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Restaurant Review: Clare and Don’s Beach Shack

August 10, 2012

Clare and Don’s Beach Shack

130 North Washington St, Falls Church, VA  | +703-532-WAVE

  • Veg Friendly: Beyond Excellent
  • Menu: Every dish available as vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free
  • Cuisine: Casual Lunch or Dinner, For families or friends
  • Service: Perky and fast

Clare and Don’s has been around for some time. The name is not in honor of people, but a place. The décor looks like a beach shack, and it used to be located in Clarendon on Clarendon Boulevard. Back in 2001, when I lived in Arlington, I walked by the place thinking, “Hey, that place seems quirky and fun, I should try it some time.” Then as quickly the thought popped in my head, gentrification swallowed Clare and Don’s. Clarendon was always in a suburb of DC, but it was not an affluent neighborhood until the late 90’s. Many who grew up in the area know that Clarendon as an immigrant neighborhood with mom and pop shops that did not exude wealth. It used to be the Little Vietnam of the East Coast, now it is a neighborhood where Pottery Barn and high end boutiques dominate, and the new construction is  filled with new DC arrivals who desire premium apartments.  With the fast and continual growth of the DC area, all of Clarendon fled to Falls Church.

Lucky us. Truly, lucky us. The Vietnamese shops and restaurants created the Eden Center, the largest communityfrom Maine to Florida, only a mile from my house. Clare and Don’s Beach Shack also relocated to Falls Church, right next to the State Theater, a music venue. One of my first AP students visited me at school in the Spring and told me he was working there, so AAM and I decided to take Serafina. We immediately loved it. Clare and Don’s is exactly the type of place people love for a casual dinner. Kitch-y to the point of comedy, and having the much coveted flexibility of outdoor and indoor seating, the place feels like the beach restaurants you loved as a child. The casual atmosphere is perfect for taking the family or grabbing drinks with friends. For those of you who think of yourself as gourmands, its time to relax your Michelin Guide approach, and enjoy food for what it is: a good meal to be shared with those you love.

The best part? The menu. Clare and Don’s is heaven for people who like unhealthy food in a healthy preparation. Well, and it is amazing for vegetarians. Almost every item on the menu, and there are endless options, has a vegetarian version. There are alternatives to crab cakes, buffalo wings, nacho platter, blackened fish, etc. The best part, the alternatives are delicious and fresh. They also use quality ingredients, instead of refried pinto beans, they make refried black beans– which every vegetarian knows as a super bean.  If you are vegan or gluten free, no worries, our servers always double checked with us about how we wanted our dinner prepared- as if being Gluten Free is the defacto presentation. When I asked for fried tofu, our most recent server asked if I wanted it breaded or not. I asked my former student about the menu, and he explained that one of the owner’s is vegetarian. This is a restaurant that does not try to satisfy the vegetarian option, but satisfy the vegetarian. We enjoyed the hushpuppies, the blackened tofu sandwich, fried tofu tacos, nachos. AAM, who does eat fish, tried the grilled fish tacos and reported they were amazing. I loved each of the vegetarian dishes I tried. The texture and taste were perfect to satiate my big appetite. My recommendation for vegetarians? The fried breaded tofu tacos, a super filling meal that will simultaneously make you feel gluttonous and healthy.

I highly recommend Clare and Don’s as a place to visit with friends and family.

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