Charga Grill in Arlington

This tiny spot made Tim Carman’s “10 Best Casual Dine-in” spots in The Washington Post.

I ate here when it first opened and I thought it was awful. Not soon after, I saw a sign that proclaimed Under New Management. The name of the place didn’t change, so I was a bit skeptical about trying it again. But since it was convenient and now praised, I went for it .

We tried two kinds of chicken: ordered a 1/4 chicken each of charga and sajji.

As before, the charga bears no resemblance to Pakistani videos on You Tube I’ve seen. Teh Sajji was once an exclusively lamb dish that is now popular as a street food, spit roasted chicken.

There was no mention of dark vs white meat, and I forget to ask. I assumed dark meat would be the default.

Unfortunately, we were given two orders of white meat. They were both ok, a bit dry, and somewhat boring. The side accompaniments were all decent, but I’ve had much better versions of the chickpeas and lentils elsewhere.

Overall, yet another reason not to trust Carman’s taste, though he remains a very good writer.


I can’t agree that Carman is a good writer, sadly. Too many food cliches.

On the other hand, I’ve had 3 or 4 pretty decent meals at Charga Grill – all dark meat, however. I can’t imagine why it would have been #1 on Tim Carman’s 2022 list of best cheap eats (now called “best casual” since he inexplicably finds the phrase “cheap eats” to be offensive), but the sandwiches were delicious and the owner is delightfully committed to customer service.

Yu Noodles, #2 on Carman’s 2022 list, is superb. I’ve now eaten there three times, and every meal was spectacular.

Yes, my meal at Charga was decent. I have also had decent meals across the street at Arlington Kabob. And lots of other places within a short drive or even walk.

I do not know what his designation of “casual dine-in” excludes. Regardless, this being in a top ten of anything is a surprise.

The problem, ultimately, is that blanket recommendations - therefore star ratings- are a publicity stunt. Even at my favorite places I admit you can eat poorly if you don’t go after specific items. So maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I had the dark meat.

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Yes, that’s a pretty good restaurant area, with Gharer Khaber, Arlington Kabob, Charga Grill, and Taco Bell (a guilty secret) all right there. And, though I haven’t eaten there in quite a while, the Caribbean Grill used to be a good place as well.

Of all these, I’d say my favorite is Arlington Kabob. I could make a stronger case for it making an Arlington top ten cheap eats list than I could Charga Grill.

I love list, so let me think on that for a few minutes.

Maybe these for my top ten truly cheap eats in Arlington (excluding national chains): El Charrito Caminante, Ravi Kabob I & II/Ravi Chatkara, Weenie Beanie, Earl’s Sandwiches, Super Pollo (the one on Wilson because their Pakistani dishes are better than the one in Ballston), Mehran (under its new management), Rocklands Barbecue, Pho 75, King of Koshary, La Jarochita #2.

If you raised the price point slightly, Thai Square, Dama, and Los Chamacos would replace the last three on this list.

But it’s worth noting that Arlington is not even in the same league for cheap eats as its next door neighbor Falls Church.

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Thanks for mentioning Los Chamacos. I am pretty sure I have been to that physical location, but it was probably a different restaurant when I was there. What do you like there? Also, I see they have mulitos and pambazos there, two things I have not seen on a menu in this area. Have you tried either of those?

Also, what’s good at Mehran?

I’ve only been to Earl’s once, a long time ago. Any recs?

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The Cuban Club (no cheese for me) at Earl’s is very good; I honestly don’t remember what else I’ve had (but I’m confident it wasn’t turkey or fish). But I need to amend the my Arlington list anyway to add El Pike/Pan American Bakery & Grill for their salteñas, which would knock Earl’s off my list.

There was a Mexican restaurant prior to Los Chamacos in the same location, which was not good. I’ve eaten Los Chamacos three times now and remember the birria fillings as particularly good, but I don’t remember if I had it as the mulita or just as a plate. The enchiladas were also good. I’m pretty sure I didn’t have the pambazos.

At Mehran, I’ve had the Achar Gosht, which is a goat stew with pickle, the bhuna ghost punjabi (goat in a spicy sauce), and the goat biryani (I obviously like goat at Pakistani restaurants). All were good, the samosas were not particularly good. They said they were out of the lamb brain masala, which might be a bad sign that they’re hiding some dishes from non-Pakistanis.

The location where Mehran is in in Arlington had a Pakistani restaurant in it before Mehran, which you probably ate in – it was pretty Americanized, heavy on the kebabs. The original location of Mehran is in Sterling and is (based on eating there just once) better than the branch in Arlington.

To shift topics (hope that’s not prohibited here like it was on Chowhound), I can recommend two restaurants in Rockville that were on Tim Carman’s recent list. Shi Miaodao Yunnan Rice Dumplings is a chain restaurant with its headquarters in China that makes very good rice noodle soups in which you cook about ten ingredients in a boiling pork broth. If it were in Arlington, I’d eat there regularly.

My recommendation for Z&Z Manoushe is even stronger, this is an outstanding Middle Eastern place run by three brothers. It specializes in dishes with za’atar. We had the lahmacun (ground lamb flatbread) and the “toum,” a flatbread covered with tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. and slathered in toum, which is an intensely garlicky aioli. Well worth a special trip to Rockville.

Z&Z also has the cutest restaurant website I’ve ever seen:

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That all sounds awesome, thanks!

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