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Unassuming Arlington eatery named region’s No. 1 casual restaurant by Washington Post

Charga Grill on Langston Blvd (staff photo)

Charga Grill, at 5151 Langston Blvd, can blend in among the small, unassuming strip mall eateries that line Arlington’s stretch of Route 29.

But it was just the recipient of a very uncommon honor.

Washington Post food critic Tim Carman last week ranked Charga Grill as No. 1 on his list of the D.C. area’s 10 best casual restaurants of 2022.

He wrote of Charga’s eclectic menu and marquee dish:

Charga specializes in street food from around the world, with an emphasis on plates of chicken. Peruvian pollo a la brasa. South African peri-peri. And two specimens from Pakistan, Chaudry’s homeland: brined-and-smoked sajji chicken, and skinless charga chicken, which is steamed and flash-fried. The latter two birds alone are worth a trip to Charga. But Chaudry, along with his uncle Iqbal Chaudry, doesn’t stop at chicken. They also serve kebabs, curries, quesadillas and more. Their free-form approach might confound those who prefer tidy categories for their restaurants. But as with the customers who enter their establishment, Iqbal and Asad commit themselves to each and every dish on the menu.

Carman expounded upon Charga’s origins in a glowing January 2022 review.

Asad Chaudry still remembers the first time he tried charga. He had flown to Pakistan for his brother’s wedding in 2012, and as part of the trip, Chaudry’s mom took him to her former neighborhood in Lahore, where they waited, and waited, in line at one of the city’s famous street vendors for a chance to bite into its singular chicken.

Chaudry knew enough about the dish, sometimes spelled chargha, to know how to eat it: He used a piece of naan to tear off a generous hunk of meat from the bird. He garnished the combination with masala onions and then dunked the bite in mint chutney. “When I tried it, I was like, ‘Man, this is amazing,'” he tells me one afternoon over the phone. “I was like, ‘I got to learn how to make it.'”

Chaudry tried to learn as much as he could on the ground in Lahore, but he admits his grasp of Pakistan’s mother tongues is shaky. But he established one important fact during his brief educational tour nearly a decade ago: The chicken is typically steamed and flash-fried, not cooked on a rotisserie as he had initially guessed. From there, Chaudry and his uncle, Iqbal Chaudry, researched and tested recipes until they had exactly what they wanted: their own take on one of Lahore’s signature dishes.

Charga is also highly rated among diners on Yelp, with a 4.5 star review average between today and the first review in 2017.

Carman’s 2022 casual restaurant list included another Arlington-connected restaurant: La Tingeria — which got its start as an Arlington food truck and was nearly shut down by the City of Falls Church after setting up its brick-and-mortar location at 626 S. Washington Street — ranked No. 4.

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