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Dining in the DMV: Mason Grad Insider’s Top Suggestions

February 21, 2018

Editors’s note – 11/17/2020: Although we are facing a different world during this pandemic than when this blog post was originally written, in 2018, these are still some wonderful local businesses you can support if you feel like treating yourself to some delicious food in the DMV (while wearing masks and staying 6 feet apart). Enjoy!

Happy Hump Day, y’all! In response to positive feedback to last year’s “To Brunch or Not to Brunch” post, we at Mason Grad Insider are making it a series. Last week, we highlighted last year’s brunch recommendations,  and this week’s new post is going to tell you about some of the best places to eat in the DMV(a fun researching opportunity for me and my friends).

Whether you’re dining with your family, friends, classmates, or coworkers, dinner is important for both your physical and mental well-being. Last October, Limeade, an employee engagement company, wrote a blog on why communal eating is important for personal and professional well-being. You may ask, why is communal eating important? There are three answers: relationship building, accessibility, and overall well-being.

Sharing a meal with others allows for a deeper connection and allows you to break down the barriers and dig deeper with colleagues, classmates, and friends. If you are a supervisor or a mentor to an undergrad or another member of your academic program, sharing a meal gives you the chance to be more accessible and offer a chance to have discussions in a less formal setting. Lastly, “not only does [dinner] with your coworkers [or classmates] allow you to chat and catch up, it can encourage you to try new foods, eat healthier and take the time to eat your entire meal rather than scarf down snacks” or small meals amid the hassles of the day, such as work, class, and your readings.[1]

Now let’s get to the fun part of this post: My completely subjective recommendations for the 3 best dinner spots in DC, Arlington, and Fairfax.

DC has an endless list of places to dine, but I’ll give you my favorite three: Yekta Kabobi Restaurant, The Looking Glass Lounge, and Compass Rose: Bar and Kitchen.

Yekta Kabobi Restaurant is probably my favorite restaurant in the DMV. It is a Persian restaurant, so you may think I am being biased; however, I usually am not a fan of Persian restaurants, I’d much rather have my or my family’s cooking. Yekta is one of the very few exceptions I have found within the borders of the United States. If you have never had Persian food, make sure to go hungry — we like to eat and eat a lot. Save room for chai (our word for black tea, not to be confused with traditional Southeast Asian chai that is milk based) and dessert: I’d suggest the zoolbia bamieh. For starters, the kashke bademjan is the best and for our vegetarian readers, this is something you should definitely get. For your main course, I’d suggest the Yekta Special, a combination of a barg (steak), joojeh (chicken or Cornish hen), and koobideh (ground beef) kabobs, all marinated with different spices, and served with saffron rice and an optional shirazi salad.

The Looking Glass Lounge is my favorite place to go during the week. They have a great happy hour with different options each night: my favorites are Mondays and Wednesdays. Mondays have all-night happy hour and Wednesdays feature half-priced burgers and black bean burgers. While I am not a vegetarian, I have been in the past and have quite a few veggie only friends in my life. Most of us agree that their black bean burger and curly fries are the best in the District. So go and check it out.

Compass Rose: Bar and Kitchen is a great place to get international street food and feel like you’re getting your passport stamped while staying within your travel budget, which as a fellow grad, I know isn’t a lot. This self-proclaimed “armchair traveler” restaurant is perfect for those who love global fare. I’d suggest getting the Smorrebord, a Danish take on trout, or Galbi, Korean marinated short ribs.

Like DC, Arlington has a plethora of dining options. More and more, people are choosing to dine in Arlington instead of hoofing into the District. My top choices from my old stomping grounds are Galaxy Hut, Ray’s The Steaks, and Bangkok 54.

Galaxy Hut is a hidden diamond in the rough and one of my favorite places to dine and have a drink. It is definitely a dive bar, but has an amazing drink selection. Galaxy Hut has both vegan and carnivorous options, the draft beer is always changing, and the tots are a must. It does not serve liquor, but the wine and beer lists are extensive. Also, my favorite dining option is the meatloaf burger.

Ray’s The Steaks is a good old-fashioned steak house and serves some great steaks and seafood. To start, I’d suggest the bacon-wrapped scallops or the crab bisque. You cannot go wrong with any of the steak options, all are great! I have always favored a hanger steak, and their L’Onglet is amazing, cooked perfectly, and you really can’t ask for more. If hanger steaks aren’t for you, I’d go for the NY Strip. They have both a classic and steakhouse cut; the classic is just as good, but is cheaper.

Bangkok 54 is the choice for Thai in Arlington. You can ask anyone who knows me, both personal and work friends, and all will tell you about my love for Thai cuisine. Bangkok 54 is a great choice if you are in the mood for a curry or Pad Thai. Though Pad Thai is my absolute favorite, and I highly recommend it here, sometimes I venture away and get the Massamun Curry, a beef curry, but you should not get it if you have a peanut allergy.

Another full disclosure: much like brunch, I do not often eat dinner in Fairfax as I am usually trying to beat traffic or am getting out of class after 10pm. That being said, I have eaten at a few restaurants in the area and the following are my favorite three: Sisters Thai, The Old Fire Station #3, and Hard Times Cafe.

Sisters Thai is probably the one restaurant I have been to the most in Fairfax. If I am getting dinner with friends, classmates, colleagues, or my boss, Sisters Thai is the choice. I always start with the Spring Rolls and Donald Rolls (a duck filled fried pastry of yumminess). As always with Thai food, my entrée of choice is Pad Thai; however, if I’m in the mood for something else, I tend to get the Jungle Curry.

The Old Fire Station #3 is the first restaurant I went to in Fairfax. It is definitely a dive bar and restaurant, but the food and drinks are good. I tend to get the special of the day, hopefully it’s something Greek, but my friends and classmates love the Phillys, and getting fries is a must.

Hard Times Cafe is a billiards bar-pool hall kinda place, definitely bar food. Get ready for the grease and the satisfied fullness. Drinks are cheap, and they have jalapeño pepper poppers as an appetizer.

With this all said, go out to dinner and share a communal meal with your friends, family, coworkers, or classmates. Try some of these restaurants, go to new ones and report back if you like. I am always looking for a new place. If there are spots not mentioned you feel should have been, email us at gradlife@gmu.edu; we’ll put them in the next edition of eating destinations.

As always, I hope you found this post fun and full of new information. If you are looking for a specific topic or looking to share your own thoughts, email us at gradlife@gmu.edu, and we’ll look to a new blog topic or even a guest writer. I hope you have a great week.


This blog post has been edited and updated to reflect current changes in information.

Edited by Sydney Glass, 11/19/2018

[1] Marketing, Limeade. “Eating Lunch with Your Coworkers Is Good for Your Well-Being.”Limeade, Limeade Marketing, 5 Oct. 2017, www.limeade.com/2017/10/eating-lunch-coworkers-good-well/.

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