In the blink of an eye, the Ballston area of Arlington, VA exploded with D.C.’s favorite places to eat, drink, shop, and workout all within one square mile. New to our tastebuds, though, is DIRT. DIRT is a Miami based eatery on a mission to present cravable, feel-good food, that’s suitable to everyone and at any time of day. You may have to order and take a number to wait for your grub, but they turned the standard café model upside down by offering much more than grain bowls and turmeric lattes.
The vibe inside is straight out of Miami with tropical leaves and funky neon lights. The menu is large in offerings and reminds us of days at the diner counter when we just couldn’t decide between savory, cheesy omelets and sweet, fluffy pancakes. Naturally, we are adults now and went for both.
Chaga mushroom lattes, superfood infused lemonades, biodynamic wine, and a turmeric homemade apple cider hot toddy are the types of drinks you can opt for. While fads come and go, we will admit it’s exciting to see a restaurant really committing to the food movements of the age. The mushroom latte (an adaptogenic superfood that helps with overall biological homeostasis) was frothy, herbal and had hints of mint – an alleged tasting note of this type of mushroom. The hot toddy was basically a spiked homemade cider and we dug it. It was soothing, cinnamony, and had just a slight zing from the effervescent turmeric.
For food, we knew we needed to try the items that were causing an uproar in Northern Virginia. We ordered the acai bowl (cue all the ladies, including myself, squealing), the so-cal burrito, cheesesteak sandwich, candied yam, and goat cheese toast, and grilled salmon salad.
I mean, the acai bowl was delicious. When offered a refreshing bowl of silky, throat palliative fruit puree beneath a crunchy, not overly candied granola, we say “sure, sign us up.” There’s no shame in ordering a basic, bodacious bowl of sweetness. The so-cal burrito is a Californiafied burrito with lighter flavors and zippy cilantro dipping sauces. Bites of this burrito were well distributed and slightly spicy but longed for more in-sync flavor components, like chewy beans or avocado rather than quinoa and corn.
One bite of the goat cheese and squash toast and you can’t help but blurt out “yum.” The decadence here is from an unconventional flavor profile. We’ve had a lot of amazing sourdoughs covered in oozing burrata and Croque madams served open-faced so we could pretend we were eating a healthy toast. We’d equate this toast experience to be similar, but with new flavors to be enjoyed. The ample goat cheese-maybe too ample-felt like a cream sauce with a greek yogurt texture and tang. There were soft, cinnamon covered candied yam cubes on top of the goat cheese, and the dish was drizzled with honey and sprinkled with seeds and sprouts. This was a desirable sweet-savory combination but should be shared as it’s rather heavy: we will not be fooled by the “but it’s only one slice of bread” nonsense.
After being blessed by the Sweetgreen gods and their hearty harvest bowls, it’s difficult to be team salad anywhere else. The salads at DIRT define what it means to be a “meal salad”- you know, a salad that isn’t your filler food because you’re trying to cut back. This salad is adding all the good back in. The bowls are huge and dare I say, difficult to finish. This one had a mixed greens base with avocado, quinoa, corn, feta, and a plentiful helping of juicy grilled salmon bites. The dressing was an herby, chimichurri-style green goddess. The dressing was creamy, acidic, and packed a ton of flavor that didn’t drown out any of the perfect toppings in our new favorite grain bowl.
When the cheesesteak was delivered in front of us we thought, “this is off-brand.” However, it just might be one of the more nationalistic dishes on the menu. As we looked around we realized it was on every table. Sure, there’s nothing about this that screams health and wellness, but we will say it screams accessibility and variety. The ingredients are all from reliable sources that DIRT has a relationship with, and despite DIRT having multiple locations they ensure local D.C. products are used whenever possible. The cheesesteak had nice and tender meat, with succulent red peppers, and pungent swiss cheese. I would have liked some lettuce or some contrasting crunch on the sandwich, but I believe the hoagie style sandwich was done right- I think Philly natives would slow clap for this one.
The Bitches say: 4 Champagne Flutes
DIRT serves breakfast all day with lunch style options starting at 11:00 am