by Borderstan.com June 3, 2013 at 4:00 pm 0

From Fox Deatry. Email him at fox[AT]borderstan.com.

"Rainbow"

DC: The Emerald City. (Fox Deatry)

DC — the Emerald City, somewhere over the rainbow. Its streets lined with gentrified row houses, its stoops a hangout for rodents as big as Toto and its lounges frequented by Glinda the Good Witch or whomever drag queen performs. Time and time again, a new Dorothy walks into its borders from distant lands (usually Virginia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania) to start anew.

Like a Munchkin, they have rarely ventured out of their small towns prior to the move to DC. But make no mistake: they do not lack the aspirations to be as great and powerful as the Wizard of Oz. What they do lack, however, is the heart of the Tin Man. This brings me to the ultimate question: Why do gay Washingtonians in their mid-twenties prefer love bites to real love?

Let’s take a ‘fictional’ example. Stephen: Age 27, living in pheromone central Scott Circle, owns a house, is an executive at a tech-social media company and is a chicken nugget (hunky white guy). Stephen, as it seems, is the dream boyfriend, a trophy hubby. But underneath that Vida Fitness body are reasons why this stud muffin isn’t ready for love. Here are a few theories:

Bi-Curious

Stephen is gay, but he just doesn’t know it yet. To him, it’s late puberty kicking in when experimentation is a rite of passage and folks dining at Annie’s are just ‘preppy.’

I Want Candy

Why settle with one when the city provides as much eye candy as a Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory. Thanks to Grindr and Scruff, ‘meeting up’ is a lot less work nowadays. DC is also a hot bed for tourists and interns during the summer. The only problem is that after a few love bites, hormones develop and things turn into a high school musical drama sans Zac Efron.

Werk!

Working long, dreadful hours are accepted — except if lovers are involved. DC ‘Homo’ Sapiens can be homey, especially since many of them have strong family relationships or aspire for one. Some get clingy and if you have a wandering eye then that can put a damper on happy hour.

But Thanksgiving is Not Until…

November should be called National Coming Out Month as Thanksgiving dinners have seen more ‘Homo’ Sapiens coming out to their families than any other holiday. This American tradition is also the time when potential boyfriends are introduced to potential in-laws. Since we are still in the middle of summer, having a serious relationship is inconceivable. For Stephen, it shouldn’t be until after September 22, the beginning of fall.

The Ex-Files

So what if you dated a jerk, a cheater or a Republican. It was ten years ago, and it’s quite unfair for the populace to suffer. Future dates shouldn’t be judged on the past. Plus, you’ve already donated to the Obama Campaign in penance.

It’s All In Your Head

You’re not exactly Lonesome George — that giant Galápagos Tortoise that recently passed. He was literally the only one of his kind. In our case, we are not meant to be alone. If you can’t wrap your head around that then maybe you need the Wizard of Oz. Or perhaps you should close your eyes and tap your heels together three times. And think to yourself, this is home.

This column first ran July 12, 2012.

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by Borderstan.com May 22, 2013 at 11:00 am 0

From Sarah Griswold. Email her at sarahg[AT]borderstan.com.

"Love"

Loving DC its easy. (Luis Gomez Photos)

I feel like I have had this conversation a lot lately. Whether it be with long-time/long-distance friends from California to Canada, or friends right here in the District. I absolutely love DC, specifically my neighborhood. Right smack-dab in the middle of the Borderstan region, as close to the U street Metro stop as I am to Dupont location, a short walk to dozens of great restaurants, bars, boutiques.

Here’s the thing, DC has been somewhat of a novelty to me — a recent resident of a little more than a year, I still find exciting to make the short trip down to the monuments when we have guests in town. Into my second year here, I’m finally starting to feel settled, like I belong.

It’s A Young Place

Here’s the thing, to outsiders DC can intimidate the crap out of you. If you have this idea of the city in the image of the past — the people here are stuffy and old, or gangsters and hooligans. I know I certainly got that warning when I first told my loved ones about moving here. But when you spend more than a long weekend here, you realize, WOW, this place is young!

Actually, the average age of DC residents is 33.8 years old. A fact that actually makes it much easier to make friends and do fun stuff than I had thought it would be. And another thing, while yes, there are actually some old, stuffy folks, and even some gangsters in poor areas, the majority of people fall somewhere in the middle, which lends itself to a much more diverse place than you might imagine. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to experience that diversity as a girl who lived the last 18 years in Arizona. Diversity — it’s a good thing.

I Hate Driving

I really hate driving. I feel like I really need to hammer this point home. I REALLY HATE DRIVING. For the first time since turning 16, I don’t own a car. I sold it when I knew we were moving here, and my boyfriend did the same thing. We wanted to live in and experience the city the way it was meant to be experienced, by walking. The convenience of walking, or biking, or busing, or Metro-ing everywhere is actually the best thing ever.

The average commute time in the United States is just more than 25 minutes each way — and in Phoenix, my boyfriend and I were easily at 45 minutes each. That was six hours a week we were spending in our cars, in traffic and cursing those crazy drivers basically the whole time. So lame, not fun. But now, not only has our time decreased by roughly 30 minutes, but we get to enjoy being outside and stretching our legs, making us both much happier people to be around.

It’s Even Beautiful

Lastly, and probably my most favorite thing about living in DC is how unbelievably gorgeous it is. I go on and on about it to my friends and family, but really, unless you have been here to see it for yourself, you have no idea. Of course there are the monuments, The White House, The Smithsonian buildings and the rest of the touristy buildings — all lovely of course.

But for me, it’s the row houses, the little hidden parks tucked away, the flowers all over everything, the old buildings blending with the new, brick sidewalks, George Washington’s face on the side of that building at 15th and U NW, the drum circle in Meridian Hill Park — it’s just all so awesome! Definitely one of the most beautiful cities in the United States.

In short, I think it’s pretty darn important to love where you live. Picking up and moving across the country was a scary proposition, but I’m so glad I did, because I’ve never loved living somewhere as much as I love it here! I hope that all of you can say the same thing about the places you call home.

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by Borderstan.com May 17, 2013 at 9:00 am 0

So many places to go in the city. (Luis Gomez Photos)

So many places to go in the city. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Mathew Harkins. Email him at mharkins[AT]borderstan.com.

The past couple of weeks have seen Passport DC events happening all over the city. If you’ve been lucky enough to find the time, then you’ve had the chance to be transported to Parisian cafes, Brazilian jazz clubs and Slovenian concert halls, all without packing a single suitcase.

But, you might ask yourself, how does my own city stack up against all this international competition? How do I know where DC stands in the great ranking of countries and cities?

Look no further than the Travel section of The New York Times, which published a list this past January of the 46 Places to Go in 2013. Some may be surprised, but our city made it onto this select list, coming in at #43 and one of only seven U.S. locations on the list.

The main reason for the attention on our city has to do with our ever-expanding food scene. The handful of restaurants/locations that have been selected for the piece include:

At the close of this short list, the Times includes the exhibit, “Food: Transforming America’s Table 1950-2000,” currently open at the National Museum of American History.

And as we good Borderstan readers know, this is only the thinnest sample of the culinary excitement happening here in DC. From Stephen Starr’s Le Diplomate to the Italian invasion we’ve seen happening on 14th Street; from the outdoor barbecue to the expansion of local culinary entrepreneurs. The Borderstan area and DC at large is full of exciting new food and restaurant experiences, keeping our taste buds happy and our interest piqued for what might come next.

Not only do we have a few more bragging rights now, but if we keep up at this rate, we’ll be closer to the top of a few more lists next year.

For a rundown of some of the restaurants newly opened or opening in the area this spring/summer, take a look at the list from this past March.

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by Borderstan.com May 8, 2013 at 11:00 am 1 Comment

From Cara Scharf. Email her at cara[AT]borderstan.com.

"young professional"

DC young professional ranked 3rd as the happiest in the country . (Luis Gomez Photos)

No one will dispute that DC is full of young professionals, and many might say DC’s young professionals are overworked and over committed. A recent ranking from CareerBliss.com paints our city’s young professionals in a different light: as the third happiest in the country.

CareerBliss.com compiled the list with information from the past 12 months. They define young professionals as people who have been working full-time for less than 10 years, and factors surveyed include work-life balance, boss and co-worker relationships, compensation, growth opportunities, and company culture. Rounding out the top three cities are San Francisco in the second spot and San Jose in the first spot.

Before you start doubting the math, I’d like to share some reasons why I agree that DC is bringing good tidings of comfort and joy to us young professionals.

Myriad of Networking Opportunities

DC’s young professionals are driven, and while that’s sometimes an annoyance, it also means that you can take advantage of every encounter as a networking opportunity. I’ve found that DC is a hotbed of professional development and networking groups.

As a young arts professional, I’m engaged with Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of DC and Emerging Arts Leaders of DC, both of which host happy hours, workshops, and conferences.

Social Activities

Kickball. Bocce. Running. Trivia. Even a competitive karaoke league and a drunken spelling bee. DC’s young professionals play as hard as they work, so no matter what your interest, you can find a group that is combining your activity of choice with drinks and social interaction.

You’re in the “Center” of the Country

DC is an important city, which makes it an exciting place to be. In just one week, I volunteered inside the World Bank and attended a congressional briefing in the Capital Building. Where else in the country can you go to so many important places, places that people all over the world are reading about and may never be able to visit?

And as bothersome as a motorcade might be, how many other young professionals get to say that they were “this close” to the President?

Young professional readers: does your experience validate or go against the rankings?

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by Borderstan.com January 14, 2013 at 11:00 am 1 Comment

"porn"

DC watches the most porn in the country. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com. 

The District can’t come to terms on important issues like the debt ceiling or health care, but there’s one thing DC does agree on: porn.

That’s right, the District is home to the country’s most avid porn watchers — or at least according to Buzzfeed and Pornhub.com.

The rankings say that District residents watched on average 14.18 videos per person each year, which almost twice as much porn as some of the higher contending states, including Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Connecticut.

December 27 was the highest traffic day in 2012; Christmas Day was the lowest.

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by Borderstan.com January 8, 2013 at 11:00 am 0

"DC"

Where do you drink? (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Alejandra Owens. You can find her at her food blog, One Bite At A Time. Alejandra also writes for City Eats DC, a Food Network site, where you can book dinner reservations. Email her at alejandra[AT]borderstan.com and follow her on Twitter at @frijolita.

When it comes to best/worst lists, DC always seems to find a place. In 2010 we were among the fittest cities in America thanks to all you crazy running people. We were also one of the happiest cities according to a Gallop pole. Not surprisingly, we were also among the most expensive cities to live! But last week we topped another list – this time coming in as the 9th Drunkest City In The US!

So here’s the break down: according to The Daily Beast, the average DC adult consumes 15.6 alcoholic beverages a month (rounding up, that’s four drinks a week, give or take), 14.5 percent of us are binge drinkers and 5 percent of us are considered heavy drinkers.

I mean, are we really surprised? DCers have a penchant for rooftop drinking, patio drinking and dirt-cheap-happy hour drinking. We bestow our finest bartenders with a demi-god like status. We even have classic cocktail death matches! Bottom line: cheap, neat, classic, it doesn’t matter, we like our booze!

So it got me thinking, where did I drink the most in DC this year? In no particular order:

  • Fiola – I’ve lauded Jeff Faile’s manhattan for awhile now.
  • 1905 – Lyn and Joel serve up cocktails with a friendly “in your living room” kind of vibe.
  • Estadio – They serve my favorite rose in the whole city.
  • Stoney’s – A favorite spot to meet friends and have a bourbon & ginger.
  • Iron Horse Taproom – A regular after work spot, any bar with a $5 Makers Mark night is a bar I’ll like.
  • Cork – Wine flights. Enough said.

Then there were dinner parties – many, many dinner parties. So that means weekly visits to Connecticut Avenue Wine & Spirits where I pick up a bottle or two for those “just in case” moments. So Borderstanis, where do you booze… or buy your booze? It’s really not hard to imagine how one might get to four drinks a week – at minimum. Or, dear lord, is it?

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by Borderstan.com November 29, 2012 at 2:00 pm 0

"city"

Sunrise in the city. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Dito Sevilla. Email him at dito[AT]borderstan.com, follow him on Twitter @DitoDC.

I love waking up on Thanksgiving! It’s one of those three sacred mornings all Washingtonians come to know, love and appreciate. On Thanksgiving, like Christmas Day and the first of January, I have a chance to wake softly, almost naturally — my last hours of sleep unaccompanied by the sounds of the city.

Every day at the stroke of “I’m still asleep,” garbage truck after garbage truck back up in the alley adjacent to my bedroom window, their tailpipes spewing clouds of noxious gases temporarily clouding the ever present aroma of dumpsters fully loaded with food their customers couldn’t seem to eat when it was on their plates.

The trucks, with their engines rumbling and their gears turning emit a high-pitch beeping as they shift into reverse, this is followed by the squeak of badly maintained breaks. Bringing this portion of the cacophony to a close, a train-whistle type air brake finally announces the truck has come to rest. Further adding insult to injury, the brave men who take on the city’s refuse one bin at a time, do not seem to notice that I may be sleeping, nor that my dog has just begun his 9th dream of the night where by all accounts he is either in pursuit of a squirrel, or is making furious love to the golden doodle across the street.

A moment of fake silence is shattered as a trash bin is dragged across what can only be broken glass and brought to the mouth of the truck. This rather solemn time is when I, and my “date” ( if invited to spend the night ) brace ourselves, as the sadistically designed hangman’s noose is attached to the garbage-packed steel bin, then by the loudest means possible yet another motor is fired up, this one powering an antique, roof-mounted winch, itself screaming for oil. As the cable is pulled taught, the contents of the dumpster is tilted, not slowly, not gently, not in any way one would consider elegantly to a fully up-side-down position.

Then just to be sure they’ve gotten it all out, the winch releases the tension, allowing the cable to unwind just enough, and with the sudden yank of a fisherman’s rod with a prize catch on the line, the little motor screeches again – jerking the dumpster up one last time for a quick shake and tug sending it’s cover slamming up and down one more time. Satisfied that they’ve gotten all the basic trash dealt with, the winch unfurls, the steel box drops, and free of it’s load it almost sounds quaint as it’s rolled back into place, unless one of it’s wheels gets stuck and the gentlemen have to shove it. One wheel always gets stuck.

A sudden thumping breaks the symphony. It’s deep, it’s loud, and it’s powerful. The truck begins to move, it’s motor revving up, the thumping continues, harmonizing with the rise and fall of pumping pistons. High above the city, the leader of the free world, sits comfortably conducting his business as the blades on his pair of helicopters chop through the air, filling the city with a sounds so familiar to Washingtonians. Even as the thumping moves further off, the reverberation is felt bouncing off any hard surface in it’s wake, not the least of which seems to be my alley, still beleaguered by the efforts of trash collection.

This being a city of tree hugging,  Earth-loving liberals; we recycle. And so, this next page in the concerto, while easily the loudest, most jarring, and cringe inducing is one that I am willing to tolerate without excessive complaint. I am not sure if there is a Sapporo special at Sushi Taro. I am not sure if they give the beer away for the sole purpose of filling 6 trash cans full of the big thick brown glass containers the Japanese lager is bottled in. What I do know is that when the first trashcan is discharged of its contents into the empty steel bin on the trash truck the sound is amazing. It’s like war in high definition.

The sound of 1,000 babies screaming could not hold a candle to the bopping, shattering, exploding burst of audible energy released as Japanese glass strikes American steel. I wonder, are they getting us back for dropping the bomb? Just as my eyelids begin to relax, opening from the protective reflex to preserve my sight from shrapnel, the second bin is hoisted it’s clamor is softer. Each time growing more full, the sound is absorbed until it just clanks and bops.

The trash men, growing tired lift less vigorously. Just as I think I can take no more, right before my ears begin to bleed- the men jump on the truck, and with a hearty slap of the hand let the driver know they’re locked and loaded. They have other trash to collect, more noise to make, more bottles to bop. I check on the doggie. Years have passed since he felt the need to lift his head and wander over to the window to verify the source of the sounds. I look at him now, care free, snoring unfazed, his head filled with the hopes of catching his squirrel and meeting that golden doodle in the park. I start hoping life will be that simple again.

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by Borderstan.com October 29, 2012 at 10:00 am 0

"crime"

DC is no longer one of the Top 10 most dangerous cities in America. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com. 

According to a list released last week by Forbes, DC is no longer one of the top 10 most dangerous cities in America. The yearly list ranks U.S. cities with a population over 200,000 according to their violent crime rate as reported by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports database; this year, DC came in 16th.

So how did DC, a city that has been one of the top 10 most dangerous cities for several years, manage to escape the list this year?

According to a separate Forbes articlegentrification, tax breaks, and urban reforms are responsible for the drop in crime and homicides. (In the early 1990’s, the city was racking up 500 homicides a year; this year, DC is on track to have 100.)

John Roman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and a contributor to the article also explains that the expansion of the federal government and lobbying and consulting firms help to drive-up incomes in the area. Additionally, the article points to the demise of Prince George County’s high-rise public housing towers, which were replaced with garden-style apartments.

According to the article, “gentrification can be a brutal process for the residents who are priced out of their neighborhoods… but in DC, three to four square miles went from brownfields to upscale condos.” Many examples of this change can be seen in the Borderstan area with the revitalization of the 14th Street, U Street and Shaw areas.

Detroit, St. Louis and Oakland were the top three most dangerous cities on the list.

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by Borderstan.com July 16, 2012 at 10:00 am 1,197 5 Comments

Rainbow"

DC: The Emerald City. (Fox Deatry)

From Fox Deatry. Email him at fox[AT]borderstan.com.

DC — the Emerald City, somewhere over the rainbow. Its streets lined with gentrified row houses, its stoops a hangout for rodents as big as Toto and its lounges frequented by Glinda the Good Witch or whomever drag queen performs. Time and time again, a new Dorothy walks into its borders from distant lands (usually Virginia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania) to start anew.

Like a Munchkin, they have rarely ventured out of their small towns prior to the move to DC. But make no mistake: they do not lack the aspirations to be as great and powerful as the Wizard of Oz. What they do lack, however, is the heart of the Tin Man. This brings me to the ultimate question: Why do gay Washingtonians in their mid-twenties prefer love bites to real love?

Let’s take a ‘fictional’ example. Stephen: Age 27, living in pheromone central Scott Circle, owns a house, is an executive at a tech-social media company and is a chicken nugget (hunky white guy). Stephen, as it seems, is the dream boyfriend, a trophy hubby. But underneath that Vida Fitness body are reasons why this stud muffin isn’t ready for love. Here are a few theories:

Bi-Curious

Stephen is gay, but he just doesn’t know it yet. To him, it’s late puberty kicking in when experimentation is a rite of passage and folks dining at Annie’s are just ‘preppy.’

I Want Candy

Why settle with one when the city provides as much eye candy as a Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory. Thanks to Grindr and Scruff, ‘meeting up’ is a lot less work nowadays. DC is also a hot bed for tourists and interns during the summer. The only problem is that after a few love bites, hormones develop and things turn into a high school musical drama sans Zac Efron.

Werk!

Working long, dreadful hours are accepted — except if lovers are involved. DC ‘Homo’ Sapiens can be homey, especially since many of them have strong family relationships or aspire for one. Some get clingy and if you have a wandering eye then that can put a damper on happy hour.

But Thanksgiving is Not Until…

November should be called National Coming Out Month as Thanksgiving dinners have seen more ‘Homo’ Sapiens coming out to their families than any other holiday. This American tradition is also the time when potential boyfriends are introduced to potential in-laws. Since we are still in the middle of summer, having a serious relationship is inconceivable. For Stephen, it shouldn’t be until after September 22, the beginning of fall.

The Ex-Files

So what if you dated a jerk, a cheater or a Republican. It was ten years ago, and it’s quite unfair for the populace to suffer. Future dates shouldn’t be judged on the past. Plus, you’ve already donated to the Obama Campaign in penance.

It’s All In Your Head

You’re not exactly Lonesome George — that giant Galápagos Tortoise that recently passed. He was literally the only one of his kind. In our case, we are not meant to be alone. If you can’t wrap your head around that then maybe you need the Wizard of Oz. Or perhaps you should close your eyes and tap your heels together three times. And think to yourself, this is home.

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by Borderstan.com July 12, 2012 at 5:00 pm 1,845 0

"US National Capitol"

DC was ranked 14th best city to live in the world. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com

We’ve all known it for some time, and finally the experts agree. DC is one of the best places to live… in the entire world based on a recent livability index.

City ranking specialists, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), recently ranked DC the 14th best city in the world in terms of livability, trumping all other U.S. cities.

To develop the rankings list, the EIU used a combination of measurement tools, including its “Livability Index” and its new measure, the “Spatially Adjusted Livability Index.”

The “Livability Index” examines factors like stability, healthcare, culture, environment, education and infrastructure in a city, while the “Spatially Adjusted Livability Index” takes into account sprawl, green space, natural assets, cultural assets, connectivity, isolation and pollution.

Hong Kong topped the list as the best city, with Amsterdam and Osaka rounding out second and third place, respectively. Other U.S. cities that made the list are Chicago (15), New York (16), Los Angeles (17) and San Francisco (18).

So the next time your New York friends can’t stop bragging about how wonderful it is to live in NYC, just pull-out the list and try not to gloat.

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by Borderstan.com March 5, 2012 at 12:00 pm 5,652 6 Comments

"Borderstan" "Eden Garden", Vietnamese, food, Arlington,

Options at Viet Bistro in Eden Center. (Photos from Michelle Nguyen of Hey Love Designs.)

Editor’s Note from Food Editor Alejandra Owens: Last weekend my good friend, Sylvie, took a small group of food obsessed folks on a guided tour of Eden Center. Not really tucked away but certainly not nearby the city, Eden Center is the Seven Corners area of Falls Church, Virgina. Seeing as how some of us probably never leave the city, if we do want to go do something like, say, eat a crazy amount of Vietnamese food, we probably want a guide or at least a list of recommendations to make us feel safer in our food adventures. I asked Sylvie to be our guide, and hope you enjoy Borderstanis! Also, a special thanks to Michelle Nguyen of Hey Love Designs for her great photos at Viet Bistro.

•  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  

From Sylvie Nguyen. She works at a nonprofit in DC and spends the rest of her time cooking food, talking about food, reading about food, writing about food and enjoying the pleasure of eating food. She writes the blog Thrifty DC Cook and is a regular volunteer at N Street Village.

Sylvie Nguyen, Vietnamese, food, DC, Virginia

Food blogger Sylvie Nguyen.

For the past six years of living in the DC area, I have whined and complained that Washington, DC didn’t have restaurants with good ethnic food. I wanted the kind of food that I found in Southern California; a good taco stand, an inexpensive banh mi shop or an Indian carryout store where I can get Chana Masala and a samosa for $2. Over a media lunch last week, I expressed my complaint amongst a group of bloggers and the hosting chef. The chef disagreed with me. I suddenly felt like a child who was spoiled and being reprimanded.

He is right to some extent. This city has a plethora of choices for diners. We have restaurants that serve Afghan, Ethiopian, Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, El Salvadoran, German and many other cuisines. Most are within walking distance to us and some offer delivery to our doorsteps. And there are some places right outside of the city that serves authentic and delicious food. 

One of those places is the Eden Center, a Vietnamese shopping center in Falls Church, Virginia (6751 Wilson Boulevard, to be exact). For me, growing up in southern California where the largest Vietnamese community in the United States can be found, I go to Eden Center for the comfort of Vietnamese “home cooking.”  You can find a delicious bowl of pho, Ca Kho Thom, fried tofu, fresh soybean milk, che, banh xeo and much more.

The other great thing about Eden Center is that you can easily find a meal for under $10 at any of the restaurants. A banh mi sandwich is typically $2.75 each. Recently, I got the chance to give a tour to a few other food lovers and made a list of vendors I like to visit. Here are a few of my favorite places, in no particular order: 

1. Bahn Mi So #1 – This is the place I frequent the most since it is located close by the main entrance and I can easily park in front, run in and run out. Their sandwiches are pretty good and the bread, baked fresh daily, is only 55 cents per 9 inch loaf. The sandwiches are around $3 per sandwich. Another great thing about this shop is that you can get fresh squeezed sugar cane juice. They mix it with a bit of fresh squeezed tangerine juice and pour it over ice. It is the most refreshing drink during a muggy, hot summer. Their Vietnamese iced coffee is also great. When you order sandwiches to take home, always ask for the vegetables on the side so that the sandwiches don’t get soggy from the pickled vegetables.

 2. Cho Saigon Supermarket – This is the only real market in Eden Center. You can find better prices and more variety at places like Grand Mart or H-Mart but if you are working on a Vietnamese meal, this is the best place to get Vietnamese ingredients. It is where you can find a specific type of mint, a jar of shrimp paste and good pho noodles. My favorite thing to do is to look at kitchen tools here. The butcher’s knife that so many Asian butchers use is only $10 and a good kitchen knife can be as little as $4. 

3. Nhu Lan Sandwich Shop – I think this is the best banh mi in Eden Center but mainly because they put a lot of pate on the sandwiches.

4. Viet Royale Restaurant – This is a good place to start if you aren’t too familiar with Vietnamese food. The restaurant does a good job providing good service and the wait staff can help guide you through the menu. The food is good and you can get a mix of homestyle Vietnamese dishes and also get some better known dishes such as pho or banh xeo.

5. Song Que Deli – This is a very popular deli because the food they serve is convenient to pick up for take out. They have a small dining area where you can eat, but it is very casual. This is pretty much a fast food joint. They make good sandwiches and also carry a wide variety of other convenient food such as spring rolls, rice patties with mung beans and shrimp, or rice with grilled chicken.  They are also popular because they serve bubble tea and icy fruit drinks as well as a bunch of good desserts. 

6. Thanh Son Tofu – This is my favorite shop in Eden Center. They have a special counter just for fried tofu where they serve regular fried tofu, fried lemongrass tofu and fried mushroom tofu. I love going there and getting $5 of fried tofu that I will eat with jasmine rice and the food will last me for days. They also sell fresh soybean milk and they have a counter of che (Vietnamese desserts.) 

7. Huong Viet – This place is a “hole in the wall” treasure. They only take cash, customer service sucks, but their Bun Thit Nuong rocks. It is one of those restaurants that you only take people who you trust won’t be a poor sport and will just a enjoy the establishment for its delicious food.

8. Viet Bistro – Similar to Viet Royale. It’s a nicer place to eat, the service is good and the food is decent. It is located closer to Wilson Boulevard and away from the high traffic of Eden Center’s popular shops. I’ve never had to wait for a table at this restaurant and yet it always has enough customers to make me feel assured that I’m not eating at a dud of a restaurant. The baby clams with herbs and fried rice cracker is a delicious and fun dish to eat if you are eating in a group. The cha gio is fried to a golden brown and they don’t skimp on the meaty filling. 

9. Saigon Cafe – This restaurant is across Wilson Boulevard from Eden Center. They focus on “Hue Style” food and I love going here for their appetizers. They serve banh beo, rice patties topped with dried shrimp and bits of fried pork fat and drizzled with fish sauce. They are served in tiny, shallow bowls which makes eating it fun. Their Bun Bo Hue is filling and a good alternative if you want something hot but want something other than a bowl of pho. This broth is rich with lemongrass, pork and beef flavors.

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