Before hitting the stores this holiday season, grab a quick bite at these new, fast-casual spots.
Is poke the originator of the bowl trend? Pile lightly sauced, fresh raw fish over white rice and there is lunch, a snack and dinner. The Hawaiian staple—on menus at grocery stores, food trucks and delis throughout the Pacific islands—has stormed the mainland. Though there’s not the same right-off-the-boat tuna easily found in Maui, there’s still lots to enjoy at the fast-casual Lei’d.
Ask a question about a sauce, and you’ll be offered a sample chunk of marinated salmon or tuna as an answer. Yes, go for the house sauce (called “get lei’d,” as the sexual innuendo within this restaurant group is strong; other restaurant names are Chasin’ Tails and Roll Play), it has enough heat to make it interesting but not enough to overpower.
Tuna dressed in shoyu (soy, scallions, onion and sesame oil) is best for the purists. But it’s more fun to play at Lei’d: mix green tea soba noodles with matcha edamame rice, add both salmon and tuna and then welcome a majority of the free toppings like seaweed, cucumber, pickled ginger, fried shallot, fried garlic, wasabi tempura flakes, masago and then extra soy and a creamy, rich sesame dressing that is the best thing to happen to Leesburg Pike.
Well, only until you round the bend of that same strip mall and head into Teas’n You, also from Happy Endings Hospitality, where the dreamy shop highlights milky teas. The creamy walls with grays and silvers painted in swirls and shiny gold accents make this feel both intimate but also minimally chic. The Asian drink shop is flush with boba, green jelly and teas in flavors like winter melon. The dessert options are oversized macarons and the croissant-doughnut hybrid: doughssant. It’s a flaky, fluffy doughnut split open and filled with a silky vanilla-honey interior (eat at the table, not browsing aisles). Sure it’s gimmicky, but who cares when it’s this good.