This is the full story of how we finally ended up at La Caraquena for a recent weekday lunch...Many times while driving in downtown Falls Church, either to my son's pediatrician, Weight Watchers, the farmers market, or baby gym (I know, we should move to Falls Church!), we would drive past and remark, "Wow, lots of people going into that restaurant at the no-tell motel". Again, and again, it would happen. We would see crowds going in, or waiting outside, but never were we quite motivated enough to try it out. Plus, neither of us could exactly remember the name to look it up. But, then, we see a Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives episode (we were watching because one of personal faves, Metro 29, was on recently) in which Guy Fieri counts La Caraquena amongst his local stops. Why it is we need Guy Fieri, jack of all trades, to convince us to stop in, I don't know, but we finally did. I'm not entirely convinced that the man can cook, but he can sell fierce cutlery (and yes, I do mean fierce as in the outdated 2008 use of the word - no other word properly describes the Big Baller Knuckle Sandwich set), host game shows, and eat his way across the United States. Guy is a pro in at least one of his chosen trades. He can find a good restaurant, though I suspect that this has more to do with his viewers phoning in rather than any of Guy's abilities.
Arepas are the house specialty at La Caraquena. These Venezuelan sandwiches are petite, but packed with filling, so you won't be left hungry. I don't see any reason to browse beyond the classic avocado chicken salad, the reina pepeada. C prefers the carne mechada, a seasoned pulled beef. We also have a difference of opinion as to dough preparation. I'm a grilled girl; C likes the crunch of the fried. We need to get tees. Honestly though, you cannot go wrong, no matter how you choose to build your arepas; check out the website's pic of one for evidence:
It's hard to find something you won't like here - yucca fries were another hit for us. Actually, there was a problem was a small problem with the fries; we should have ordered two servings. What was not a problem was the accompanying housemaid mayo. I don't like mayo, especially not as a dipping sauce, but this was fantastic. It was robust and flavorful, and stood up to the perfectly crisp and slightly sweet fries. Empanadas were already sold out for our late lunch, but I will return to try them. Look at this pic. How could I not return to try? Oh, and there's an entire dinner menu we missed. Obviously a return visit is in order.
A couple of helpful tips: Even if you decide to "stop in" in the middle of the day on a Saturday, go to the trouble of making a reservation. The place only seats about 40, so it's in your best interest to book, and not end up disappointed, like we did on our first attempted visit. Also, make sure that you are parking in the motel lot and not the neighboring strip mall. One could envision that a tow could ruin any meal. Finally, let the staff dote on you a bit, and relax yourself. No need to hurry through this deliciousness (this coming from someone who has learned to inhale her food before Baby H starts chucking Cheerios at waitstaff).