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Variety Spices Up Dining-Out Options

Espresso Café & Restaurant (9002 Centreville Rd., 703-361-8244, portuguesegrill.com) is in a nondescript building that belies a comfortable dining room and dishes such as grilled steak served sizzling on a black rock and paella adorned with lobster.

ASIAN: Kobe Japanese Steak & Seafood (8359 Sudley Rd., Manassas, 703-392-5623) is part of a small, locally owned chain. The hallmark of these Japanese-style steakhouses is the communal table, centered on a grill, with a chef who entertains as he prepares the food. Other such steakhouses include Musashi Japanese Steak House (7567 Somerset Crossing Dr., Gainesville, 571-261-5977), Oeeshii Japanese Steak & Seafood Restaurant (10788 Sudley Manor Dr., Manassas, 703-361-0111) and Osaka Japanese Steak & Seafood Restaurant (7447 New Linton Hall Rd. , Gainesville, 703-753-8664).

Owner Nelson Head, above, has strived to get his barbecue ribs at Dixie Bones to taste like the ones he enjoyed growing up. Medina Kabob Restaurant, left, specializes in Pakistani cuisine, such as samosas. (L. William Kobelka For The Washington Post)

Unchalee Geyer, a Thai native who bought the old Marie's Cafe last year, said her love of traditional Thai food and her desire to continue the popularization of that cuisine led her to open Siam Classic (9403 East St., Manassas, 703-368-5647) in Old Town. True to its name, the restaurant offers all the standard Thai dishes, some more successfully than others. Be certain to try the curries and the noodle dishes, though pass on the pad thai. Almost all the dishes are available in meat (beef, chicken or pork), seafood (shrimp, scallops or squid) and vegetarian versions. Also in Old Town Manassas is Thai Secret (9114 Center St., 703-361-2500).

Thai Orchid Restaurant (4317 Dale Blvd., Dale City, 703-897-0888) has quickly become a local favorite. The preparations are authentic, and everything is cooked to order, from the basil chicken (pad kra pao) to the crispy duck in basil sauce. There are also vegetarian choices.

Medina Kabob Restaurant (2780 Metro Plaza, Woodbridge, 703-492-2780) showcases Pakistani cuisine enhanced with a few Middle Eastern dishes. The restaurant is spare. The bread from the tandoor is a perfect accompaniment to the roasted meats. Vietnam Grill (8828 Centreville Rd., Manassas, 703-330-6868, www.vietnamgrill.com) provides a good introduction to Vietnamese food. The choices are many. Try the spring rolls and the summer rolls to start your meal.

BELGIAN: Bistro Belgique Gourmande (302 Poplar Alley, Occoquan, 703-494-1180, www.belgique-gourmande.com) was founded by a Belgian who has since retired and sold the business to Gloria Juon. Everything is pretty much the same: the three small rooms that seat 40 people; the patio with seating for 30 more; the walls covered with Belgian photos, posters and stickers; and the menu featuring such Belgian stalwarts as mussels and fries, waffles and veal stew.

This is still a very personal restaurant, which opens only for dinner Thursday through Saturday and for brunch Sunday. The beer list is extensive (more than 40 at last count), the wine list is short, and the welcome is huge.

FOR A CELEBRATION: New Orleans seems to have a constant celebration, and Okra's Louisiana Bistro (9110 Center St., Manassas, 703-330-2729, www.okras.com) is simply an extension of the Crescent City. The dishes might not have quite the punch of the originals, but you know there is a party going on with specialties such as crawfish étouffée and jambalaya. Don't miss the fried okra and the alligator.

ROMANTIC: Residents should have learned long ago that a restaurant's location in a strip mall is not necessarily an indication of its quality. Consider Panino Ristorante Italiano (9116 Mathis Ave., Manassas, 703-335-2566), whose chef formerly worked at the well-regarded Tiberio's in Washington. The restaurant has a quiet elegance, despite its down-home location, and the simple menu belies the actual list of choices because the daily specials number almost as many as the printed list.

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