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Food Matters in Alexandria

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Food Matters takes its name to heart as a neighborhood spot with a focus on fresh, local ingredients. Two husband-and-wife teams -- Christy and Tom Przystawik and Christy's parents, Victoria and Gerry Hebert -- opened the spacious restaurant in January in Cameron Station. Caterers and chef-consultants, the Przystawiks met years ago at Cafe Atlantico, where she was the head chef and he the sous-chef. Their new venture is a dining destination, but it comes to the rescue for locals with easy, on-the-go options -- often prepared using local ingredients -- for lunch and dinner.

The menu, a frequently changing list of American options, is offered for dining in and carryout. Choices include a thick, juicy hamburger with hand-cut fries sprinkled with parsley ($9) that can be spruced up with bacon and cheese for an additional 50 cents per topping. The crisp Amish Roast Chicken is a half-bird served over mashed potatoes and green beans ($13); the Crab Cake Sandwich gets a punch of tangy flavor from cucumber and pickled red onion ($13).

For a faster bite, there are prepackaged choices. In the refrigerated case, grain salads, a vinegary white bean and tuna salad ($6.99) and several sauces and dips share the shelves with sandwiches and wraps. Vegan wraps ($4.99) include guacamole, lettuce and sprouts on lavash; the thyme-laced chicken salad sandwich on multi-grain bread ($6.99) is a hearty lunch. The hot-food station, stocked after 5 p.m., often includes comforting meatloaf, bathed in its own juices to stay moist ($6.99), and a pasta marinara ($6.99).

A large station is dedicated to customizing salads (beginning at $6.95), offering dozens of mix-ins and assembled by a chef. Beyond four choices of greens, possibilities include cheeses, local bacon, spiced and toasted nuts, local produce and roasted and grilled meats.

Don't neglect sweets. The chilled case houses Tres Leches Cake and Chocolate Hazelnut Bread Pudding (both $5.99) as regulars. And packages of chocolate-chocolate chip, white-chocolate-oatmeal-cranberry and coconut butter cookies ($2.99) by the register serve as a reminder that, even on the go, dessert matters, too.

-- Erin Hartigan

Food Matters 4906 Brenman Park Dr., Alexandria. 703-461-3663.http://www.foodmattersva.com. Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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