18 July 2015

#160: Smokehouse Live

Date Visited: 19 June 2015

Meal: Dinner

Diners: Me, Wendy, Bob, Joyce, Perry, and Laurie

Experience: Leesburg has a new Barbeque restaurant: Smokehouse Live! It’s a big deal, a big restaurant, and more than just food. Smokehouse Live opened up at the beginning of June in the Village at Leesburg, and according to the Washington Post, it is the largest in the D.C. metro area, and among the largest nationwide. How big? It’s Texas-big, occupying 16,000 square feet and able to seat about 600 guests at once. On this visit, we were joined by a quartet of good friends/good food lovers, so we got a good sampling of what Smokehouse Live has to offer.

At Smokehouse Live, you order your food by the piece in a buffet-type line called the Marketplace. You get a “Grub Stub” card upon which your choices are recorded by various servers as you go through the line. Smokehouse Live is all about the barbeque, offering multiple types of Beef, Pork, Poultry, and Sausage, served “from Pit to Counter,” all sold by the pound. Most of the meat is done with dry rubs, and they offer several serve-yourself house-made sauces that you can add to taste. When you order your barbeque, you just tell them how much you want, then they weigh it out in front of you, ask you what kind of bread you want, wrap it up in paper, and hand it to you in a basket. Then there are lots and lots of sides (also ordered individually, in 4/8/16 ounce sizes) like cornbread, onions, pickles, slaw, potato salad, pasta salad, deviled eggs, mac ‘n cheese, green beans, cheese grits, baked beans, and chili. If you’re not too stuffed after all that, there are puddings, pies, tarts, cake, cookies, and ice cream for dessert.

For this visit, I tried the Beef Texas Short Ribs, Beef Brisket, and Shiner Bock Brat Sausage, as well as the Kitchen Sink Baked Beans and Southern Slaw sides. I also got to sample the Cheese Grits, Cornbread with Roasted Peach Butter, and a few bites of a yummy-gooey-chocolatey dessert of some kind.

Overall, I liked the taste of the barbeque very much and thought it was first class, but not all of our friends thought so. I think part of the reason was that the Texas Short Ribs (beef) were a bit fatty for our taste, and at $24/pound, a little hard to swallow (pun intended). And therein lies an unexpected downside of all these choices. The prices (per pound or ounce) really add up fast, and you can end up spending quite a bit without realizing it until you see the total. Again, i think the barbeque was exceptional, but I recommend being conservative in the amounts you order. My eyes were much bigger than my stomach, and I did spend quite a bit on my meal. On the other hand, I had plenty of leftovers for some great lunches over the next few days!

The “Live” part of Smokehouse Live refers to the fact that they’ve got a proper music stage and lots of country, folk, bluegrass, blues, and rock bands lined up several days per week. On this visit, the band was just getting set up as we were leaving, so we didn’t get that experience.

I also had an earlier visit on 14 June, which was a Sunday afternoon. This happened to be the day Smokehouse Live introduced their Sunday Brunch. The Brunch menu is also served buffet-style, and offers a Scrambled Station, Smokehouse Live (Eggs) Benedict, Thanksgiving Casserole, Biscuit French Toast, Meats (Applewood Smoked Bacon, Country Ham, Pulled Pork, Buttermilk Fried Chicken), Smoked Sausage Gravy, Creamy Local Stone-Milled Grits, Red Skin Home Fries, Granola, and Sweets (Seasonal Cast Iron Cobbler, Seasonal Fritter, Bacon Sticky Buns, Cookies, Whoopie Pies, Cupcakes, and Mini Pick-Ups). Whew! I sampled almost everything, and nearly every dish has a distinctive smoky/barbecue taste - Yum! The Sunday Brunch buffet is a fixed price of $19.95 for adults. On this visit, we were lucky enough to have a live band, Bob Perilla’s Big Hillbilly Bluegrass, which was fun and appropriate.

Lots of choices and lots of taste - but try a little at a time! Support a locally-owned business and try Smokehouse Live yourself!

Location: 1602 Village Market Blvd., Leesburg, VA 20175, 571-447-5483

Web site: http://smokehouse-live.com/

Total bill: $95.06 + $20.00 tip = $115.06

30 May 2015

#159: Panda Cafe

Date Visited: 14 May 2015

Meal: Dinner

Diners: Me & Wendy

Experience: I have a new favorite Chinese restaurant! Panda Cafe opened a few weeks ago in Leesburg’s AutoZone Center (formerly Prosperity Center). It’s a small place, but I’m currently pretty excited about it. The restaurants still at AutoZone Center include Del Rio, RJ’s Deli, and Little Caesars (J&W Asian Bistro, Sal’s NY Bar & Grille, and Dolce Coffee House all closed).

We started out with hot tea and two appetizers. The Shrimp Spring Rolls were crispy and flavorful, and the the Cheese Wonton Crab Rangoon was light, crispy, and hot.

I ordered Kung Pao Chicken for my entree (it’s my standard test for a Chinese restaurant). It came with peanuts on top, not mixed in, which kept them crunchy. The spiciness was just right for me, relatively hot. The sauce was nearly perfect, not too thick, nor too runny. I got the combo, so it came with Fried Rice and an extra Spring Roll. All delicious.

Wendy ordered one of the Chef’s Specials, the Dragon & Phoenix (“Crispy chicken and shrimp with vegetables.”) The chicken stayed crispy, the vegetables were light and crunchy, and nothing was overcooked. Clever use of Orange slices for separating the two parts of the dish. This one came with White Rice.

We were pleasantly surprised to be served a plate of artfully cyt Orange slices for dessert, on the house. On top of everything else, Panda Cafe really understands presentation. Even though it appears to be a rather modest little Chinese restaurant, every dish is very cleanly presented, and each one has some sort of unique little flourish.

Since our first visit was so positive, we had the opportunity to visit again a few days later on 17 May. That time I got the Crispy Chicken entree. It was excellent too! This sealed the deal as my new favorite Chinese restaurant! I encourage you to give them a try and support a local business!

BTW, here's a summary of all the Chinese restaurants I've reviewed so far (that are still in business):

Location: 707-F E. Market St., Leesburg, VA 20176, 703-777-5660

Web site: http://pandacafeleesburg.com/

Total bill: $29.73 + $10.00 tip = $39.73

25 May 2015

#158: Pittsburgh Rick's

Date Visited: 1 May 2015

Meal: Dinner

Diners: Me, Wendy, Chris, Jennifer, Dwight, & Lisa

Experience: It was Leesburg First Friday, and some friends from church wanted to get together for dinner somewhere downtown. I mentioned that I hadn’t been to Pittsburgh Rick’s yet, and that settled it. I also heard that Pittsburgh Rick’s was truly authentic from some friends at work who are from Pittsburgh.

Although Pittsburgh Rick’s seems like a rather small, modest sandwich shop, the owner, Rick Allison, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA!), and has worked at some high-class restaurants. He started his first restaurant, The Dock at Lansdowne (since closed), and now Pittsburgh Rick’s, specializing in local Pittsburgh favorites.

The menu features a number of “Pittsburgh Style Sandwiches,” and for this visit, I ordered the “Pastrami & Cheese,” which is listed as the #1 best seller. Wendy got the “Pitts-Burgher & Cheese,” listed as the #2 best seller. The unique thing about these sandwiches is they all come topped with french fries, cole slaw, and tomatoes - yes, all IN the sandwich! It’s a unique experience all right, and you’ll just have to try one to understand. For dessert, we ordered an “Almost Famous Bread Pudding Cupcake” topped with Maple Applewood Bacon and salted Maple glaze (after finding out they didn’t have the Burnt Almond Torte anymore).

The complete menu includes starters (chili, soup of the day, wings), salads, sides (cole slaw, chips, fries), other desserts, a kid’s menu, and breakfast items. Pittsburgh Rick’s also does catering and has a Food Truck (I’ve spotted them in Reston) - check out their Facebook page for news.

We found Pittsburgh Rick’s to be fun and understated, with a uniquely tasty menu. We encourage you to support a local business and give them a try!

Location: 116 E. Market St., Leesburg, VA, 20176, 703-737-3700

Web site: http://pittsburghricks.com/

Total bill: $31.90

15 March 2015

#157: Sakura Japanese Steak, Seafood House, & Sushi Bar

Date Visited: 15 March 2015

Meal: Lunch

Diners: Me, Wendy, Andy, & Britney

Experience: Having celebrated two birthdays in the middle of the previous week, we didn’t need much of an excuse to have a nice lunch out after church. I’d seen the announcement for Sakura’s opening in Leesburg Today a few weeks ago, so we decided to give them a try. The full name of the restaurant is “Sakura Japanese Steak, Seafood House @ Sushi Bar” and this is their 22nd location. Most of the other locations are in Maryland and Virginia, with a couple in New Jersey and one in California. In Leesburg, Sakura is located in the new Fort Evans Plaza II shopping center, in the location of the short-lived Japanese Kitchen. In terms of similar cuisine in Leesburg, Sakura competes with Kobe Japanese Steak & Seafood.

Sakura’s signature offering is Teppanyaki-style dining, so that’s what we went with. All entrees come with a choice of appetizer: Chicken Liver, Sauteed Mushrooms, or Teppanyaki Shrimp Flambe; we all picked the shrimp. All entrees also include Shoyu Onion Soup (different! very tasty), Sakura salad (typical ginger dressing), assorted vegetables (grilled), and steamed rice or fried rice. I chose the Teppanyaki Steak & Shrimp, Wendy chose the Shrimp & Scallops, Andy chose the New York Steak, and Britney chose the Salmon Steak. Our chef for the Teppanyaki “show” was Tamio, and he did a great job demonstrating all the standard tricks such as the flaming onion ring volcano, etc. It might not look like there is much skill involved in the actual cooking, but I thought he did very well, especially getting the Scallops just right. The meal also included Sakura’s homemade sauces, one of which Tamio called “Japanese Ranch”. They were both a little different than the standard ones you might expect.

Overall, we were very pleased with our meal, and will probably be back to try the Sushi. As mentioned above, our chef Tamio was great, and we were well taken care of by our server Crystal. We were also warmly thanked by manager Aaron on the way out. Give Sakura a try yourself! (and when you do, check out the coupons on their website)

Location: 516 Fort Evans Rd. NE, Leesburg, VA, 20176, 703-771-6395

Web site: http://sakurasteakhouse.com/

Total bill: $107.09 + $20.00 tip = $127.09

12 February 2015

#156: Bello Pranzo

Date Visited: 9 February 2015

Meal: Dinner

Diners: Me & Wendy

Experience: Wait, ANOTHER pizza restaurant in Leesburg? Yes, it’s true! Bello Pranzo had its grand opening on 31 January, located next to the Cobb Theatre in the Village at Leesburg. As reported in my 22 January review of Pizzarella’s, it’s a crowded market and Bello Pranzo must now compete with at least eighteen other pizza restaurants!

When we entered the restaurant on this cold, rainy Monday at about 7:00 PM, we were the only customers inside. We were very warmly greeted by our server Anita, who immediately took our drink orders and then suggested we sit down and take our time reviewing the menu. While we looked over the choices, she explained that this restaurant is one of a group of family-owned restaurants in New York, and this is the first one to be located outside New York.

Once we had reviewed the extensive menu, we settled on a few representative items. Wendy started out with a Small Garden Salad, which featured cherry tomatoes, cucumber, sliced black olives, red onion, and shaved Parmesan (nice touch!) with the house Italian dressing. It was crisp and cold. I got an order of the Beer-Battered Onion Rings to share. They were pretty much perfect - just the right size, crisp, and hot.

We next tried the Bello Stromboli (“Pepperoni, Ham, Sausage, Meatball & Mozzarella”). The crust was light & crispy, and every bite was a little different thanks to the four meats. While we were eating, the chef came by and asked how we liked everything. We complimented him on everything, and then I hesitatingly mentioned that I thought it could have used a little more cheese. He graciously explained that that’s the way he was taught to make it; if you add too much cheese, it just leaks out during cooking, and it makes the crust too soggy. I didn’t expect to get a lesson in Stromboli making from the chef!

Our main dish was the Bello Gourmet Pizza Specialty (“Sausage, Pepperoni, Onions, Mushrooms, Peppers, Meatballs and Topped With Extra Cheese”). This is New York-style pizza, which is a thinner crust than I’m used to. You pretty much have to eat it with a knife and fork (at least the center part). The crust was soft & chewy all the way to the edges. We especially liked the fresh ingredients, which stayed crispy and were not overcooked. About halfway through, we were both quite full and took the rest home in a box. A good test of a pizza is whether it’s any good as leftovers the next day; I had most of the rest for lunch the next day and I can say that this one was still excellent!

Because of their New York roots, Bello Pranzo also features some great desserts. They proudly feature “Junior’s Most Fabulous Cheesecake”, which apparently is quite a big deal in New York. We bought a slice of the cheesecake with strawberries to take home and have the next day; it was very smooth, creamy and refreshing, not too sweet or too wet or too crumbly.

Overall, we found the food at Bello Pranzo to be uniformly fresh, crisp, not greasy, and delicious. I urge you to give them a try!

Location: 1600 Village Market Blvd. SE, #132, Leesburg, VA, 20175, 703-777-7715

Website: http://bellopranzova.com/

Total bill: $48.73 + $10.00 tip = $58.73

22 January 2015

#155: Pizzarella's

Date Visited: 15 January 2015

Meal: Dinner

Diners: Me, Wendy, & Alicia

Experience: Another pizza restaurant in Leesburg? Yes, it’s true! Pizzarella’s is in the Exeter Shopping Center on Battlefield Parkway, strategically located in the northeast part of town, away from most other restaurants. Owner Robert Amireh opened the restaurant last October, and also operates another Pizzarella’s location in Fairfax, as well as Coney Island Diner in Ashburn and Purcellville, and Mezze Grill in Ashburn.

The Leesburg pizza market is crowded, and Pizzarella’s must compete with New Yorker Pizza (was Juliano’s), Sbarro, Little Caesar’s, Giovanni’s, Rocco’s (was Joe’s), Manhattan Pizza, La Villa Roma, Pizza Hut, Pizza Hut Express, Pizza Hut WingStreet, Ledo Pizza, Andy’s, CiCi’s, Domino’s, Vocelli, Fire Works, and Papa John’s.

For this first visit we tried to sample some of Pizzarella’s signature items as well as our family favorites. One unusual item was the Bang Boo Shrimp appetizer, which consists of crispy fried shrimp in a slightly spicy sauce (similar to Bonefish Grill’s Bang Bang Shrimp). We liked it a lot! Alicia was craving Onion Rings, so we got a large order of them: good-sized and crispy. We got two pizzas, our traditional Pepperoni & Bacon, and a Hawaiian. Both were above average (if a little soggy on the bottom).

Overall, we liked Pizzarella’s very much. They have quite a wide variety of menu items to try, and we had good service. Check out Pizzarella’s yourself, and support a local business!

Location: 700 Fieldstone Dr. NE, Leesburg, VA, 20176, 571-510-0909

Web site: http://pizzarellas.com/

Total bill: $42.15 + $10.00 tip = $52.15

19 January 2015

#154: Leesburg Diner

Date Visited: 11 January 2015

Meal: Lunch

Diners: Me and Wendy

Experience: Leesburg Diner is the reinvention of the former Leesburg Restaurant; same location, same cozy-retro-downtown vibe, new management. The new owner is Michael O’Conner, who also owns Palio Ristorante Italiano. The official grand opening was 13 December 2014, and they’ve kept the original slogan, “The place to eat & meet since 1865”, reflecting the long history of the place. Since we hadn’t had a real breakfast, we went straight from church to Leesburg Diner for a late brunch.

I started out with a coffee and Wendy got a hot chocolate; nothing special, but it was a great way to get warmed up from the freezing weather outside. Now, what is special about Leesburg Diner is their Peanut Soup! This is what the former Leesburg Restaurant made into a legendary local favorite. It is described as “Virginia style”, based on a chicken stock, with pureed peanuts (including some chunks for texture), a little hot sauce, and green onion garnish. Yum! This is one of the things you MUST try when you visit.

For the main course, I got the Fried Chicken & Waffles (“Hand battered fried chicken and a Belgian waffle served with hot syrup”). This dish is one of those strange combinations that you just have to try for yourself to appreciate. Here, the battered chicken is nice and crunchy and the waffle was perfectly done. I ended up putting the syrup on everything, which compensated for the slight dryness of the chicken. Wow, I liked it! Wendy got the Greek Omelet (“Feta cheese, spinach, diced tomatoes, red bell peppers and Kalamata olives”). This omelet was large and stuffed! She chose the home fries as her side, and they were nice and crispy. Overall, the dishes were simply prepared, cleanly presented, and had fairly large portions.

We chatted for a few minutes with Chris, the manager on duty, who seemed genuinely enthusiastic about the place. He said they had been open about five weeks and that business was good. We experienced great, attentive service the entire time. I encourage you to check out Leesburg Diner yourself, and support a local business!

Location: 2 West Market St. NW, Leesburg, VA, 20176, 703-728-5134

Web site: https://www.facebook.com/TheLeesburgDiner

Total bill: $38.16 + $8.00 tip = $46.16

16 December 2014

#153: Leesburg Public House

Date Visited: 13 December 2014

Meal: Dinner

Diners: Me and Wendy

Experience: Leesburg Public House is the latest restaurant to occupy this storied location near Walmart. When we moved here in 1987 it was a Sizzler, then Ponderosa, then Red Apple Buffet (after I started this blog), then the short-lived Buffalo Wings & Beer (never visited), then Ironwood Tavern, and now Leesburg Public House. The restaurant is self-described as “Seasonal American Cuisine by Chef Mark Marrocco” and a place to “Enjoy a fabulous menu in a fun and comfortable new restaurant, featuring over 30 craft beers on tap, unique cocktails and top-notch wine.”

On the advice of our server, we picked the Bacon Popcorn appetizer, which is hot buttered popcorn in a brown paper bag, with crumbled bacon on top. Fun! There were several other appetizers that looked good too, but will have to wait until the next visit.

Since this is a beer joint, of course I had to order a beer. Again, on the advice of our server, I picked a Maine Beer Company Weez, from the “Malty & Smooth” section of the menu, described as “Hoppy American Black Ale”. It was really dark and great on this cold night.

For my main dish, I got the Southern Man Burger (“Praline Bacon, Pimento Cheese, Sweet Onions, Red Pepper Mayo, Lettuce”). I ordered it medium, and it was actually medium! (well, it looked medium.) The pimento cheese and red pepper mayo were a good combination of flavors. Wendy got the Baja Shrimp Taco (“Flour Tortilla, Guacamole, Pico de Gallo, Cilantro Slaw, Crispy Tortilla Chips”). Although the name is singular (“Taco”), you actually get three. The shrimp in the tacos are lightly battered and have a slightly spicy, creamy sauce on them. They had a nice fresh and light texture. She was also able to substitute Asiago Polenta instead of Tortilla Chips - yum!

Reviews on Yelp are mostly very good, with just a few instances of service issues. Our service was extremely good; our server was cheerful, attentive, prompt with refills, and had good presentation.

Check out Leesburg Public House yourself, and support a local business!

Location: 962 Edwards Ferry Rd. NE, Leesburg, VA, 20176, 703-777-6333

Website: http://leesburgpublichouse.com/

Total bill: $47.36 + $10.00 tip = $57.36

04 October 2014

#152: King's Tavern & Wine Bar

Date Visited: 30 September 2014

Meal: Dinner

Diners: Me, Wendy, & Alicia

Experience: I finally got around to visiting King’s. For many years, it was located downtown on King St. and was known as the King’s Court Tavern. In 2012, owner Fabian Saeidi moved it around the corner to it’s present position on King St., replacing the old Bella Luna restaurant. In the process, it was expanded and renamed King’s Tavern & Wine Bar, though the old King’s Court Tavern sign still hangs in front. Mr. Saeidi also owns the Old Town Grill (formerly The Green Tree), Georgetown Cafe, and The Leesburg Colonial Inn.

A large part of the reason we went to King’s on a Tuesday night was to see our friend Bob play guitar with the Arcadians, a New Orleans-style jazz band.

We started out with an appetizer. We ordered the Baked Brie, but there was a mixup and we got the Stuffed Mushrooms instead! It was OK. As for drinks, I had a Honkers Ale, and Alicia had one too, since she’s now 21. Wendy had an iced tea.

I ordered the Fish & Chips for dinner. I had it here once before and liked it. It was good this time too. Wendy and Alicia both had the Blue Ridge sandwich (Virginia ham). Alicia said "it was alright."

Alicia and I still had room for dessert, so I ordered he Pecan pie, but they were out of that so I settled for German chocolate and a coffee. Alicia had the Tiramisu.

Overall, the food and service was just kind of average, but the music was good!

Location: 19 South King St., Leesburg, VA, 20175, 703-777-5000

Web site: http://kingstavernandwinebar.com/

Total bill: $74.14 + $15.00 tip = $89.14

27 July 2014

#151: Sweetz Bakery

Date Visited: 19 July 2014

Meal: Dessert (before dinner!)

Diners: Me, Wendy, & Mimi

Experience: We had a great day getting up late, having a big breakfast, and taking a trip to Great Country Farms with our friend Mimi. Because we missed lunch, we were feeling a mite peckish and decided to have dessert before dinner, so we visited Sweetz Bakery! Sweetz is located in the Battlefield Shopping Center, along with Five Guys, Golden China, Ledo Pizza, Which Wich, Cold Stone Creamery, Starbucks, and Ruby Tuesday. Sweetz is one of two cupcake-oriented specialty restaurants, along with Cupcakes Actually.

For this visit, Wendy abstained, so it was just me and Mimi ordering. I got a Chocolate Peanut Butter cupcake, and Mimi got a Boston Cream cupcake. Mine was cool, creamy, and delicious; I’m not sure how Mimi’s was, as she devoured the whole thing before I could sample it. We then washed ‘em down with a couple of San Pellegrino sparkling waters. It turns out there are “everyday” cupcake flavors (ours were included), and then there are daily specials that vary. Sweetz also has a few other kinds of baked products, as well as specialties like wedding cakes.

If you like cupcakes, check out Sweetz for yourself, and support a local business!

Location: 1057 Edwards Ferry Rd., Leesburg, VA, 20176, 571-291-9141

Website: http://sweetzbakery.com/

Total bill: $10.22

08 June 2014

#150: Chimole Wine & Tapas Lounge

Date Visited: 6 June 2014

Meal: Dinner

Diners: Me & Wendy

Experience: Chimole is the only “true” tapas restaurant in Leesburg, as far as I know. It’s the newest restaurant located in the center of downtown historic Leesburg on King Street, along with Windy City Red Hots, Blue Mountain Cafe, Georgetown Cafe, Old Town Grill, China King, and The Wine Kitchen. Our first visit to Chimole happened to coincide with Leesburg’s First Friday event, so we had live music in the restaurant!

To get into the tapas mood, I started off with a Bay Island Red Sangria (berries, apples, and oranges, with Punti Ferrer Merlot and Cabernet from Chile). Wendy (designated driver) had an iced tea.

Our first plate was an appetizer, the Chimolito “Signature Salsa” & Chips (onions, tomato, cilantro, garlic, habaneros, citrus juices, and spices). The citrus flavor made it especially nice and refreshing.

Our second plate was the Tres Quesos (goat, provolone, and mozzarella cheeses, sun-dried tomatoes, house mayo, and lettuce on Rosemary Focaccia bread). It also came with a roasted red pepper dipping sauce.

Our third plate was the Combo Tapas Platter (6 tacos and 6 enchiladas, with three different meats: chicken, pork, and beef). The tacos are served bite-size on tortilla chips, and the enchiladas are made with soft corn tortillas, meat, cabbage, cheese, and homemade sauces. The platter came with more of the delicious roasted red pepper aioli as well as a savory barbecue sauce.

If you visit their website, you’ll find that Chimole is about more than just good food - owner Yovanna Reiser promotes unique Honduran artwork and pottery. In fact, the website hardly mentions food; for more about the restaurant, you’ll need to visit the Chimole Facebook page.

Check out Chimole for yourself, and support a local business!

Location: 10 S. King St., Leesburg, VA, 20175, 703-777-7011

Web site: http://chimole.com/

Total bill: $51.48 + $10.00 tip = $61.48

26 March 2014

#149: Cupcakes Actually

Date Visited: 22 March 2014

Meal: Dinner

iners: Me, Wendy, & Andy

Experience: Cupcakes Actually is located in the Village at Leesburg, in between Noodles & Company and Firebirds Wood Fired Grill. Besides this location, they have another one in Fairfax. Cupcakes Actually is a product of the relatively recent cultural obsession with upscale, gourmet cupcakes. The menu is pretty simple, it’s mostly cupcakes! Different styles are featured every week, and there’s plenty of variety, including gluten-free and vegan choices. They also have other goodies, such as homemade gelato and sorbet, a coffee bar, breakfast pastries, and frozen treats - a full-service restaurant!

Our real purpose for this visit was to get some cupcakes for Andy’s birthday instead of a cake. We chose an assortment of three cupcakes: Fudge, Simply Red, and Dipped Peanut Butter. I only got to taste the Fudge one, and it was pure, creamy deliciousness. Andy devoured the other two before I got a chance to taste them, so they must have been good. To balance out all that sugar, I also got a small Cappuccino, which was just fine and well-made.

Check out Cupcakes Actually for yourself, and support a local business!

Location: 1607 Village Market Blvd. #108, Leesburg, VA, 20175, 571-442-8210

Website: http://cupcakesactually.com/

Total bill: $11.96

17 March 2014

#148: Which Wich

Date Visited: 16 March 2014

Meal: Lunch

Diners: Me, Wendy, & Andy

Experience: Having our usual Sunday afternoon post-church discussion on where to eat, I suggested that we go to Quiznos, since the company just announced they were filing for bankruptcy, and we might not get another chance. So we headed over and found that Quiznos was already gone, replaced by Which Wich! Apparently they opened back in October of 2013 but I didn’t notice. Other restaurants in the Battlefield Shopping Center include Five Guys, Golden China, Ledo Pizza, Cold Stone Creamery, Starbucks, Ruby Tuesday, and Sweetz Bakery (not yet reviewed).

Which Wich is a franchised restaurant chain with a unique approach to ordering. Here’s a quote from the website, explaining things for those new to Which Wich:

“Which Wich is a fresh, innovative concept featuring superior sandwiches served in an edgy, magnetic environment. In addition to more than 50 customizable “wiches”, including the signature Wicked loaded with five meats and three cheeses, Which Wich is known for its revolutionary ordering system. Find the bag with the category you want, grab a red Sharpie, and mark up the pre-printed menu on the sandwich bag. Select your sandwich, then choose the bread, cheese, spreads, and veggies. Your wich is prepared just the way you want it and delivered in your personalized sandwich bag. After you’ve enjoyed your wich, grab another red Sharpie, doodle on the back of your bag, and hang your masterpiece on the community wall. Wicked, right?”

Well, I’m not sure about the “magnetic environment”, but it is a pretty cool system. There are really just ten different bags to choose from: Turkey, Ham & Pork, Beef, Chicken, Seafood, Vegetarian, Italian, R&D, Classics, and Breakfast. There’s plenty of variety and customization possible once you select your bag.

For this visit, I chose the R&D (Research & Development) bag, which for now equates to a Shrimp Po’ Boy. It includes ⅓ pound of breaded butterfly shrimp, plus lettuce, tomato, pickles, and Cajun Tartar Sauce. This one comes with a bag of chips, and I chose the House chips, which were crinkle-cut potato chips with salt & pepper. I did enjoy my sandwich and the chips were kinda different. Wendy and Andy both chose the Turkey bag and customized them appropriately. You can order the sandwiches hot or cold, with different kinds of bread, different sizes (7”, 10.5”, or 14”), and lots of cheeses, sauces, mustards, mayos, dressings, veggies, oils, and spices. Andy also got a Vanilla Shake and he said it was pretty good, but I don’t know because I was too slow to ask for a taste before it was all gone!

Our visit to Which Wich was pretty positive, now you give ‘em a try!

Location: 1015 Edwards Ferry Rd. NE, Leesburg, VA, 20176, 703-687-4345

Website: http://whichwich.com/

Total bill: $33.87 + $5.00 tip = $38.87

11 February 2014

#147: DelMarVa's Southern Cafe

Date Visited: 9 February 2014

Meal: Lunch

Diners: Me, Wendy, & Andy

Experience: In their own words, DelMarVa’s Southern Cafe features “Southern, comfort food imported from Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.” It occupies the former location of Tenderjack’s (next door to Tropical Smoothie Cafe), and has additional locations in Sterling and Baltimore. I spoke to one of DelMarVa’s staff and was informed that they essentially bought out Tenderjack’s, getting rights to the name and menu. You will see several items on the menu that retain the Tenderjack’s nomenclature. The menu has grilled wraps, sandwiches, chicken tenders, burgers, salads, mac-n-cheese, and southern favorites, as well as weekend brunch selections (including breakfast pizza!)

On this visit I had one of the southern favorites, Cajun Shrimp and Cheesy Grits (“Cheesy grits covered in a spicy, andouille Cajun sauce, broiled shrimp and a buttermilk biscuit”). The generous serving of shrimp is delivered in big lumps of cheesy grits in the center of the plate, with the sauce all around. It was indeed just the right spiciness and delicious. I guess the biscuit adds to the “southern-ness” of the dish. Wendy had the Bacon, Tomato and Avocado Baked Mac-n-Cheese (“Our homemade cheese sauce and pasta, topped with smoky bacon, fresh avocado & diced tomatoes”). It came in a small cast--iron skillet on top a plate, and didn’t look like much, but she said it was very filling, as well as “creamy and cheesy.” Although not listed on the menu anywhere, Wendy also managed to get a cup of Tomato Basil soup for an appetizer. Andy got the Bacon Cheese Burger (“Smokey bacon, cheddar cheese and sweet tangy bacon marmalade”). A tough reviewer with high standards, he liked it a lot, rating it as better than the old Tenderjack’s version. The bacon marmalade seemed to be the magic ingredient.

We were pleasantly surprised at the food quality and noticed many other menu items that we’d like to go back and try. Give ‘em a try yourself!

Location: 506B E. Market St., Leesburg, VA, 20176, 703-669-4866

Web site: http://delmarvassoutherncafe.com/

Total bill: $43.77 + $10.00 tip = $53.77

09 February 2014

#146: Wegmans

Date Visited: 26 November 2013

Meal: Dinner

Diners: Me, Wendy, & Andy

Experience: Well, yes, Wegmans IS too a restaurant! In my obsession to review every restaurant in Leesburg, I’ve got to include Wegmans, even though it’s mainly a supermarket. Previously reviewed restaurants at the Village at Leesburg include BurgerFi, Pinkberry, Firebirds, Finnegan’s, Eggspectation, Travinia Italian Kitchen, Flame Kabob, Noodles & Co., and Faang Thai. Still to be reviewed are Cupcakes Actually, Bean Bar, and the restaurants inside King Pinz and Cobb Theater.

Our Wegmans has a pretty decent Market Cafe. It’s a big buffet featuring all sorts of cuisines, especially asian and indian, along with a full salad bar. On this visit, I selected mainly chinese-style standards, Wendy got a more eclectic mix, and Andy of course got a pizza. It’s not fine cuisine, but it’s easy for everyone to find just what they want and exactly how much they want. The thing you have to be careful about is that it’s pay by the pound, so relatively dense foods tend to increase the cost quickly.

If you’re looking for wide variety in fast food with portions you control, give Wegmans a try.

Location: 101 Crosstrail Blvd. SE, Leesburg, VA, 20175, 703-669-2044

Web site: http://wegmans.com/

Total bill: $40.49

02 September 2013

#145: Japanese Kitchen

Date Visited: 29 August 2013

Meal: Dinner

Diners: Me & Wendy

Experience: Leesburg has a new Japanese restaurant! Japanese Kitchen is located in the Fort Evans II shopping center along with Buffalo Wild Wings, Jersey Mike’s, Pho Royal, CiCi’s, and DQ Grill & Chill. They also have a location in Ballston, which seems to have been there a while.

We arrived at about 8:00 PM on this Thursday night, and there were only two other parties dining besides us. There was a weird, industrial-emo-jazz music channel playing. Our server was Donald (apparently the only server at the time) told us they had been open for about three months, but were not doing any advertising yet, in anticipation of a grand opening sometime.

We started out asking for hot tea; we got glass cups with green tea bags in them. Strange. We ordered Edamame for an appetizer, which was cooked just right and a generous portion. I ordered the Korean BBQ Beef Tenderloin Bento Box. The miso soup and seaweed salad were kind of average, but the Korean beef was really a surprise - very tender, juicy, and came with crisp grilled onions perfectly done; a real treat. The steamed shrimp shumai (dumplings) were also quite good, and not soggy.Wendy got the Tempura Udon. I didn’t get to try the tempura, as she downed them before I had a chance for a sample, but she said they were crispy and delicious. I did get to try her noodles and they were also enjoyable and toothsome!

Since we were there kind of late, towards the end we saw the chefs come out to eat their own dinner. All the staff (except Donald) looked Japanese to me, and their website has a similar authentic feel to it. We’ll probably come back and try some of the sushi rolls, as they looked pretty good too. Give ‘em a try yourself!

Location: 516 Fort Evans Rd. NE, Leesburg, VA, 20176, 703-777-8917

Web site: http://borurestaurants.com/

Total bill: $45.99 + $10.00 tip = $55.99

18 August 2013

#144: Dos Tequilas Grill

Date Visited: 11 August 2013

Meal: Lunch

Diners: Me & Wendy

Experience: Located in Leesburg’s Bellewood Commons shopping center, Dos Tequilas Grill occupies the former location of Josefina Market (which I never got to visit before they closed). Other restaurants there include Red Hot & Blue, Starbucks, Pollo Loco, Papa John’s, Melt, Red Kabob, and Dunkin’ Donuts. According to their website, Dos Tequilas Grill specializes in Tex-Mex fare; their mission statement is to “bring to Virginia the best that Mexican food has to offer.”

When we arrived on this Sunday afternoon, there were only a few other customers dining. We were quickly seated, ordered a couple of iced teas, and enjoyed traditional tortilla chips & salsa. The website says it is their own salsa; it was of the “wetter” variety, delicious, and a great start. One not-so-great start was that I immediately knocked over my iced tea - the glass didn’t break, but it was kind of loud and obviously embarrassing. Our server cheerfully cleaned up the mess and brought me a fresh one.

On to appetizers... Dos Tequilas Grill serves a variety of authentic Salvadoran pupusas, so we ordered a couple: one cheese and one pork (“pupusa revuelta” - mixed ingredients). Just like the Wikipedia article says, “Pupusas are typically served with curtido (lightly fermented cabbage slaw with red chilies and vinegar) and a watery tomato salsa.” We got both with our pupusas, and I would describe the curtido as kind of like Mexican Kimchi. We were also served a very small cup of an extremely spicy green sauce (with appropriate warnings by the owner). The pupusas came out nice and hot, and all the sides combined with them for a great combination of flavors to start us off.

For my main course I ordered the Chile Relleno & Chicken Tamale. I guess there was a little mix-up in the kitchen, because the dish came with two Chile Rellenos and no Tamale. I didn’t say anything, and it worked out for the best. I’m not real experienced with Chile Rellenos, but these were great! Again, nice and hot, and with an assortment of sides. Even the rice and refried beans seemed better than average. Wendy ordered the chicken Chimichanga, which was fried just right; I had a couple of bites and enjoyed it too.

The Dos Tequilas Grill menu is fairly extensive, and I noted a few other dishes I’d love to come back and try (like the Huevos Rancheros). I encourage you to visit Dos Tequilas Grill, and support a worthy local, non-chain restaurant.

Location: 525 E. Market St. #F, Leesburg, VA, 20176, 703-443-0262

Web site: http://dostequilasgrill.amawebs.com/

Total bill: $35.40 + $10.00 tip = $45.40

08 August 2013

#143: New Yorker Pizza

Date Visited: 4 August 2013

Meal: Dinner

Diners: Me, Wendy, & Andy

Experience: Over the past five years, this South King Street location has had four different tenants: first it was the Fractured Prune, then Kabob & Falafel, then Juliano’s, and now we have New Yorker Pizza. I was able to talk with the new owner, Qasir Alekozai (who goes by “Q”), who said they’d been open for about a month at the time of this visit. Q also said he’d previously been in the pizza business for about eight years in New York.

On this visit, we ordered a large Deluxe Supreme (Pepperoni, Sausage, Mushrooms, Onions, & Green Peppers), a large Pepperoni & Bacon, and a Stromboli. These pizzas are our favorite combinations, and the ones we use to size up pizza restaurants. In this case, our family found it was very good but not great; better than average. The Stromboli was particularly good. However, with so many pizza choices in Leesburg, our favorites are still Fire Works when we want gourmet pizza, and Vocelli or Rocco’s for “everyday” pizza.

New Yorker Pizza has a fairly extensive menu, offering Antipasti, Pasta, Italian dinners, Salads, Wings, Calzones, Gourmet Pizzas, Hot Subs, Cold Subs, Gyros, Wraps, and Desserts - lots to try, and all dishes are made to order. Please consider supporting this locally-owned and operated business, and check it out for yourself!

Location: 828 S. King St., Leesburg, VA, 20175, 703-777-2218

Web site: http://newyorkerpizzas.com/

Total bill: $45.18 + $10.00 tip = $55.18

24 July 2013

#142: Sbarro

Date Visited: 24 July 2013

Meal: Dinner

Diners: Me

Experience: Well, this was a case of taking one for the team. I’ve been putting off a visit to Sbarro because I could predict what the experience would be like. Today I did it, and my prediction came true. It was awful.

Sbarro is located in the Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets food court, along with Arthur Treacher’s, Nathan’s Famous, Starbucks, Burger King, and Balducci’s. Sbarro is mainly just a place to grab a quick slice of pizza during a shop-till-you-drop mission at the outlet mall. The pizzas are all pre-made and on display in a glass-protected warming area.

On this visit, I came kind of late (about 8 PM), surveyed the offerings, and selected the one that looked the least unappetizing. It turned out to be the Veggie pizza (red onions, mushrooms, green peppers, tomato, olives, and broccoli). Apparently the warming area doesn’t really keep them warm enough, because the guy had to put my slice back into the pizza oven for a couple of minutes. Even then, it wasn’t very hot. The crust was a little too crunchy and the experience was more like having a slice of leftover pizza warmed up in the microwave at home. Maybe I should have gone with the Pepperoni. On the plus side, the slices are huge.

I almost never write negative reviews, but this time I can’t avoid it. Maybe it wasn’t so good because I got there late, but I’m thinking it wouldn’t have been much different otherwise. If you want, give ‘em a try and see if you have better luck, but if it’s pizza you want, any other Leesburg option would be a better bet (search this site, too many to list here).

Location: 241 Fort Evans Rd. NE, Leesburg, VA, 20176, 703-779-2040

Web site: http://sbarro.com/

Total bill: $7.86

15 July 2013

#141: Five Guys

Date Visited: 14 July 2013

Meal: Lunch

Diners: Me, Andy, & Alicia

Experience: Five Guys has arrived in Leesburg! It is located in the Battlefield Shopping Center on Edwards Ferry Road.

The popular national burger chain, with stores in 48 states (sorry Alaska and Hawaii!) is now here. Five Guys began in 1986 with the first store located in nearby Arlington, Virginia. Five Guys is best known for serving never-frozen, fresh-cooked burgers with lots of toppings and very generous servings of french fries, cut fresh daily and cooked in peanut oil. Another distinctive of Five Guys is the sparse menu; all they offer is burgers (but many variations), hot dogs, fries, and drinks. Oh yeah, nowadays they also have a few styles of veggie sandwiches (I guess for vegetarian/vegan friends you drag in with you).

On this visit, I ordered the Bacon Cheeseburger. As for toppings (all free), if you ask for “everything” you get mayonnaise, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, ketchup, and mustard. I asked for everything but pickles. Other available toppings include relish, onions, Jalapeno peppers, green peppers, A1 steak sauce, barbeque sauce, and hot sauce. Andy also got the Bacon Cheeseburger but only with ketchup, mustard, and grilled onions. Alicia got the Cheeseburger with ketchup, lettuce, and onions. We got one large order of fries to share (tons). We also got one fountain drink for me and two waters (free) for the kids. Everything was delicious.

I think Five Guys is probably the best nationwide burger chain (but only because In-N-Out is only on the west coast!) In Leesburg, you can get better burgers at Melt or BurgerFi, but sometimes you just can’t beat the sheer, greasy joy of Five Guys. They also have nice, modern online ordering via web browser or apps for iOS and Android. Go get a burger now!

Location: 1083 Edwards Ferry Rd., Leesburg, VA, 20176, 571-442-8575

Website: http://fiveguys.com/

Total bill: $31.16

14 May 2013

#140: Primo Hoagies

Date Visited: 5 May 2013

Meal: Lunch

Diners: Me & Wendy

Experience: Primo Hoagies specializes in “Old Fashioned Style Italian Specialty Sandwiches” and is located in the Home Depot Shopping Center on Fort Evans Rd. Primo Hoagies is a franchised operation, with stores mostly in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware; Leesburg is one of their newest locations. Primo Hoagies has a very extensive menu featuring traditional Italian sub sandwiches as well as specialty types such as “The Diablos” (extra spicy), Cutlet Combos, Healthy Choice, and Meatless Delights. Hoagies come in three sizes, and they also have party trays, sampler platters, and cookies. Of the restaurants specializing in subs here in Leesburg, Primo Hoagies competes with Subway, Quiznos, Jersey Mike’s, Jimmy John’s, Deli South, Puccio’s New York Deli, and RJ’s Deli.

On this visit, I ordered the Schwartzie (“Thumann’s Corned Beef, Swiss Cheese, Cole Slaw & Russian Dressing”). An interesting combination of flavors; I really liked it. Wendy got the American (“Coteghino [sausage made from pork, fatback, and pork rind, from Modena, Italy], Natural Casing Genoa Salami, Ham & American Cheese”) and added mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, and oil & vinegar dressing. What stood out for her was that it had “lots of meat, the pickles were cold and crunchy, and the dressing was delicious.”

Compared to their competition, one thing Primo Hoagies has got is selection; they have so many delicious-looking subs to choose from! Whichever you choose, I recommend the “Primo” size (9”). We’ll probably go back, but of all the Leesburg sub shops, Puccio’s and RJ’s are still my favorites.

Location: 210 Fort Evans Rd., Leesburg, VA, 20176, 703-771-6398

Web site: http://primohoagies.com/

Total bill: $17.48 + $5.00 tip = $23.98

21 April 2013

#139: BurgerFi

Date Visited: 10 April 2013

Meal: Dinner

Diners: Me, Wendy, & Andy

Experience: We’d heard there was another high-end burger place in Leesburg that might give Melt some competition, so off we went to try BurgerFi.

For review, there are twelve restaurants now open in the Village at Leesburg: Flame Kabob, Faang Thai, Noodles & Company, Travinia Italian Kitchen, Eggspectation, Finnegan’s, Firebirds, Pinkberry, King Pinz (yes, they have a restaurant), Cobb Theater (yes, a real restaurant too), Wegmans (yeah, it's technically a restaurant), and the subject of this review, BurgerFi!

BurgerFi is a relatively new chain with about 36 locations nationwide, and the name is short for “Burgerfication of the Nation.” In their own words, “BurgerFi picks up where the other ‘better burger’ franchises leave off. First, BurgerFi focuses on all-natural, grass-fed beef. We do this because it tastes better, and it's better for you- with no chemicals, and no additives. Also, where others limit their menu to just the basic, no-frills options, BurgerFi has built a menu with specialty items like Kobe beef hot dogs, gourmet toppings, delectable desserts, craft beer & wine, and an overall focus on a healthier menu selection.”

For this inaugural visit, all three of us selected the BurgerFi Cheesburger (“Double Natural Angus burger, double American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and BurgerFi sauce”), and also paid extra for the Hickory Bacon (naturally!) These were indeed tasty burgers! We all remarked on the perfectly grilled patties and cheese melted all over. The BurgerFi sauce is some kind of ketchup-mayonnaise mix and helped bring out all the flavors. As an extra touch, the buns are toasted and branded with the BurgerFi logo on top. Being double burgers, we were plenty satisfied. We also got a large order of Crispy Onion Rings, which lived up to their name and were some of the thickest, fattest, sweetest, tastiest rings we’ve ever had. Wendy ordered an additional “Cry & Fries,” which is a combo basket of some Crispy Onion Rings and Fresh Cut Fries. She added the Salt & Vinegar topping too, which she said was nice and evenly distributed over the whole thing. The fries were hot, crispy, and dense. Andy got a Vanilla Shake, which we all judged kind of average, and maybe a touch too sweet.

Overall, we liked BurgerFi a lot and will certainly be coming back. There is plenty of seating both indoors and out. We still think Melt is the best in the gourmet burger category, but Melt is closed on Sundays and BurgerFi is open!

Location: 1608 Village Market Blvd., Leesburg, VA, 20176, 703-669-3300

Web site: http://burgerfi.com/

Total bill: $49.60

03 March 2013

#138: DQ Grill & Chill

Restaurant: DQ Grill & Chill

Date Visited: 1 March 2013

Meal: Dinner

Diners: Me

Experience: Dairy Queen has come to Leesburg! It is located in the Fort Evans II shopping center along with Buffalo Wild Wings, Jersey Mike’s, Pho Royal, and CiCi’s. Our new restaurant is branded as “DQ Grill & Chill” with offerings for all sorts of fast-food meals. The “Food” menu includes hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, sub sandwiches, wraps, hot dogs, fries, and salads. The “Treats” menu includes all the ice cream items, featuring their flagship Blizzard soft-serve creations.

For this visit, I got the “FlameThrower GrillBurger” combo. The sandwich is a ¼ lb. burger with “fiery FlameThrower sauce, melted pepper jack cheese, jalapeno bacon, thick-cut tomato and fresh green leaf lettuce served on a warm toasted bun.” I actually did like it a lot, the spicy sauce made it kind of special. The combo also came with fries and a drink.

Since this is a Dairy Queen after all, I couldn’t visit without getting some kind of ice cream. I tried a small “Turtle Pecan Cluster Blizzard Treat” which I also liked, but a small was all I could manage in this frigid weather.

Fine dining it ain’t, but if you’ve got a hankerin’ for a good old burger combo and some ice cream, head on over to DQ to get your Grill and Chill on.

Location: 548 Fort Evans Plaza II, Leesburg, VA, 20176, 703-777-5266

Web site: http://www.dairyqueen.com

Total bill: $11.58

02 March 2013

#137: Chen's Garden

Date Visited: 28 February 2013

Meal: Dinner

Diners: Me & Wendy

Experience: What, another Chinese restaurant in Leesburg? Yes, it’s true. Chen’s Garden opened a few weeks ago and adds a new dimension to our Chinese food options. It’s located in the same shopping center as Andy’s Subs & Pizza, Wish-Bone Rotisserie, and the recently-reviewed Pho #1.

We decided to go in and order for takeout, so we could try a variety of items, knowing we’d have some leftovers. We started out with the Crab Rangoon appetizers. The menu says you get 8, but we found 10 in our bag. This is Wendy’s favorite appetizer, and these were excellent, being bite-sized, crispy, creamy, and with hint of onion. We also tried their soups; I got the Hot & Sour, which was thick and had a decent amount of spiciness. Wendy had the Won Ton soup, which was average, but good. The menu didn’t say this anywhere, but our order included free Spring rolls (3), which were also nice and crispy.

The main course dishes are where the uniqueness of Chen’s Garden comes out. I got the Kung Pao Chicken. Compared to “normal” American-style Chinese food, which usually has fairly thick, very sweet sauces, Chen’s version seemed light on the sauce. This brought out the freshness of all the ingredients. Being Kung Pao, mine had the right amount of spice, but gave a different experience than I was expecting. We also got the Chicken with Cashew Nuts to share (and for Andy, and for leftovers!) Wendy got the Triple Delicacy (from the Chef's Recommendations section of the menu), which includes beef, chicken, and shrimp. It was tender and crispy. All three dishes shared the fresh-and-light-on-the-sauce style.

Overall, the portions were generous, and all items seemed to be prepared in a simple, fresh, clean, uncomplicated way. This was a refreshing change from what we expected, and should be a hit with many diners looking for more healthy Chinese food choices. The staff were friendly and helpful, and the reviews on Yelp are all very positive too. For a change, give Chen’s Garden a try!

For review, here's a summary of all the Chinese restaurants I've reviewed so far:

Asian-style restaurants that offer at least some Chinese dishes:

  • Pho #1 (visited 22 February 2013)
  • Pho Royal (visited 11 February 2010)
  • Aiyara Thai (visited 16 October 2009)
  • Pei Wei (visited 18 April 2009)
  • Red Apple Buffet (visited 19 October 2008 - out of business, replaced by Buffalo Wings & Beer, then Ironwood Tavern)
  • Thai Pan (originally called Thai Royal, visited 24 August 2008)
  • J&W Asian Bistro (visited 22 June 2008 - out of business, replaced by Sal's NY Bar & Grill, now vacant)
  • Xuan Saigon (visited 25 May 2008)

Location: 9 Catoctin Cir. #2A, Leesburg, VA, 20175, 703-777-5266/5535

Web site: none (yet)

Total bill: $42.15 + $10 tip = $52.15

24 February 2013

#136: Pho #1

Date Visited: 22 February 2013

Meal: Dinner

Diners: Me & Wendy

Experience: It was a cold Friday night in Leesburg, and we needed something to warm us up. The obvious answer: Pho!

Pho #1 has been open for about four weeks now, at the southwest corner of the intersection of King Street and Catoctin Circle, around the corner from 7-Eleven. It’s the former location of Bacchus Cafe, and neighbor to Andy’s Subs & Pizza, Wish-Bone Rotisserie, and Chen’s Garden (not yet reviewed). Pho #1 is self-described as an “authentic Vietnamese restaurant.” They specialize in the traditional Vietnamese noodle soup dish called Pho, which puts them in direct competition with Xuan Saigon and Pho Royal here in Leesburg.

For this visit we started out with two standard appetizers, the #A1 Cha Gio - Crispy Egg Rolls, and #A2 Goi Cuon - Fresh Spring Rolls made with rice vermicelli. Both were excellent; the crispy ones were crispy and the fresh ones were fresh!

For our main Pho courses, I selected from the “Adventurer's Choice” part of the menu and got #P8 Pho Tai, Nam, Ve Don - Steak, Flank, Crunch Flank. The part that puts this dish in the Adventurer category is the Crunch Flank, which consists of small pieces of fatty beef flank, and does give the experience of crunchiness. It was different, but I liked it. Wendy chose from the “Beginner” section of the menu and got the #P2 Pho Tai, Nam - Eye Round Steak, Flank Pho. She said, “delicious!”

The usual Pho additions of fresh bean sprouts, Thai basil, jalapeno peppers, and lime slices were served on a separate plate. A simple array of Hoisin sauce, Sriracha sauce, garlic chili sauce, and pepper were on hand at the table (but oddly no soy sauce or salt). There were some interesting desserts in the menu, but our server said they didn’t have any at this time, as they are re-doing their dessert offerings.

The restaurant is clean and simply decorated, retaining the same basic layout inherited from Bacchus Cafe. It is a family-run business; the sons are the main servers, Mom does the “authentic” part of the cooking, and Dad keeps everything running smoothly. Standard background Muzak plays as you are attended to throughout the meal. We felt we received very good value for the meal, and look forward to return and try some of the more adventurous menu items. Give ‘em a try!

Location: 9-E Catoctin Cir. SW, Leesburg, VA, 20175, 703-777-1800

Web site: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pho-1/507248915986511?fref=ts

Total bill: $25.38 + $10 tip = $35.38

02 February 2013

#135: The Q Company

Date Visited: 30 January 2013

Meal: Dinner

Diners: Me, Wendy, & Andy

Experience: On this rainy evening (actually, we were under a flash flood warning!) we decided to visit one of Leesburg’s newest restaurants, The Q Company, which specializes in Texas-style barbeque. They had their grand opening on 17 November 2012, at the former location of Aashiana/Angeethi on Catoctin Circle.

Recently featured in the Loudoun Times-Mirror, owner Mitchell Matzek says “The Q may just do a handful of things, but they do them really well.” The menu features Smoked Beef Brisket, Slow Smoked Pulled Pork, and Smoked Sausage, along with Best BBQ Beans, Potato Salad, Cole Slaw, and Mac & Cheese sides, plus a couple of specialties: Barbeque Baked Potato and BBQ Sundae(!)

The Q Company is a pretty laid-back place, and a sign at the front door tells you to come on in and seat yourself. On this visit, we had barely sat down and our server came immediately, delivering a plate of cornbread and taking our drink orders. Their cornbread is sweet and delicious; Andy called it “superior!”

We then ordered the “For Four” Package which offers several meat and side choices. We chose the Beef Brisket, Pulled Pork, Best BBQ Beans, Mac & Cheese, and Cole Slaw. In keeping with the simple menu, the Packages are served family style, on trays, which i think adds to the experience and puts the emphasis on the food over the the presentation. Texas-style barbecue comes without any sauce added before serving, so there are several sauces available at the table: tangy Texas red, Carolina-style spicy vinegar, and spicy mustard. There are also several hot sauces available if desired. Andy and I liked the Brisket best, while Wendy preferred the Pork. We all preferred the red sauce for both of the meats. I was also impressed by the BBQ Beans, as they included several kinds of beans, onions, and bits of barbeque (reminded me of Famous Dave’s Wilbur Beans). Wendy said the Mac & Cheese was “creamy and peppery.” The Slaw was cold and crisp, not too vinegary, and a perfect complement to the spiciness of everything else. We found this Package a great option for sampling the Q’s offerings and quite filling; of course the “For Four” should be filling for a party of three!

BONUS: Check out the sign inside the restaurant:

Our overall experience was quite positive, confirming the LTM’s cheery review, and we’re eager to return and try the Smoked Sausage and the Ribs. We encourage you to give them a try and support this family-owned and operated local business.

Location: 17 Catoctin Cir., Leesburg, VA, 20175, 703-777-8767

Web site: http://theqcompany.com/ and http://facebook.com/TheQCompany

Total bill: $43.40 + $10 tip = $53.40

27 November 2012

#134: Chick-fil-A

Date Visited: 9 August 2012

Meal: Dinner

Diners: Me & Alicia

Experience: Chick-fil-A has finally come to Leesburg! Located right in front of Kohl’s on Edwards Ferry Road, Chick-fil-A has instantly become a Leesburg favorite. It is especially popular with the Christian community and especially members of our local church, Cornerstone Chapel. I’m sure it has to do with supporting the company founder’s unabashed Christian beliefs, but I think it also has to do with it being a great alternative to the standard burger chains.

According to Wikipedia, “The company's current trademarked slogan, ‘We Didn't Invent the Chicken, Just the Chicken Sandwich,’ refers to their flagship menu-item, the popular quick-serve or fast-food chicken sandwich.”

On this visit, Alicia and I just needed a quick meal, so we went through the drive-thru and ordered up some flagship meals for ourselves. I got the Spicy Chicken Sandwich Deluxe meal and she got the Chicken Sandwich meal. Both meals came with their unique waffle fries. Quick and tasty.

What else can I say? Chick-fil-A is great; if you haven’t tried them yet, go now!

Location: 1002 Edwards Ferry Rd., Leesburg, VA, 20176, 703-777-1200

Web site: http://www.chick-fil-a.com/

Total bill: $13.09

12 November 2012

#133: Jasmine Chinese Cuisine & Sushi

Date Visited: 8 August 2012

Meal: Dinner

Diners: Me & Alicia

Experience: I did my first review of Jasmine way back on 27 April 2008. Since then they’ve added a whole new dimension to the restaurant that merits a new review: Sushi! The sushi bar has its own entrance, and the restaurant was subtly renamed in the process to Jasmine Chinese Cuisine & Sushi. Jasmine is still in its original location at Leesburg’s Market Station, along with Tuscarora Mill, South Street Under, Fire Works, and Los Tios Grill.

Jasmine’s sushi chef is Rome, and he’s done a superb job in bringing high-class sushi to little ol’ Leesburg. On this visit, Alicia and I ordered three of his specialty rolls to share: Tiger Roll, Captain Jack, and Cover Girl - all excellent. Read the online sushi menu for details, but you really have to try them in person to appreciate them. Rome’s non-stop dialog will also entertain you (if you wish!)

The only other “real” sushi available in Leesburg is at Golden China or Kobe Japanese Steak & Seafood, but I think Jasmine is clearly superior. If you or someone in your party doesn’t like sushi that much, you can also order from the regular Chinese menu. If you do like sushi, go to Jasmine now!

Location: 110 South St., Leesburg, VA, 20176, 703-737-2288

Web site: http://jasminecuisine.com/

Total bill: $48.83 + $15.00 tip = $68.83

UPDATE, 3 November 2012: Wendy, Alicia, and I returned recently for lunch after spending the morning at a competition with Alicia and the UMW Rowing Team. This time we tried four different rolls: The Volcano, Spider Roll, Pacifica, and Yes, Mr. No. We also had the Crab Rangoon appetizer (our family favorite). The sushi was just as excellent as our first visit. We were also very pleased with the performance of the backup sushi chef, Ronald, as Rome was off that day.

13 September 2012

#132: Little Caesars

Date Visited: 7 August 2012

Meal: Dinner

Diners: Me

Experience: Little Caesars is a national pizza chain, estimated to be the fourth largest in the U.S., according to Wikipedia. Leesburg’s first Little Caesars store was located in the current Vocelli’s location. It closed many years ago but a new one recently reopened in Prosperity Center. Since 2004 the Little Caesars chain has been pushing its Hot-N-Ready menu, which simply means pre-made pizzas you can order with no waiting. These pre-made pizzas, of course, may sit for a while in the warming racks before you buy one, so they’re not always quite so fresh.

On this visit, I was on my own for dinner, and ordered a large Pepperoni pizza and a side order of Buffalo chicken wings. I purposely ordered a Pepperoni from the Hot-N-Ready menu so I wouldn’t have to wait, but I guess something went wrong, and I had to wait anyway. They weren’t very busy, so I’m not sure what the problem was. The chicken wings are made by simply adding whatever sauce is ordered (like Buffalo for me) and put into an oven for a few minutes. Overall, pretty average and somewhat disappointing. I liked the old Little Caesars; they had the best Pepperoni & Bacon pizzas! Oh well. The only thing the new Little Caesars has going for it is the low prices - $5 for the pizza and $5 for the wings.

Little Caesars operates in a crowded Leesburg pizza market, which currently includes Giovanni’s, Manhattan Pizza, La Villa Roma, Pizza Hut, Pizza Hut Express, Pizza Hut WingStreet, Ledo Pizza, Andy’s, CiCi’s, Rocco's (was Joe's), Domino’s, Vocelli’s, Fire Works, Papa John’s, Juliano’s, and Sbarro (not yet reviewed). My current favorites are Juliano’s and Vocelli’s; you can probably skip Little Caesars.

Location: 703 E. Market St., Leesburg, VA, 20176, 571-918-0222

Web site: http://littlecaesars.com/

Total bill: $10.85