You might momentarily forget your hunger when you step into Curry Mantra's striking, newly expanded dining room, where vivid Indian artwork speckles the warm orange and yellow walls. Your appetite is reawakened, however, when you peer into the large kitchen window and catch sight of juicy morsels of lamb, salmon, and chicken waiting to be cooked in tandoori ovens. When discussing his decision to install a kitchen window with a food critic Tom Sietsema from the Washington Post, owner Asad Sheikh explained, "I want my customers to see what's going on in the tandoor." He's proud of the work that goes on in his kitchen, which earned Curry Mantra a spot on Northern Virginia magazine's 50 Best Restaurants list in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, as well as Washingtonian Magazine's Best of Fairfax 2013. His chefs pull culinary inspiration from all four corners of India, folding lamb, chicken, and seafood into a wide variety of flavorful curries and fiery vindaloos. To craft their goat biryani rice dish, the chefs use a generations-old recipe passed down to Sheikh from his grandmother, peppering aromatic basmati rice and tender goat meat with saffron and nuts.
Silverware clinks against glass tabletops in the dining room, where diners sip on glasses of wine and creamy mango lassi. Come lunchtime, a buffet table will stretch across the room, lined with silver trays of freshly made dishes. On the weekends, the eatery hosts live music, as traditional flutists and drummers play classical Indian music and the theme from Three's Company upon request.
Ethiopian owner Meaza Zemedu's Meaza Restaurant, which has been featured in such press outlets as the Washingtonian and the Washington Post, was born of humble roots. Zemedu started her business by supplying local Ethiopian stores with her home-baked injera bread, a crepelike staple of Ethiopian cuisine. Demand for the tangy bread grew, allowing her to open her majestic restaurant, which welcomes guests to dine on traditional Ethiopian fare. Northern Virginia Magazine heaped praise upon the menu, including the doro wat stew?the national dish of Ethiopia?which includes chicken, red pepper, garlic, and hard-boiled eggs. Many of Meaza?s dishes are flavored with purified, spiced Ethiopian butter, from the ye beg kikil?lamb stew in spicy sauce?to the kifto?ground beef traditionally served raw or rare and mixed with cardamom and a mitmita spice blend. The chefs still bake Zemedu's injera from teff grain as an ubiquitous side and utensil alongside the fare.
The complex Ethiopian spice blends enchant guests throughout the 7,000-square-foot space?which comprises a dining room, grocery store, and banquet hall?as they admire portraits of Ethiopian emperors painted on lambskins along one wall. Throughout three elevated tiers, white and red cloths coat each table and patrons recline into patterned cushioned chairs. Sweeping bands of color swirl and draw eyes toward the ceiling, enhancing the dining room?s air of spaciousness.
In a newly renovated fitness center with polished hardwood floors and expansive windows, the exercise experts at Dancing Mind welcome students of all ages and fitness levels as they combine physical practice with meditation to strengthen bodies and minds. Here, students have more than 100 weekly classes to choose from, including empowering yoga, sweat-kindling cycling classes, and body-sculpting CrossFit sessions. Yoga classes practice inside a studio equipped with special athletic flooring and heated up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, which helps detoxify the body and keep sinews limber for safer stretching. Students of every age, background, and experience levels are sure to find a yoga class to suit them: from Power Yoga, to the cardio- and weight-infused yoga of PowerSculpt, to the deep stretching and meditation of Yin Yoga, to Little Pretzels, a yoga class designed for young children. While instructors lead inspiring classes, assistants offer supportive adjustments to help students gain a better understanding of their bodies and poses.
Meanwhile, CrossFit classes gather in their own dedicated gym to challenge one another to the practice's high-intensity, functional movements?each one universally scalable to any fitness level or ability?in order to build strong, chiseled bodies. Cycling instructors get students' hearts pumping in the center's fully equipped studio for 45-, 60-, and 75-minute classes filled with invigorating music and carefully choreographed workouts. After class, guests can cool down in brand new showers and locker rooms, or lounge with new friends by the fireplace.
Made-from-scratch recipes and fresh ingredients have been setting the Original Pancake House apart from its breakfast-spot competition since 1953. That's when its owners established an all-day empire committed to ingredients such as pure hard-wheat unbleached flour and butter made from fresh sweet cream.
Today, Original Pancake House cooks across the country still construct scrambles and omelets from fresh Grade AA eggs. Powdered sugar lines the rims of oven-baked dutch baby pancakes, and granny-smith apples simmer in oven-baked pancakes (two of more than a dozen styles of pancake on the menu). Even the toppings are made in-house, including whipped cream, specialty syrups, and sauces. To complement these flavors, staff fill cups with fresh-squeezed orange and grapefruit juices and coffee blended specially to match the Original Pancake House's menu and upholstery. Although each location takes on the local charm of its surrounding city, all of them share in common a homey atmosphere that welcomes families with perks such as color-in place mats and kids' menus.
Name aside, the Original Pancake House isn't just a breakfast spot—in fact, it's open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, which is long enough for at least two meals a day, or six if you follow most doctors' advice to take a small pancake break every few hours. The savory side of the menu holds sandwiches piled with thick-cut meats, caesar salads, and savory crepes stuffed with ham and cheese.
Since its founding in 1980, Sun & Ski Sports has remained true to its philosophy: “do a few things, but do them better than anybody else.” The shop stocks equipment in five categories of extreme and outdoor activities, including camping, skating, running, bicycling, and water and snow sports. It specializes in these to ensure its merchandise maintains a high standard of quality, and its employees are knowledgeable participants in the sports their department represents.
Bikers can drop off their steeds for tune-ups from certified mechanics who put all brands through the rigors of a 12-point inspection, checking chains and adjusting wobbly pedals and malfunctioning spoke-card motors. While waiting, curious eyes might linger on a North Face two-person tent, a Blackburn Airtower bicycle pump, or a vast selection of shoes from brands such as New Balance and Asics. Men and women can traipse nearly barefoot in the park with Vibram FiveFingers, which offer minimal structural encumbrances for a more natural stride, or cast their feet aside for the new-wheeled prowess that comes with a Fuji SL-1 LE Ultegra performance road bike.
Futoshi “Tao” Takazato got his first gig working at a sushi restaurant when he was 24 years old. From the start, he was mesmerized by how fish could be transformed into a colorful, delicious piece of art. It took Tao six months of practicing and learning before he’d make sushi for a customer; it took him five years to actually feel comfortable doing it. Eventually, Tao graduated to head chef. Rather than marking the occasion by etching an oven mitt into his driver's license, he decided it was time to open his own restaurant, and Maneki Neko was born.
Translated, Maneki Neko means “beckoning cat.” In Japan, a waving cat is a symbol of good fortune. In fact, the image is often propped up in the windows of businesses as a way to welcome customers inside. A similarly welcoming atmosphere pervades Maneki Neko, with staff members reaching a first-name basis with regular customers and customers who bring in notarized copies of their birth certificates. Niceties aside, it’s the cooking that turns first-time guests into regular visitors. Tao and his staff specialize in sushi, but they also craft other traditional Japanese dishes. They create savory pancakes called okonomiyaki and sauté pork with noodles to form the Okinawa Soba entree.