In Mount Vernon, International Food Choices are Pleasing to the Pallet

In Mount Vernon, International Food Choices are Pleasing to the Pallet

Part one of a three-part series on the variety of restaurants on Richmond Highway in Mount Vernon

The variety of homemade popsicles at Michoacan A Pedir De Boca.

The variety of homemade popsicles at Michoacan A Pedir De Boca.

On Cooper Road in southern Mount Vernon, the food varieties span the globe, exemplifying the large number of ethnicities and cultures in the Richmond Highway corridor. In just one shopping center, there is Peruvian Chicken, Birria Tacos, Hawaiian Kalua Pig, Pad Thai Chicken and Shrimp, and Hunan Beef while across the street, there’s Jallof Rice from Africa and Mexican Ice Cream bars in nieve and helado varieties.

Marcela is a fan of the Peruvian Charcoal Chicken so she travels all the way in from Leesburg to get the chicken dish. “This is more tasty, it’s better, spicey,” she said. Rosibel is the chef there and closely guards the recipe of the chicken and the green sauce she calls “Green Sauce.” 

“Both are a secret,” she said.

Next door, there are secrets behind the specialty tacos at the El Paso Authentic Mexican Restaurant too, which is right behind the chicken place. The Tablos de Tacos is a taco extravaganza plate for more than one diner. But the birria” taco is a secret family recipe, said Miguel, the manager. Birria is authentic Mexican meat that his parents brought to the dining scene here at El Paso. “It’s their family recipe,” he said.

Over at Momo Poke, owner Conrad Hise started out serving Hawaiian food from his food truck but moved to the brick and mortar restaurant when his business grew. The Kalua Pig and Cabbage “is very popular,” he said. He lived in Kaneohe, a town on the windward side of the island of Oahu, and shares food ideas with his mother who is still in Hawaii. “We’re the only authentic Hawaiian place,” he said.

The Peruvian Charcoal Chicken is worth the trip to Cooper Road.


The word has gotten around about Momo Poke, said Evan Kauffman, the director at  the Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation. “It gets rave reviews,” he said.

Next door to Momo is Thai Nakorn, a place that serves Thai food and they specialize in Pad Thai Chicken. “It’s sweet, tangy and savory, a great combination of ingredients,” said David, who runs the place with his sister who is the head chef. Tamarind is their secret, but the “ingredients are hard to source,” he said.

Cross the street and it’s like flying to the other side of the world, and landing in Africa at Rahama’s. They serve “Jollof Rice, an authentic dish from Africa. They also specialize in a groundnut soup “with good meat, very nice,” said one customer. They even have the Voice of Africa newspaper to read.

Mexican Ice Cream Screams Variety

A few doors down from Rahama’s is “Michoacan A Pedir De Boca,” and the ice cream varieties run off the menu too. “All is fresh,” said owner Carina. They have cones in dairy and water-based flavors so they don’t leave anyone behind. “Nieve,” is milk based like store-bought ice cream, and “helado,” is water based.

Pointing at the popsicle case, which has over a dozen flavors, Carina was proud of what she’s created. There’s everything from pistachio to mango to cucumber with chili flavored popsicles. “We manufacture all of these,” she said.

Carina opened three years ago and paid all her bills and then the pandemic hit, and in the ice cream world, she was hit hard. She counted on some friendships with the locals to help her through it. “It took a village for me to survive,” she said.

All this variety is not surprising to Kauffman at SFDC. With all the different cultures that live in the Richmond Highway area, “it’s like a mini–United Nations,” he said. “With the corridor itself being very ethnically diverse, it’s attractive to many,” he added.

Next week, the Gazette goes into Hybla Valley and more ethnic foods.

Carina holds up one of her specially made popsicles.""