector screens that drop down for games.
Address: 2010 Crystal Dr
8. SER - Ballston
We last caught up with SER early in the pre-opening phase. Now, there’s food coming out of the kitchen from chef and proprietor Josu Zubikarai and wine is flowing. We snapped the dramatic pouring of Gañeta, a wine that benefits from the addition of air. During our sneak peek, it was paired with kokotxas, a Basque preparation of codfish jowl. Another memorable dish is the cochinillo, or roast suckling pig, served alongside thick cut Navarra potatoes. It’s reminiscent of something you’d nosh on for a “menu del dia” lunch in Madrid. SER will offer lunch and dinner, including an expedited lunch of soups, salads and sandwiches taken at the raw bar, when it opens in early March.
Address: 1110 North Glebe Rd