This week I had to visit Herndon, VA, which is part of the greater Washington DC area. I actually went to college in the DC area, but it’s been a long time since I had traveled out into the suburbs of that city and really looked around to see what had changed.
I expected the town around Dulles airport to be dull, with the food offerings equally so. But I couldn’t be more wrong about this.
As it turns out, Herndon, as part of the Dulles Technology Corridor (sort of a beltway equivalent to Raleigh’s RTP area) is home to a lot of technology companies and as such, have many employees from various nationalities.
There are ethnic restaurants abound in Herndon, including Vietnamese, Chinese, Russian — and also all forms of Indian, Pakistani, Middle-Eastern as well as Ethiopian. As I only had time for three dinner meals in town this week, I decided to focus on the last four.
394 Elden Street, Herndon VA 20170 (In K-Mart shopping plaza)
Web Site: http://charcoalkabobhouse.com
Charcoal Kabab Storefront in Herndon K-Mart Shopping Plaza.
The Fairfax county area of Northern VA is home to a large population of Middle Eastern and Indian residents, all of which have set up shop in various towns including Herndon with all sorts of restaurants and grocery stores representing their various ethnicities.
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The K-Mart Shopping plaza in Herndon is a veritable ethnic food paradise, as it sports a Vietnamese Pho restaurant, a Hong-Kong style Chinese restaurant, huge Middle Eastern grocery store, a Russian Grocery, an Indian Bakery, and most importantly, Charcoal Kabab.
Charcoal Kabab, which is the oldest Kabab house in Fairfax County (they’ve been in business for over 18 years) is literally a mecca of grilled middle-eastern meat delicacies. The food is not only some of the best of its genre that I have ever sampled but it’s also incredibly affordable, which is surprising considering that all the meat served at the restaurant is Halal. The portions are also really big, so for about $10.00 a Kabab platter, you eat like a king.
The carte de Kabab. Click on the photo to zoom in. As you can see, the menu is “Pan-Halal”, encompassing Kabab dishes from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.
Here’s side dishes. Up front you can see Dal, a spicy lentil dish from Pakistan as well as a Potato curry. In the middle is Saag, a spicy spinach dish common to Pakistan and India. Towards the rear is a Channa curry, made with chickpeas.
This is a dish of Haleem, a spicy Pakistani curry made with four types of lentils and shredded chicken. I had some of this on the side with my order and it was fantastic.
Here are several orders of Tandoori Chicken.
The restaurant bakes its own Naan bread in an Indian-style Tandoor clay oven. They come out piping hot.
This is a combo Kabab platter.
Here’s what I ordered that evening — Chapli Kabab (sort of a spicy Pakistani/Afghani hamburger) with a Kabab combination platter.
On my last evening I came back to Charcoal Kabab and tried their Kadahi Chicken, a very spicy Indian/Pakistani-style curry made with tomatoes and lots of fresh ginger. This was made in the kitchen to order.
Warka Ethiopian Restaurant
275 Sunset Park, Herndon VA 20170
Like its big brother, Washington DC, the Fairfax county area is home to a large number of Ethiopians, who migrated to the area about 25 years ago. Originally, many of the area’s Ethiopian restaurants opened in the Adams Morgan section of Washington DC, where I enjoyed many a meal and was first introduced to the cuisine as a student at American University. Now quite a few of them are opening in the outlying areas itself.
I was recommended by an employee of the company I was visiting this week to try Warka, a local Ethiopian restaurant. As he was Ethiopian and also steered me to the other excellent restaurant in this post, Charcoal Kabab, I knew I was in for a treat.
St. George is a lager beer from Ethiopia. It goes great with the spicy dishes.
Here is a combination platter which I ordered that has sauteed Cabbage, a Tibs (spicy cubes of beef), Shiro (a kind of Ethiopian lentil), Collard Greens and Minchet Wat, a spicy ground beef mixture. The entire meal is eaten with your hands, picking up small bites with sour injera pancakes, made with a mixture of Teff grain.
In addition to Ethiopian beer, the restaurant also features a selection of Wines from Ethiopia. Shown here is a traditional Honey Wine.
As I needed to stay up and write an article that evening I needed some caffeine. Warka will make you a pot of Ethiopian-style coffee for $5 and it is totally worth it.
Ethiopian-style coffee is similar to Turkish coffee in preparation, although the beans are roasted to more of a medium than a dark. The coffee is drank black, with or without sweetener. It’s smooth enough that it doesn’t need any creamer at all, it had virtually no bitter taste.