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Up All Night

 

By Warren Rojas / Photography by Marisa Zanganeh

Care for a bite? Even if you aren’t feeling particularly peckish right now, chances are you may later. Should your belly start rumbling after the midnight hour, you might find yourself hypnotized by the latest Go-Go Taquito™ creation—now featuring even more barbebaconcamole flavor!—spinning like salvation at the 7-Eleven checkout. Snap out of it, rookie! Our area boasts a wide variety of all-night dining options—from there-when-you-need-it Korean barbecue to round-the-clock pastries and more. So go catch that late movie or stay for your favorite band’s third encore.

These folks will be waiting, whenever the mood strikes.

 

Yechon
4121 Hummer Road, Annandale; 703-914-4646; www.yechonrestaurant.com
Average entree: $13 to $20 ($$).

Seafood hot pot with some scorching sides

Watching the constant stream of bubbling clay pots shoot out of the kitchen while glistening meats sizzle to perfection at surrounding tables, it’s not hard to fathom how Yechon stays busy morning, noon and night.

An all-hours haven for barbecue junkies of all nationalities—Asian diners tend to outnumber Westerners roughly 4-to-1—Yechon specializes in traditional Korean and Japanese cuisine. Raw fish fans crowd the sushi counter on the far left of the quaint but bustling restaurant, while larger groups can seek solace in one of the semi-private chambers carved into the rear wall.

Regulars, however, know the real action takes place in the central dining room.

Seconds after being seated, the banchan parade begins, as waitresses dutifully shove tantalizing portions of pickled everything—including cured anchovies, spicy bean sprouts, chunky-style peanut sauces, cubed beets and traditional kimchi—onto every usable square inch of your table.

Fried dumplings yield a purse of ground pork enveloped by bronzed dough. A knockout seafood stew (hae mul dolsot bibim bap) reveals a grand casserole of shrimp, squid and jumbo vegetables brought to steaming greatness. Addictive short ribs (bul gogi) deliver a succession of soy sauce, garlic and caramelized sugar across the palate. Meanwhile, a made-to-order barbecue feast begins with a spider web of marinated pork shorn to bits by your server and tossed on the hideaway cook top at the center of every table, and usually doesn’t end until someone shovels the last strips of white-hot swine into any remaining lettuce leaves and gleefully wolfs it all down.

 

Bob and Edith’s
2310 Columbia Pike, Arlington; 703-920-6103; www.bobandedithsdiner.com
Average entree: Under $12 ($).

Blueberry cobbler a la mode always chases away the blues

Locals flock to the original Bob and Edith’s—a classic diner that’s short on parking and long on menu items—whenever they need a helping of good, old-fashioned comfort food, those magical dishes that transport us to a more innocent time with every soothing bite.

Patrons can take their pick from the roughly dozen booths in the main dining room or the 10 stools parked along the front counter. The entirely non-smoking facility attracts all types, as borne out by recent encounters with couples, gal pals, old Army buddies and even families with young children.

Redskins fans, however, should note that the walls are covered with enough Dallas Cowboy memorabilia to make Dan Snyder lose his lunch.

All the cooking is done in a deep fryer or at two main griddles, where piles of tanned home fries are huddled into corners for quick retriveal. Stacks of sliced bread stand at the ready to construct any of the deli-style sandwiches, mixed burger combinations and virtually every permutation of fried egg-and-something imaginable.

An open-faced turkey number (wish it was roast turkey rather than deli slices, though) doused with brown gravy is plentiful, but a side of macaroni salad (a healthy dose of noodles, carrots and celery) is better. The disappointment fades with one bite of a terrific tuna melt bearing gobs of tuna salad and crisp bacon pressed between buttery grilled toast. A vanilla milkshake is thick enough to eat with a spoon—and rich enough to make you want to try it.

 

Amphora Diner Deluxe
1151 Elden St., Herndon; 703-925-0900; www.amphoragroup.com
Average entree: $13 to $20 ($$).

This Cobb does the job in terms of protein-packed greens

The hipster sib to Vienna’s venerable counterpart, the Herndon Amphora helps keep hunger at bay by serving up traditional Greek cuisine, home-style breakfasts and tooth-achingly rich sweets at all hours of the night.

A far cry from the converted dining cars of yore—one dining companion dubbed the gargantuan steel and glass structure the “Cadillac of diners”—Amphora’s Diner Deluxe incorporates plenty of fine-dining touches into its well-choreographed service program.

Bow tie and white jacket-clad servers look pretty-boy sharp, but tackle every job with vigor (run orders for colleagues, clear plates like clockwork). Meals begin with a gourmet bread basket (a wealth of homemade breads and whipped butter), a reminder of Amphora’s bakery roots.

The menu runs the gamut from Mediterranean to Mexican with few major missteps.

Tex-Mex egg rolls are almost as big as the longhorn state itself, summoning burrito-like, fried tortilla shells stuffed with grilled chicken, copious amounts of cheese and savory beans. A giant pita piled high with a terrific tomato-feta omelet and cakey hash browns is a big meatless marvel. Homemade moussaka nestles ground beef and eggplant beneath a blanket of tomato sauce. An overly generous gyro arrives stuffed with red onions, tomatoes and miles of tender, shaved lamb and pleasing tzatziki sauce (supplies a cooling nudge).

Diehard chocolate lovers should swoon at the sight of the chunky chocolate mousse cake (weaves together white and dark chocolate, chocolate ganache and shaved chocolate). Elsewhere, an innocent-looking eclair looses a torpedo of flaky pastry, creamy custard and crunchy chocolate.

 

Kabob Palace
2315 S. Eads St., Arlington; 703-486-3535
Average entree: Under $12 ($).

When it comes to quelling hunger pangs, kabobs appear to cut across all borders. At least that’s the way it seems at the original Kabob Palace—an after-hours stronghold whose dining room often resembles a United Nations of protein-seeking night owls.

A gorgeous mural of an open-air bazaar adorns the far wall of the L-shaped main dining room. A truly international clientele—everyone from off-duty cops to Middle Eastern families to full camo-wearing Army personnel can be found at the nearly dozen tables—keeps things lively inside, while the constantly ringing phone keeps the kitchen crew busy at all hours.

The main deli case is always stacked with skewers of assorted meats, while daily specials and vegetarian-friendly sides are dished out from the hot bar alongside the register. Every order is accompanied by freshly baked pita made in the kitchen’s traditional tandoor oven. Meanwhile, a condiment caddy bearing sliced white onions, chopped lemons and slim but feisty green chilies helps customize each meal.

Lamb chop kabobs bring fists of spiced succulence that tap into the primal urge to rip and tear at spit-roasted meats; the exposed bones arrive wrapped in tinfoil so even unsteady hands can bring food to face without further interruption. Seasoned ground beef (kubideh) delivers welcome heat. Bone-in chicken is moist and meaty, while its boneless counterparts yield pink boulders that spill their juicy payload with every bite. Basmati rice is nice but gets even better when topped with sauteed spinach hiding stewed potatoes.

 

The Waffle House
17137 Dumfries Road, Dumfries; 703-221-8726; www.wafflehouse.com
Average entree: Under $12 ($).

Hash browns + pantry’s worth of toppings = starch heaven

Ever wonder what hash browns would say if they could talk? Me neither.

But I do know the griddle-fried spuds can sing—or at least they do at Waffle House.

A nationwide chain—oddly enough, the Dumfries location is the only one in our area—revered by college students and interstate truckers, the Waffle House has a certain tongue-in-cheek charm. The jukebox boasts a number of novelty ditties, including tunes like “It’s Waffle House Time” and “Make Mine with Cheese,” alongside a mix of country, classic rock and rap. Servers in dark aprons and kerchiefs bark back orders in their in-house lingo (the quick-service parlance might not be quite as colorful as what you’d hear in a New York deli, but it’s still fairly amusing). Meanwhile, a huge crock of sunflower-yellow butter parked beside the always-on griddles dwindles down with each subsequent order (every slice of toast gets a healthy dab, each bowl of grits is swimming in it).

Breakfast is king here, particularly when it comes to the signature hash browns. The perfectly shredded spuds can be: doubled or tripled in size, scattered across the grill, smothered (onions), covered (American cheese), chunked (cubed ham), diced (tomatoes), peppered (jalapenos), capped (mushrooms), topped (crowned with chili) or all the way (all of the above). Gobs of waffle batter become golden brown butter repositories in mere minutes (add chocolate chips for a gooey delight or pecans for extra crunch). A monstrous double-patty melt stacks twin burgers, grilled onions, American cheese and chewy bacon on liberally buttered slabs of Texas toast.

 

Frost Diner
55 Broadview Ave., Warrenton; 540-347-3047
Average entree: Under $12 ($).

During one late-night sojourn to Warrenton’s beloved Frost Diner—an all-purpose dining fixture since the original ribbon cutting back in 1955—I overheard one pair of 20-something newcomers make a pact that they would never again step foot in an IHOP after finding this place.

You can’t buy that type of loyalty.

Much more than just a place to score a hot meal, the Frost Diner fosters a true sense of community. Guests can saunter up to any of the swivel stools at the worn Formica lunch counter or slide into the well-kept two-tone booths. Waitresses are never too busy to chat with customers, even as they whirr about slinging hash, running orders or polishing up all the still-gleaming steel surfaces throughout. Staff cheers when a fellow worker walks in, while servers punching out immediately join friends dining at a nearby booth. Most nights, the crowd appears about evenly split between old-timers sipping coffee and smoking butts and laptop-toting Xers enthralled by in-booth jukeboxes featuring artists from Patsy Cline to *NSYNC.

Signature specials include a 12-ounce T-bone and eggs, country steak and eggs and an all-cereal entree. One down-home favorite combines shaved country ham, fried eggs and melted American cheese. A glorious sausage and eggs platter eschews charred patties and shriveled links in favor of a foot-long Italian sausage steak that’s terrifically spicy. For sweets, try any of the featured layer cakes (strawberry and chocolate fudge appear to be staples) brought in daily from Knakal’s Bakery in nearby Culpeper.

 

(January 2008)

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