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Off the Beaten Path: Cafe Sazon on Columbia Pike

by ARLnow.com April 22, 2011 at 10:09 am 7,280 29 Comments

You don’t typically expect to find anything of any culinary significance between a hair salon, a check cashing store and a Goodwill outlet, but Cafe Sazon (4704 Columbia Pike) may be the exception to the rule.

Sazon means “seasoning” in Spanish, which is a good way to describe the contrast of the cafe’s smartly-decorated interior to the rather drab section of Columbia Pike outside its windows. Open since January, Cafe Sazon specializes in South and Central American food and baked goods, with a few American items thrown into the mix.

Co-owner Adriana Torres, who has not left the area since she moved from Bolivia to this section of the Pike as a seven-year-old kid, says that business has started out slow but is picking up. Thanks to a favorable mention on the “22204” email listserv, she says her customer base — primarily Hispanic — has gotten a bit more diverse lately.

Cafe Sazon is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and has items on the menu for all three meals. There are omelettes, freshly-baked pastries (made by an in-house baker), fajitas, soups, salads, and daily specials. On the drink menu is coffee, trea, cappuccino, Latin American sodas and Api Morado, a surprisingly delicious Bolivian specialty made with boiled red corn and “zest.”

The cafe offers free WiFi. Torres says she’ll soon be opening the restaurant’s basement for movie screenings and special events.

  • CW

    Was that lunch you ate there yesterday comped? I’m not being sarcastic – truly curious.

    • They gave me a small sample of the Api Morado and two pastries to try, but that was it.

      • CW


  • YTK

    Thank you Cafe Sazon for sprucing up that ho hum drab area of the Pike with your new store!! I wish you success – buona fortuna!! — you are right near a bus stop so I can stop by one day — and I DO wish the rest of that nabe would look alot better.

    • CrystalMikey

      Yeah, great to see some interesting places going up on the Pike!

  • SoCo Resident

    Sounds inviting and worth checking out, especially for breakfast and those tempting baked goods. With Bob & Edith’s II gone from across the street and its awful replacement now closed, that area needs a nice, clean inviting place.

    • mlk19569

      The replacement is gone already? That was fast.

  • cheeseeater

    Hmm. I ran by this place yesterday and noticed their sign. We’ll have to check it out for a good cheap eats option.

  • Tabby

    That’s the sort of place we need at the corner of Walter Reed and Columbia Pike.

    • AI


  • WorthATry

    I go by this block a couple of times a week so I dropped in a couple of days ago after seeing the 22204 posting. It was mid-afternoon so I just picked up a couple of bakery items-two different pastries with cheese. Both were very tastie and reasonably priced. The counter staff was very pleasant and forthcoming. I looked forward to trying more of their offerings in the near future.

  • Rebecca

    where was this place when I lived in that crappy neighborhood? 🙁

    • Boo hoo

      Boo hoo.

  • Michael

    I like these stories of places that I wouldn’t otherwise have gone too. My wife and I love a good bakery so we’ll have to try this one out. Hopefully you’ll keep these restaurant notices up as a feature on ARLNOW.

    • Ditto that. I tried Miss Margaret’s rib shack because of the ArlNow item a couple of months ago. Really helpful — it was a great meal, but you would never ever know the store was there without publicity like this. And she’s so nice. I wonder if Sazon has salteñas and how they are?

  • Brandon C

    If only it weren’t in an area of the Pike that is absolutely loathsome. Terrible traffic patterns + difficulty making turns + pedestrians bolting across the middle of the street every 5 seconds is not a fun time. Hell, I take Rt. 50 and cut over down Carlin Springs every time I go to Trader Joes in Baileys just to avoid that stretch.

    • Tabby

      So do I!

    • G

      I don’t understand the comments of why this is a bad place to put a nice, affordable, new restaurant if the neighborhood is in need of some revitalization. Pedestrians probably bolt across the street here because not only does the W&OD trail cross columbia pike here (interrupting everyone’s biking or running workout), but you have to wait literally 10 minutes for a walk signal. I actually save time by walking under the columbia pike bridge over 4 mile run even though it’s way out of the way.

      • Tabby

        Not referring to joggers/bikers. People dart across the road all over Columbia Pike in that general area.

      • John Barcroft

        The county is rebuilding that intersection to line up the cross streets, which should make it less confusing for drivers and pedestrians in the future.

    • Arlwhenever

      And don’t look at the crime map. But wait for the Streetcar, that’ll fix everything!

      • South Arlington

        Maybe it won’t fix everything, but it’ll be better than it is now.

        • KalashniKEV

          How many crew served weapons on a streetcar to South Arlington? I rely on speed for survivability in my vehicle.

          • John Snyder

            Definitely not enough–you should stay away. Far, far away. Like Michigan. Everybody else ought to be OK, though.

  • Cafe Sazon is the s—. Great food, reasonable prices, awesome bakes. Great spot to chill and grab some freshly made food all the time. Wish them success for a long time.

  • G

    Had a late lunch/early dinner here today… Delicious food, generous portions, and very affordable. I also had a very tasty blended mango with milk smoothie. Staff was extremely friendly and welcoming.

  • Geoff

    As proponents of trying all things new, my wife and I stopped by to grab a light snack this past weekend. We ended up feasting on beef & chicken saltenas (chicken was our favorite), the sopa de mondongo (delicious tripe soup with carrots, plantains, corn, & fat), and beef & chicken enchilada hondurenas (picture open face corn tacos), Everything was wonderful. I even got an apple struedel to go as, judging by the obviously in-house-made dough for the saltenas, they are good at their pastries. It too was very good. We washed it all down with their mix of fresh squeezed orange juice & lemonade.

    The staff was very helpful in explaining what each item was and were very personable.

    We will definitely be back.

  • Carl

    I stopped by the other week and agree the food is decent and the staff pleasant. However I was surprised to read that they want to turn their basement room into a viewing room. Is it just me or can their time and money be better spent offering a more diverse menu rather than invest in a projector. I don’t find the idea of renting out a basement with a restaurant above me with the noise and smells drifting down appealing. And if you want to watch a movie and eat Arlington Cinema Draft House is right down the street and plays pretty recent releases. What movies can they offer? Or do you have to bring your own? Maybe it’s because they are novice restaurant owners they think they need a gimmick but I say add more creations to your menu and spice up some of the generic fare like the chicken salad. I wish them luck as Columbia Pike, as well as the DMV area, is saturated with similar restaurants.

  • Ginger Geoffrey

    Great steak – and I love your hot chocolate! You are quiet for daytime meetings and always friendly. Love you!!!


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