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Arlington Missing from WaPo Dining Guide

by ARLnow.com October 17, 2011 at 9:36 am 4,353 72 Comments

For the second year in a row, Arlington is conspicuously missing from Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema’s fall dining guide.

The only Arlington connections on the annual list of 40 restaurants are mini-chains Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza and Jaleo, which have Clarendon and Crystal City locations respectively — though one wouldn’t know it since the dining guide lists the location of each as “Washington, DC.”

In contrast to Arlington’s goose egg, neighboring jurisdictions Alexandria and Fall Church have three restaurants apiece in this year’s dining guide.

Arlington County, which has seen a boom of new restaurants in the past couple of years, was similarly snubbed in Sietsema’s 2010 Fall Dining Guide. Eventide (Clarendon) and Ray’s the Steaks (Courthouse) both made it on the 2009 Fall Dining Guide.

  • Smitty


    • Golden Silence

      You must feel very proud of that achievement.

  • YoBimbo

    I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying here:

    “The only Arlington connections on the annual list of 40 restaurants are mini-chains Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza and Jaleo, which have Clarendon and Crystal City locations respectively — though one wouldn’t know it since the dining guide lists the location of each as ‘Washington, DC.'”

    There’s a Pete’s in Columbia Heights and a Jaleo in Penn Quarter, both in DC. True, they have Arlington locations, but listing them as DC restaurants isn’t shady or incorrect.

    • drax

      Not shady or incorrect, just doesn’t get Arlington into the directory.

  • Aaron

    Maybe Arlington restaurants need to elevate their game instead of hoping for geographic affirmative action! If it’s any consolation, Bethesda was shut out as well and they’re equally proud of their dining scene.

    Better luck next year.

    • YoBimbo

      In all honesty, I’ve not been interested in the WaPo’s food criticism since Phyllis Richman left.

      I’m not going to accuse Sietsema of snobbery – although I have to roll my eyes whenever I see Citronelle at the top of the list – but I’m much more inclined to trust the reviews and recommendations of “regular people” on food boards, like ChowHound or web sites like Don Rockwell’s and Tyler Cowan’s.

      Finding a good food critic that matches your level of adventure and your wallet is a lot like finding a movie critic who seems to know what you like. Tom Sietsema is not my kind of food critic.

      • YoBimbo

        Sorry, Aaron. Didn’t mean for that to be a reply to your post.

      • CW

        Mine neither. Too rich for my wallet. At the end of the day, the D.C. restaurant scene is extremely overvalued, with pricing set to soothe the egos of expense-accounters. While I’ve been to plenty of the places that Tom swoons over, and have had some darn tasty meals at them, I rarely leave feeling that there was any semblance of value for the dollar in it.

        • xtr657

          Agreed. He only swoons over ethnic food from the suburbs and then goes on to put one of the most mediocre Thai Restaurants as the only Thai Restaurant on his list.

          Technically the 3 restaurants in “Falls Church” are in the Fairfax County part of Falls Church, if that’s any solace.

          His list is more or less the same each year and is always going to be DC-centric.

          Although Arlington gets shafted, it’s dining scene does seem more corporate to me than DC or some of the outer suburbs, not that that means the food is any worse.

      • borden


    • cranky crankypants


  • brendan

    Sietsema is a snob…barely give his overly developed sense of self-importance any more weight than your average review on Yelp and definitely less than a friend’s rec.

  • Chris

    I for one will be starting a new movement, “Occupy Sietsema” where I plan to go sit in his parking space(s) and play the bongos until he either lists Arlington restaurants or Russell Simmons agrees to hang out with me. If you’re going to join me, please bring funnel cake.

    • Chris

      At some point we are going to have to distinguish you from me. I often post here under Chris (my name too). It might be fun to see who can rile up other posters more and have the other one take the blame.

  • V Dizzle

    I’ve got something for Sietsema to dine on… Some wonderful ethnic cuisine and local favorites (and deez nuts).

    • Raoul

      I’ve never heard of Deez Nuts… are they good?

      • drax

        They’re nice and salty.

  • CW

    Big surprise…the dining guides are so predictable. Twice a year, the same old places, with a few changes.

    That said, to be fair, what restaurant in Arlington would be worthy of a best-of list? Eventide is the only thing we have that can be considered fine dining, and there was a period where Sietsema was enamored with it, but my understanding is that its quality has gone down.

    • Aaron

      This isn’t a fine dining guide though. This year’s theme is “places where Tom wishes he could be a regular.” That explains why half of the restaurants featured in this year’s guide are relatively downscale ethnic places.

      • CW

        Oh, downscale ethnic places, please, he just uses “Ethiopic” as every third word in anything he writes to make himself seem cultured in between sessions of getting his rear kissed at IALW.

    • VA^2

      I’d put Willow up there for one of the best places to eat in the DC area.

      • Brendan

        Willow is a downright joke. I’ve been there a few times because it’s near my work and wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

    • porkchop_milkshake

      I dunno. Looking at a few other things on his list:

      I think Thai square is much better than either of the Thai places he listed in Falls Church.

      Caribbean Grill is like Fast Gourmet, only better.

      I prefer Willow to a few of the comparables on that list.

      • CW

        To those who mentioned Willow, I do agree. Only been there once so I often forget about it, but very, very good indeed.

        • porkchop_milkshake

          If you like Willow and want to try it out on a more reasonable budget, get on their email list and watch their specials. We’ve had really great experiences there during their restaurant week and new year’s specials. For restaurant week, they’ll usually extend the prix fixe menu for an extra week and include a very nice (and optional) wine pairing for a reasonable extra charge. They also periodically run prix fixe specials for holidays (like new years) with great wine pairings too.

          Their new bistro menu of small plates is quite good as well, and very modestly priced compared to their usual menu.

          • tarzan_parsnip

            That’s great to know.

      • Thailover

        Thai Square is very good and used to be our fave. As good as if not better than TS is Thai Curry in Buckingham.

      • cranky crankypants

        Carribean Grill has been phoning it in of late. Two “meh” visits = off the Crankypants family’s rotation.

        • porkchop_milkshake

          That’s too bad. Thankfully, I haven’t run into that. The past few times I’ve been, the Cuban sandwich has been as good as ever.

    • YoBimbo

      I agree with the others about Thai Square (even though they have a different chef now, and I don’t like some things as much as I used to) and Willow (not overly creative, but always solidly tasty).

      And if it’s not a fine dining scale, then why have Citronelle on the list at all? I’ve lived here for 13 years, and I’ve NEVER been there, and I love food and fancy places. I’m just not convinced it’s worth the price. Plus, I saw Michele Richard on TV once lamenting the fact that people smash their garlic cloves to peel them and thought, Really? That’s what he gives us? Don’t smash your garlic?

      And, I don’t know if it’s on Sietsema’s Golden Ticket list, but we recently dined at Brabo in Old Town and loved it. Just sayin’.

  • VA

    Disappointing, but I don’t think we should really be surprised – the “boom of new restaurants” has brought some very generic menus to our market.

    • drax

      Take American Tap Room.


  • Ben

    Tyler Cowan’s recommendations are top notch and usually spot on.

  • Sigh

    Newsflash folks: Arlington is not in Washington D.C.

    • Tom Brokaw


      clearly was not a requirement for the list.

  • yrb

    Does anybody else think Pete’s pizza is nothing special? I don’t understand why everyone praising it so much

    • VA^2

      Pete’s is definitely nothing special. I was completely unimpressed when I treid it last week. It wasn’t bad, but also not great – just average pizza. I won’t be returning.

      What’s the best pizza place in Arlington? I’m a fan of Pupatella lately.

      • Southeast Jerome

        Pupatella is awesome. Its the 2 Amy’s of Arlington.

      • Ballstonian

        I’m the opposite. I’ve enjoyed Petes and have been unimpressed with Pupatella. I also enjoy Lost Dog and Pie-Tanza.

        • Arlingtonienne

          I agree re: Pie Tanza…there is something about their sauce that just knocks my socks off every time!

        • I can’t get past Lost Dog’s flabby doughy underbaked crust. It feels like that Chef Boyardee mix. We do the drive from Columbia Pike to Pete’s to get good pizza. I also thoroughly enjoy Pie-tanza.

      • yrb

        I like Sicilian Pizza http://mealage.com/sicilian/

        It’s quite greasy though, seems unhealthy 🙂

      • YoBimbo

        I love me some Pupatella. My wife like Pete’s, but I think it’s dry and over-baked.

        • YoBimbo

          Likes Pete’s. damn.

    • Sara

      Agree – it’s nothing to write home about

  • JamesE

    Arlington dining has been dead since they destroyed the courthouse taco bell.

    • I against I

      You got that right 😉

  • NoVapologist

    Sietsema used to be a male model. ‘Nuff said.

    • JamesE

      Sietsema’s food guide for people who can’t read good and want to do other stuff good too

      • haha

        – What is this? A restaurant for ants? How can we be expected to teach children to learn how to read… if they can’t even fit inside the building?

        – Tom, this is just a small…

        – I don’t wanna hear your excuses! The building has to be at least… three times bigger than this!

      • Chris

        GAS FIGHT!!

  • Josh S

    In other news of things that didn’t happen over the weekend:

    London Bridge didn’t fall down.
    Pigs did not fly.
    That bumpy stretch of Columbia Pike was not repaved.
    It didn’t rain buckets.

    Since when is things not happening newsworthy?

    Was there an expectation of Arlington making the list? Did a ten year streak come to an end? Should we be calling Cal Ripken Jr for insight?


    • SomeGuy

      Another rare instance in which I kind of agree with Josh S.

  • sue

    That is because so many of the Arlington restaurants (at least the fancy ones along Clarendon and Wilson) are not that good. They try for the ambiance but the food lacks. It is all typical american pub-fare. I like lyon hall/eventide, etc. but they still don’t compare to top dc restaurants. Went into Tap Room recently and they quite literally served food none of us could even finish. What is more disappointing is the selection of beer for a place called ‘Tap Room’.

    • Southeast Jerome

      yea agreed about ATR, the beer list is large, but nothing special, I actually think the draft beer list at “3” is better and it has maybe 1/5 the selection.

      the menu is awful at ATR. I give them until March of 2012 until the menu changes. they must have spent all their cash on that fire thing outside and had no money left for a decent chef and a decent head bartender to select decent beers.

      • CW

        No, the real problem is that they thought that what was acceptable in Reston and Bethesda would be acceptable here too. From a revenue generation perspective, they’re probably right. Has anyone been there lately? Is it not getting a big draw? I know that those of us who like to talk food tend to turn up our noses at the place, but, as the Cheesecake Factory shows us, that doesn’t mean they can’t make money off of everyone else out there…

        • Southeast Jerome

          I went in there briefly on Clarendon Day to watch some football. This is only b/c I couldnt find a seat at Hard Times/Grill/Days. I got a seat easily. It wasnt that crowded.

          • CW

            Ok, thanks. I’d not been there since I gave it a shot opening week. Sometimes there can be a big gap between the chatter about a place (food snobs, guilty as charged here, decrying the menu, etc.) and the actuality of it (plenty of people going there and spending money).

          • YoBimbo

            Fancy? On Clarendon and Wilson? Pah.

            I haven’t frequented Clarendon since they tore down Cafe Dalat and the other mom ‘n pops to build the chains, like Cheesecake Factory. I mean, really. I go to Iota Club/Cafe for brunch on the weekends, and Restaurant 3 for bacon week (this week!) only. That’s it. They ruined that whole stretch, as far as I’m concerned, to appeal to the Clarendon Ballroom and weekend dogwalker crowds.

      • VA^2

        I went to ATR a few weeks ago for brunch and was severely disappointed. I’m not sure how, but the managed to mess up an omelets. Its like they premake a bunch of plain egg omelets, and then just put the rest of the ingredients under it on the plate. No flavor.

        However, their LCD menus are pretty cool. Too bad they don’t have any appealing food on them. Hopefully they get a new chef soon.

    • Callie

      Tap Room is very uneven. I’ve had great dinners there and some that were close to bad. They need a revamped menu and good chef and line cooks. Too bad as it’s a good location.

  • y8s

    Arlington is the new Bridge and Tunnel.

    • Jon

      You’ve clearly never lived in NJ. There is no analogy there, at all.

      • y8s

        patiently waiting for the TV Show “The ARL” starring Remy the rapper….

  • bob

    The real reason: Hell Burger jacking up their prices.

    • Southeast Jerome

      inflation in everything but wages my man.

  • Really miss Phyllis Richman. Hard to believe it has been 12 years since she left the Washington Post as its food critic.

    I have never felt Tom Sietsema portrays things well. His biases are so personal we have a hard time relating to him. Would love to see someone like Phyllis come back and give a better accounting of restaurants in the area.

    • YoBimbo


  • Phylis

    “Arlington County, which has seen a boom of new restaurants”

    They have only caught fire they haven’t exploded…..sensationalist reporting !!

  • Callie

    I certainly don’t miss Phyllis Richman but Tom Sietsema is a self-styled urban hipster foodie who reviews for other foodies and not the rest of us. Duh. I have my foodie moments, too, but Arlington has plenty of good, reasonably priced restaurants. The WaPo and it’s food critics can go pound tar. Arlington has a dining out scene to be proud of.

    • YoBimbo


  • At least we now have blogs and online forums to find out which restaurants are good. I got over Tom Sietsma’s narrow thinking long ago. I remember when a Washington Post Dining Guide book was my restaurant bible, but that was long, long ago. Have you seen the Washington Post’s Going Out Guide app? It is pitiful.


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