Arlington, VA

Arlington is home to a relatively new establishment that may be the country’s only restaurant dedicated exclusively to Tunisian cuisine (at least the only one with a web presence and decent SEO).

Chez Manelle (2313 Wilson Blvd) opened in Courthouse late last year. It is a small, independently operated eatery, with a unique vibe, a unique menu and some good old-fashioned friendly service.

It’s a bit of a hole in the wall, just off the Courthouse main drag and well down the road from Clarendon. The front of the restaurant — a two-tone awning amid beige stone brick — does not do the interior justice. The owners have added planters and some outdoor seating, but making the place look like the unique ethnic restaurant it actually is seems to be an uphill battle.

The restaurant has fared well on Yelp, getting high marks for all the reasons stated above. But one particular complaint seems to resurface among the few negative reviews: bland, greasy food.

The blog DC Dives recently posted a review of Chez Manelle, and came to the same conclusion. Here’s an excerpt.

When reviewing restaurants I have tried to avoid making definitive factual statements, because after all my review is just my opinion. However, with Chez Manelle I can say as fact that it is unquestionably the best Tunisian restaurant in the DC area. Sadly it’s not because of its great food, but because it is the ONLY Tunisian restaurant in the area. Located in Clarendon near the courthouse metro, the restaurant is ideally located, yet when we arrived at 8:00 the only people in the restaurant were the 4-5 waiters standing around watching TV. That should have been our first hint, but we decided to go ahead and order several appetizers and a couple of main entrees.

Read the rest of the review here.

We’d love to see Chez Manelle stick around long enough to perfect its food offerings. Amid the influx of pizza restaurants, burger joints and bakeries, the value of having such a unique spot in town should not be overlooked.

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