Ethnic restaurants abound in Baileys Crossroads, and you can readily choose culinary delights among Afghan, Thai, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Salvadoran, Chinese, Persian, Palestinian, German, Peruvian and Bolivian cuisines.

“I joke with a colleague when we make plans to go out for lunch about picking a country to try,” said the Rev. James C. McCaskill, rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in the Fairfax County community.

The 2.1-square-mile neighborhood is a global mosaic of cultures.

McCaskill, 40, moved there four years ago from an economically depressed part of England and enjoys the diversity.

“On my porch in the mornings, as I am trying to kick-start the day with the first cup of coffee, I watch a number of people of different skin colors and physical looks that seem to represent everything from South America to North Africa to Middle East and to East Asia walking or driving children to the local school,” McCaskill said.

(Gene Thorp/The Washington Post)

“They provide a bit of grit and texture for living that are more exciting than some of the more homogenous neighborhoods of outer suburbia,” he said.

The circus connection: Leesburg Pike was once a buffalo trail, and then it was an Indian trail running from the Potomac River in Old Town Alexandria to the Blue Ridge Mountains in Leesburg, wrote Susan Flinner in “A History.”

Hachaliah Bailey, an elephant aficionado whose family got into the circus business and eventually lent the name to the founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, bought 526 acres around the intersection of Leesburg and Columbia pikes and conferred his name to the site in 1837.

“Fighting alligators”: The challenge to maintaining a pleasant community, residents say, is finding the right balance between quiet living and commercial development.

“Baileys Crossroads unfortunately is the land of shopping centers, so the actual aesthetic includes box stores and awful traffic from the string of red lights,” said McCaskill. “There are miles of concrete and pavement,” he added, in an ever-growing commercial hub that is encroaching on the residential communities.

Marco Johnson, 65, who is a 23-plus-year resident and the president of the civic association in Sunset Manor, a 1950s neighborhood, said he is desperately trying to keep ribbons of parkland where people can stroll from one end of the community to the other.

“I’m fighting the alligators while draining the swamp to keep the community peaceful and residential,” he said, describing how planning committees are trying to maintain areas as residential while all around the land is being developed commercially. “We want to be part of the future and plan for changes. We know it can’t be 1950 again.”

Johnson, who is retired from the Pentagon’s office of health affairs, sits on many councils and committees dedicated to keeping that old-time residential flavor in the face of continued commercial development. “Is there a favorable blend of quiet living space and thriving retail? That’s what we’re looking for,” he said.

Transportation: The community is a 20-minute drive to offices downtown, museums on the Mall or shops in Georgetown. The closest Metro stations are King Street in Alexandria and Ballston in Arlington, and Metrobuses run along King Street, Columbia Pike and Seminary Road.

Shepherded by Mason District Supervisor Penelope A. Gross, an 18-year local elected official, citizen groups, business owners and area planners in Arlington and Fairfax counties are working together to establish a streetcar line that will run from Pentagon City to the Skyline Towers along Columbia Pike. Agreement was reached in July to embark on the next step, an engineering and design study.

Schools: Glen Forest Elementary and Bailey’s Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences are located in Zip code 22041.

Living there: Baileys Crossroads is an amorphous residential and commercial community that, by some definitions, spills over from Fairfax County into Arlington County and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church. The boundaries, roughly, are Glen Carlyn Road to the north, Carlin Springs Road to the east, George Mason Drive and Seminary Road to the south, and Blair Road and Madison Lane to the west.

Housing stock in the Baileys Crossroads area includes detached ­single-family homes, townhouses and condominium apartments. According to agents Frank and Joan Sellers, who live in the area and work for Weichert Realtors in McLean, 72 properties are for sale. They range from $129,000 for ­one-bedroom, one-bathroom unit in a mid-rise building to $4.9 million for an eight-bedroom, eight-bathroom house on Lake Barcroft.

Forty-three properties are under contract, at prices ranging from $109,000 for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo to $929,000 for a five-bedroom, four-bathroom house.

During the past 12 months, 457 properties have sold, ranging in price from $70,000 for an efficiency condo to $1.4 million for six-bedroom, five-bathroom houses.

Crime: According to Jessica B. LeBlanc, a crime analyst in the Fairfax County Police Department, during the past 12 months there were 305 crimes against a person and 701 crimes against property in the area roughly defined by Zip code 22041. Le­Blanc declined to be more specific.

“Community policing, including a bike team, has significantly improved the relationship between police officers and neighborhoods,” Gross said. “We have a much better sense of security now than 15 years ago.”

Audrey Hoffer is a freelance writer.