In the last few months, the empty slots in Broadlands Village Center have filled rapidly — and not with the typical strip mall fare. Residents can now pick from a variety of sit-down restaurants where, just last summer, the selections were pretty much limited to Subway and driving elsewhere.
The near-completion of Broadlands Village Center, however, is a bit of an illusion. Leasing for a third phase of construction is currently underway.
Here's a quick look at the newest additions to the Broadlands dining experience.
STEAK AND SPORTS: diners can enjoy the best of both at the Original Steakhouse & Sports Theater. With 10 flat screens flashing sport scenes and roomy booths upholstered with grainy sporting figures, the restaurant shouts sports bar.
According to general manager Sham Ayesh, however, the restaurant has much more to offer than just a place to have a draft beer and watch the Super Bowl.
"Everyone walks in and says, 'Wow,'" Ayesh said. "Then they taste the food, and we knock them out."
If diners aren't distracted by the 80-inch television screens, they will notice the first thing greeting them as they enter is a small display case to their left. Inside is the restaurant's namesake: filets, T-bones, sirloins and the porterhouse that, at $23, is the Original Steakhouse's priciest cut.
"First and foremost, we're a steak house," Ayesh said. With an in-house butcher and the patience to age meat up to a month, the Original Steakhouse pays attention to its beef.
While steak is the main culinary attraction at the Original Steakhouse, the menu is moderately diverse: salmon, mahi mahi, shrimp and a variety of salads can satisfy the non-red-meat-eating set. A children's menu and several smaller television screens dedicated to cartoons makes the restaurant a family-friendly place.
Original Steakhouse is a franchise based out of Florida, but the Broadlands location, which opened in November, is the first in Northern Virginia. Two more metro-area locations are planned to open this year.
Ayesh said the restaurant hopes to provide excellent customer services as well as hearty steak dinners.
The Original Steakhouse & Sports Theater is open from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Saturday and 12 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
IT'S A FAMILY AFFAIR at San Vito Ristorante Italiano & Brick Oven Pizza. Two Sicilian cousins started the first San Vito in Herndon, adding the Broadlands location last August. Sometimes, chef Gian Piero Mazzi's young son can be seen running between the tables, greeting customers.
General manager Robert Dispenza welcomes many customers by name, and a young collection of servers keeps up the collegial tone.
"It's amazing the joy they have when working," Dispenza said. "It's because of the family atmosphere."
With a solid reputation for genuine Mediterranean food, San Vito has drawn a crowd of regulars since its inception. Chef Mazzi, originally from Florence, trained in France before taking over at the upscale Morrison House in Old Town Alexandria.
One of the meals that keeps people coming back is the veal ossabuco. Up to 50 people will order this "gigantic" special on a Friday night, said Dispenza. It's a veal shank slow-roasted for three hours and served over angel hair pasta with white wine and tomato marinara sauce. At $24.95, it's
a the top end of San Vito's menu, which also includes a variety of Italian dishes and, of course, the brick-oven pizza mentioned in the name.
The dessert menu, which includes cannoli and tiramisu and changes every night, is enticingly displayed with examples in the dining room to make the decision-making process all that more difficult.
San Vito also offers some wines residents can't find in local grocery stores and a Greek olive oil that residents won't find any where else in the United States. The Sicilian owners found it on a recent trip and decided to start distributing it.
Dispenza, who is from New York City and has worked for literally hundreds of restaurants, said San Vito fits the profile for all truly great Italian joints: small and family run. He lives across the street in Broadlands.
"We try to take the whole dining experience and make it the Italian experience by making everyone feel like family," he said.
San Vito is open Monday through Thursday, from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday, from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Dinner entrees range in price from $7.95 for pizza to $17.95 for filet mignon. Takeout is available.
RIGHT NOW, 321 Ashland is a shell of a restaurant, its chairs and ovens empty. But when it opens at the end of February, not only will it offer an experience diners can't find elsewhere in Ashburn, it will offer something that's almost impossible to find in contemporary restaurants: table-side service.
Owner Terrance Caugh has been in the restaurant business for 44 years. After closing his four-star restaurant in North Carolina in the mid-80s, he moved to Northern Virginia to run a fine-dining catering business. With 321 Ashland, Caugh wants to bring back the old style of table-side service that's become incredibly rare in the business.
Last weekend, Caugh sat at one of the tall tables in shirtsleeves, talking on one of his two cell phones. He was getting a quote on a roast beef cart, a gorgeous dark wood and silver number on wheels that would roll the meat piping hot directly to a diner's plate.
The asking price? $7,600.
"That's half of what I expected," Caugh told the Midwestern dealer on the cell phone. "I expected more than that. It's a bargain. Let's get two then." He laughed.
321 Ashland will offer what Caugh called "upscale American fine dining with a French accent." His chef, Christopher Brown, trained in France with world-renown chef Paul Bocuse.
Everything from cherries jubilee to chateaubriand to rack of lamb will be served table side on a cart like one Caugh considered on the phone. Service, he said, makes all the difference.
"You can get Caesar salad anywhere," he said. "But they don't make it in the dining room."
The fare will also follow the rules of the season: lighter in summer, heavier in winter. Old-fashioned touches are part of the experience — a sorbet to cleanse the palate after the appetizer, for example.
"These are things that are just not done in dining anymore," Caugh said.
The menu is still in flux, but it will offer fresh seafood shipped overnight from Hawaii. Dinner entrees will range in price from $20 to $30. Lunch will also be offered. Reservations can be made two weeks in advance.
BONEFISH GRILL made its bow last weekend with a fund-raiser for Friedreich's Ataxia Research. The seafood restaurant is part of a national chain based out of Florida and likes to consider itself "polished casual," according to its literature.
"We get the freshest fish seven days a week, the freshest seasonable vegetables," said managing partner John Sampogna, who was in town to help get the new location on its feet. "We make most of our sauces and sides in-house with the highest quality ingredients."
When it comes to fish, Broadlands residents will be hard-pressed to find more variety of selection in Ashburn than at Bonefish Grill. The Arctic Butterfish, native of New Zealand, has "a very clean mild taste," according to the daily specials menu, and can be tried for $18.90. Feeling peckish? Add a lobster tail to any entree for $15.50. How about tropical? The macadamia nut mahi mahi's pineapple rum sauce should help chase the winter blues away.
For those who aren't fish lovers, Bonefish Grill also offers a smattering of other options: chicken marsala, tenderloin portabella piccata. The martini selection takes up a full
third of the dinner menu's back page.
Entrees range in price from $13.50 to $18.90 for a special. The restaurant is open from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m, Sundays; 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 4 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., Friday and 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., Saturday.