Discover South Arlington: Shirlington and More


Courtesy of Shirlington Village Condo

The center of Shirlington Village in South Arlington

Fiona Flaherty, Sentry Staff Reporter

As a high school in North Arlington, we are fortunate to be close to some of the best dining, shopping and amenities around. Whether it is the Lee Harrison Shopping Center or the Market Commons in Clarendon, people that live in North Arlington frequent these places with a passion. But sometimes North Arlingtonians take Arlington for granted by visiting these places so often. Many of us forget that there is another half of Arlington, south of Route 50, that offers just as many exciting restaurants and resources as North Arlington.

South Arlington’s hotspot is the Village at Shirlington, located along South Campbell Ave. Just as diverse and interesting as the Market Commons, Shirlington boasts food, fun and an AMC cinema. This area is extremely accessible by bike via the Four Mile Run Trail, and several minutes closer than Tyson’s Corner by car. There is a free parking lot on Randolph St. and plenty of street parking throughout. The restaurants and shops are all located along one row, Campbell Ave. At one end is Signature Theater and at the other Interstate 395. On the theater end, there is the Shirlington Branch of Arlington Public Libraries.

Also located near the theater is Busboys and Poets, a much talked about restaurant and community hub. Owned by Anas “Andy” Shallal, an American-Iraqi artist and activist, Busboys is a center for community events, such as poetry readings and musical performances. With a brilliantly painted and thought-provoking interior, Busboys and Poets has a killer menu featuring everything from sweet potato pancakes to tandoori chicken.

Busboys is not the only top-quality eatery in town. T.H.A.I., a sophisticated and fresh Thai restaurant, is also a must-visit. The founder, Aulie Bunyarataphan, focuses on “creating new dishes to introduce to the area, based on Old World recipes and Thai street food [which] she adapts for American palates” (T.H.A.I.); Bunyarataphan’s food is also presented with an artist’s touch, making a meal at T.H.A.I. a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. But, if you are not in the mood for T.H.A.I., there are many restaurants along the Village row which serve everything from Global Fusion (Palette 22) and frozen yoghurt (Yogi Castle) to artisan grilled cheese (Cheesetique).

The area surrounding Shirlington, specifically along the Four Mile Run Trail, also has some very tasty hidden gems. One of these is Grill Master Barbeque, run every Sunday morning at the intersection of Four Mile Run Dr. and South Oakland St. from approximately 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Be sure to get there early and reserve a rack of ribs (some of the best in Arlington) because they will run out quickly. Getting there from the bike trail is the easiest, and the grill is set up on the left of the path if you are headed east towards D.C. Another is Cafe Sazon, a South American restaurant located at 4704 Columbia Pike. This little-known restaurant has fantastic daily soups which will warm the heart and soul.

The Four Mile Run corridor and the Village at Shirlington are also two of the most dog-friendly places in Arlington. The Shirlington Dog Park, located on Arlington Mill Drive, is a community favorite.The dog park has a stream and easy access to the bike path; it is a great stop if you like to take your dog on long runs. The park is kept up by the Shirlington Dogs II society, which hosts frequent cleanups and benefits in order to support the park’s immense popularity. Just across the way is the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, a wonderful place to volunteer or to seek out pets for adoption.

South Arlington also has a very lively community of artists, both visual and performing. South Arlington is host to the Columbia Pike Blues Festival, which is in its 24th year. At this event, local musicians, artists and food vendors come out to the intersection of Columbia Pike and S Walter Reed Dr. to show off their chops. This year’s festival is on June 16, from 1 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Additionally, the Thomas Jefferson Community Center is also another great place that supports artists. They have several studios in their facility which gives artists the opportunity to “attend classes, workshops, independent studies and artful events” (Arlington). The studios currently offer workshops in four areas: ceramic pottery, black and white photography, jewelry and woodworking. Membership and studio fees are available on the Arlington County website.