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On the Avenue

Stroll down Mt. Vernon Avenue provides international options.

Almost straddling the border between Arlington and Alexandria, Mt. Vernon Avenue has a restaurant to fit every taste, from burgers and subs to ceviche and canola.

The Avenue offers so many options, diners don’t even need a plan to visit a s pecific restaurant. “Sometimes I just come down and eat where ever I can find a place to park,” said Jill McBride, an Arlington resident who patronizes many of the restaurants on the avenue. “I can always find something that I’m in the mood for and that I’m dressed appropriately for, too.”

Proving the theory that “everyone ends up on Mt. Vernon Avenue,” last weekend 80 or so members of the Hash House Harriers came to the Bombay Curry Company to enjoy an Indian buffet after a four-mile run.

They were a local group, one of hundreds of international running clubs inspired by a tradition in British Empire, with runners following a trail that ends with a meal and, often, lots of beer.

The local Hash House Harriers marked their 1,603rd run on Nov. 16. Each week, they meet at a restaurant in the metro area and run a four-mile course, ending up at the restaurant where they started. A member of the group marks the course and leads the way with the end goal always in sight – beer and food at the end. The run takes about an hour and always begins with a bugler blowing the signal to start running.

Balraj Bhasin, Bombay Curry Company owner, was pleased to have the group. He found a special beer, brewed in England, that is a group favorite, and provided a sumptuous buffet of Indian staples.

BETWEEN BRADDOCK ROAD on the south and South Glebe Road on the north, there are restaurants aplenty. Al’s Steak House is an Avenue mainstay. “They have the best steak and cheese sandwich outside of Philadelphia,” said Charles Johnson.

Mancini’s also has a loyal following, with breakfast and lunch specials to take out or eat in each day. The prices are right and there is a case of delectable goodies for those with a sweet tooth. “It’s a great place to come for a quick meeting at lunch time or to grab a sandwich to take back to the office,” said Sally Johnson.

Fireflies is the newest restaurant on the avenue, featuring gourmet sandwiches, pizza and a selection of entrees. Diners place their own order at the counter, then sit down to wait for food and beverage to be brought to the table. Again, carryout is available. “The food’s great,” said Kathy Smith. “I had been wanting to try it and I will come back.”

At the other end of the avenue, in Arlandria, there is Lilian’s, offering Mexican and Salvadoran cuisine. The ceviche (only available on weekends) is terrific and the sangria fruity. “I like to come here and try things I’ve never tasted,” said Mitch Martin. “It’s not your typical Mexican restaurant; there’s more variety.”

Po Siam, too, offers something different. The soups are special and the service friendly.

NO TOUR OF restaurants on the Avenue would be complete without a stop at RT’s. Neighborhood regulars frequent the bar, some of whom actually still live in Alexandria though many have moved to other places in the region.

Even if they’ve moved, they return, for She Crab soup, crawfish etouffée and maybe a piece of lemon chess pie. “What can I say,” said Mike Jones. “RT’s is RT’s: great food, great conversation and great service.”

There is a new Subway sandwich shop, a Papa John’s Pizza store for delivery and carry-out; Domino’s Pizza for delivery and carry-out and a McDonald’s for those who crave fast food.

In the Shops at the Calvert, there are three restaurants: The Calvert Grill, the Village of Il Porto and the Bombay Curry Company. Food at the Old Town Il Porto has won fans, and this restaurant offers many of the same favorites in a neighborhood setting. The Calvert Grill has American food and a casual neighborhood feel.

Of course there are other excellent restaurants on the Avenue: Evening Star, the Majestic Café, Los Amigos, Taqueria Peblano, St. Elmo’s and more.

A diverse experience awaits diners along Mt. Vernon Avenue, something to suit anyone’s tastes.

Sidebar:

On the Menu

The Hash House Harriers found an Indian buffet awaiting at the end of their Nov. 16 run, prepared by the kitchen of the Bombay Curry Company. The meal harked back to the origin of Hash House Harriers running clubs among British civil servants in India, during the last days of the British Empire.

*Chicken Tikka Masalla – Marinated pieces of chicken sautéed with onion, tomato and green pepper, finished in a curried creamy sauce (Perhaps England's National Dish).

*Lamb Umdadoo – Originally a Portuguese curry from the Indian state of Goa, a lamb stew in a hot, vinegarry sauce, with diced potatoes.

*Saag Panger – Cubes of Indian cottage cheese with chopped spinach and ginger.

*Dal Makhani – Curried black lentils simmered overnight atop the “Tandoor” oven.

The meal was served with naan, unleavened Indian flour bread baked on the clay wall of the pit-oven, the “Tandoor.”