Leek American Bistro Opens in Ballston

by ARLnow.com November 6, 2012 at 11:00 am 9,187 56 Comments

Leek American Bistro has opened its doors in Ballston.

The new restaurant held a ‘soft opening’ for dinner on Saturday and for lunch and happy hour on Monday, but is open for all three — plus late night food — starting today (Tuesday). The new eatery replaces the former Thai Terrace restaurant at 801 N. Quincy Street.

Leek will be open for lunch from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., for happy hour from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m., for dinner from 6:00 and 11:00 p.m., and for late night food and drink from 11:00 p.m. to closing time, seven days a week. There will also be brunch service on Saturday and Sunday.

Leek seats about 100 diners and bar-goers inside and will seat about 50 people outside during warm weather months. Chef and co-owner Nathan Spittal says he’s hoping Leek will provide fine dining-caliber food — utilizing local, organic and sustainable ingredients — in a bright, casual and welcoming environment.

“We like to call it tablecloth casual, which basically means you’re going to get fine food, good wine and good drink, but in a casual atmosphere… at a really good price,” he said.

Although the restaurant is dubbed an “American Bistro,” Spittal says it’s more of an American “melting pot,” blending influences from around the world. Among those influences: French, Thai, Latin America, Indian and Middle Eastern.

The name of the restaurant itself, says Spittal, a classically trained chef, refers to the leek, which he described as the foundation of classical French cooking technique and a “very versatile” vegetable that “makes everything taste better.” Leek can be found in some — but not all — dishes on the menu.

Spittal has proven his own versatility by working at both fine dining restaurants and on a short-lived barbecue food truck. Together with business partner Joe D’Jassebi, Spittal is hoping this venture appeals to those with discerning but versatile palates.

The lunch menu includes “starters” like a $10 ahi tuna tartare (ginger-chili mayo, spring onion and seaweed salad); salads like the $8 Leek house salad (mixed greens, grilled pear, smoked red onions, chevre cheese and herb-cider vinaigrette); “handhelds,” or sandwiches, like a $14 Maine lobster roll (lemon-terragon mayo, bibb lettuce, Napa slaw and garlic fries); and main courses like the $24 Maryland crabcake entree (English pea and roasted corn succotash, whole grain mustard remoulade and garlic fries).

The dinner menu includes a $7 fennel and leek soup appetizer (poached lobster and orange-anise cream); a $10 Leek bistro burger (hickory smoked bacon, a choice of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and garlic fries); a $20 falafel crusted salmon entree (roasted garlic-garbanzon puree, red onion and tomato compote, cool cucumber nage) and a $18 lemon-chili roasted chicken (red potato and green leek hash, garlic brussel sprouts and herb olivata).

Desserts include sweet corn panna cotta (caramel corn, poblana creme Anglaise and tortilla tuile) and black sesame-pear tea cake (candied ginger and coconut gelato).

Beers on tap include Magic Hat #9, New Belgium 1554, Flying Dog Black Dog IPA, Brooklyn Winter Ale and Sam Adams Oktoberfest, among others. The wine collection hails from California, Washington state, Virginia, Italy, France, Australia, Argentina and South Africa, among other locales. The artisan cocktail menu includes Blueberries Maryland (blueberries, fresh rosemary, smoked maple syrup, club soda and Gran Marnier), Dirty Ginger (ginger honey, fresh lime, Krug Rose and Meyers dark rum), and Virginia Royal (pomegranate, fresh raspberries and Barboursville Brut).

Happy hour will include both food and daily drink specials.

As for the Ballston location, Spittal says he’s excited to be opening in a still-growing area that has city-like foot traffic outside of D.C. proper.

“Arlington is a great neighborhood that has come a long way,” he said. “It’s not a suburb anymore.”

  • James Moron

    I look forward to trying this place. Three things jump off the page:
    1. The name is terrible
    2. The sign is terrible.
    3. Why didn’t they powerwash the area behind the sign where the Thai Terrace sign was?

    • YTK

      I can hear it now — “Get the mop! There’s a leek!!!”

    • drax

      1. It’s casual, but upscale! Fancy, yet inexpensive! Yeah yeah yeah, like every restaurant in Arlington.
      2. Will they have outdoor seating under that terrace? It’s a must in this area.
      3. Looking forward to trying it and I hope it succeeds.

  • Corey

    God, could Arlington restaurants be more boring?

    • SomeGuy

      Yes, they could. But what would you like to see that would impress your refined palate?

      • WeiQiang

        How about Qiang’s House of Gołąbki?

        • DCBuff

          Tell me about the beers on draft.

          • WeiQiang

            Leżajsk Pełne, Leżajsk Mocne, Podkarpackie, Tatra Jasne Pełne, Tatra Mocne … annnnd QingDao.

            The real draw is the PBR, Rolling Rock and Iron City in cans.

          • YTK

            Don’t forget the fermented Mare’s Milk.

          • malaka

            Will that be available by the glass or just by the bucket?

          • WeiQiang

            by the glass, with a plastic teet cover. keeping it classy.

        • SomeGuy

          “Gołąbki.” I think I’ve seen some images of that on the web. And such an establishment would have a quite a bill to clean those linens.

          • WeiQiang

            plastic table cloths. sheesh … obvious.

        • Not Me

          My wife’s 92 year old Grandma makes a mean Golumpki!

          I want one now.

  • Can’t Wait

    I’ve been anxiously awaiting and can’t wait to try it! Good luck!

  • Captain_Obvious

    Jeez, why so much hate ? Does anything make you people happy ? Ballston needs better food anyway…

  • WeiQiang


  • Josh S

    This is the equivalent of a sponsored post.

    • Anon


    • WeiQiang

      not quibbling, but how is this different from every other article about the opening of an eating establishment?

      • Alan

        I guess he would rather not hear any news about restaurants unless they pay.

  • John Fontain

    I’ll admit it, I’m drooling. The food looks and sounds great. $6 for a burger and fries during happy hour?!?! Count me in.

    Also, i love me a good “happy happy”!

    • SomeGuy

      Your comment has a very… happy ending. You might be interested in WeiQiang’s restaurant idea.

  • Hasdrupal

    We certainly need more choices in Ballston/Virginia Square. Menu sounds interesting. Hope they make it. Developers say Wilson Blvd. is a killer for restaurants. They don’t want them in their buildings because no one wants to live above a restaurant unless you like cockroaches.

    • General Zod

      I agree with your more choices in the hood comment. Plus anything’s better than the so called food at Rustico.

  • blah

    I’ll give the place a try!

  • Sarah

    Given that Sunday is Veteran’s Day, apparently Leek is going to give a donation from its brunch service to the Wounded Warrior Project. I think that’s pretty cool of them…

  • SHLady

    Looking forward to trying it. good luck!

  • Alan

    Menu sounds good but they are probably about 15% over-priced to stick it out for the long run, unless the food is really really good.

  • SomeGuy

    Can’t wait for the police report when a thievish patron gets arrested for taking a leek.

    • P.D.

      Just wondering: Would a thievish patron taking a leek be otherwise known as a rapSCALLION?

  • Frito Pie

    Good luck, Nathan!

  • Clarendon Skank

    Does anyone know of a Serbian restaurant?

    • WeiQiang

      ask YTK, [s]he seems to be familiar with the market for mare’s milk.

      • SomeGuy

        Could you involve some Serbians in the Gołąbki concept?

        • WeiQiang

          i’d consider it. as CS can attest, Serbians are optimally-equipped to work in the service industry … lifeguards, bouncers, etc.

      • YTK

        Check Teeter (oh, unintended pun) or Whole Foods, maybe. Should be in the dairy aisle on the left, waaay in the back — if I am not mistaken.

    • NoVapologist

      There is the Serbian Crown in Great Falls, but I think it’s more Russian than Serbian.

    • if you’re actually serious

      there’s supposed to be a new one open (or opening soon) in Capitol Hill called Ambar

    • Dan
      • SomeGuy

        I looked for Serbian-style tube steak on their menu. No luck. Do you think that’s something she could call ahead for?

  • KRS

    Looking foward to trying it, but I agree that name is a poor choice.

    • llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

      I assumed it was going to be a Welsh restaurant

  • speonjosh

    Although you might want to figure out that Arlington is not a “neighborhood!!”

  • gerry

    Beers on tap include Magic Hat #9, New Belgium 1554, Flying Dog Black Dog IPA, Brooklyn Winter Ale and Sam Adams Oktoberfest, among others. The wine collection hails from California, Washington state, Virginia, Italy, France, Australia, Argentina and South Africa, among other locales.

    this is not impressive. run of the mill/average beer/wine list. NEXT!

  • Deadite

    Oof, that name is rough! And the sign looks like the design of a menthol cigarette carton circa 1991…

    I’ll still check it out, though.

  • Mack

    I hope they get that roof fixed.

  • Brian

    The design of their logo is awful. For a restaurant in this crowded an area, that’s almost certain death. I hope they get good word of mouth, because that signage ain’t helping.

  • Zach II

    They’ve got a great to-go menu too, so you’ll be able to take a Leek whenever and wherever you want.

  • MCSL

    I’ve been. Food is legit. Service friendly. I wish them lots of success.

  • Ricardo

    Went last night; impressed.

  • ABC

    Went last night, wasn’t impressed. Decor is dull, silverware is about the same quality that you’d find at the dollar store. Entrees lacked technique and were rather bland. Service was good and friendly. I’m hoping they are still working out the kinks and this was a fluke. I’ll be back soon to see if things have turned around. I am rooting for this place but it was hard after my experience.

    • homedog

      I can say that I was told the silverware was actually all recycled which is a pleasant thought.

  • ABC

    Well then they should make a point of telling customers it’s recycled, otherwise it makes it seem like they are using extremely cheap silverware.

    The scallop dish I had looked to have the same ingredients that are in their website front page photo, yet the presentation was nothing like that website photo. The noodles were drowned in sauce and everything was just piled onto the plate with no finesse. It also tasted like the scallops were baked and not seared as it states on the menu.

    Again, I’ll be back and hopefully this was just a fluke.

  • mskoon

    My daughters and I came out to try Leek tonight. So far, not so good. When we first arrived we learned it would be about a 20 minute wait. The hostess told me and my under-age daughters to sit at the bar. I asked if she was sure and she said, “it’s ok.” When I sat down, the bartender rudely told me I could not sIt there with children. When I tried to tell him that the hostess told me to sIt there, he talked over me and again rudely repeated himself.
    Overall, the food was not bad, but did not make up for the poor service. The portions were small. The room was very loud, drafty and dark. I could barely read the menu because it was so dark. The restaurant is not at all child-friendly, so beware if you have kids. The service is also pretty so, but once most of the early crowd cleared out, the wait staff became significantly more attentive. At this point I would give Leek a rating of 2 out of 4. I give it that mostly because it was clean.

    • mskoon

      *slow. Not so.


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