Every city has its neighborhood cultural hubs, from Little Italy in Boston to Koreatown in New York. One of D.C.’s best ethnic hotspots is Eden Center, located in Falls Church, Virginia. This large indoor and outdoor mall complex is home to approximately 120 Vietnamese stores, ranging from restaurants to groceries to souvenirs to salons. As its website says, it is “the heart and soul of the Vietnamese-American Community for the entire East Coast.”
Because there’s so much going on at Eden Center, especially on weekends, it’s a bit overwhelming to visit and pick a restaurant. Let me suggest Song Que (“song whey”), a delightful bahn mi shop that also features various grocery/deli items like finger foods to go, hard-to-find fruits, and snacks.
Bahn mi is best described as a French-influenced Vietnamese sandwich, featuring meats, tofu, and pickled vegetables on a baguette. Options include ground pork, lemongrass beef, and Vietnamese meatballs. Song Que is somewhat unique in terms of bahn mi at Eden Center and elsewhere in that it has a great vegetarian option—the caramelized tofu skin sandwich.
Also worth tasting are the bubble teas that come in all sorts of flavors, like mango, yellow bean, and jackfruit. Song Que is nice in that it has table and seats in the back, which many of the other takeout food options at Eden Center do not.
After your sandwich, stroll around the mall, and especially go to the grocery store, called the Eden Supermarket. It’s a treasure trove of many different ingredients for Asian cooking at amazing prices. Other great restaurant choices at Eden Center included pho, seafood dishes, and soups. Here’s a listing of all of the options.
Eden Center, formally the Plaza Seven Shopping Center, started reaching its height when thousands of immigrants settled in the area in the 1970s after the Vietnam War. Indeed, the clock tower at the Eden Center is an exact replica of that in Saigon. It’s a great place to step out of America for a couple of hours, and experience the delights and flavors of a different culture.
To visit: 6751 Wilson Blvd, Falls Church, VA (Song Que is located at 6769 Wilson Boulevard), hours vary by store—call for details. About a one mile walk from the East Falls Church metro, or 1A/1B/1E/1F bus west from the Ballston metro).