Best of Arlington 2022: Food & Drink

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Modern comfort food at Ruthie’s All-Day. (Photo by Jonathan Timmes)

Reader Pick
New Restaurant

Ruthie’s All-Day

This Southern-accented newcomer by Matt Hill and Todd Salvadore serves up comfort food and smiles all day long, starting with fried chicken biscuits and apple-pie pancakes in the morning, then moving on to a lunch and dinner menu centering on a “meat and three” concept. That means choosing from a tantalizing array of sides (charred Brussels sprouts, succotash, grits, mac ’n’ cheese based on Hill’s grandma’s recipe, dirty rice flecked with kimchi) and a protein such as Carolina pulled pork, brisket, smoked duck or wood-grilled branzino. The owners transformed a 1950s-era chocolate factory and ice cream shop in Arlington Heights into a cheery gathering place with craft cocktails, vintage touches—and a big patio that landed the eatery on OpenTable’s 2021 nationwide list of “100 Best Neighborhood Gems” for outdoor dining. –Adele Chapin

Other top vote-getters:

Café Colline, Los Chamacos Mexican Restaurant, Preservation Biscuit Co., Smokecraft Modern Barbecue, Stellina Pizzeria, Superette, Whino


Cowboycafe Skipbrown

The biergarten at Cowboy Cafe. (Photo by Skip Brown)

Reader Pick
Neighborhood Bar

Cowboy Cafe

On the inside, it’s the best kind of dive bar, festooned with license plates, tinsel, bull horns, Caps gear and taxidermy animal heads. The interior of this Southwest-themed institution hasn’t changed much since its founding in 1991—not even after brothers Mike and James Barnes took ownership in 2011 with fellow Yorktown High alumni Michael Danner and Wes Clough. Outside, the building is enveloped in a bold, new Crayola-colored mural—a pandemic addition by Arlington artist MasPaz—and a former parking lot is now a shaded biergarten where kids play on an AstroTurf patio while sports fans watch their favorite teams on two oversize screens. Burgers make up a big chunk of the menu here, along with crowd-pleasers like chili-topped linguine and house-made jalapeno poppers. (Weekend brunch is also a must.) The drink list finds cans of PBR alongside local pours from Atlas Brew Works and Solace Brewing Co., and boozy go-tos like a spicy margarita or a “dirty pickletini” featuring house-made pickles. –Adele Chapin

Other top vote-getters:

The Celtic House, Dogwood Tavern, Dominion Wine and Beer, The Liberty Tavern, Ruthie’s All-Day, Westover Beer Garden


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The PBC (pimento cheese, bacon and fried chicken) at Preservation Biscuit Co. (Photo by Deb Lindsey)

Editor Pick

Preservation Biscuit

Chef Jon Coombs and owner Tricia Barba worked together at Matchbox Food Group before launching this bustling Falls Church storefront in August 2020, where the signature carbs are as big as butter plates and piled high with fillers such as egg, guac and lemon aioli; or fried chicken, hot honey, bacon and smoked Gouda pimento cheese. Coombs, an Army veteran who went to cooking school after 23 years of military service, spent three months perfecting his flaky, salty buttermilk biscuit recipe, and more recently introduced a vegan variation of the Southern staple. Most of the overstuffed sandwiches and shortcake-y sweets on the menu are now available in meatless versions that sub plant-based ingredients for animal products. –Jenny Sullivan


Greens N Teff Dixievereen

Greens N Teff owners Hanna Elias and Beakal Melaku. (Photo by Dixie Vereen)

Editor Pick
Vegetarian Takeout

Greens N Teff

Fast-casual “build a bowl” eateries are everywhere, but the one Beakal Melaku operates with his wife, Hanna Elias, is distinctive. It’s entirely plant-based and highlights the flavors of their homeland, Ethiopia. Opened in late 2020, their takeout on Columbia Pike boasts a devoted cadre of regulars who continue to bring in more customers through word of mouth. “The repeats, they talk about us, they tell their family, their friends, their neighbors,” Melaku says. Some traditional dishes were changed to fit the meatless model, like the mushroom tibs (which trades fungi for beef); the shimbra asa (chickpea stew) made in the style of doro wot (except sans chicken); and the minchet, which swaps shredded carrot for the usual ground beef. Melaku says modifying Ethiopian dishes to be vegan is fairly easy due to frequent religious fasting, with vegetarian recipes passed down through the generations. “Everybody’s got their lentils and cabbage, it’s just the way of cooking it,” he says. “We cook it a little bit different.” –Rina Rapuano


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Duck pod pong at Thai Noy. (Courtesy photo)

Reader Pick

Thai Noy

The steady stream of customers leaving with fragrant takeout bags is proof that Thai Noy has quite the following. The kitchen at this Westover Village mainstay has mastered the sweet-sour-salty-spicy complexities of Thai cooking, whether in the tamarind-forward pad Thai or Nam Khao, a crispy rice salad with added crunch from roasted peanuts. Other fan favorites include a fusion-inspired take on eggplant tempura laced with chili-basil sauce, and grilled salmon with red curry and coconut milk. Dining in? Thai art abounds, from traditional paintings and wood carvings to gilded Buddha figures, and a red-painted deck out front offers a breezy spot for al fresco lunches and casual dinners. –Adele Chapin

Other top vote-getters:

Bangkok 54, Crystal Thai, Sawatdee, T.H.A.I. in Shirlington, Thai Square


Deviled Eggs Rey Lopez

Deviled eggs at Ruthie’s All-Day. (Photo by Rey Lopez)

Reader Pick
Restaurant in Arlington

Ruthie’s All-Day

Other top vote-getters:

Ambar Clarendon, Café Colline, Carlyle, Circa at Clarendon, Green Pig Bistro, The Liberty Tavern, Lyon Hall, SER



Burrata with peppers at Thompson Italian. (Photo by Kelli Scott)

Reader Pick
Restaurant in Falls Church

Thompson Italian

Other top vote-getters:

2941, Clare & Don’s Beach Shack, Dogwood Tavern, Dominion Wine and Beer, Liberty Barbecue, Northside Social


Surf Turf J Gilberts

Surf and turf at J. Gilbert’s. (Courtesy photo)

Reader Pick
Restaurant in McLean

J Gilbert’s

Other top vote-getters:

Aracosia McLean, Assaggi Osteria & Pizzeria, Kazan Restaurant, McLean Family Restaurant, Mylo’s Grill, Tachibana


Pupatella 2

Neapolitan pizza at Pupatella. Courtesy photo.

Reader Pick


Other top vote-getters:

Fire Works, The Italian Store, Lost Dog Café, Old Dominion Pizza Co., Pie-Tanza, Stellina Pizzeria


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Peking duck by Peter Chang. (Courtesy photo.)

Reader Pick

Peter Chang

Other top vote-getters:

Peking Gourmet Inn
Peking Pavilion
TNR Cafe

Pietanza 1240 Min

Pie-Tanza. (Website photo)

Reader Pick
Kid-Friendly Restaurant


Other top vote-getters:

Clare & Don’s Beach Shack, Fire Works, Lost Dog Café, Metro 29 Diner, Pupatella, Ruthie’s All-Day, Silver Diner, Uncle Julio’s


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(Photo by Mahmoud Fawzy on Unsplash)

Reader Pick


Other top vote-getters:

Endo Sushi, Ichiban Sushi, Sushi Rock, Tachibana, Takumi, Yume Sushi


Taco Bamba By Victor Albisu

Taco Bamba carnitas. Photo by Greg Powers.

Reader Pick

Taco Bamba

Other top vote-getters:

Bartaco, District Taco, Taco + Piña, Taco Rock, Taqueria el Poblano, Tortas Y Tacos La Chiquita