Five Guys may be a large burger chain now with over 1,000 locations, but they got their start right here in Arlington. Five Guys continues to have a heavy presence throughout the DMV area with several locations in the District, in addition to locations at Reagan National Airport and in Arlington, Hyattsville, Kensington, Bethesda, Fairfax, Potomac, Alexandria, McLean, and Annandale. While the “better burger” market has become saturated in recent years by new offerings like Smashburger and Shake Shack, Five Guys was the first of the “better burger” chains I tried and I still think it’s one of the best. For starters, the burger (despite the fact that you can’t order it less than well-done) is always flavorful and juicy (some people might say it’s greasy, but I find it delicious). And there’s a large selection of toppings- I always get a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, mushrooms, pickles and ketchup. The fries are tasty (if you like them with the skins left on) and I love that they serve free peanuts while you wait. The wait is usually pretty brief (rarely as long as at Shake Shack. Be aware that Five Guys doesn’t do much other than burgers and fries; they do have hot dogs (I’ve never tried one) but you can’t get a veggie burger. They’ll make you a sandwich of veggies on a bun, but that doesn’t sound too appetizing. Since I love burgers and I’m not a vegetarian, I don’t really care. Some Five Guys serve breakfast, which is basic, but tasty. You can get a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich or add a burger patty to that for an extra charge (and extra calories). They do have coffee but it’s pretty meh (what did you expect?).
Sweetgreen is a fast casual salad restaurant chain that began in the DC area in 2007. It has various locations throughout DC and the suburbs, including in Foggy Bottom, Downtown, Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, Capitol Hill, Crystal City, Ballston, College Park, Silver Spring, McLean, Tysons, Fairfax and Reston. In the interest of full disclosure, I do not often eat salads because I almost never feel full after eating them. The salads at Sweetgreen are no exception in this regard, but they are very tasty and innovative. I can totally see the appeal of this place for those who do like salads, so I am rating it based on that. I ordered a seasonal specialty called the Umami Grain Bowl, which was healthy and delicious (though I was of course still hungry after). There are numerous other inventive salad choices, such as the “Rad Thai,” which is a Thai-inspired salad with shrimp. For those counting calories, however, be warned that some of the salads are highly caloric- the winner in this regard is the “Earth Bowl,” which packs a whopping 775 calories (as a comparison, a Big Mac contains 563 calories). Of course, there’s a lot more to healthy eating than calories, and there is certainly far more nutrition in Sweetgreen’s food than in Mc Donalds’. Sweetgreen also has delicious house made fountain drinks and everything (aside from the reusable bowl) is compostable. Sweetgreen gets major points for offering nutritious, environmentally conscious food in a casual, bright atmosphere. It just isn’t a filling enough meal for me
Flaky samsas (or sambusas as they’re called in Tajikistan) are a satisfying comfort food.
RuzUz is an Uzbek and Russian Restaurant located at 1000 N Randolph St in Ballston. In the interest of full disclosure, I spent a summer in Tajikistan, which has food that is very similar to Uzbek food. I have a soft spot for the region’s cuisine, and have only tried their Uzbek food, not their Russian food. I recommend their mantoo (meat dumplings), samsas (ground meat samosas), compot (a sweet, refreshing fruit drink) and plov (rice pilaf with lamb and carrots). The food is hearty and satisfying, though nothing fancy. Service is good, and the decor is pleasant, featuring scenes from Uzbekistan and the traditional Central Asian blue and white china that is in the design of a cotton plant. The place is good, though I must admit I gave it five stars partially because it is so nice to have a place to go for solid Central Asian fare in the DC area. It’s definitely worth a trip for those looking to try new cuisines.
Pictured here are plov (called “osh plov” simply “osh” in Tajik, which means “rice food”) is the traditional banquet dish of Central Asia. It is heavy, oily and satisfying. There is a traditional side salad as well, plus compot, a sweet fruit drink.