Water Park Cafe is a little kiosk (closed in the winter) located in the Water Park in Crystal City (1750 Crystal Dr, Arlington), which is a plaza with fountains. At first glance, you might think that this is just a regular food stand, but you would be very wrong. In fact, the friendly owner is Egyptian, so alongside hotdogs you can order falafel, fuul medammes, hummus, shawarma, labneh, dolma, and other Middle Eastern classics. The house specialty, however, is koshary, a uniquely Egyptian pasta-like dish that is a mix of rice, macaroni and lentils topped with a tomato-vinegar sauce, chickpeas, and crispy fried onions. It is a simple dish, albeit very tasty and satisfying. On a nice day, you can sit in the park at one of the tables overlooking the fountains, making for a tranquil and unique al-fresco dining experience (if you can overlook the styrofoam containers).
This could even make for an out of the box date option (especially if it’s a first date and you’re not looking to shell out much). For dessert, I ordered basbousa, a sweet semolina cake, which was also tasty, though pretty simple. They also serve Egyptian coffee (basically Turkish coffee) and I plan to go back to sit by the fountains for a bit with a coffee and a basbousa or baklava.
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
Queen Amannisa is a Uyghur restaurant located at 320 23rd St in Crystal City. For the uninitiated, Uyghur food is basically a cross between Chinese food and Central Asian food. They also serve some of the common Chinese American dishes for the less adventurous, but it’s pointless to order things like that when you can order authentic Ugyhur laghman, a delicious stretchy noodle dish with veggies and meat. I ordered the Ammani-style laghman, which was absolutely delicious. The noodles were stretchy and the meat and veggies were cooked perfectly. I also ordered a red jujube tea, which is a Chinese herbal tea that’s a bit fruity. The tea was served in the carafe of a coffee maker,
Red jujube tea.
which I found a bit odd. It was also approximately $7, so I concluded that it was intended for sharing by the table. In general, I think this place is best-suited for groups. The restaurant is cavernous (I’m not sure how they ever expect to fill it) and the fact that it presents a rare opportunity to eat Uyghur food means it is a great place to share a bunch of dishes and try new things. The staff is very welcoming and is keen to make sure you like the food. The decor is pleasant, though they were playing this annoyingly repetitive elevator music when I was there, which I could have done without.