This week, July 12-19, is Restaurant Week at the newly renovated Springfield Town Center in Springfield, VA. You can check out the menus for the 5 participating restaurants here. As a member of the NoVA Yelp Elite Squad, I was invited to try out the restaurants ahead of time. We had such a fun time and ate SO MUCH FOOD, it was insane. Check out what we were served below, and make sure to stop by Springfield Town Center this week for great deals on yummy food!
Our first stop was Yard House, an American restaurant with a huge menu including a big vegetarian section, and tons of beers on tap.
They served us an Ahi tuna salad, mac and cheese, and a Moscow Mule. The tuna was really well seasoned and perfectly cooked, but I didn't care for the greens. The mac and cheese was AWESOME - the pasta was the perfect texture and it was loaded with chicken, bacon, mushrooms, and truffle oil. So good - I definitely recommend it. The Moscow mule was light and refreshing, and really lovely on a hot day.
Next up was Chuy's - OMG CHUY'S!!! Words cannot express my excitement. You see, I am from Texas and this Austin based chain is my jam. The fact that it has migrated with me to VA is just the best. The manager here was super on point and spent a lot of time talking about how they make everything fresh in house. And yes, that is a giant strawberry margarita and pina colada swirl you see there.
We didn't have any plans for the holiday weekend, but we heard that our favorite local winery (Fabbioli Cellars) was having a 10% case discount, so we decided to do a little wine trip.
We started with Fabbioli, and got a tasting. Apparently it's been 4.5 years since we last went out there, crazy. We normally just order online or through Whole Foods. In that time, their tasting price has gone up from $5 to $15, and the pours are much smaller. But they now include a small bite of food with each wine, encouraging you to sip, eat, and then sip again to taste the difference. I loved that. And the bites were delicious, too! So I'd say it all works out for the better. The tastings are still run in small groups, so that you get personalized attention, and our girl was very friendly and knowledgeable.
The first wine was Una Pera - a sweet white made with Asian pears (they actually place the bottle around a young pear and let it grow inside the bottle, it's pretty cool). This was paired with a pea puff topped with honeyed goat cheese and a sweet potato crisp.
Next was Something White (a joke from people asking the owner when he was going to start making "something white") - a Viogner and Vidal Blanc blend, paired with mascarpone and sea salt caramel on a cracker.
The first red was a light Sangiovese, that is good for hot weather and as a table wine - pared with grilled asparagus and garlic cheddar, wrapped in prosciutto.
Next was a dry Zinfandel (our least favorite), paired with a roasted beet crisp and salted ginger thyme butter.
The Tre Sorelle was also dry - Jasper liked it, I didn't. It was paired with goat cheese, rosemary, and smoked sundried tomato on a saltine.
The first of the dessert wines was the Raspberry Merlot, made with raspberries grown on property. I'm fond of this sweet table wine, Jasper is not. It pairs beautifully with chocolate, and the bite they provided us was, in fact, a dark chocolate truffle.
Last was Jasper's favorite (he orders it by the case, and has been known to drink a whole bottle in one evening) - Rosa Nera, a black raspberry port. They served it with a lemon honey truffle - I wouldn't have thought to go with such a bright lemon flavor, but it really worked.
I love the small bite tasting idea, it makes me really want to host a tasting at my house and do something similar.
We brought some salami and cheese with us, to have a picnic lunch before moving on to the next winery. We got a late start, and spent so long at Fabbioli, that we only got to visit one other place before heading home.
That place was Sunset Hills Vineyard, which Jasper chose because it had won some awards. It was hopping when we arrived - people camped out everywhere, picnicking, listening to live music, playing frisbee. The grounds are large and beautiful, so it's a great place to hang out, plus they had a BBQ truck! There was a wedding going on in the main building, too.
The tastings were in a barn-like structure with some big fans that I appreciated greatly in the heat, making it shaded and breezy. They were $10 and featured 6 wines. Unfortunately, we weren't a fan of any of them. There was one white that I liked (Sunset White - tasted like a sweet Gewurztraminer) and one red that both of us liked (the Cabernet Franc blend), but not enough to warrant buying anything or returning to the winery.
They had these big frozen slushee machines making "wineritas" with Chardonnay and margarita mix. So I tried one of those and it was actually pretty good. We also got some ribs at the BBQ truck and they had good flavor, but weren't very tender. So I think this would be a fun spot to have some wineritas with girlfriends and listen to live music, but it's not really worth it for the wine alone.
I had heard of this place in some magazine or other because of the homemade poptarts. So when I was in Reston and craving some mid-day breakfast, I decided to try it out. It's kind of like an upscale version of an old-fashioned diner. If that makes any sense.
The menu is a mini newspaper (or bulletin, if you will) that also has some articles on the namesake and how the restaurant was founded. They have boozy milkshakes (very on trend right now), so I tried the Bananas Foster with banana rum and caramel. Very good.
Then I tried the signature breakfast combo - The Big Mark - which comes with 3 eggs, 2 bacon, 2 sausage, hashbrowns, toast, and a poptart (I chose the brown sugar bacon flavor). Everything was great except for the sausage, which was way too spicy for me. The poptart was indeed tasty, but I thought it needed a higher filling to crust ratio.
I brought a couple more flavors of poptart home (blueberry cheesecake and strawberry, I believe) to sample a range and so that Jasper could try them. Again, they were good but we both agreed they needed more filling.
Here's the fun news for breakfast-loving me - they are opening up a location at Mosaic, which is very close to me! I might even sample some non-breakfast items... maybe... probably not.
I actually ate here a while ago, but the experience was so bad that I have been putting off writing about it for a long time. Vinifera is located inside a Westin hotel near Reston. I decided to head out there for some wine and tapas before picking my husband up at the airport, and it ended up being a huge mistake.
I sat out on the patio, which was totally gorgeous, but it took 20 minutes before I could flag down a waiter to take my order. I put in an order for a whole bunch of tapas at once, and also some wine. The wine arrived pretty quickly, but the food didn't even start arriving until 40 minutes later. 40 minutes!!! And then it was only the little one bite skewers; the rest of the food took even longer. That is totally unacceptable. And the food wasn't even that good. Less than average, I would say, and I tried a whole range of things. I won't even break down for you what I ordered, because it was all so forgettable. The $1-2 "pintxos" seemed like a great bargain, but they are literally tiny toothpick bites like you would find passed around at a party. Tiny, not that good, not worth $1-2 each, and definitely not worth a 40 minute wait. The rest of the food (and wine) was also overpriced.
I would maybe, MAYBE, say that it would be a nice place to grab a glass of wine on the patio, but not if you are on any kind of a timeline and watch out for a steeper than average mark-up.
The new Mosaic Shopping Center in Merrifield, VA is super cool. There's a Target, an indie movie theater, a gym, boutiques, and cafes. Sea Pearl is one of the larger, less casual restaurants in the center. The website describes it as "Asian inspired modern American cuisine." The main focus is seafood - they have both cooked dishes and sushi - but they also have some meat dishes and a pretty good brunch (on Saturday, too, which I love). It's quite large and the decor is really lovely. It's a little on the feminine side, which would make it perfect for ladies' brunch or girls' night out (the drinks are good, but with DC prices). I've never seen it packed, so large groups could be seated easily.
Let's start with Brunch, because that is what I go for most often.
Cinnamon churros with warm chocolate dipping sauce: these are super awesome - hot, fresh, crunchy on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside. Love it.
Ricotta fritters with honey and seasonal fruit (this time it was apple): these are good too, fluffy and rich. If you had to choose only one pastry though, I'd go with the churros.
I have been going to Maple Avenue Restaurant (located on, you guessed it, Maple Ave) for lunch pretty regularly the past couple of months. I am so sad that I didn't discover this place sooner, because it is awesome! It is super tiny (like 20 seats max) and not much to look at, but the food is super fresh and seasonal and local and just great all around. I don't know much about the chef, I haven't been to one of their "meet the farmers" events, and I haven't even been for dinner, but I just love this place. They have a super awesome lunch deal of 2 courses for $20 which, considering a main is like $22 usually, is a pretty good bargain. The menu changes all the time, so it's likely that dishes I post about here won't be on the menu any more, but they can give you an idea of what you can expect.
The baked mac and cheese - this is one of their most popular small plates, and for good reason! Really good pasta, cooked to the perfect al dente, with gruyere and cheddar, topped with an herbed panko crust.
The next stop on the Vegan tour of the DMV was Amma Vegetarian Kitchen in Vienna, VA (click here for parts 1, 2, and 3). Amma is an all vegetarian South Indian restaurant specializing in dosas (crepes) with spicy fillings. Unfortunately we quickly discover that Amma was on the Washingtonian's list for being vegetarian friendly, NOT vegan friendly - they cook their crepes on a griddle with butter. After a lot of discussion with the man working the counter (who was very patient and helpful) we discovered that were maybe two options for my vegan friend - a fried bread and a whole wheat bread, both served with (SUPER) spicy potatoes and a vegetable stew.