Posts Tagged ‘Arlington’

Manassas finds its Sol

Bright, comforting and traditional dishes at Don Lencho

Words by Stefanie Gans    Photos by Aaron Spicer

Don Lencho in Manassas

Photo by Aaron Spicer.

What would fermented pineapple taste like? In an age of Mason jar chic, kale kimchi and pickled snap peas, making an almost-alcoholic drink from pineapple isn’t what sells at the more-local-than-thou farmers markets. But in a restaurant in Manassas, where local translates to home-style Mexican cooking, fermented pineapple skin sits with brown sugar in water for a month before it becomes tepache. (Allowed to sit longer, the sugars break down and turn the liquid into booze, or chicha.) A whole chicken marinates in tapache, mixed with red wine, olives and capers. The resulting dish, gallo en chicha, is chunks of bone-in chicken served in the tepache gravy.

It’s like eating sunshine. 

There’s a side of thick tortillas, fluffy rice and the silkiest of refried beans, but it doesn’t matter because the focus is the sauce: bright, juicy even, savory and salty. It’s an awakening in Don Lencho, a low-lit rectangle of a restaurant in a forgotten strip mall, a block behind Centreville Road

Don Lencho in Manassas

Gallo en chicha, chicken marinated in fermented pineapple skin, is a rotating special. Photo by Aaron Spicer.

Owner and chef Ronolado Juárez spends weekdays at his Arlington restaurant Guajilo and weekends in Manassas. His wife, also a chef, works mostly at their D.C. restaurant Casa Oaxaca. For Don Lencho, Juárez says he combined dishes from his other restaurants (competitive eaters might recognize El Cachudo burrito challenge: finish the 18-inch, 6-pound monster and the restaurant pays), plus recipes he’s wanted to bring stateside.

One such dish is his beet salad—learned from a chef in Oaxaca—which accompanies many of the entrees. Not paired with blue, feta or goat cheese, it feels revelatory if only because it proves the root vegetable can do just fine without the help of strong dairy. Instead, the beets’ magenta facade rubs onto diced jimica for a visually monochrome salad that tastes just the opposite: bites varied with crunch, sweetness and citrus.

Born in El Salvador, with a childhood in Mexico City and a brief stint in Los Angeles, Juárez landed in Arlington at nine years old. His stepfather, from Mexico, started a food truck here in the early 1980s, when, says Juárez, “you did it to survive, not because you were following a trend.” The truck failed and his stepfather opened a Mexican restaurant on Columbia Pike. At 16, Juárez, now 44, started in the kitchen making tacos. In 2000, he opened his own restaurant, Guajilo. Six years later: Casa Oaxaca. Don Lencho opened in February. “As soon as Don Lencho starts producing,” says Juárez, he wants to open a taco house in Arlington. “The idea is in the back of my head. It’s not going away.”

Until then, there’s tacoanzo, a platter of five traditional tacos picked by the kitchen. There’s the classic al pastor, pork shoulder mingling with grilled pineapple in double-layered charred corn tortillas. Breaded fish strips pair with pickled cabbage and a smoky-sweet sauce in another taco; there’s also a lovely braised lamb, cushy beef tongue and a well-seasoned carne asada. A pile of pickled carrots garnishes the plate, but unlike curly parsley, it should not be avoided. 

One night our group used the tacos as starters, but that’s not the only way to begin a meal. Uchepos, sweet corn tamales, trumps cornbread pudding. It’s cakey and fritter-like, sweet but savory with anise, and creamy—I wish I could buy these as easily as a Twinkie.

Don Lencho in Manassas.

To share, or not A platter of tacos, from pork shoulder to beef tongue. Photo by Aaron Spicer.

The weekend specials are where it’s at, and the cooking is best when Juárez is in the kitchen. The service, though, can suffer any day of the week, lacking finesse (tacos were set down without explanation of which were which) and basic etiquette (diners sat at tables still dirty from previous guests and served food without silverware present).

But it’s still worth a visit, especially with an affordable tasting menu. At $19.95, a stream of dishes starts with posole rojo, a soup with pork and hominy in a deep broth red with fiery chilies—and ends with crunchy churros. The main plate revealed many stars: a single anchovy tostado, something Juárez says cab drivers and locals eat in Mexico and a funky, spicy lamb sausage roll that feeds like a quesadilla. But some dishes on the plate fizzled: a mini enchilada filled with pumpkin more resembles Thanksgiving dessert than dinner and a duck enchilada topped with a mole is so chocolaty it picks up on the harsh, bitter notes.

There’s also that deceptively good rice; the trick: Juárez fries the grains for 20 minutes before boiling. The refried black beans, smooth and thick as a mud mask, are double-fried to mimic the perpetually two-day old black beans that Juárez grew up on in Mexico.

His stepfather told him the secret to Mexican food is the salsas, and Juárez listened. Brought to the table with thin, crispy chips, it’s born from roasted tomatoes, habenero, onion and garlic. “It’s nothing fancy,” he says, “nothing out of this world.” Creamed with an immersion blender, it arrives warm and silky. And for a second, maybe we’re not out of this world, but we’re surely not in Manassas.

Don Lencho

Weekends feature specials like rabbit ceviche, but every day, you should indulge in the crispy churros.

Appetizers: $2.50–$9.50; Entrees: $8.95–$17

Lunch and dinner daily; brunch on the weekend.
9116 Mathis Ave., Manassas

(July 2014)

Hungry for Linkage: Heavy Seas Alehouse’s Beach & Beer Dinner + Take a “Cheesy Selfie” for Free Nachos + Coffee Cost Calculator

Posted by Editorial / Monday, July 28th, 2014

Photo by Stuart Monk /

By Allison Michelli

Tonight, Heavy Seas Alehouse in Arlington hosts “Beach and Beer” dinner ($65 pp) with owner Hugh Sisson

Pack your bags! Local Clifton winery, Paradise Springs makes plans to open a Santa Barbara, California location. 

Pollo Campero‘s “Beat the Heat” promotion offers free Latin drinks, like Horchata, Jamaica and Tamarindo, to customers at their Woodbridge location today from 11 a.m.— 9 p.m.

Take a “cheesy selfie” (#RegalCheesieEntry) and get free Nachos at Ballston movie theater until August 11. [ARL Now]

Guatemala’s prime coffee crop destroyed by rust plant fungus. [NPR]

Learn how much your coffee habit is costing you with this handy calculator. On second thought do you really want to know? [USA Today]




August Family Fun in NoVA= Fairs Rule

By Micaela Williamson

From funnel cakes to livestock, fire trucks to LEGO trains, August is packed with fairs to delight every interest and age level.

Northern Virginia Festivals and Fairs

Photo courtesy of gosphotodesign/

Fairfax County 4H Fair and Carnival
July 30-Aug. 2, 2014

The grounds of Fairfax County’s favorite farm becomes filled with contests, farm animals, carnival rides, and more. Families will love the free admission and so many interactive educational exhibits. Friday night at the fair is Big Truck Night, and kids can climb all over the biggest and coolest vehicles Fairfax County has to offer.


Friendship Firehouse Festival
Aug. 2, 2014

This popular family event includes outdoor exhibits, museum admission, antique fire apparatus, craft booths, entertainment and more. All children receive free helmets and The Alexandria Fire Department invites them aboard for a supervised visit inside the trucks.


Brick Fair
Aug. 2-3, 2014

LEGO fans and master builders take over the Dulles Expo Center with mind-boggling displays, models, trains, vendors, LEGO paraphernalia and plenty of hands-on activities for kids and adults alike. We recommend skipping the line by getting advance tickets online.


Arlington County Fair
Aug. 6-10, 2014

Amongst the urban sprawl, this fun-filled event has competitive exhibits, farm animals, community vendors, carnival rides, and lots of live entertainment. Additional events include a family-friendly 5K race and a nightly line up of outdoor movies featuring the fan favorites Frozen and The Lego Movie.


Prince William County Fair
Aug. 8-16, 2014

This highly regarded county fair is always a hit and includes attractions such as midway rides, vendors, interactive community booths, animals, and lots of live entertainment. Have some old-fashioned country fun by watching a tractor pull or rodeo, or the adrenaline pumping monster trucks and demolition derby. Check the website for daily schedules, coupons, and discount days.


The Lucketts Fair
Aug. 17-18, 2014

The Lucketts Fair caters to families and kids. There is true country fun with over 100 artisans and crafters, giant produce, homemade food and wholesome live entertainment.  Children will be pleased to pet animals, ride ponies, and participate in a-day-on-the-farm activities. This fair is a must for any aspiring little farmer.


National Book Festival
Aug. 30, 2014
Washington, D.C.

For the first time ever, the annual National Book Festival is moving indoors to the Washington Convention Center. The event is bursting with famous authors, live readings, book signings, and hands-on family activities. Before you go, download the special festival guide for kids and teachers online.

Courtesy of Tiffany Brown, Mamaratzy Photography

Micaela Williamson is a co-author of local travel guide, Kid Trips Northern Virginia, an extraordinary resource that provides descriptions, useful information and insider tips for hundreds of local destinations. Micaela is also an award winning blogger who enjoys supporting area businesses and scouting out family-friendly venues with her two young sons.


Get a sneak peek at the nice list at Alexandria’s annual Christmas in July

Posted by Editorial / Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Santa and Mrs. Claus at Christmas in July in Alexandria.

Santa and Mrs. Clause at Christmas in July. Photo by Abbie Rufener.

By Jessica Godart

Santa Claus is coming to town – and he’s showing up in his swim trunks. For the fifth year, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be making a special appearance for Alexandria’s Christmas in July event taking place at Union Street Public House in conjunction with The Christmas Attic next door.

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Mount Defiance Cidery & Distillery to Open in Middleburg Next Month

Posted by Editorial / Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Nicole Nicastro, Mt. Defiance Cidery manager, at the sample bar / Photo Credit: Peter Ahlf

By Ariel Yong

For Marc Chretien, cider is not only his beverage of choice, it’s his business of choice. With craft beer booming in Northern Virginia, Chretien is instead turning to a less crowded industry. “Cider is more unique, yet it’s a classic craft beverage where we’re not competing with 2,800 other micro-breweries. And producing a good cider is every bit as difficult as producing a good beer.”

In August, Chretien will open his second cidery—his first in Northern Virginia—named Mt. Defiance Cidery & Distillery in Middleburg. It joins Winchester CiderworksBold Rock Hard Cider and about a dozen others in the state. He says he prefers cider due to its “lighter, crisper taste,” especially when hoppy micro-brews can be “a heavier drink.” 

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Hungry for Linkage: Ben’s Chili Bowl at Reagan + New Bar Crawl Regulations + Fairfax County Making Life Easier for Food Trucks

Posted by Editorial / Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Chili Cheese Fries at Ben's Chili Bowl / Photo by Stefanie Gans

By Ariel Yong

Ben’s Chili Bowl will open its first airport location at Reagan National Airport later this morning. Jack Potter, President and CEO of Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, says, “It is fitting to have Ben’s at the airport, welcoming travelers and giving them their first taste of the region.”

Bar crawls in Clarendon may be changing after the Arlington County Board approved new event regulations Saturday. [ARLNow]

Eater asked readers to name their favorite local ice cream shops, and half of the nominees are in Virginia. Favorites include the Nicecream Factory of Arlington, The Creamery of Alexandria and Moo Thru of Bealeton. [EaterDC]

Fairfax County considers easing up on food truck restrictions. [FairfaxCity Patch] 

A handful of Virginia restaurants, such as Huong Viet in Eden Center and Taco Bamba of Falls Church, made the “12 Restaurants Guaranteed to Make You Leave the District” list. [Thrillist] 

Would you rather date a vegetarian or a vegan? [Yahoo]

Silver Line Opens Saturday, Tyson’s to feel parking pinch

By Emily Rust

Silver line opening strains Tysons parking.
(Washington Post)

Washington Flyer Bus Service changes route to Dulles
(Loudoun Times)

Netherlands Embassy invites public to remember Malaysia Airlines crash victims.
(Fox 5)

Driver crashes into Manassas home.
(ABC News)

Arlington approves $2 million to improve Virginia Highlands Park.
(NBC 4)

Eat Up, Cool Down

Posted by Editorial / Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

5 Cool Summer Treats

Photo by Jonathan Timmes

Pool parties and “Dexter” marathons aren’t the only ways to catch a chill this summer. Go beyond popsicles and take a global tour of summer treats. —Mary Kong-DeVito

Che Thai @ Song Que
Che Thai is an edible, slurpable treat that bears resemblance to a parfait, a McFlurry and bubble tea all at once. This Vietnamese take on a Thai dessert is a fun creation, put together from an array of ingredients including green pandan jelly, like Jello-O but firmer with a delightful snap; ebony-colored grass jelly, which is soft and lightly lavender-flavored; sweet corn pudding; red pomegranate seeds and more. Topped with crushed ice, half-and-half and a choice of fresh fruits—soft jackfruit, sweet longans, crunchy water chestnuts or juicy lychees—che Thai makes a hot afternoon bearable. Eat it with a spoon or extra-wide straw, both provided. / 6769 Wilson Blvd., Falls Church


Lucuma Ice Cream @ TropQ Creamery
TropQ makes over 50 flavors of ice cream with base ingredients sourced locally. With a focus on exotic Latin and Asian fruits, one of TropQ’s most interesting flavors comes from Peru. Look for the bright Creamsicle-like color and ask for lucuma, pronounced “LOO-koo-mah.” The fruit, a papaya look-alike, is green on the outside, but reveals a golden flesh on the inside that’s bursting with thick caramel flavors. Its rich color is due to an abundance of beta carotene, iron and other superfood powers, so naturally, you should have an extra scoop. / 721 E. Main St., Purcellville


New Zealand Classic Pavlova @ Cassatt’s Kiwi Café
It is said that when Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova toured Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s, a teacake was created in her honor, resembling the gossamer petticoats the prima ballerina wore in “Swan Lake.” The Pavlova cake, with whispery layers of fresh fruit, meringue and cream, is just as light. No one knows definitively which country it originates from, and much like Russell Crowe, both countries have laid claim to it, each declaring it their national dish. / 4536 Lee Highway, Arlington


Ube @ Bistro 7107
Ube is a purple yam indigenous to Asia and popular in the Philippines. Like Prince, it sports a bold violet color that is hard to miss, and just like the provocative singer, ube isn’t afraid to bare its flesh. Similar to a sweet potato, ube’s sugar content is ideal for making desserts. At Bistro 7107, the root vegetable is blended with coconut milk, chilled and formed into ube jalaya, a vibrant, rich cake with a texture not unlike flourless chocolate cake. / 513 23rd St. S, Arlington


Firnee @ Mazadar
A traditional Persian dish usually prepared for religious and special occasions, firnee is simple custard—alabaster-white yet colorfully fragrant—made fresh with milk, cornstarch and sugar, then chilled. With spicy, citrus notes of cardamom, it’s silky and lighter than creme brulee, with the delicate crunch of crushed pistachios. / 11725 Lee Highway, Fairfax

(July 2014)

Deputy charged with shoplifting; Teen immigrants find solace in NoVA schools

By Jessica Godart

Fairfax County Sheriff’s Deputy charged with shoplifting
(Loudoun Times

Teen immigrants take comfort in services from NoVA schools 

Ceasefire in Israel ends
(ABC News

One more day of rain for NoVA then relief
(The Washington Post

Hungry For Linkage: Free Creamy Corn at Copperwood Tavern + Bonefish Grill Opening Arlington Location + American’s Coffee Consumption by the Numbers

Posted by Editorial / Monday, July 14th, 2014

Andrey_Kuzmin /

By Allison Michelli

Lindt chocolate makes plans to buy Russell Stover Candy [NYT]

Bonefish Grill’s first Arlington location set to open middle of August. [ARLNow]

Dunkin’ Donuts sells 30 cups of coffee every second, plus a whole video of coffee stats. [WaPo]

D.I.Y. ice cream treats to keep you cool this summer. [Buzzfeed]

Your guide to the best bacon in America. The results will make you squeal with joy. [CNN]

Make a dinner reservation at Copperwood Tavern for Monday, July 14 using OpenTable and get a free creamed corn side with the purchase of an entree.

Control stress levels by choosing the right foods to eat. [NPR]

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