D.C. restaurateurs like José Andrés and Spike Mendelsohn are probably feeling pretty good about their fortuitous expansions into the Crystal City dining market years ago. Andres’ Jaleo and Mendelsohn’s We, The Pizza and Good Stuff Eatery will give next year’s influx of Amazon workers a taste of what the region has to offer when the company opens its Crystal City—pardon us, National Landing—campus. The big changes ahead had us wondering what the area already offers in terms of restaurant options, and what types of dining concepts the neighborhood desperately needs.
The aforementioned Jaleo Crystal City serves as a de facto dining anchor for that slice of Arlington along Route 1 sandwiched between the city to the north, Alexandria to the south and Reagan National Airport to the east. The area also features a well-regarded Uyghur restaurant in Queen Amannisa, which serves the food of western China—although it’s currently closed for renovation and unclear whether it will reopen in the same spot. Honeygrow serves up some tasty and fairly healthy fusion noodle bowls and salads along with cold-pressed juices and its signature fruit cup tossed with artisanal honey in a fast-casual setting. And there are a few local favorites like the old-school Portofino and Freddie’s Beach Bar that locals would like to have stick around.
But we’re pretty sure everyone can agree that Crystal City could be more, even without the impending arrival of tech giant Amazon. National Landing developers JBG Smith are already claiming the overhauled neighborhood will become an “approximately 130,000-gross-square-foot entertainment and shopping destination anchored by a 49,000-square-foot Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, a specialty grocer, restaurants, bars and other experiential offerings.”
Locals tell us they’d like to see a wine bar and a cocktail bar, two concepts that will also come in handy for after-work happy hours once Amazon moves in. Other items on the wish list include a Trader Joe’s, better coffee options, good sushi and a Neapolitan pizza spot like Pupatella in Arlington or Menomale and 2 Amy’s in D.C. And if José Andrés wanted to continue to expand into Crystal City, a Zaytinya would be more than welcome.
We could see a Stephen Starr restaurant like Le Diplomate or St. Anselm making a killing down in the Crystal City area. They’ll need a great bakery a la Buttercream Bakeshop or Pluma by Bluebird, and maybe a beer garden like Continental over in Rosslyn. We’re not sure a small, precious spot like Elle in Mount Pleasant, Bresca on 14th Street or Komi in Dupont Circle could work in such a development, but something fun like Bar Elena—with its mix of highbrow and lowbrow food options, great cocktails and games like pinball, classic video games and Skee-ball —would definitely keep the Amazon masses happy.
Let's throw in some of D.C's best international offering, such as tacos from El Sol Restaurante & Tequileria or Taco Bamba; Lao food from the Thip Khao and Padaek team; and Ethiopian fast-casual from Letena in Columbia Heights or Gorsha in Union Market.
No matter what the developers end up bringing to National Landing, we hope much of it leans heavily on the creativity and talent that's already so abundant in the DMV.