Asian food might not be the first cuisine that comes to mind when you consider dining in Fairfax County and Falls Church. Perhaps it should be. Asians comprise more than 13 percent of the population, and Asian eateries are increasingly popular.
Not only is Falls Church home to the Eden Center, one of the largest concentrations of Vietnamese restaurants on the East Coast, but the stretch of Little River Turnpike from the Alexandria line to the Capital Beltway is lined with restaurants that are as apt to advertise their names in Hangul (the Korean alphabet) as in English. This part of Annandale is often called Koreatown. Though splendid Thai, Chinese, Indian and Japanese restaurants are peppered throughout Fairfax County, dozens are congregated in the area between Eden Center and Koreatown.
In those same areas inside the Beltway, you are just as likely to see a pupuseria canteen as a Good Humor truck. And there are still long lines at Pollo Campero, the popular fried chicken chain with locations in Falls Church and Herndon.
But dining choices are hardly limited to Asian and Latin eateries. Fairfax boasts the most high-end steakhouses in the area, one of the nation's most acclaimed Italian restaurants, grand New American eateries, many upscale national chains and a homegrown restaurant group, Great American Restaurants, whose various offshoots command standing-room-only crowds any day of the week.
A new restaurant destination, Fairfax Corner, has shored up the offerings in the middle part of the county. And the opening of the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Loudoun County has attracted more restaurants to the area. The number and variety of restaurants in Centreville, which serves as a gateway to Prince William County, continues to expand.
These are some dining recommendations for Fairfax and Falls Church.
The first Vietnamese and Chinese stores and restaurants opened in the Eden Center more than two decades ago, but over the years the list has continued to grow as the Asian markets take over buildings once occupied by tire and auto stores and other businesses. It's hard to miss the cluster of brilliant red and gold buildings near Seven Corners on Wilson Boulevard.
Huong Que (which means land of home), also known as Four Sisters Restaurant (6769 Wilson Blvd., Falls Church, 703-538-6717), is the diva of the center. It's a vision in pink, accented with lavender neon and fantastic flower arrangements. The menu continues for page after page, more than 200 items in all. The restaurant takes reservations on the weekends and accepts credit cards. On a recent visit, several of the dishes seemed to have been dumbed-down for U.S. tastes.
It was just the opposite a few doors down at Huong Viet (6785 Wilson Blvd., Falls Church, 703-538-7110), where the flavors were pungent and pure. The selection isn't quite so large (only 164 items on the menu), it's cash only, and the room is a little drab. This is the oldest restaurant in Eden Center, and it has lost nothing in translation over time.
Don't limit yourself just to those places; there are nearly two dozen restaurants in the center. Just walk along, spy something that looks good and go in and ask for it, even if the only way you can make yourself understood is to point.
Taste of Saigon (8201 Greensboro Dr., McLean, 703-790-0700), on a side street near Tysons Galleria II, is a quietly elegant space operated by the Tu family, who previously had a restaurant in Saigon. Try anything with the sure-to-please pepper sauce.
Koreatown in Annandale is daunting to even the most adventuresome diner. Few of the restaurants are listed or reviewed in the usual places. And even for those listed on the Washington area Korean restaurant guide (www.koreandc.com/restaurant/list.cfm), the comments are often written in Korean.