Nearby Eats

From a 2012 article in the Washington Post, Tyler Cowen gives us the lowdown on Northern Virginia's magnificent ethnic dining options:
Cowen’s ethnic restaurant exploration has led him to devise a number of interesting rules and guidelines, such as: Avoid restaurants with beautiful women (the place is likely more focused on its social scene than its food); Don’t avoid strip mall restaurants (they have lower rents, more likely to be adventurous); Order what sounds least appetizing (it’s not designed for mass tastes, but rather for the local immigrants of that culture, probably more interesting).

Cowen feels that a number of factors have combined to make NoVa one of the most intriguing food spots in the country. He said our quality schools have attracted immigrant families, who place a high value on education, but are unwilling to put their kids in private schools. “Ethnic food and education go together,” Cowen said.

He said immigrants could go to Maryland, whose schools are fine, but Cowen said that side of the Potomac feels older, less fresh to him, and probably to new visitors as well. He said Virginia is better for small businesses, which the immigrants intend to open, and has slightly lower taxes.

Ethnic communities also evolve in reasonably close proximity to where their businesses, shops and restaurants are in Northern Virginia, such as Annandale for the Korean community and Baileys Crossroads for the Ethio­pian community. Even when immigrants don’t live near their work, getting there by car or bus isn’t the ordeal that it is in New York or Los Angeles, Cowen said.

And Northern Virginia, through its government contracting, among other things, also has wealth, Cowen said, “with people who are cosmopolitan, well-traveled, willing to take chances.” Their communities are, by and large, not gated enclaves, apart from the rest of the world. “I think immigrants, when they come here,” Cowen said, “feel more accepted than in California. There’s no paranoia here that people are coming in to take over. It’s much more relaxed and healthier. I like living in an area that has arranged that well.”