My sister, Virginia, lives in Virginia, close to Washington D.C. (Fairfax County). At the end of our busy days, we mostly just wanted dinners in comfortable local spots.
I know that many visitors to the D.C. area choose to stay in Fairfax County where there is easy access to the Metro into Washington D.C. but where hotel rates may be less expensive than staying in Washington. With this in mind, these are a few suggestions of places to dine after a busy day of seeing the sights.
ANITA'S "New Mexico Style" Mexican Food.
Anita's has eight locations in Northern Virginia. We ate at the one in Burke, VA, which is nearest to Virginia's house.
There is a real Anita, who,in 1974, after her husband was transferred to Washington, D.C. from Albuquerque, New Mexico,
decided to open a carry out restaurant in Vienna, VA, where she featured the family New Mexican recipes that she so enjoyed and missed.
While Virginia has passed her local Anita's hundreds of times, she's never tried it. It was my seeing it listed in the AAA guide book to Virginia that brought it to our attention. I was more curious than anything else about why AAA may have singled out Anita's. After our dinner at Anita's, several locals told me that they have been eating at Anita's regularly for years. Anita's serves Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Most locations serve all three meals every day, but the Burke one is now serving breakfast only on the weekend.
Although the Burke restaurant was not very busy the evening we dined here, the customers seemed to be "regulars" and there was a steady stream of takeout business.
Virginia ordered the New Mexico Combo of a Chile Relleno, a Pork Tamale, a Chicken Enchilada, a Beef Taco, Spanish Rice, and Beans. It was a lot of food (she took some home) but a perfect way to sample several menu items.
My choice was the Pollo Adovada, a Grilled boneless chicken breast which had been marinated in red chile sauce. It was served on Spanish Rice and with a small salad, guacamole, and a Chicken Flauta.
Both meals were delicious and reasonably priced at about $11 each.
NOODLES & COMPANY
Noodles & Company is a national chain of restaurants featuring noodle dishes. Customers order at the counter and seat themselves. Orders are brought to your table. The formula is simple, choose a noodle dish from your choice of Asian, Mediterranean, or American selections. Decide between a Small or Regular serving. And, optionally, customize your dish with Chicken, Beef, Shrimp, or Tofu selections. More cheese and more fresh veggies are other additions. There are a few side dishes and, for those not wishing noodles, there are meal-sized salads in each of the three cuisines.
Our choices were Penne Rosa for Virginia...spicy tomato cream sauce with mushrooms, tomato, and spinach. She added the suggested "customize" of Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breast.
My choice was the Pad Thai to which I added Sautéed Shrimp.
Noodles & Company offers a variety of beverages including beer and wine. I was happy to discover that a tasty glass of wine was $5 a glass, a reasonable price for wine that accompanies a modestly-priced meal in a casual restaurant. I wish more restaurants of this sort realized that a glass of wine should not cost more than the meal itself.
The evening we met our friend Anita for dinner, she suggested Kazan, which is located near her office in McLean and which is one of her longtime favorites.
Kazan features Turkish and Mediterranean Cuisine. This family-run restaurant is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Based on Kazan's unpretentious exterior and location in the equally unpretentious McLean Shopping Center, I never would have discovered this restaurant on my own. I am grateful to Anita for introducing me to Kazan. I certainly plan to return.
In contrast to the exterior, the atmosphere in the two dining areas is cozy and inviting. Service is attentive and friendly.
To start our meal, we shared an order of Fried Calamari. While this does not sound like the most Turkish of dishes, I had read several recommendations for Kazan's Calamari and Anita concurred. We were happy.
Both Anita and Virginia chose the Grilled Atlantic Salmon for their main courses. it was served with rice pilaf and fresh Broccoli.
My choice was the day's Fresh Fish Special which was baked stuffed Tilapia. it was stuffed with Spinach and very delicious.
Not wanting to miss out on trying Kazan's famous Orange Baklava...made with fresh phyllo dough and not overly sweet...we decided to share a serving. Our server suggested we try the evening's Baklava variation, flavored with Pomegranate instead of orange marmelade. We went with his recommendation. I usually find Baklava gooey and too sweet. But, Kazan's variation on this classic is light, flaky and delicious. Sorry, I have no photo of dessert; we started eating as soon as it was brought to the table and, then, it was gone.
For a final bit of Turkish trivia, a Kazan is a special chafing dish that was used to prepare food for the Sultan at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey.