I work twice a week in Ballston, a neighborhood in Arlington, Virginia and the first place I lived after moving to the area from Oklahoma in 2011. Back then, the majority of the dining options were sports bars or a bunch of chain restaurants located in the comically outdated Ballston Common Mall.
The mall recently closed and will eventually be replaced by Ballston Quarter, an updated shopping and dining complex. The project looks to be a beautiful and welcome addition to the neighborhood, though it won’t be completed until at least 2018.
Losing the mall meant losing a number of places to have lunch in Ballston. Gone is the Panera, the Noodles and Co., the entire food court with its quirky set of options (I wasn’t a fan). Gone too is my old favorite sushi place, Shiki Sushi, and Rock Bottom Brewery where we often went for work team lunches.
So where to eat now? The truth is, the best options for lunch in Ballston were never located inside the mall. The food scene has grown up a lot since I lived here, with the addition of several new restaurants from high-profile chefs, popular local chains and mom-and-pop shops.
I’m kind of glad for the excuse to venture out and try new places. It’s a nice way to break up a long work day. (I do miss those Panera breakfast sandwiches every now and then, though.)
Where to Eat Lunch in Ballston
Sandwiches are easy to come by in Ballston. You’ve got Which Wich, Taylor Gourmet and a good number of quality delis (Mike’s Cafe is a favorite of mine). A Taylor sub is always a good idea, but when I want something a little different I head to Earl’s.
The Turkey Reuben is my go-to, but Earl’s menu is vast and changes often. They focus on creating handmade sandwiches with fresh fillings, not sliced deli meets. They also offer salads, soups and breakfast items.
Salads are my usual lunchtime choice. My preferred destination for fancy, overpriced salads is and forever will be Sweetgreen, a local chain with locations all over the DC area. The Ballston location is always on point with friendly service and fresh ingredients.
On occasion, Sweet Leaf is nice alternative. There are two locations within walking distance of Ballston. I don’t like the salads quite as much, but they do offer a greater variety than Sweetgreen with the addition of sandwiches, breakfast, coffee and sweets.
Sad as I was to lose my beloved Shiki Sushi, I’ve found a good replacement in Sushi 2 Go.
The sushi is straight forward and fresh and the staff is incredibly friendly. You can select pre-made rolls or have them made to order. The specials are a great deal and come with a cup of miso soup.
For grab and go pizza, NKD is a great option. They make their pies with all natural ingredients that you can pronounce, and they still taste good. I’m a fan of the Kennett with garlic infused olive oil, mozzarella, roasted mushrooms, grated parmesan and thyme.
Rustico is an old favorite for a sit-down pizza lunch, if you have a little extra time and money to spare. Tom and I used to go there on dates back in the day, so it holds a special place in my heart. He is a fan of the grilled salmon, while I prefer the salt roasted beet salad. The crazy feta dip is a wonderful splurge.
I’ve written before about Yona, Kapnos Taverna and Water & Wall – all excellent places for a nice, seated lunch. It’s been awhile since I’ve had time to do more than grab something quick, but I’m hoping for a chance to check out SER and Cheesetique in the coming months.