Posted by Tim Regan / Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013
In August, I moved to Northern Virginia by way of Chicago, and as expected, absolutely everything is different. The people are an eclectic mix of urban and rural. The traffic is actually somehow worse. Last week, I learned what a “Sheetz” was. But perhaps the most jarring changes have been food related. Here are the five biggest ways NoVA’s cuisine surprised me:
1. Pho is everywhere.
Typing “pho near Fairfax” into Google Maps literally just crashed my browser, and I’m fairly certain it has to do with the sheer number of returned results. Going to Yelp, centering the map on Falls Church and searching for pho returns 96 results. Here’s an experiment to try at home: next time you get hungry, turn off the lights, stare into the largest mirror you own and say “pho” thirteen times. If all goes well, your incantation will summon a delivery driver carrying as much Vietnamese noodle soup as you can stomach. The price is merely your soul, which is still probably a good deal, because: pho.
2. Northern Virginia has no famous food.
Chicago had hot dogs, pizza and dipped beef. My hometown of St. Louis had its own pizza, barbecue ribs and a world renowned brand of beer. But NoVA lacks the kind of famous cuisine you’d expect from an otherwise well-known part of the country. Maybe all it takes is some kind of grassroots movement. Did the people of Chicago line up at city hall one day and vote on deep dish pizza? I pledge we invent some kind of weird new hot dog. Or a sandwich. Or a pastry. Call your congressional representative and let’s make this happen!
3. The beer is good, but different.
Chicago had Goose Island, the somewhat over-hyped craft brewer. While NoVA doesn’t have anything quite as as iconic, we do have Port City Brewing, Mad Fox Brewing Company and Lost Rhino, and they all produce some decent beers. Perhaps the only beer-related snag I’ve run into since moving here is finding Midwestern and Pacific-Northwestern brews. But even that is getting better: iconic Kansas City brewer Boulevard announced plans to distribute within the area last summer. Then again, Dogfish Head is ridiculously easy to find here…actually, why was I complaining again?
4. Pupuserias are the new taquerias.
Enough said. Seriously. The pupusa has replaced the taco as my go-to cheap snack. Chicago might have had a taqueria on every corner, but I’m not looking back. Pupusas, in all of their cheesy, meaty greasy goodness, reign supreme. End of story. My next goal is to convince Cerrito’s Pupuseria to deliver.
5. There’s wineries in them thar hills!
It shouldn’t have been a surprise that NoVA’s rolling hills are dotted with wineries. The soil here is eerily suited for grapes, and far enough from the District to avoid being poisoned by political discourse. What surprised me, though, is how abundant the wineries are. It’s hard to drive anywhere west of Sterling without seeing one, and they’re all clustered together. Forget bar crawls. Let’s start hoofing it from winery to winery.
Tags: beer, Boulevard, Cerrito's Pupuseria, DogFish Head, food, Goose Island, Gut Check, lost rhino, Mad Fox Brewing, Mad Fox Brewing Company, Northern Virginia, Northern Virginia Magazine, NoVA, pho, Port City Brewing, Pupusas, Tim Regan, wine