Interesting Restaurants in Alexandria VA/Vienna VA/Washington DC

When we travel, we don’t necessarily want to visit the finest restaurants, but we do try for interesting ones, preferably in cuisines not available near our home (central NJ). Of course, we are also looking for restaurants near where we happen to be at meal time. So here are our dining experiences in Alexandria, Vienna, and Washington.

We drove down on Christmas Day (Wednesday). I had found a we page that listed restaurants open on Christmas Day, but when I double-check in the morning, both our first choice and our backup were closed. As a last resort I started going through all the Chinese restaurants, and found House of Dynasty was open. (I know–weird name grammatically.) When we finally arrived there about 3PM, it looked full and we had no reservation, but they still had a couple of tables for two (thank goodness!). We had a Spring Roll, the Seafood Special Soup, and Chicken Hunan Style. All were excellent. Considering the paucity of options, we did very well. [$32 with tax and tip]

Thursday we went to the Newseum in DC. We had planned on going to China Chilcano (Peruvian-Chinese Fusion), but Hill Country BBQ, next door to it sounded more appealing. We split a three-meat platter. We ordered brisket, chicken, and pork rib, but they mistakenly gave us pulled pork instead of the rib and it wasn’t worth taking it back (service was cafeteria-style). The meat was reasonably good; Mark thought that the macaroni and cheese was excellent. The barbecue sauce was of the sweet variety. Not great, but reasonably enjoyable and good after several hours of museum-going. [$32 with tax and tip]

Thursday we were driving around the area visiting some of the lesser-known Civil War sites, and ended up in Vienna around lunchtime. We decided on Rose Kebab Restaurant, an Iranian restaurant serving stews and other dishes as well as grilled meat. We shared a combination platter of grilled lamb kebabs and grilled Cornish game hens, with seasoned rice. It was terrific, and I just wish we had this sort of place closer, because I would love to try all the other dishes. [$38 with beverages, tax, and tip.]

Saturday we stayed in Alexandria for sightseeing, and had dinner at Hawwi Ethiopian Restaurant. (It had been years since we had injeera.) We shared a combination plate (do you see a pattern here?) with Chicken Infillay, Doro Wot, Key Wot, Beef Alicha, Chickpea Puree, and Potato & Cabbage. The Doro Wot was good, but very spicy. I also liked the Chicken Infillay; I was less keen on the beef dishes, but that may be just me. (With a few exceptions, I prefer chicken to red meat.) And the injeera was also good, although it was cold–not room temperature, but actually cold. [$25 with tax and tip.]

Sunday after the International Spy Museum, our options were limited. It was raining, so we really did not want to walk a half-mile to any of the places we had looked into. The museum is at L’Enfant Plaza, which has a lot of casual restaurants, but most are closed on the weekend. We were thinking of going back to Alexandria to eat when we saw Maizal (Latin American Street Food). This sounded suitably different, so we decided to try it. Mark had an arepa, which was a rather interesting collection of ingredients (steak, cole slaw, and habanero sauce) in a wrapping of ground maize dough. (There were also other fillings that could have been added, sort of like at places like Moe’s.) I had two tacos: Yum Yum Shrimp (shrimp, chipotle, pineapple sauce, pickled onions, and cole slaw) and Veggie (mushroom, kale, quinoa, pickled beets, and salsa verde). We also got a side order of plantains (maduros) which were very good. Not a fancy meal, but definitely not the sort of thing one finds around here, and certainly worth trying. [$21.45 with tax]

Our last day we went to King Pollo (Peruvian) in Chantilly after the Udvar-Hazy Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. We got a half chicken with two sides, a pupusa de queso, and a beverage. The Peruvian chicken was definitely differently seasoned from either Mexican grilled chicken or (say) Boston Market, but I cannot say the flavor did much for me. Mark’s pupusa (basically the same as the arepa the day before) was filled with incredibly stretchy cheese, and was very oily. The fries were … fries, but the plantains were very good and there was a generous portion. (The included “side” of plantains was twice as big as the separate order of plantains at Maizal.) Not a place I would go back to, but YMMV. [$14.02 with tax and tip]

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold