Punjab Dhaba, 7263-F Arlington Blvd, Loehmann’s Plaza, Falls Church, VA, 703-698-5262 (Metro Trip Planner – opens in new window) [City Paper | food-plan | Falls Church News Press]
Update December 2010:
Used to be great but it has switched hands and it is essentially a new restaurant, albeit with the same menu. The service and execution has totally deteriorated to the point of unacceptability; please know that I waited six months and multiple visits before making this pronouncement. Sometimes the food is still good but I predict its imminent demise unless they turn things around very quickly.
The best tandoori, great breads, and excellent lentil dumplings. The dosas (see South Indian, for a description of dosas) are no joke either. Great atmosphere also, and cheaper than average. The special Uttapam dish is great as well. The counter food is good, though mixed, sometimes too salty.
And after you are done eating, you can go see an Indian movie in the Indian movie theater in the Loehmann’s Plaza mall. Some even have English subtitles, but don’t worry if they don’t. In any case, if you come here start with the Tandoori but note that it takes fifteen minutes because it is done properly fresh.
In the 1980s and early ’90s, I could still find excellent ethnic food — particularly Vietnamese — in Arlington and Clarendon, but more recently, I’ve watched well-established suburban eateries march toward the exurbs. Take Madhu Ban, the excellent Indian vegetarian restaurant that used to be in Clarendon: As the area gentrified, rents rose, and the owner, Munshi Ram, moved out. He reopened his restaurant as Punjab Dhaba in Loehmann’s Plaza in Falls Church, closer to the Dulles corridor and the high-tech boom that helped double the Indian population in the Washington region from fewer than 40,000 in 1990 to some 78,000 in 2000. A dhaba is typically a roadside cafe, and this one is right next to the Bollywood movie theater. I can tell when the Indian movies start and end by watching the flow of crowds at the restaurant.
“Ethnic Goes Exurban: Washington’s Sprawl, As Told Through Its Migrating Restaurants,” by Tyler Cowen, The Washington Post, September 3, 2006