With a title referencing grueling military preparation, you’d think Matthew Eads’ cooking-by-fire guide would be brimming with stories from years as a Marine serving in Iraq and Afghanistan (though there is a barbecue rub “hot enough to impress my brothers in the Corps.”), but it’s more about inventive recipes to feed friends and family.
Grill Seeker proves just about anything is better over open flames, be it smoking rosemary and lemon peel for a salt mix, searing cinnamon-brined pork chops or splitting a banana—with the peel intact—and topping with brown sugar, peanut butter chips and marshmallows and letting everything melt in a covered grill for an ice cream-less sundae.
There’s also a mention of Springfield resident Eads’ campaign #unitedbyflame, where “cooking over a fire brings people together—differences aside.” Whether food is cooked over charcoal or inside of a ceramic grill, whether a Boston strip steak or a Brazilian picanha is a better cut of beef, gathering for a meal is most important. “So instead of getting fired up over the latest cable news story,” writes Eads, “fire up your grill.” (Front Table Books, $19)
This post was originally published in our July 2019 issue. To stay up to date with all of the latest food content, subscribe to our weekly Food newsletter.
In the past year, several prominent restaurant chains have added plant-based burgers, sausages and ground beef to their menus, embracing a growing consumer demand for vegetarian products that simulate the taste and texture of meat.
But Arby’s is going in the opposite direction. Rather than invest in such alternatives, the chain has unveiled a product designed to poke fun at fans of meatless meat: a carrot made from turkey.
A recent promotional video shows the step-by-step preparation of this “meat vegetable,” which consists of turkey breast wrapped in cheesecloth and coated in a carrot marinade. “If they can make meat from veggies (and other stuff),” a caption on the video says, “we can make veggies from meat.”
The advent of the marrot highlights a broader challenge facing the plant-based meat movement: Even as chains like Burger King and White Castle embrace meatless alternatives, most restaurant brands remain skeptical.
Arby’s insists that its marrot is not a stunt — or, at least, not entirely.
“It is pretty funny,” said Rob Lynch, the company’s president. For now, it is unclear whether the product will ever end up on a menu. “We are actively working to determine whether or not we can scale this,” Mr. Lynch said. “I would probably put it at 50-50.”
While Arby’s has flatly rejected plant-based meat, other chains are taking a more cautious approach.
“Most restaurant chains are really opting out for now,” said Jonathan Maze, the executive editor of Restaurant Business Magazine, a trade publication. “There’s a strong argument to be had for taking a wait-and-see approach. A lot of this just really smells fadlike. It’s still a very new thing.”
The ingredients, starting with turkey breast shaped into a “marrot.”CreditPeyton Fulford for The New York Times
On the whole, it has been an impressive year for Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, the leading makers of plant-based meat. Restaurant sales of meat alternatives have risen 268 percent. Beyond Meat’s share price has soared since the company went public in May. Impossible Foods’ partnership with Burger King has increased foot traffic at some of the chain’s locations. And several other major chains — including Carl’s Jr., the Cheesecake Factory, Little Caesars and Qdoba — have introduced meatless meat products.
But among big chains, there are also plenty of naysayers.
After The Information reported in May that Arby’s was in talks with Impossible Foods, the fast-food company publicly disavowed plant-based burgers, and cast itself as the guardian of “real meats.”
In June, Shake Shack’s chief executive, Randy Garutti, said on CNBC that he had no plans to introduce a plant-based product. “Shake Shack was built on doing classic things better than other people did them,” he said. “So let’s watch a little bit.”
And Taco Bell, which is introducing a new vegetarian menu this fall, has also chosen to stay on the sidelines.
The turkey being prepped.CreditPeyton Fulford for The New York TimesAdding maple sugar.CreditPeyton Fulford for The New York Times
Of the 15 largest fast-food chains in the United States, only Burger King and Little Caesars offer plant-based meat. A spokeswoman for KFC said the company had “no plans” to test a plant-based meat product. Nor does Dairy Queen: “Currently we are focused on other priorities involving our menu,” a spokesman said.
A Wendy’s representative said that the response from customers was mixed when the chain tested a bean-based burger in a few cities, but that it might “look for opportunities in the future.” Domino’s said it “may consider testing” meatless meat at some point, and representatives of Pizza Hut and Dunkin’ said the companies were in the early stages of “exploring” plant-based alternatives.
One major fast-food chain that has not ruled out selling a plant-based burger is McDonald’s. A few months ago, the company worked with Nestlé to test a meatless patty in Germany, the Big Vegan TS. For now, though, top McDonald’s executives seem unconvinced that bringing the burger to the United States makes financial sense.
Powdered carrot juice goes on before roasting.CreditPeyton Fulford for The New York Times
“We’ve got to make sure the consumer trend is sustaining,” Steve Easterbrook, the company’s chief executive, said on an earnings call in May. A McDonald’s spokeswoman said the chain would “continue to listen to customers to understand changing trends and evolving tastes.”
Adding a plant-based cheeseburger would not be easy for McDonald’s. The company is trying to simplify its menu, and the introduction of a meatless Big Mac would “add a considerable amount of complexity to the kitchen,” Mr. Maze said, noting that valuable grill space would have to be reserved for the product.
“It warrants taking some time,” he added.
Beyond Meat declined to comment on the reluctance of some major chains to adopt plant-based meat, citing a mandatory quiet period before the company releases its quarterly earnings report in August. Jessica Appelgren, an Impossible Foods spokeswoman, said in a statement that the company had “met with the majority of national chains and will continue to do so.”
“We plan to be everywhere meat is sold as quickly as possible and hope to work with all of the restaurants where consumers are delighting in meat,” she added.
The maple sugar getting brûléed. CreditPeyton Fulford for The New York Times
Some of the skepticism about meatless meat stems at least partly from the products’ nutritional content. Climate experts have argued that switching over to plant-based meat could help the environment by eliminating thousands of tons of carbon emissions. Dietitians have been less enthusiastic, voicing concerns over the lengthy ingredient lists on products like the Beyond Burger and Burger King’s Impossible Whopper.
“There’s definitely a trend of people moving out of red meat,” said Ricardo San Martin, the research director at the alternative meat program at the University of California, Berkeley. “But at the same time, another trend is against processed foods, and all these products are processed.”
Ms. Appelgren, the Impossible Foods spokeswoman, said that the company “makes products that are at least as nutritious as the products the company is trying to replace” and that its signature burger did not contain any cholesterol.
For some health-conscious consumers, that assurance may not be enough. Executives at Panera Bread have spoken informally with the leading companies in the plant-based meat industry and have sampled their products. At the moment, however, Panera Bread customers simply are not asking for plant-based meat, according to Sara Burnett, the chain’s vice president for wellness and food policy.
Finishing touches.CreditPeyton Fulford for The New York Times
“They’re looking for whole food protein, things like quinoa and black beans and edamame,” rather than processed ingredients, Ms. Burnett said.
That does not mean Panera intends to ignore plant-based meat forever. “We have looked at probably everything that’s out there,” she said. “Never say never.”
Arby’s has no intention of changing course. Just days after unveiling the marrot, Mr. Lynch, the chief executive, said the chain already had another meat-based plant in the works.
“We’re calling it moccoli,” he said, “which we think would go really well with our Cheddar sauce.”
You deserve a night out every once in a while. But who says your pooch doesn’t deserve one, too? Thanks to these local restaurants, you and your best friend are more than welcome to enjoy a meal in peace on the outdoor patio, ranging from pizza for you to even mocktails for him.
Fire Works Pizza While this pizzeria is known for its wood-fired pies and craft beer options, they also have a special feature unique to the area: a menu specifically for dogs. As you share some slices with friends on the patio, your pooch can indulge on chicken, bacon, meatballs or the traditional dog biscuit. // 201 Harrison St. SE, Leesburg
Northside Social Whether you’re stopping by this comfortable restaurant for a latte or dinner outside, feel free to bring your pet along, as there is plenty of space at both the Falls Church and Arlington locations for him to enjoy. // 205 Park Ave., Falls Church; 3211 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
Jackson 20 No matter the size of your one-of-a-kind mutt, she is welcome every single Thursday evening from 4 to 7 p.m. at Jackson 20 in Old Town. As you try out cocktails, appetizers and dinner entrees, your pup can try her paw at a “pup-tini” and treats to go with it. // 480 King St., Alexandria
Hamrock’s Restaurant Set in the historic Moore-McCandlish House, Hamrock’s Restaurant is a quaint atmosphere great for you and your pup, thanks to its wrap-around porch on the exterior. Whether you just want a glass of wine or an entire meal outdoors, man’s best friend is welcome. // 3950 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax
South Block Juice If you’re stopping into your local South Block for an acai bowl or refreshing smoothie, be sure to grab the specialty pooch offering: a combination of peanut butter and banana that will keep you both coming back for more. // locations vary
Lost Dog Cafe What’s better than being able to bring your pet to a restaurant? Being able to support his kind, too! While staff at the various Lost Dog Cafe locations serve you, they also partner with the Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation to help homeless animals find forever homes. // locations vary
Located in a centuries-old building in Fredericksburg, Amy’s Cafe is as comfortable as it is delicious. While you munch on eggs Benedict for breakfast, your pup can sit alongside you on the outdoor patio’s wooden bench and take in the morning rays. // 103 W. Cambridge St., Fredericksburg
Whitlow’s on Wilson While this restaurant in Clarendon doubles as a bar, it also serves pub fare such as chicken wings, smokehouse burgers and nachos for you to enjoy in the outdoor seating area with your furry friend by your side. // 2854 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
Café Montmarte In addition to its weekly live music nights and Viet-French cuisine served for brunch, lunch and dinner, this restaurant in Reston has a spacious patio where your dog is welcome to hang out right beside you. // 1625 Washington Plaza N., Reston
Dogwood Tavern Located in Falls Church, this pub-style restaurant has indoor seating, as well as two outdoor patios. While pets aren’t allowed in the back, your pooch is more than welcome to lounge in the sun as you eat on the front patio. // 123 W. Broad St., Falls Church
2 Silos Brewing Co. Located on acreage in Manassas, this brewery is home to a variety of flavors, including pale ales and IPAs, as well as a food menu. Plus, dogs are allowed on the patio, where live music is often performed for the whole family to enjoy. // 9925 Discovery Blvd., Manassas
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Pure Barry, says Graham Maclean, is Scottish slang for awesome or brilliant. And wrapping cotton candy around an ice cream cone is, indeed, pretty wild.
Maclean and his wife Karen, both from Scotland, own Dunbri’s Dessert Cafe. And because it’s a little hidden in a Haymarket strip mall, you may have missed the debut of the Pure Barry last year.
This mashup of state fair confections didn’t originate at Dunbri’s; Maclean remembers seeing it a few years ago in England, and hasn’t seen it exploded across the Atlantic, yet.
For Dunbri’s version, Maclean spins out a swirl of pink and blue cotton candy and then circles it around vanilla soft serve in a cone, and decorates it with rainbow sprinkles, rainbow mini-marshmallows and a strawberry wafer. This is the celebration version, with others decorated with Oreos, M&Ms and the like, from the toppings bar.
Here’s the scoop: July is National Ice Cream Month, with National Ice Cream Day falling on July 21.
According to the International Dairy Foods Association, Americans consume an average of about 23 gallons of ice cream each year, reaching its peak in the summer season. This July, whether you live in Arlington or Prince William County, here’s where to find ice cream deals to celebrate.
Dairy Queen Throughout July For a 31-day period, DQ has created a rare concoction: the Sour Patch Kids blizzard of the month, which is a combination of the company’s Sour Patch Kids Blitz and the Sour Patch Kids redberry soft serve. // Locations vary; $2.89-$4.69
Whole Foods’ Prime Day Deals Through July 16
For one week only, Amazon Prime members will receive specials at any local Whole Foods, including crazy discounts on some of the store’s ice cream products. In addition to 50% off of the self-serve mochi ice cream bars, customers can buy two pints of any Ben & Jerry’s and Talenti pints for just $6. // Locations vary; prices vary
Cold Stone Creamery Sunday, July 21 On National Ice Cream Day, head over to your local Cold Stone Creamery for a buy-one-get-one-free deal. Here’s the catch: you have to sign up for the My Cold Stone Rewards by July 20 to participate in the festivities. Once signed up, feel free to indulge. // Locations vary; free
Carvel Sunday, July 21
Head over to your local Carvel shop to escape the summer heat with the company’s annual BOGO deal. Be sure to bring a friend, and then choose from any of Carvel’s traditional soft serve flavors, including chocolate, twist, Snickers and more at any point in the day. //Locations vary; prices vary
Baskin-Robbins Sunday, July 21
Download the Baskin-Robbins app to receive a free, regular-sized scoop on this national holiday. Plus, for this month only, the company is debuting its U.S.S. Butterscotch flavor as a tribute to Netflix original series, Stranger Things. // Locations vary; free
Nice Cream Sunday, July 21
On National Ice Cream Day, be sure to head over to one of the four Nice Cream locations in the NoVA region as soon as they open, as the company will be giving the first 100 customers a free cone. But before you go, be sure to learn the secret code word via Nice Cream’s Instagram page, as guests have to whisper it to the cashier to receive the free treat. // Locations vary; free
Many other ice cream shops in Northern Virginia will be offering free samples and other deals on National Ice Cream Day, which will be announced the day of. We will continue to keep you updated as the celebrations grow.
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But now, owner Glynis Thomas has plans to bring The Pit Stop Express to One Loudoun’s 180-square-foot pop-up kiosk, taking the place of B. Doughnut. The express eatery is set to open in mid-July and will remain there for at least nine months.
“A lot of our customers come from Loudoun and we thought we’d bring the food to them,” Thomas says. “It’s kind of a cool, trendy area over there that’s a real hangout spot.”
The menu will look familiar, but on a smaller scale, catering to the grab-and-go crowd. Find rack of ribs, a slate of sandwiches, including the new smoked, pulled chicken and the usual sides of mac and cheese, baked beans, cole slaw and kale.
The shipping container-cum-restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. until sell out, (3 p.m. is our best guess), and then reopen for the late-night hours.
From the second shift, Thomas envisions a hub for bar hoppers to stop at before ending the night.
“We have to gauge it out, but we are going to open again at 11 p.m. and stay until 1 a.m.,” says Thomas. “We’ve been going every night to see the nightlife over there, and it’s a pretty active community. We can’t wait to get in touch with.” // The Pit Stop Express: 44717 Thorndike St., Ashburn, prices vary
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“I apologize for having to abruptly end our phone conversation earlier, but I was trying to multitask and I ended up cutting myself pretty bad and had to go get a couple stitches really quickly.”
This was the message left by Oak Steakhouse’s executive chef Joseph Conrad on Monday, five days before the restaurant debuts in Old Town Alexandria.
Conrad was teaching another chef how to debone a pork loin during a call with this reporter, and while trying to balance the phone between his shoulder and ear, the knife slipped through his left thumb.
“I’m on my way back to the restaurant … now that I’m not bleeding all over the place,” he finished his voicemail.
The next day, he’s back in the kitchen, five stitches later, an appendage wrapped in gauze and a rubber glove. There’s a family-and-friends night to prep for, and a VIP pre-opening party and then a 5 p.m. start for the first night of service on Friday, July 12.
This is the sixth Oak Steakhouse in the country, and what makes this less of a cookie-cutter operation, is Conrad’s control of the menu. A core steak program is the throughline—more than a half-dozen cuts, from a 14-ounce New York strip ($54) to a 75-day dry-aged, 38-ounce tomahawk that can feed a double date for $130—but the rest of the dishes reads more like a page from the modern American handbook.
Find burrata, grilled octopus, corn agnolotti and a beet salad with a walnut-black garlic puree, next to more steakhouse staples like beef tartare, roasted bone marrow and a classic wedge. Sides are familiar, though updated: sauteed kale, fried Brussels sprouts, cauliflower in a chermoula sauce with almonds and raisins. Of course there are three types of potatoes: pureed; roasted, fried and covered with American cheese; and french fries tossed in beef fat, garlic and herbs.
Originally from Iowa, Conrad has cooked in the DC area for the last five years, with stints most recently at Bourbon Steak and The Lafayette inside the Hay-Adams Hotel. “We’re not really trying to recreate anything crazy,” Conrad, who lives in Montclair with his family, says about this suburban restaurant. Compared to other steakhouses, he says, I’m “trying to do things in a lighter in tone.”
Alexandria is always in a restaurant tug of war, recently gaining cool, casual places, like Chop Shop Taco, but also losing what was the epitome of the dining scene, Restaurant Eve. Conrad says Eve was his favorite restaurant in town. “They’ve left a void. Hopefully we’re going to fulfill that.” // Oak Steakhouse: 901 N. Saint Asaph St., Alexandria
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Sun-dried tomatoes had their figurative moment in the sun in the 1980s and ’90s, moving from an exotic, jarred luxury imported from Europe to being manhandled into the likes of bagels, cream cheeses, tortillas and on top of every pasta, salad and pizza from high-end restaurants to the family dinner table.
Dried tomatoes were in their early heyday when local caterer Carey Lokey started growing the red orbs in the Shenandoah Valley, dehydrating them in ovens and selling them in various cuts: halves, minced, julienned and dried to a bacon-bit sprinkle.
L’Esprit De Campagne started in 1984, and still operates in Winchester, mostly under a partnership with food producer and importer FOODMatch. Lokey’s tomatoes now fall under Divina’s label (best known for gourmet olives) and everywhere else, unmarked: in the dressings of ready-made sandwiches at to-go shops and the salad bar at Wegmans.
Though Lokey doesn’t need to maintain his original brand—it makes up “half of one percent of what we do,” he says—the decision to keep it going is “probably emotional, more so than profit driven.” It’s still stocked at the Dinner Bells Kitchen Cupboard in Lovettsville and at local Whole Foods Markets. It’s harvest season now, and those little dried bits would be a delicious throwback topping on this summer’s fresh tomato salads.
This post originally appeared in our July 2019 issue. For more food stories to satisfy your cravings, subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
First, there was the meatless burger. Soon we may have fishless fish.
Impossible Foods, the California company behind the meatless Impossible Whopper now available at Burger King, is joining a crowded field of food companies developing alternatives to traditional seafood with plant-based recipes or laboratory techniques that allow scientists to grow fish from cells.
So far, much of Impossible’s work has focused on the biochemistry of fish flavor, which can be reproduced using heme, the same protein undergirding its meat formula, according to Pat Brown, the company’s chief executive. Last month, Impossible’s 124-person research and development team, which the company plans to increase to around 200 by the end of next year, produced an anchovy-flavored broth made from plants, he said.
“It was being used to make paella,” Mr. Brown said. “But you could use it to make Caesar dressing or something like that.”
The fishless-fish project is part of Impossible’s grand ambitions to devise tasty replacements for every animal-based food on the market by 2035. Whether that aim is achievable, either scientifically or financially, remains to be seen. But for now, Mr. Brown said, he’s confident Impossible’s plant-based beef recipe can be reconfigured to simulate a new source of protein.
It’s unclear whether consumers — even those who eat meatless burgers — will embrace fish alternatives. Those faux-beef products owe their success partly to the enthusiasm of so-called flexitarians, people who want to reduce their meat consumption without fully converting to vegetarianism, but flexitarians are not necessarily motivated by a desire to save the planet. Indeed, industry experts say, many of them are drawn to plant-based meat more for its perceived health benefits than for its role in reducing the food industry’s reliance on production techniques that release greenhouse gases.
“A lot of people will simply say if you eat meat, you’re increasing your risk of cancer,” said Tom Rees, who studies the packaged food industry for the market research firm Euromonitor International. “There isn’t an equivalent of that for fish.”
Good Catch Tuna, made from plants, is available at Whole Foods.CreditKelsey McClellan for The New York Times
Proponents of plant-based fish describe the project as an environmental imperative. While billions of people across the world depend on seafood as their main source of protein, the world’s marine fish stocks are 90 percent depleted, primarily because of overfishing, according to the World Economic Forum.
“The commercial fishing industry is strip mining oceans and destroying aquatic ecosystems in a way that makes the plundering of the Amazon rain forest seem like small potatoes,” said Bruce Friedrich, who runs the Good Food Institute, an organization that advocates alternatives to meat and fish.
Mr. Brown called the depletion of fish populations “an ongoing meltdown” that world leaders lacked the political will to stop. One widespread strategy to combat the problem — aquaculture, or the breeding of fish on commercial farms — has its own environmental consequences, including pollution.
“With respect to the urgency of the environmental impact, fish are second to cows, followed by other animals,” Mr. Brown said. “That’s how I view it, and that factors into how we think about priority.”
Leigh Habegger, executive director for the Seafood Harvesters of America, an industry group, disputed Mr. Brown’s analysis of the commercial fishing business, arguing that American fishing companies have made great strides in improving the sustainability of the industry.
“Eating wild-caught, American seafood should be an easy choice,” Ms. Habegger said. “When consumers purchase seafood harvested in their waters, they’re supporting coastal communities and small businesses, and there’s no question as to the health and sustainability of that seafood.”
Justin Kolbeck, left, and Aryé Elfenbein, founders of Wild Type.CreditKelsey McClellan for The New York Times
Still, Impossible Foods is not the only company developing fishless fish. Good Catch, another specialist in plant-based food, recently started a line of fish-free tuna, which is available at Whole Foods. When the first shipment arrived at the end of last year, Chris Kerr, a chief executive at the company, and his wife celebrated with a three-week binge.
“We ate tuna melts every day,” Mr. Kerr said. “It was fantastic.”
Mr. Kerr said Good Catch’s tuna — which is made from six plant-based ingredients, including chickpea flour and lentil protein — was marketed toward consumers of all stripes, not just the relatively small number who are vegetarians or vegans.
“That’s a very fantastic group to do proof of concept with,” he said. “But it won’t change the world.”
Beyond Meat, Impossible’s primary competitor, is unlikely to develop a plant-based product in the near future. “Beyond Meat continues to focus its innovation on three core platforms — beef, poultry and pork,” said Ethan Brown, the chief executive. “You can’t serve too many masters.”
Not all the companies developing sustainable seafood alternatives use plants. At the San Francisco company Wild Type, the co-founders, Aryé Elfenbein and Justin Kolbeck, are using cellular agriculture technology to grow salmon in a lab, obviating the need for a fishless, plant-based recipe.
“There are some limitations when you try to reconstitute the same texture from plant ingredients,” Mr. Elfenbein said. With lab-grown salmon, he added, the texture is “programmed in.”
Wild Type held a tasting of of its lab-grown salmon last month in Portland, Ore.CreditKelsey McClellan for The New York Times
“The cells know what to do,” Mr. Elfenbein said. “They become muscle fibers. They become fat tissue. They create the connective tissue that we know as meat.”
Last month, Wild Type held a tasting at a restaurant in Portland, Ore., where guests were served an array of salmon dishes — from Hawaiian poke to ceviche verde to sushi rolls — all made from fish the company had cultured.
Still, Wild Type faces significant financial and scientific hurdles. Citing regulatory complexities, Mr. Elfenbein and Mr. Kolbeck declined to say how long it will take before their project produces a commercially viable product. And at the moment, the company can produce only relatively small amounts of fish: It took three and a half weeks to create the pound of salmon served at the tasting.
“Scaling up is the problem,” said Ricardo San Martin, the research director of the alternative meat program at the University of California, Berkeley. “We have to be more humble in that we’re dealing with structures and solutions that the evolution of biology have come up with in millions of years.”
Mr. Brown, the Impossible Foods chief executive, acknowledged that “consumers aren’t crying out for plant-based fish.” But he predicted that would change if Impossible released fish products that mimicked the taste and texture of the real thing.
“The only way we can succeed,” he said, “is to make fish from plants that is more delicious than the fish that’s strip mined from the ocean.”
Until they tasted beef-free beef, he added, customers “weren’t crying out for plant-based burgers, either.”
Along the escalator is a vibrant painting, the color of Sedona sunsets, with fruits and vegetables sketched in such lushness, such intoxicating reds, oranges, blues and greens, it almost makes a head of lettuce look sexy.
To the right is an alcove, wallpapered in greenery and decorated with plants, with its own seating and corn hole boards.
Look left, it’s a food court with Edison light bulbs, long tables, small tables, bright metal orange chairs, high top seating and food in every direction.
Keep walking until there’s a view of the outside, a multi-tiered landscape of steps and fake grass, with tot-sized toys to climb on, with enough yardage for dogs to lie in the sun, for more to congregate in a bench spiraling around itself, everyone licking ice cream cones or drinking a beer in a plastic cup, feeling removed from the mall, from commerce, from Arlington.
This is the new Ballston Quarter and its Quarter Market, a food hall joining the rapidly rejigging of America’s fast-casual traditions. Here’s what to eat.
Chef Kevin Tien is a master of delicate, beautiful food as he proved at DC’s Himitsu, but he can also work the fryer. Hot Lola’s fried chicken sandwiches show his care, too. There are multiple levels of heat, but it’s not hot just to burn taste buds, the seasonings are interesting and nuanced, like the dry hot version, warm and tingling with Szechuan peppercorns for that numb-me-now desire.
Don’t Want to Fight for a Seat
Copa Kitchen + Bar is the only sit-down option within the food court. It plays to the Spanish futbol fan with GOL! in neon lights in between huge screens. There are 20 taps, chicken potpie croquettes and full entrees with skewered meats and sides.
There is not a more perfect mall food than pizza, especially when it exits via a dual gas- and wood-fired oven and there is a dedicated staff member who checks underneath every single pie to make sure it’s in the Goldilocks range of doneness. The charred-crust Green Monster pie features garlicky, rich patches of pesto, little curls of blackened kale and pools of mozzarella.
The pulled pork from Sloppy Mama’s BBQ is the stand out of its barbecue fare, it’s crispy and seasoned well, not just relying on a toss into sauce. The $20 two-meat, two-side setup (the saucy beans and Brunswick stew are good ideas) will easily feed two.
There’s something intriguingly inelegant about this bowl of noodles at Mi & Yu. The kimchi soup with barbecue pork belly and chunky udon strands is a little spicy, a little greasy and deliciously slurpable. It’s just right for a brothy, carby quick fix.
There are more than two dozen taps—with pilsners, goses and IPAs—at the Ballston Service Station, with just as many seats. The line-up lists almost exclusively local beers: Old Bust Head, Old Ox, Caboose, Rocket Frog and Solace.
Spend $18 on Crab
It’s your duty as a citizen of the mid-Atlantic to eat crab. The Local Oyster makes it easy with a fresh, plump, sweet disk of gorgeous crab meat. Ask for it broiled. Skip the sandwich for an extra dollar. And if you’re feeling silly, crab is not terrible under melted cheese on a soft pretzel.
The best option (Sidekick Bakery in the mall wasn’t open before publication) for dessert is to skip the dry ice cream (yes, ice cream can be dry) at Ice Cream Jubilee and cross the street to Good Company for a yeasted, chocolate-frosted doughnut and a cold-brew iced coffee. // 672 N. Glebe Road, Arlington
• Ballston Service Station
• Copa Kitchen + Bar
• Hot Lola’s
• Ice Cream Jubilee
• The Local Oyster
• Mi & Yu Noodle Bar
• Rice Crook
• Sloppy Mama’s BBQ
• Turu’s By Timber Pizza Co.
• Cucina al Volo
• District Doughnut
French Fry Ranking
First Place: The Local Oyster
The steak fry is a classic, and hard to pull off. They can be undercooked and dry or overcooked and mushy. Here, find long, wide, thick strips of creamy potatoes in a salty, crispy skin. ($4)
Second Place: Hot Lola’s
Curly fries are fantastic. Their name alone floods fry lovers with joys of childhood, those tight, cushy spirals and crispier ends that only show a hint of a curve. This version is spiced and salty. ($3)
Third Place: Mi & Yu Noodle Bar
Don’t let the presense of duck fat persuade you to try fries from a noodle shop. These are thin, oily and soggy. But, they’re still fries, so it’s not all bad. ($3)
Notes: Quarter Market
The mall makeover movement continues with an industrial chic design, a beer bar and globally inspired meals.
Crab at The Local Oyster; fried chicken at Hot Lola’s; pulled pork at Sloppy Mama’s BBQ
4238 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; Hours vary by vendor
This post originally appeared in our July 2019 issue. For more food stories to satisfy your cravings, subscribe to our weekly newsletter.