Tucked into every corner of the city, Arlington’s mom-and-pop shops and old-world family restaurants offer visitors a smorgasbord of authentic international flavor.
NAMOO KOREAN BOWL
300 E Abram, #170
“Appa loves to make people cry,” says server Genesis Aleman, a PR major at UTA who studies Korean, explaining that Appa means “dad” in Korean and the tears usually come from the “extra-spicy” option on the Dae Bak dish, the cook’s favorite. The Dae Bak is just one of 12 combinations offered at Namoo. All come in beautiful wooden bowls, complementing the eatery’s light-wood décor, and with a generous amount of your choice of protein (meat, tofu or seafood) and a vegetable egg roll, as well as free seaweed soup and bottled water.
Top menu pick: opt for the bibimbap or kimchi jjigae, but if it’s all new to you, stick with the Korean classic, featuring beef short ribs, or its grilled-chicken counterpart, the Gangnam. then immerse yourself in the experience by enjoying the K-pop videos playing overhead.
4000 5 Points Blvd., #109
Always packed, yet always pleasantly relaxed, the family-run India Grill has a passionate following in Arlington, and their diverse patrons all have a variation on the same comment: “They make you feel right at home, like a favorite dinner guest.” One local sales rep takes India Grill catering to his clients on a regular basis and confesses, “Their perfect chai tea can help me sell just about anything.”
Top menu pick: a sumptuous Indian mixed grill platter offers tender meats and vegetables at India grill’s lunch buffet. The sweet and creamy vegetable makhani is another unusual treat not always offered at buffets.
AHI POKE BOWL
3701 S Cooper St #169
DAMIAN’S CAJUN SOUL CAFÉ
185 S Watson Rd #101
We can’t help but mention just a couple of Arlington’s non-international restaurants that still have serious cultural cred. On S. Cooper near The Parks Mall is newcomer Ahi Poke Bowl. If you’re not familiar with the Hawaiian poke craze, now is the time to get on board. You’ll get to choose which fresh raw fish or popcorn shrimp, rice, salad and sauce you want in your custom-made bowl, and add garnishes as well. Closer to downtown and AT&T Stadium is longtime favorite Damian’s Cajun Soul Café, where customers debate which dishes are Cajun versus Creole, but they all agree that they can’t get enough of whatever Damian is cooking that day and his friendly service. With daily menu rotations, you just have to go frequently enough to try it all.
Top menu pick: go for the crawfish étouffée or smothered pork chops at Damian’s. at ahi poke bowl, you can sample the sashimi before committing, but we recommend including yellow tail hamachi, as well as avocado (no extra charge!), and topping it all off with the self-serve fried onions.
BẾN THÀNH PLAZA
1818 E Pioneer Pkwy #100
If you’ve never seen a dragon fruit or a durian, or if you’ve never made your own pad thai or Vietnamese spring rolls, then prepare for the culinary trip of a lifetime at Ben Thành Central Market, the flagship grocery store at Ben Thành Plaza. When you’re done choosing from
more than a dozen brands of pad thai sauce and marveling at all the pickled vegetables, go to the housewares aisle to experience a whole world of traditions and conveniences that might be new to you. And yes, you can eat a meal while you’re there, too—the food court in the same mall has an assortment of authentic and satisfying options.
Top menu pick: head to the candy aisle to stock up on souvenir treats for the kids or the office. You can’t go wrong with classic chocolate-coated Pocky sticks from Japan.
SPROUTS SPRING ROLL & PHO
780 E Road To Six Flags #2
1220 S Cooper St.
Pho the love of all that is tasty, don’t make us choose between these two perfect hangouts! Both have soul-satisfying Vietnamese pho, but when we need a boba break (boba tea, that is, with chewy tapioca balls), everyone has a favorite flavor at Sprouts. And when we’re aching for crisp, fresh bánh mì sandwiches, Vietalia brings the crunch. Plus, if you haven’t caught on already, at Vietalia the kids can eat pizza (or spaghetti, or burgers) while you enjoy lemongrass chicken and pork vermicelli.
Top menu pick: start with fresh spring rolls at either restaurant. At Sprouts, get the vegetarian or meat-lover pho, which features brisket, eye round and meatballs. Feeling brave (and super hungry)? go big and try the Super Pho Challenge—featured on Man vs. Food nation—where you’ll race against the clock to chow down on more than five pounds of soup filled with meat, noodles and broth. At Vietalia, go with the curry chicken clay pot, with marinated chicken, potatoes, carrots and onions in a curry sauce.
2324 S Collins St.
A meal at Sabor Latino feels like you’ve happened upon a roadside restaurant on a Latin-American vacation. The space is small, with only four tables. The three generations—grandmother, mother and daughter—offer Colombian classics like empanadas and papas rellenas for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Top menu pick: get the bandeja paisa, a traditional Colombian platter that comes with rice and beans, chorizo, a fried egg, arepa, avocado, carne asada, sweet plantains and chicharrón.
423 N Fielder Rd.
When you just need to unwind, feel welcomed, not worry about the bill and count on consistently great food, the cozy, family-run Sukhothai Restaurant should be your choice. But first, grab your favorite wine or beer because this long-standing Arlington institution is BYOB. You’ll be served by one of the two sisters who have run this restaurant for nearly two decades (and who are invariably described as sweet and considerate). The sisters are reluctant to recommend “best” dishes, insisting that nothing less than excellent appears on the menu. Both curry lovers and noodle fans will be equally happy with the selection at Sukhothai.
Top menu pick: give Pad See Ew a try if you’re a noodle lover who always orders Pad Thai. More noodle, more veggies and more flavor!
TASTE OF EUROPE
1901 W Pioneer Pkwy
Taste of Europe is a destination in itself, so we suggest planning your trip around it. Once you’re there, allow at least a couple of hours to appreciate the full experience—the restaurant, deli, grocery and gift shop—a feast for your eyes and your stomach. You’ll easily fill your time deciding between Georgian wine or Russian beer, as well as pelmeni, pierogies or kolduny, or browsing the 10,000 imported Russian and Eastern European collectibles in the gift shop. With family-style service by friendly staff and occasional tales from owner Mikhail Frumkin of his early life in Belarus, it’s as if you just stopped by a friend’s house while on a European holiday.
Top menu pick: it’s a four-way tie between the Russian beef stroganoff, Hungarian goulash, German schnitzel or Ukrainian chicken kiev. Take the whole family and get one of each to share.
JAMAICA GATES CARIBBEAN CUISINE
1020 W Arkansas Ln
Together with her son and daughter-in-law, executive chef Barbara Renfro brings her native Jamaica to Arlington at this favorite UT Arlington hangout. The family makes it easy to try a variety of Jamaican specialties with the three-sampler appetizer, including jerk shrimp, plantains and sticky citrus wings, and the five-sampler appetizer with jerk wings and cocktail patties. Although Jamaica Gates serves Red Stripe and other Caribbean beers, we recommend its popular lemonade—which is actually made with lime—or any of the authentic Jamaican sodas such as grapefruit-y Ting or Kola Champagne. If that’s not enough taste of the Caribbean for you, finish your meal with a slice of chocolate rum runner cake. Plan to come on Friday or Saturday night when live bands perform.
Top menu pick: Jamaican-seasoned oxtail is the top seller, according to co-owner Errol Byles, but he also highly recommends the brown-stew fish—slow-simmered tilapia with a mildly spicy, homemade brown sauce.
829 E Lamar Blvd
The regulars eat from the blackboard at Piccolo Mondo, and it’s easy to see why, with new choices every day including fresh fish, steak and rack of lamb. Italian-born owner Antonio Capaccioli and his experienced staff have set the standard for old-world cuisine and white-tablecloth ambience in the Arlington area for more than 30 years with fresh flowers, candles, a full bar and ample wine list. Tuesday through Saturday, guests enjoy live piano and saxophone in the evenings, making it a top choice for anniversaries, birthdays and other special occasions.
Top menu pick: veal scallopini and lasagna alla bolognese are the most popular items here, though the regulars will tell you that the daily specials are the way to go.
PRINCE LEBANESE GRILL
502 W Randol Mill Rd.
Prince Lebanese Grill is one of the most frequently recommended restaurants in Arlington. This family-run and family favorite, whose home is a remodeled Sonic Drive-In, has been feeding the good people of Arlington for nearly 30 years. The service is superb; the prices are incredible; the dolmas are delicious; the beer and wine are BYOB and the basmati rice is the fluffiest you’ve ever seen. The meat is halal, and there are boundless choices for vegetarians.
Top menu pick: customers most often choose the flavorful shawarma chicken, beef or lamb—but if you can’t decide, the popular Prince Lebanese sampler plate offers varieties of all three meats. We were told, however, that “all the servers love the specialty salad,” a Lebanese, Greek, fattoush or tabbouleh salad with a choice of meat or other add-on.
Demystified definitions and origins of dishes you may find as you sample the cosmopolitan cuisine of Arlington. Keep calm, epicurean adventurers, and curry on:
AREPA: South American, a corn patty, often stuffed with a savory filling
BABA GHANOUSH: Mediterranean, roasted eggplant dip
BAKLAVA: Turkish, sweet pastry made of layers of phyllo dough, chopped nuts and honey
BANCHAN: Korean, side dishes served with rice
BANDEJA PAISA: Colombian, large platter of food that often includes rice and beans, a fried egg, avocado, meat and plantains
BÁNH MÌ: Vietnamese, a meat-filled sandwich garnished with cucumber, cilantro, pickled carrots and daikon.
BASMATI RICE: Indian, long-grain aromatic rice
BULGOGI: Korean, grilled marinated beef
CHAI: Indian, spiced black tea with added milk and sweetener
CLAY POT: Origin unknown, cooking food in an earthenware pot until very tender
DOLMA: Mediterranean, grape leaves wrapped around rice and meat or vegetables
EMPANADA: Latin American, a pastry filled with meat, cheese or other ingredients
FATTOUSH: Mediterranean, a salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, vegetables and sliced pita
FISH CAKE: Origin unknown, a patty of filleted fish and potato, usually dredged in bread crumbs and fried
GALBI: Korean, barbecued short ribs
GOULASH: Hungarian, a seasoned meat and vegetable stew
GYRO: Mediterranean, meat roasted on a turning spit, often served wrapped in pita bread with vegetables and tzatziki sauce
KIMCHI: Korean, seasoned, fermented vegetables
KOLDUNY: Eastern European, round stuffed potato pancakes or dumplings
LASSI: Indian, a drink made of yogurt, water, spices and sometimes fruit
MAKHANI: Indian, a dish made with butter
MULLIGATAWNY SOUP: English, a curry soup with Indian origins
NAAN: Middle Eastern, leavened, oven baked flatbread
OXTAIL: Origin unknown, the meat at the top of a cow’s tail, typically slow cooked as a stew or soup broth
PAD THAI: Thai, pan-fried rice noodles with meat, eggs, peanuts and bean sprouts
PAPAS RELLENAS: Latin American, a deep-fried ball of potato dough filled with chopped beef and onions, olives, eggs, cumin and spices
PELMENI: Russian, circular stuffed dumplings made of unleavened dough
PHO: Vietnamese, noodle soup with rice noodles, meat and herbs
PIEROGI: Eastern European, stuffed dumplings made of unleavened dough
PLANTAINS: African and Latin American, a member of the banana family, often fried or baked and used like a starch in African and Caribbean dishes
SAMOSA: Indian, deep-fried triangular pastry stuffed with spiced vegetables or meat
SASHIMI: Japanese, thinly sliced raw fish or meat
SCHNITZEL: Austrian, thinned,tenderized meat fried in bread crumbs
SHAWARMA: Middle Eastern, meat roasted on a revolving spit
TABBOULEH: Middle Eastern, bulgur salad mixed with parsley and tomatoes
TIKKA: Indian, an appetizer featuring small pieces of chicken or lamb
TZATZIKI: Greek, a cool yogurt sauce with cucumber and garlic