The scents of made-to-order sandwiches first started wafting from the doors of The Woodside Deli in 1947, when it began meeting the lunching, snacking, and catering needs of the residents of Silver Spring. Decades of success saw the business overgrow its original location and expand to one in Rockville, where a restaurant menu offers up chewy bagels, meaty diner fare, and philly cheesesteaks dripping with melted provolone cheese. High Holiday and Passover menus offer kosher treats, and catering services can fill bellies at bar or bat mitzvahs, corporate events, and baby’s-first-tax-return parties.
At Bobby’s Crabcakes, patrons can sample top-notch fishy fare without exposing themselves to surprise high-seas glacier attacks or searching for tasty crustaceans in the frigid depths of mall fountains. Bobby’s has pulled in fishnets full of accolades, as well as carracks of customers toting grumbling stomachs and crab-cracking mallets. Dinner and lunch menus offer a variety of surf fare, such as the crab-cake platter with fries and slaw ($26.50) and broiled Atlantic salmon with fresh herbs and sautéed French beans ($17.95). Additionally, frequent land dwellers petrified by the mystical ocean and its bevy of creatures and underwater super-villain lairs can opt for delectable ground-based grub. Tantalizing chicken marsala with roasted potatoes ($14.95) or a juicy chophouse burger ($11.95) will undoubtedly douse fiery appetites and cheer up souls reeling from la terra trema. Additionally, refreshing drinks will spark belting about the aquatic adventures of the past and cure scurvy with a twist of lemon juice.
In the dead of night in 1976, the Abi-Najm family boarded a cargo ship bringing only what they could carry; an escape from Civil War in Lebanon called for a quick getaway. They traveled across the ocean to safety in Arlington, Virginia, where they were able to open a small restaurant in 1979. To save money, they changed the eatery’s name from “Athenian Taverna” to “Lebanese Taverna” so that they only had to update one word on the eatery’s marquee.
From these modest beginnings grew a series of eateries that today comprises of six restaurants and four quick-service cafés, all still operated by the Abi-Najm clan. One look at the menu explains the success: chicken shawarma, spicy hummus, lamb tartare—all Lebanese staples that helped the restaurant earn a spot on Northern Virginia magazine's list of 25 Iconic Eats. There's even kibbeh, or stuffed meatballs, which blend ground beef, lamb, almonds, and pine nuts into fried spheres suitable for felling miniature bowling pins on top of the table before entrees arrive. The decor is as striking as the cuisine; inside the Bethesda location, light filters through the colored glass lanterns that decorate the dining room.
The menu at Austin Grill represents more than 20 years worth of authentic, time-tested Tex-Mex favorites seasoned with 15 different homemade salsas, sauces, and dressings. A belly-filling roadhouse burrito wraps a fresh flour tortilla around seasoned ground beef and beans, all topped with a drizzle of chili con queso and served with a side of rice ($11.99 at lunch, $11.49 at dinner). Put off cumbersome decision-making and sample the country western flavors of the Joe Ely Big Combo, a medley of a grilled chicken taco, a beef barbacoa enchilada with ancho chili sauce, and a hand-rolled chicken tamale topped with Texas chili ($14.99). A multi-colored Bevo Salad blends house greens, cotija cheese, black beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, corn relish, and crispy tortilla strips in tangy cilantro-lime vinaigrette ($7.99 at lunch, $9.99 at dinner). Mosey in on the weekends to lasso southern brunch specials such as the Austin eggs benedict ($11.49) and cornmeal pancakes with eggs and bacon ($9.59). Diners with more particular palates can direct their eyes toward the lengthy gluten-free menu.
At Primo Italiano, customers can get a taste and fill boot-shaped stomachs with 10 types of fresh pasta, New York–style pizza, and classic Italian baked dishes prepared according to family recipe. Fried ravioli adds crisp texture to a creamy pocket of cheese ($5.95), while an antipasto platter makes for a good appetizer to share with friends or a handsome fork ($10.95). Secure a hot sub on your lunchtime agenda such as the grilled italian sausage, heaped with grilled peppers and onions ($8.45). Treat your mouth to one of Primo Italiano’s specialty dishes such as baked penne with ricotta and mozzarella ($12.95), or test the strength of a boastful plate of muscles by topping them with fresh linguini and a double dose of marinara ($17.95).
The chefs at Oro Pomodoro have earned the right to call themselves "pizzaioli," or pizza makers, by upholding the traditions set forth by the Neapolitan authorities on pie creation. Their wood-burning brick ovens are set precisely to Vesuvius-like temperatures, their dough is blended just so, and their ingredients all meet strict standards for authenticity and freshness. Oro Pomodoro's preparation earned their pizza an official certification from the Verace Pizza Napoletana Association for its authenticity. Like actors wearing white shirts in detergent commercials, the chefs liberally sprinkle San Marzano tomato sauces, gorgonzola cheese, prosciutto, kalamata olives, and fistfuls of sun-dried tomatoes. That same palette of time-tested Italian ingredients, which also includes Caputo flour and buffalo mozzarella, lends itself to ravioli, fettuccine, and other pastas are made fresh daily in the kitchen.
Every dish is served in a cheery bistro-style dining room, which combines glossy expanses of mahogany with playful polka-dotted upholstery on the benches and bar chairs. Sinuous wine racks stretch up from a counter between rows of benches, hinting at a carefully curated wine list featuring elixirs from the Tuscany and Veneto regions.