In a land of strip malls and drive-thrus, finding a restaurant that doesn’t “super-size it” isn’t easy. Plenty of casual dining establishments in Burke offer a variety of tasty options, but they sometimes blend in with the walls of concrete that surround them.
At a recent series of discussions about the pros and cons on living in Burke and surrounding areas, some community members noted the lack of fine-dining establishments in Burke as a community downfall. It’s true that Burke probably is not the place to book a special occasion dinner reservation or take out-of-town guests. Anniversaries and other celebratory nights out are probably better spent in Washington, Arlington, Fairfax or Alexandria. But for a variety of cuisine at moderate prices, Burke has plenty to offer.
“One of my favorite place is Hunan West in the Kings Park Shopping Center,” said Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock), who invites many local restaurants to participate in her annual Taste of Braddock every December.
In addition to Bulova’s favorite Chinese food, she mentioned Italian, Middle Eastern and Korean restaurants as some of the more popular places in Burke.
Sam and Shirley DiBartolo, Burke Centre residents, said they frequent a few local restaurants, but if they want to splurge on a more upscale dining experience, they have to drive a little ways.
“If you want to get dressed up or have a little more, you have to travel,” said Sam DiBartolo.
The DiBartolos like Villa Bella, 6050-C Burke Commons Road, for Italian food. The restaurant is modeled after an Italian villa and has a cozy, family atmosphere. The inside includes little balconies and even a clothesline with baby clothes to add some extra ambiance. The cuisine is traditional Italian fare, like pizza and pasta, but the wood-burning oven is what draws a lot of people in, said Glenn Glorioso, Villa Bella’s general manager.
“Our prices are fair; our portions are generous,” said Glorioso.
Next door to Villa Bella is a more traditional American restaurant and a popular Burke establishment: Barbecue World. The Burke Kabob House, 6030 Burke Commons Road, #E, also provides an eclectic lunch or dinner option, but the strip mall wouldn’t be a strip mall without the neighboring Domino’s Pizza, Wendy’s, Burger King and Dairy Queen.
In a strip mall across town, more family-friendly restaurants sit tucked away behind fast food drive-thrus and concrete jungles. Spartan’s Family Restaurant is a big hit in town, said Bulova.
The same shopping plaza also houses Burke Garden Restaurant, a Korean BBQ restaurant; Armands Pizza, known for its deep-dish pan pizzas and Aladdin’s Eatery, a café with mostly Lebanese and vegetarian dishes.
“They’re small, very local, good restaurants,” said Bulova.
Sometimes it’s hard to see the restaurants through the KFC and Taco Bell in the parking lot, so like many restaurants in Burke, word-of-mouth is the best way to find them. Bulova likes Aladdin’s because of its cozy patio area, which she said offers “a real community spirit.”
Owner Lilian Boustany said everything used in the restaurant is fresh and never frozen. Prices are reasonable and the soup “is excellent,” she said. “We’re not talking about a small cup of soup, we’re talking about a whole plate,” said Boustany.
THE BURKE CENTRE Parkway is another place to find many of Burke’s restaurants. Bakeries, pizza, bagels and Italian food sit in the Safeway and Kohl's shopping plazas. Hopsfrog Tavern is one of the few restaurants visible from the street, offering up “great American” cuisine. In addition to its location in front of the strip mall, rather than buried in it, a new menu change and a popular Sunday brunch help the restaurant stand out.
As for white tablecloths, Jeannie Winslow of the Burke Centre Conservancy said most Burke residents have to go to Clifton, Washington or Arlington for a fine dining experience.
“If you want something better, you really have to leave Burke Centre,” said Shirley DiBartolo.
The City of Fairfax also has many fine dining establishments. The DiBartolos like Il Lupo on Chain Bridge Road in Old Town when they decide to have a more formal night out. Bulova said Bellissimo is “really special and outstanding.” And to stick with the Italian theme, Vespucci on Route 50 offers white tablecloth dining and a nice wine selection. Dolce Vita, just across from Vespucci, offers brick oven pizza and white tablecloths as well, and is consistently listed as the one of the area’s best restaurants in the Zagat restaurant survey.
Eating out in Burke may not consist of champagne and caviar, but for a casual night of dining there are plenty of family-friendly restaurants featuring many different cuisines.