Enthusiastic baker Nefertiti Angelini hand-picks 97 percent organic ingredients such as tahitian and bourbon vanilla beans to shape cupcakes inspired by such iconic treats as s'mores, peanut butter and jelly, and key-lime pie. The confections pop out of the oven several dozen at a time before donning crunchy or juicy toppings, letting an expansive and ever-changing array of flavor combinations press their noses to the hand-labeled display case. Beyond their eye-catching exteriors, most cakelets harbor gooey centers overstuffed with cream cheese, ganache, peanut butter, or caramel matryoshka dolls. Aromas drift past the storefront's crystal chandelier and bright bouquets into its Reston neighborhood. The CupCake Ladi often expands her energies into charitable works as well: as the Orange County Register has reported, Nefertiti donates hundreds of cupcakes a week to fund ventures including German Shepherd Rescue of Orange County and the March of Dimes.
Zagat-rated El Manantial melds a mouthwatering marriage of French, Spanish, and Italian culinary traditions on their expansive dinner menu. Diners bask in a bevy of tapas, which include spanish omelettes ($5.95), crispy thai chicken ($5.95), and embutidos—a divinely delectable combination of cured meat, pork loin, sausage, and manchego cheese that fills conversational gaps and blazer pockets with scrumptiousness ($8). The restaurant's elegant dining room, which is lined with sweeping murals of Mediterranean seascapes, comfortably houses massive entrees from flounder imperial—a blackened mahi mahi filet bedecked in cognac cream sauce ($22.95)—to thinly sliced duck breast ornamented with raspberry dressing ($25.95). The extensive wine list regales palates with Spanish tempranillos and other international vintages by the glass (starting at $7), bottle, and trough.
The expert chefs at Mamma Lucia of Reston populate lunch and dinner menus with authentic Italian dishes that were deemed worthy of the 2011 Taste of Reston Judges’ Choice Ribbon for Best Food. Lunch farers stare hunger in the face before beating it over the head with meatball-parmigiana ($8) and italian cold-cut subs ($8). Insalata di mare ($15) unites marinated shrimp, calamari, and scallops to swirl taste buds in a shark-less sea of flavor. For dinner, patrons satiate stomachs with house-made lasagna ($14) or ravioli rose ($14), swimming in marinara sauce with a hint of cream and imported parmigiano cheese. Alternatively, the vitello parmigiana ($20) combines breaded veal cutlet, tomato sauce, and cheese to halt hunger like a seafloor stop sign halts judicious submarine captains. In between forkfuls of mouthwatering cuisine, diners can relax in Mamma Lucia's casual dining room or hang loose while admiring one of the restaurant's many widescreen TVs.
When he's not busy passing down the history and art of sushi making to his students, executive chef Hiro-san practices what he preaches behind the bar. He incorporates ingredients such as cured mackerel and bean curd into his hand-formed nigiri, and his traditional and fusion maki include components such as shiitake mushrooms and fried jalapeño rolled in seaweed. Diners also can order sushi alternatives, from vegetable udon to broiled chilean sea bass marinated in sake seasoning. An extensive selection of sake, beer, and wine washes down meals, which unfold in Obi Sushi's spacious lower dining room. Upstairs, three shoji screens shelter private feasts for up to 25 people, creating more privacy than a group of sumo wrestlers guarding the table.
Fresh herbs release their aromas as Primo Italiano's chefs slather gourmet pizzas with marinara and white ricotta sauce, toss shrimp and chicken with linguini, and layer roasted vegetables with mozzarella in paninis clasped by fresh-baked bread. The kitchen carefully taste tests each ingredient before ordering from suppliers and checks all shipments for stowaway gondoliers.
Since 1984, Champps Americana's kitchen has sizzled with made-from-scratch dishes, satiating sports fans and families with a comfortable atmosphere. Amid sunlit dining rooms, diners seated at wooden tabletops can root for their favorite pixels on flat-screen TVs broadcasting live sports. In the kitchen, chefs prepare pastas with grilled chicken and roasted artichokes, pile buns with barbecued pulled pork and spicy buffalo chicken, and fill soft taco shells with grilled steak. Behind the bar, bartenders whip up specialty cocktails and margaritas and fill goblets with wine and local craft beers on tap.
The Melting Pot transforms date nights and friendly outings into rich, sensory experiences by gathering diners around communal pots of fondue and adorning their tables with sumptuous four-course feasts of cheese, salad, chocolate, and steakhouse fare. Bubbling pots of emmentaler, lager-laced cheddar, and creamy fontina quell urges to engage in skewer swordfights as guests eagerly dip and slather slices of crisp granny-smith apples or crusts of artisanal bread. Creamy peppercorn ranch and decadent burgundy-shallot vinaigrette drape plates of crispy salad greens and roma tomatoes before servers parade out the pièce de résistance—fresh shrimp, sesame-crusted ahi, and succulent slices of filet mignon that bathe in roiling pools of coq au vin and bourguignonne. As a tasty digestif, dessert-savvy diners coat brownies, marshmallows, and unlucky car keys in cauldrons of milk, dark, and white chocolate.