Arlington's Best Cheap Eats
Meet Our Arlington Restaurant Connoisseur
Chef and Louisiana native David Guas does his home state proud by serving rustic, playful offerings such as shrimp and andouille jambalaya, blackened turkey meatballs, and savory smothered biscuits and gravy. So it's no surprise that when he and his family head out to eat, they want similarly fun, unpretentious fare in a fuss-free setting. "We're looking for quick, quality, kid-friendly food," David explains. "I don't want to have to dress up, and it's nice to be recognized as a regular customer."
David returns to being a kid in a candy shop at this fragrant cafe and market. "Growing up, my father had a butcher shop, and I loved to visit and peer into the deli windows. Whether you're 4 or 44, it's still a thrill to look into a deli case and see an abundance of food," the chef says. "My boys love to get involved and pick out their meal." David and his family enjoy selecting several small plates and appetizers for their meal, including Lamb Shawarma sandwiches with tahini sauce, Kibbeh (fried beed-and-lamb meatballs made with bulgur, almonds, and pine nuts), Fatayer B'Jibne (fried cheese pies), Warak Inab (grape leaves stuffed with rice, chickpeas, tomatoes, mint, and parsley), Traditional Hommos, and M'saka (oven-roasted eggplant with chickpeas and tomatoes).
4400 Old Dominion Drive, Arlington; 703/276-8681; lebanesetaverna.com
Uncle Julio's is "built for speed and volume," David says. "It could be Friday at 7:30 and we'd still get in because the tables turn fast." The chef can't resist ordering the perfectly marinated Carne Asada al Jardin, a marinated and grilled skirt steak served with jalapeños and sweet onions charred a la plancha (on a metal plate), guacamole, beans, and rice. "It's loud, the beer is cold, there are kids running all around, and I've never had a bad steak there–ever."
4301 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington; 703/528-3131; unclejulios.com
Lost Dog Cafe
"When my wife, Simone, and I moved to Arlington from D.C. and bought our first house, we lived about six blocks from Lost Dog," David says. "It's an appealing neighborhood cafe that puts out great pizzas and sandwiches. Our favorite is the Spinach Feta Pie with bacon and tomatoes, and a sandwich called Redskin with beef barbecue, bacon, and crunchy coleslaw on a toasted sub roll." He adds, "I actually do a pork version on Bayou Bakery's Sunday brunch menu because I missed the flavor profile."
5876 North Washington Blvd., Arlington; 703/237-1552; lostdogcafe.com
Fortune Chinese Seafood Restaurant
Jeff Tunks (chef at DC Coast in Washington, D.C., and David's friend and current business partner) first took David to this frenetic dim sum spot brimming with seafood tanks and hot, steaming food carts. "The dining room is huge, and there are carts of food flying in and out of the kitchen," he says. "We always order Steamed Shrimp Dumplings. The shrimp is hand-chopped, so it's still in big pieces, and the dumplings are seared and crisp on one side, and then steamed until tender. We also love the Chinese Broccoli, the addictive head-on Salt Baked Shrimp, and the Baked Pineapple Buns."
6249 Seven Corners Center, Falls Church; 703/538-3333