3420 Carlyn Hill Drive
Falls Church, VA 22041
CUISINE Soul Food, Comfort Food, Barbecue
PRICE Under $12
HOURS Open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday through Sunday; closed Monday.
NVM AWARDS Best Bargain Restaurant 2006
NEARBY METRO None
By Warren Rojas
Generic mom-and-pop’s have got nothing on the mom-and-son soul food stronghold Francine and Tyrone Helton established in Falls Church over a decade ago.
Their family-run restaurant—matriarch Francine helps cook and runs the register while Tyrone keeps a watchful eye on every item that makes its way down the line—offers nothing more than home-style favorites and delivers nothing less than a glimpse into the kitchen craft of historic Southern dinners.
“Our thing is to make everybody feel comfortable when they come here,” Francine says of their from-scratch cooking and no-fuss service.
Their famous fried chicken, for instance, first took flight from her home kitchen. “We used to do it from home, and we just transitioned it to the restaurant,” she says of her simple but satisfying recipe, a family treasure featuring a hodgepodge of mystery seasonings including salt, pepper, onion powder and paprika.
These days, she says the chicken runs neck and neck with the fried fish selections (whiting is typically a close second, followed by catfish) in terms of weekly sales, though chicken is probably the overall best seller.
Daily specials cycle through quite regularly, drawing constituencies devoted to Southern delicacies like: pigs feet, chitlins, fried turkey (typically reserved for the holidays) and banana pudding.
Meanwhile, many menu standards are plenty special enough.
Cooked-to-order bird is pulled from the fridge when you order, lightly dredged in flour and deep-fried till perfectly golden—resulting in a flawless fowl that bombards the senses with crispy succulence (crackling skin, juicy meat) in every bite. Fair warning: Every fried chicken order takes around 20 minutes, but is well worth the wait.
Pulled pork is pure shredded bliss, yielding slow-cooked swine saturated in its natural juices, but still ready for amateur sauciers. A chili-white vinegar concoction couldn’t stand up to the wood-infused meat, peppery hot sauce added fire but seemed to roll off the moist flesh too easily, while the hickory-molasses barbecue sauce (mostly sweet but still fairly bold) was the absolute perfect fit.
Candied yams stop just shy of dessert-sweet, revealing well-whipped tubers embellished with enough cinnamon and brown sugar to coax a smile from even vegetable-averse youngsters.
Those who prefer their confection sans nutritional interference can indulge in slabs of sugar-glazed poundcake (based on Francine’s great aunt’s cold oven poundcake recipe), a hyper-dense helping of buttery richness encased in hazy, crystalline icing (criminally sweet).(May 2006)
By Warren Rojas
Soul food. Home cooking. Manna from heaven. Call it whatever you like. Because all you need to know is that the made-from-scratch masterpieces Troy and Francine Helton whip up at Flavors in Falls Church are delicious, plain and simple.
A neighborhood favorite for the past several years, Flavors has won over critics and community members alike by serving up Southern delicacies like fresh fried chicken, hickory smoked pork ribs and deep fried pork chops good enough for a Baptist barbecue. Nothing on the menu is over $11, and nary a morsel of food is prepared until you place your order at the main counter.
For a deep sea delight, order up any of the fried fish specials, an ensemble that includes whiting, sea trout, croaker and sometimes catfish. The catfish plate brings a giant filet of flaky fish fried just enough to take on a deep copper color (no excess breading here). The fried chicken platter ($8.95) yields an amazing bird with a crunchy crust and tender meat that only improves when you give it a squirt of hot sauce. The smoked barbecue rib platter ($10.50) summons a stack of sticky-sweet pork that pretty much slides off the bone with just a tug of your fork. The pulled pork barbecue saves you some time without sacrificing any of the smoky flavor, bearing shreds of pork swimming in a sassy barbecue sauce.
And while the entrees reign supreme, Flavors doesn’t scrimp on its wonderful sides—slow-cooking many of its accompanying players with smoked turkey. Homemade cornbread is incredibly rich and as sweet as cake (thick as a brick, yet extra-spongy). Baked macaroni and cheese comes dripping with real melted cheese (fantastic), while some ultra-savory red beans and rice provide for a mid-meal treasure hunt (beans are buried at the bottom, but the flavor bleeds through). A portion of black eye peas is deliciously soupy (turkey peeks through), while a chunky potato salad proves extra-vinegary (helps offset the sweet rib sauce).