Falls Church is a community in Northern Virginia, encompassing the independentCity of Falls Church plus the neighborhoods of Seven Corners and West Falls Church in Fairfax County and East Falls Church in Arlington County. Falls Church is home to the largest Vietnamese community on the East Coast, and visitors can enjoy a great variety of international cuisine.
Falls Church is a suburban area, located inside the Beltway (I-495) about three miles west of Washington, D.C.
The nearest and most convenient airport is Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) in Arlington. Long-haul flights are available to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD).
By public transport
WMATA, which operates the DC Metrorail, has stops at West Falls Church (Orange Line) and East Falls Church (Orange and Silver Lines). These stops, however, are designed for commuters, and there is little nearby except for swaths of parking. A long walk or a transfer to Metrobus is required; bus riders should check options from Ballston in Arlington County, which is served by more routes.
Bus users should make a note of Seven Corners Transit Center, where you can transfer between all the most useful bus routes, and which is just across the street from the Eden Center.
Metrobuses 4A and 4H are the only options for US-50/Arlington Blvd, and depart from the Rosslyn Metro stop. You can pick them up from the Seven Corners Transit Center, though, across the street from Eden Center, where you can also connect up with the aforementioned Wilson Blvd buses.
It's definitely best to have a car, mostly because this part of Northern Virginia is not pedestrian-friendly at all. It is possible to get just about everywhere by public transport, but your trip will take a lot more time.
The intersection known as Seven Corners no longer has seven corners, after decades of traffic engineering, but the roads that form it remain the same. Pay close attention to the signs if you want to wind up on the right road! The main roads have at least two names a piece, which further complicates things: US-50/Arlington Blvd, VA-7/Leesburg Pike/Broad St, and US-29/Lee Hwy/Washington St. Wilson Blvd is the other main road, where you will find Eden Center immediately northeast of Seven Corners on the way up to Arlington.
I-66 runs east-west just to the north of the City of Falls Church; I-495, the Capital Beltway, runs along West Falls Church's western border, with the US-50 exit being the most useful.
Avoid driving during morning rush hour (7:30AM-10:30AM) towards D.C., and vice versa in the afternoon (4PM-7PM). Note that on weekdays eastbound I-66 is HOV-2 only 6:30AM-9AM and westbound is HOV-2 only 4PM-6:30PM.
- Eden Center, 6751 Wilson Blvd, ☎ +1 703 204-4600. 9AM–11PM. Eden Center, with its colorful arch, cultural vibrance, and frequent Vietnamese cultural events, is that rare strip mall that can rightly be considered a bonafide tourist attraction. The main reason to come is of course the peerless Vietnamese cuisine in its restaurants, but the shopping can be fun too, be it food or tchotchkes (or just useful, if you are Vietnamese and want some DVDs from the home country). There are more than 100 shops and restaurants packed into this small mall.
- Cherry Hill Farmhouse, 312 Park Avenue, ☎ +1 703-248-5171, fax: +1 703-536-8150. Mo-Th 9AM–3PM, April-October Sa 10AM–12PM. Restored in the 1970s, this mid-19th century Greek Revival style house and barn house a small museum of furniture and tools from the 1860s. Periodic Civil War demonstrations and other events are held. Free.
Falls Church has the best Vietnamese food in the D.C. area— some would say the best in the country outside of California— and some of the cheapest. The most famous dishes are of course bánh mì (pronounced bañ mee, with a palatized "n") and phở (fuh). The former are sandwiches on semi-hard to hard French baguettes, filled with very Vietnamese ingredients like cold cuts, smoked bacon, head cheese, red pork, various deli meats, or even regular old Italian meatballs. Are there better sandwiches in the world? Maybe—some hamburgers or pulled pork sandwiches might be contenders, but this speaks to just how delicious banh mi really are.
Pho is Vietnamese beef soup (or the U.S. invented chicken phở ga), filled with hot beef/oxtail broth/borderline-consommé, just about any part of the cow you like—brisket, tripe, flank, chuck, round, tendon, etc., and a generous helping of vermicelli noodles. On the side are fresh veggies to add to the soup, in particular mint, jalapeños, and sprouts, as well as lime, spicy sriracha sauce, and sweet-sour hoisin sauce.
Bubble tea and smoothies of all stripes are the most popular beverages (although Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk and young coconut juice with fresh coconut meat are hard to beat), and can be found in any bakery/deli, as well as the dessert menus of the restaurants. Bubble tea gets its name from the optional tapioca balls (boba) at the bottom of the cup. For an adventure, try one of the red bean or durian smoothies! The bakeries also have a good selection of strange Vietnamese foods and excellent fresh fruit at cheaper prices than you'll find in any area grocery store.
Vietnamese cuisine, with its fusion of French (thank the colonial past) and southeast Asian, is far richer and diverse than the banh mi and pho alone, though, and you'll find it well represented in the less-specialized restaurants.
There is a smaller, but significant Cantonese community in Falls Church as well, and Cantonese food is a favorite with the Vietnamese, especially for a late night dinner. One fun thing to check out are the dish translations on the menus into both English and Vietnamese!
Note that the Cantonese and Vietnamese restaurants/grocers/bakeries are either cash only, or have minimum purchases for credit cards—usually $10.
Outside Eden Center
- 2941 Restaurant, 2941 Fairview Park Dr, ☎ +1 703 270-1500. M-F 11:30AM-2PM,5PM-9:30PM, Sa 5PM-10PM. Chef Bertrand Chemel's 2941 is one of the top destination restaurants in Northern Virginia, with a large, beautiful dining room eclipsed only by the beautiful views over the lake. Cuisine is contemporary American, prepared with exclusively local ingredients. $30-65.
- Ba Le Bakery, 2822 Graham Rd, ☎ +1 703 876-9062. 24 hours daily. If perhaps not the best in the D.C. area for banh mi, Ba Le in Falls Church is right up there in the top echelon, and is open 24/7. The ramshackle seating is available in limited quantity inside and out on the strip mall parking lot patio (where they even seem to have one of those winterized outdoor seating heat lamps?). If it's 3AM, and you find yourself here eating head cheese sandwiches and washing them down with mung bean smoothies, you are clearly doing something right. Incidentally, you'll note that the Ba Le logo has an Eiffel Tower in it; Ba Le is Vietnamese for Paris—a nod to the French colonial past that gave birth to this magnificent sandwich! $3.50-4.50/banh mi.
- Banh Mi DC, 3103 Graham Rd, ☎ +1 703 205-9300. 8AM-8PM daily. The banh mi here are absolutely in the top echeleon, and the menu has some hard-to-find variants, perhaps most notably the smoked (not fried crispy) bacon banh mi. The bubble tea is fantastic here, as are the many other baked goods. No seating, so plan to eat on your car's trunk. $3.50-4.50/banh mi.
- Hong Kong Palace, 6387 Leesburg Pike, ☎ +1 703 532-0940. Su-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-11AM. Make sure you get the right menu, and order properly here, as the standout dishes are the spicy Szechuan entrees (like the delicious lamb cumin), rather than the Cantonese, or even worse, American dishes. Unless you are willing to drive to Rockville in Maryland (too far), you won't find better Szechuan cuisine around. Dim sum available Sa-Su mornings. $9-22.
- Miu Kee, 6653 Arlington Blvd, ☎ +1 703 237-8884. Su-Th 11AM-2AM, F-Sa 11AM-3AM. Notable particularly for those late night hours, this is a really solid bet regardless of the time of day for authentic Cantonese. $8-22.
- Peking Gourmet Inn, 6029 Leesburg Pike, ☎ +1 703 671-8088. Su-Th 11AM-10:30PM, F-Sa 11AM-11PM. Ever famous for popularity with the Bush family, who never minded the long trek out to this unassuming strip mall (is all great food in Northern Virginia in strip malls?). Peking duck, naturally, is the star attraction, and you'd be crazy to come here without trying it. $10-25.
- XO Taste, 6124 Arlington Blvd (just north of US-50 up Patrick Henry Dr), ☎ +1 703 536-1630. 11AM-2AM daily. XO also has notable ultra-late hours, even on ultra-slow weeknights, but also is one of the best bets for Chinese in Northern Virginia. While the menu is long, the specialties are (arguably) the Hong Kong style BBQ and noodle soup. Combining the two, tossing roast pork and duck into your noodle soup, is recommended. Crispy whole fish is a great choice as well. It's in the strip mall west of the Target and Safeway, and hard to see from the main road (US-50). $5-20.
Eden Center is ground zero for South Vietnamese cuisine (and culture—the constant South Vietnamese freedom fighter festivals are an interesting look back to the past of this immigrant community). It's an aesthetically unappealing strip mall, but the culinary delights are outstanding, and while you may not recognize them, you'll often be waiting in lines with D.C.'s top gourmet shops.
- Banh Mi So 1, 6779 Wilson Blvd (on the east end of the building right next to the arch on the street), ☎ +1 703 534-1950. 10AM-10PM daily. So 1 is probably popular choice number two for best banh mi in Eden Center. Expect much bigger baguettes and a much longer menu than you would find at, say, Nhu Lan below. $3.50/banh mi.
- Nhu Lan, 6763 Wilson Blvd (inside the mall), ☎ +1 703 532-9009. 10AM-8PM daily. There is not a consensus regarding the D.C. metro area's top banh mi purveyor, but if there is one, this is it. It's a tiny little bakery with only four tiny tables and a smaller menu than just about anywhere else, but the baguettes are absolutely second to none. Buy four and get one free. $3.50/banh mi.
- Cha Kim Phung Bakery, 6771 Wilson Blvd, ☎ +1 703 534-4525. 9AM-8PM daily. This little bakery is as of yet overlooked by the white folks, but the service is probably the friendliest in the mall, and the banh mi are right up there with the best. They also have a more extensive selection of other Vietnamese baked treats than most of the other delis at Eden Center. Lastly, ginger fans should make sure to grab some delicious unfiltered ginger ale out of the fridge. $3/banh mi.
- Song Que. While popular for its banh mi, it might be better to try one of the options above first for the taste test. The best reasons to stop in are the excellent (and varied) bubble teas and groceries. Seating is always plentiful, and there's a really funny sign over the toilet.
- Pho Xe Lua, 6765 Wilson Blvd, ☎ +1 703 533-3130. M-Su 9AM-9PM. Eden Center's, and by extension the D.C. area's, consensus choice for best pho (for those who have adventured beyond the admittedly excellent Pho 75 in Arlington. Even many West Coasters admit this is the best they've had outside Vietnam. There's not much more that needs be said, aside from cash only, and a bit more expensive than other pho servers (but absolutely worth it). Small bowl: $7, large: $10.
The following all have traditional table service and full bar.
- Huong Viet, 6785 Wilson Blvd, ☎ +1 703 538-7110. Su-Th 10AM-10PM, F-Sa 10AM-11PM. Virtually everything on the gargantuan menu is great, although the more adventurous in the delicacies/specials section are the most rewarding. The most famous dish here is the crispy quail wings appetizer. This is also the oldest restaurant in the mall. $10-22.
- Phung Hoang, 6795 Wilson Blvd (hiding inside Saigon West—the southwesternmost corner of the parking lot), ☎ +1 703 538-6732. 9AM-8PM daily. The restaurants inside the mall are harder to find, and attract a more exclusively Vietnamese clientèle. The standout dish here is bún bò huế, a richer vermicelli soup than pho, with a reddish, chili-heavy broth, some congealed pig's blood, a strong taste of lemongrass, and some optional fish sauce on the side, in addition to the same fresh veggies associated with pho. Full bar. $7-18.
- Thanh Van, 6795 Wilson Blvd (inside the mall), ☎ +1 703 639-0901. 9AM-9PM daily. Vegetarians rejoice, Eden Center has a Vegetarian/Vegan restaurant! There is a full menu, but the biggest draw may be the vegan pho with really convincing imitation meat. $6-18.
- Viet Taste, 6763 Wilson Blvd (inside the mall), ☎ +1 703 531-0011. 10AM-10PM daily. Another great, traditional full-service restaurant with a long menu to rival Huong Viet's, but an especially fun choice in the evenings, with frequent live music. The hot pots are a specialty. $8-20.
- Vy Bistro, 6757 Wilson Blvd, ☎ +1 703 538-7575. 10AM-9PM daily. Sleek, modern, and trendy, this is one of the best of several more upscale restaurants serving modern, more creative Vietnamese cuisine, which is pretty hard to find the U.S.!
- Can't get enough Asian cuisine? There's more to the south in Annandale, heart of the D.C. area's Korean community, and with great Chinese food as well.
- Urbanity isn't far away in Arlington and Washington, D.C. beyond.
- Just north on VA-7/Leesburg Pike is mammoth Tysons Corner Center, the region's flagship shopping mall.
|Routes through Falls Church|
|Middletown ← Vienna ←||W E||→ Arlington → Washington, D.C.|
|Bethesda ← Tysons Corner ←||N S||→ Annandale → Springfield|
|Washington, D.C. ← Arlington ←||N S||→ Fairfax → Charlottesville|
|Winchester ← Fairfax ←||W E||→ Arlington → Washington, D.C.|
|Winchester ← Tysons Corner ←||W E||→ Alexandria → END|
|Leesburg ← McLean ←||W E||→ END|
|END ← Vienna ←||W E||→ Arlington → East End|
|Reston ← McLean ←||W E||→ Arlington → East End|