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Underrated Restaurants in Arlington

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Linda’s Cafe is a small, greasy-spoon type restaurant best known for their low-cost, standard breakfast menu.

Linda’s Cafe is a small, greasy-spoon type restaurant best known for their low-cost, standard breakfast menu.

Bergen Romness

Bergen Romness

Linda’s Cafe is a small, greasy-spoon type restaurant best known for their low-cost, standard breakfast menu.

Joseph Ramos, Sentry Staff Reporter

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Arlington is filled with a plethora of delicious food choices. From classier sit-down restaurants to quick and easy take-out options, all kinds of foodies will find satisfaction within Arlington’s eatery repertoire. However, a majority of these restaurants tend fall into the shadows of Arlington’s most popular choices such as District Taco, Peter Chang’s or Northside Social. While these mainstream options are all quite good, those looking to branch out have come to the right place. I have compiled a list of just a few of the numerous underrated restaurants across Arlington for the adventurous consumer to check out. Bon appétit!

Linda’s Café:

Located on Lee Highway in between Wendy’s and 7-11, Linda’s Cafe is a small, greasy-spoon type restaurant best known for their low-cost, standard breakfast menu. While also serving lunch and dinner, Linda’s breakfast is the highlight of the meal options as it provides all the necessities required in a quality diner-style breakfast while still maintaining an affordable price perfect for a deal-hunter or high school student’s budget. Linda’s typically gets overlooked because of its somewhat run-down appearance when compared to other Arlington diners such as Metro 29 or Silver Diner, but inside holds very friendly service and satisfying, low-priced food.

Livin’ The Pie Life:

If you ever drive down North Glebe Road and, at the intersection with Lee Highway, spot a 50’s-style sign that vertically spells out “PIE” on the left side of the road, you are already familiar with Livin’ The Pie Life. While the ambiguous signage advertising the restaurant’s main product may leave passers-by with questions, there is no guessing about the café once inside. In a small building with outdoor seating, the aroma of freshly baked pies and quiches welcomes customers to Pie Life and their well-ranged selection, most of which include ingredients that come from local sources. Menu items include various types of sweet and savory pies as well as scones and breakfast and lunch quiches. Prices range depending on the size of the item as portions stretch from full-size pies to small, single-serving ones. Pie Life seems underrated in its popularity because of its small store-front and niche market space, but they have achieved accolades such as “Buzzfeed’s Best Pie in Virginia 2017” that are likely to bolster their local success.

Wendy’s:

Putting Wendy’s on a list of underrated restaurants is a choice that may draw some opposition, but let me elaborate. First off, this is not Wendy’s as a franchise that is underrated, but a specific Wendy’s storefront. That storefront is on Lee Highway next to the aforementioned Linda’s Cafe. This Wendy’s is an older building with the signature pig-tailed, smiling redhead on the front that typically gets neglected in patronization when put up against nearby McDonald’s, Taco Bell and KFC. While the latter three fast-food venues are all quite good in their own right, they are visited much more often by high-school students on lunch break or workers and families looking for a quick meal. At Wendy’s, “fresh” ingredients are used in their popular hamburgers and chicken sandwiches and their famed Frosty’s pair well as a desert. Furthermore, other fast-food places cannot compete with Wendy’s “4 for $4” value deal which includes a choice of an entrée, 4-piece nuggets, fries and a drink. So if your wondering ‘Where’s the beef?’, just look to Wendy’s.  

Ruffino’s:

Ruffino’s Spaghetti House, located along Lee Highway near the intersection with North Glebe Road, has been serving well-priced, delicious Italian food since 1975. Within a classical cobblestone building reminiscent of structures found on Italian streets, Ruffino’s stands out from the plainer, white-brick buildings that surround it. This idea of non-conformity from the surrounding modernized restaurants of Arlington that have gone up around Ruffino’s through the years is carried inside to the classic food and reasonable pricing that is hard to find elsewhere. With a wide variety of pasta dishes and spaghetti options that include chicken and veal-based meals, the standard Italian menu of Ruffino’s could be identical to those found in the restaurants of Rome or Tuscany. An Arlington institution of over 40 years, Ruffino’s has been able to maintain enough relevance to stay in business; however, its popularity has faltered as the next generation of Arlingtonians have tended to patronize the newer restaurants of town as opposed to the long-standing ones. Ruffino’s and underrated restaurants like it that have been a part of Arlington for years should still be frequented as it is important to still consider the traditions of the past amongst the ventures of the future.

All About Burger:

Along Wilson Boulevard, near the crossing with 10th Street North, a large building covered with windows stands amongst the apartment complexes of Ballston. Within this building is All About Burger, a Shake Shack-esque late-night burger place. A fairly new eatery within the fast-growing area of Ballston, All About Burger faces considerable competition from other local burger joints such as Elevation Burger and BGR. While All About Burger is about on par with these other places in terms of burger quality, their sides are what set them apart. Excellent onion rings, Cajun fries and over 30 different milkshake options provide a strong complement to any variation of burger, hot dog, grilled chicken sandwich or cheesesteak that is offered. All About Burger is also great for all-hours meals as it is open to 1:00 a.m. on Thursdays and 3:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Despite All About Burger’s success amongst the millennials of Ballston, it has yet to gain much popularity in the Yorktown sect of Arlington. This can most likely be attributed to its location and prior popularity of closer burger spots. Nonetheless, All About Burger is certainly worth the trip at any hour.

Caribbean Grill:

Easily identified by the rotisserie chicken that can be seen cooking through the front window, Caribbean Grill, located on the intersection of North George Mason Drive and Lee Highway, is a great lunch spot for those looking for an inexpensive meal that tastes like it’s straight from Cuba. At Caribbean Grill, freshly-prepared food provides an alternative to the popular Mexican fast-food places of the area such as District Taco or Chipotle. The menu stays true to the restaurant’s name as platters and sandwiches draw from the influences of Caribbean nations, particularly Cuba with some Jamaican mixed in. Dishes based around chicken and pork are constructed in an open kitchen where the customer can watch as their meal is created. Sides such as Cuban rice and fried yuca that are served with the meals supplement the traditional Caribbean taste. Caribbean Grill is underrated because while its food is both very good and fresher than other Hispanic restaurants, it has not gained as much popularity when compared to local Mexican food places that are more convenient and faster in service. Despite the longer preparation process of Caribbean Grill, the overall quality of food and service make it worth the visit.

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Underrated Restaurants in Arlington