NFT Washington DC Shirlington


Split down the middle by 395, the major route to/from DC, more and more young professionals are shacking up in Shirlington. With luxury condos, pricey townhomes, and an abundance of shops and restaurants, the neighborhood has exploded in the past few years in that typically sterile faux-stone walls and too-neat sidewalks kind of way. But the gentrification is sharply juxtaposed with a nearby day laborer center trying to capitalize on the development, revealing the complex community dynamics in this neighborhood.

The Village at Shirlington, a fast-growing destination, boasts a Disney World-esque array of restaurants (one of every type, all with outdoor seating), a movie theater with a slant toward independent films, and well-designed essentials like a library with a sleek facade. Date night? For a swanky meal, try Carlyle. For something more low key, cozy up on a couch with your sweaty at See more.

>Busboys & Poets or share a cupcake from CakeLove. Bro time? Head to Bungalow where you can play pool or air hockey while downing huge drafts and watching a game.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Jade Floyd
Photo:  Jade Floyd

Best Buns Bread Co.
If it was possible to sue a restaurant for packing on the pounds and deteriorating your teeth at the same time with its delicious breads and sweets, Best Buns in Arlington’s trendy Shirlington neighborhood would fit the bill. Recognized as the Best Bakery in both the Washingtonian Magazine and Washington Post in 2006, I came across the place while dining at it's sister restaurant, Carlyle. You can walk in and order fresh bread like Ciabatta, Olive Garlic 7 Herb, Two Raisin Pecan, Sweet Pretzels, and Focaccia with cheese or meat or even veggie toppings. What really ended up being the best part of the night was leaving a great meal at Carlyle and picking up a box of goodies from Best Buns for desert. We scooped up Bavarian Ceam Puffs, Mini Bundt Cakes, Biscotti and these incredible Coconut Macaroons. Their prices are reasonable and you can buy an entire loaf of fresh bread for as little as $3. Also, should you be in the neighborhood for breakfast or lunch, you can order yummy breakfast sandwiches until 10:15 am or lunch soups, salads and sandwiches after 11 am. Now if only they would open a store in downtown DC...

Posted By:  Mac Carey
Photo:  Mac Carey

Washington and Old Dominion Trail
All high protein diet weekend cyclists please excuse me, I’m sure you will outlive me by a good quarter century, and I’m sure those spandex onesies feel like a dream. But if I may speak for the rest us, we have tired enough of you when we are finagling our way around you and your aerodynamic helmet in our car at 55 mph in the middle of rush hour. We’d rather not have to encounter you on foot as well. The scenic appeal of the W&OD trail has always been hampered because of its overcrowding, most notably with aforementioned cyclists. Surprisingly, long stretches of the Arlington section of the trail remain empty, even on the weekends, shaded by trees, and blissfully free of any and all aerodynamic helmets.

Posted By:  Kelley Coyner
Photo:  Kelley Coyner

Aladdin's Eatery
For weeks I watched impatiently for Aladdin’s Lamp to open. After such anticipation I expected the interior to knock my socks off. Sadly the final design could have been mistaken for any other boring eatery in 2007—inoffensive contemporary. Luckily, the menu makes up for the rather functional surroundings. The building blocks are hummus, shawarma, falafel, kebab, lentils, spinach, garlic, lemon, and tahini. The variations run from traditional presentation of Lebanese fare to pita roll ups and pita pizzas. Top off lunch with a baklava or take a sampler back to the office. Want something other than the usual fare of turkey sandwiches at office lunch meetings? Give your boss the take-out menu and win praise for the price as well as the food.

Posted By:  Jason DeYoung
Photo:  Jason DeYoung

If you eat sushi, then you’ve got a favorite sushi bar. And it’s at this bar where you want to eat sushi, though you might eat it elsewhere with friends. Bonsai is my favorite. Not to jinx things, but I’ve never had a bad meal at Bonsai. There’s nothing fancy about it, but if the food is good and the staff is friendly, who needs the bells and whistles of the other, more upscale sushi restaurants in town. Bonsai’s white tuna is always buttery, and the toro is never stringy. Their tempura is light, and the vegetables are fresh. The roll menu is shorter then most, but each roll is focused on richness of flavor and not mysterious ingredients. They also have a solid selection of ginger infused yaki. Most importantly, the raw fish is fresh and the food and staff look splendid.

Posted By:  Ursula Gross
Photo:  none

Carlyle is not exactly a hide-away or well kept secret in the DC area, but it does live up to its reputation each and every time. It has an inventive but not intimidating menu, good atmosphere, and an active bar. It’s always pleasantly busy—sometimes more so than others—but the corporate-styled “team” service ensures you aren’t ignored. Enjoy the bread baked from the (corporate-owned) bakery next door and even try a dessert. Oh, and if you are under 26 and are not carded when ordering alcohol, the dessert is free! Very bizarre, but as a 25 year-old at a table of 27 year-old women, I totally took one for the team and called our waiter out for not carding me—the bread pudding was delicious. This restaurant will never be your local secret, but it is always a safe bet (think parents in town or blind dates). My biggest gripe with Carlyle? It’s not Metro accessible, though it is only about ten minutes from downtown and free parking abounds.

Posted By:  James F Thompson
Photo:  James F Thompson

Rocky Balboa, the cool, poor Rocky in the original movie (not the rich Rocky who had the creepy robot) never worked out at Golds Gym or Washington Sports Club because he had soul, grit, and a chicken-wielding trainer named Mickey. If Rocky had been one of Arlington’s spandexed yuppies armed with bottled spring water and a nanopod filled with “workout” music, that rubber ball he used to throw around would have one day hit his head and knocked him dead. The regular folks who use Arlington’s county-wide workout facilities aren’t necessarily Rockys, but they can prepare for Apollo Creed while paying about $100 a year (as opposed to $100 a month), to run on a treadmill and lift heavy things in the air. Be real. The only reason anyone would pay $100 a month to run in place is because they have more money than willpower. Also, people from county gyms don’t post on craigslist after their workouts, lamenting they never worked up the courage to ask the green-shirted girl at the lat machine what her name was. But don’t get me wrong. Barcroft, and the whole Arlington system, is a social place that welcomes people from every nationality, neighborhood, and financial demographic. When you join you’re joining your community and not just your peers. Ding.

Posted By:  Nancy Dunham
Photo:  Nancy Dunham

AMC Loews Shirlington 7
Ok, everybody calm down. Yes, the Cineplex Odeon Shirlington 7 is part of a chain. But, you know, there are worse things than a chain. Every time I go to an “arts” theater in the DC area, I think about updating the story of The Three Bears—“This one’s too inconvenient to park at,” and “This one doesn’t have the newest movies,” and “This one has uncomfortable seats.” You get the idea. But the Cineplex Odeon Shirlington 7 is the best art movie venue I’ve found in this town. First of all, it’s located in a terrific neighborhood that’s packed with restaurants, bookstores, and great little shops. That means if you arrive too early you can grab a bite or just browse. There is plenty of nearby parking, which is also a nice perk. Once inside, you’ll find that the movie theater is clean, comfortable, and roomy. It’s also a great crowd that frequents the theatre; not a lot of teens or “loud talkers.” The audience is mature but not senior. One note of warning: don’t be put off by the lobby. It’s small, cramped, and could really use an overhaul. But if you want to watch a newly released art flick in relative comfort, head to the Shirlington 7.

Posted By:  Nancy Dunham
Photo:  Nancy Dunham

Let’s face it, Sideways put pressure on all of us. Dopey Miles, the consummate wine aficionado, made it suddenly imperative to know pinot noir from cabernet. And if you don’t have a clue why Miles (and now, it seems, everyone in America) loathes merlots, you need to get with the program. Enter: The Curious Grape, a small unpretentious wine shop where—get this—you’re not put down because you don’t know wine. The Curious Grape staff goes out of their way to help you select wine to match your taste and budget. They also offer free daily wine tastings—some of the tastings are hours long, some with teachers imported from France and California. It’s fun and hip—even ultra-cool, 20-something guys take their dates there. Visiting The Curious Grape is a way to learn about wine without busting your budget.

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