In its third year, our annual restaurant roundup welcomes more than a handful of new eateries to the list. Restaurants featured here* have demonstrated a consistent dedication to food quality, attentive yet comfortable service and an all-around special dining experience. With the first seven spots listed here representing our first-timers, we give you the 2020 Loudoun 20. (This list first appeared in the summer 2020 edition of Loudouner, a quarterly lifestyle magazine produced by the Loudoun Times-Mirror. Read the editor's introduction by clicking here.)
19825 Belmont Chase Dr.
The best classic Italian in Loudoun, says one restaurateur not affiliated with the Pazzo. Pazzo Pomodoro has steadily gained a reputation for authentic Italian in a fun, casual environment suited for all occasions. And it isn't just the fresh, house-made pastas -- Pazzo also offers an extensive wine list that has earned the prestigious Wine Spectator Restaurant Award. The Belmont Chase trattoria has been a welcome addition to the local food scene.
Sense of Thai St.
20413 Exchange St.
If you think of The Loudoun 20 like college basketball's March Madness, Sense of Thai was right “on the bubble” the past two years. The Thai eatery and top-notch cocktail bar landed a much-deserved spot on this year's list after shoring up previous years' consistency and service concerns. Make no bones about it: Sense of Thai has always been one of the coolest places in Loudoun to grab a tasty bite, but it could never quite sneak into this highly competitive roundup. 2020 is Sense's year. (As much as 2020 can be anyone's year.)
Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant
19870 Belmont Chase Dr.
Let's just get this out of the way: Yes, Cooper's Hawk is a chain with 40-ish locations across the U.S. We don't care. It's become one of the most-loved eateries in Loudoun, and after numerous memorable meals since Cooper's Hawk arrived in Belmont Chase in 2016, we declare Cooper's Hawk deserves to be on this list – “corporate chain” be damned. A well-rounded food menu with pleasing, modestly priced wines and smiling service in a gorgeous space makes this restaurant a can't-miss.
538 E Market St.
In the third year of The Loudoun 20, we realized there was a void in the first two installments. We've never recognized a true “pub,” a place that's equal parts bar and food – and does both exceptionally well. Look, sometimes you just need a burger. Or hot wings. Or the most mouthwatering shrimp in town (get 'em blackened). Spanky's does it right. Welcoming service. Indoor-outdoor seating. Smoking side and non-smoking side. Comfort food from 7 a.m. until 1:30 a.m. (in non-pandemic times). It's the “Cheers” of Leesburg.
1607 Village Market Blvd. SE
In a similar trajectory as Pazzo Pomodoro, Noku has flown somewhat under-the-radar in its ability to execute a specific style of cuisine flawlessly. In conversations with collaborators for this issue, it became clear Noku now rivals Passion Fin as the go-to spot for Loudoun's lovers of fresh, exquisite sushi. The Village at Leesburg space is cozy and minimalistically charming, making it a perfect spot for your next date night.
36205 Snake Hill Road
Whether for weddings, special events or a relaxing lunch or dinner in the country, Goodstone Executive Chef Naj Van Haute creates a fanciful dining experience. The restaurant has won multiple awards and nominations, including “Wine Spectator's” 2020 Best of Award of Excellence for its wine program and a Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMMY) nomination for Formal Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year. With fresh and unique ingredients from the on-site Chef's Garden, Van Haute has transitioned the restaurant's offerings during the pandemic by offering a take-out menu, drive-thru grocery service and four-course tasting menu on the outdoor terraces.
21434 Epicerie Plaza
For Burton's, we can pretty much refer to the write-up for Cooper's Hawk, though Burton's is a touch – just a touch – more casual and not as wine-centric. Indeed, Burton's restaurants can be found in seven states beyond Virginia, but we're not going to hold that against a place that has become the neighborhood hangout for residents of Sterling and beyond. From the food to the service to the vibe, Burton's is a casual New American eatery done right.
Magnolias at the Mill
198 N. 21st St.
Legend has it that the late Bruce Brownell approached Kevin Malone, owner of Tuskie’s Restaurant Group, with the idea of opening a restaurant in the old mill in Purcellville. Malone’s Tuscarora Mill Restaurant in Leesburg had already established itself as the go-to farm-to-table fine dining spot, and he wasn’t totally sold on the Purcellville location. "It's an amazing building, so much potential,” he told Brownell. “Call me back when Purcellville has more people than cows.” Soon Brownell came back, saying, "I counted. There are more people than cows." Now the circa 2003 Mag’s, as it's commonly referred to, has become another fixture in the local food game.
42461 Lovettsville Road
“Our fields are the chef’s pantry” is the motto at this upscale farm-to-table restaurant in Lovettsville. Chef Tarver King, a 2017 semifinalist for the James Beard Award for best chef in the mid-Atlantic region, builds the New American cuisine-style menu daily depending on what produce is available. The dining room is housed in an elegant, all-glass former conservatory boasting an expansive view of the Potomac River valley.
Jasmine Chinese Cuisine and Sushi
110 South St. SE
This casual eatery is a Leesburg favorite for its classic Chinese dishes and lengthy sushi menu, plus beer and wine. Sit inside the both spacious and cozy dining area, or enjoy your meal al fresco in their outdoor seating under Market Station. You'll always get service with a smile at Jasmine.
203 Harrison St. SE
A Loudoun County landmark, Tuskie’s has been serving up delicious New American fare in the old mill at Market Station in Leesburg for more than 30 years. Kevin Malone, owner of Tuskie’s Restaurant Group that operates Tuscarora Mill, South Street Under, Fire Works Pizza and Magnolia's at the Mill, has excelled at establishing Tuskie's reputation for a high-quality fine dining experience that features locally sourced ingredients. The menus are always built to highlight the freshness of the products.
22855 Brambleton Plaza Suite 108
Chef Jason Maddens' AhSo continues to come into its own with adventurous and playful plates that tickle the taste buds. Launched in Brambleton in 2017, this true farm-to-table restaurant serves up beautifully presented and, indeed, delicious meals in varying styles. While not cheap, the options are by no means overly expensive. AhSo offers arguably the best bang-for-your-buck, chef-driven meal in Loudoun County.
Cocina on Market
7 W. Market St.
The latest restaurant from Market Table Bistro's Jason Lage and Rebecca Dudley, Cocina serves up Mexican street food, specifically “elevated interpretations of street food highlighting the culinary regions of Oaxaca, Puebla, and Veracruz,” according to the owners. With a vast tequila and mezcal list – including some deliciously dangerous flights – and the only rooftop dining space in Leesburg, Cocina is an always versatile option. It can be perfect for a couple drinks and apps, but it's equally impressive as a place for a multi-course, chef-driven meal.
20120 Lakeview Center Plaza
DC Prime is the classic, tony steakhouse perfect for special occasions. Executive Chef Brad Weideman delivers on his passion for steak and seafood with fresh and frequently local ingredients. In addition to the succulent meats, DC Prime is known for mood-setting ambiance, elegant service and a robust wine list. A succinct bar menu offers a less pricey option to experience the five-year-old establishment.
The Wine Kitchen
7 S. King St.
With an ever-changing menu utilizing local products and 40-plus wines by the glass, The Wine Kitchen has established itself as the anchor eatery of Leesburg's King Street. “Wine was made for food and food was made for wine” is The Wine Kitchen’s philosophy, “Eat, Drink, Simply” its mantra. Owner Jason Miller and Chef Tim Rowley's visions seem more harmonious with each passing year, and the ever-changing, inventive cocktail program has helped lure new crowds night after night.
West End Wine Bar and Pub
36855 W. Main St.
Housed in a stately old residence and inn, this Southern-centric restaurant with the occasional curve ball is the perfect dinner stop after a day at western Loudoun's wineries and breweries. Whether in the more formal – but not too formal – dinner level, or the downstairs tavern, West End is the kind of place where you'll walk away satisfied. Fan favorites include the jumbo lump crab cakes and the barbecue chicken steamed buns.
Roots 657 Cafe and Local Market
42301 Spinks Ferry Road
Roots 657 is Certified Master Chef Chef Rich Rosendale's eat-in and take-out cafe and market located just north of Leesburg at the intersection of routes 657 and 15. The cafe and locally-inspired market offer the chef's regionally curated products featuring local artisans alongside house-made soups, salads, sandwiches and fresh-baked goods. Roots' burgers and barbecue are the perfect closure to an afternoon at one of the dozen nearby wineries.
Market Table Bistro
13 E. Broad Way
This comfy, inviting Lovettsville staple specializes in locally-sourced farm-to-table fare, wines and craft cocktails. Partnering with local growers and farmers, Market Table's owners say they're on a mission to offer locally produced food with vegan and gluten-free options in an accessible manner. In our eyes – and our mouths – they succeeded.
Fire Works Pizza
201 Harrison St., SE
A hip and casual member of the Tuskie's Restaurant Group family, Fire Works Pizza serves up creative, wood-fired pizzas and craft beer. Whether a classic cheese and pepperoni or margherita, or a more adventurous offering like the R.T. – pesto, roasted red peppers, mozzarella, goat cheese, salami and spinach – Fire Works is the perfect place for dinner with the family, a bar meet-up with friends or a safe, outdoor patio experience in the age of the pandemic. As with all of the Tuskie's group restaurants, top-tier service is a sure bet.
605 Village Market Blvd. SE
The Conche is where you go to be dazzled – or where you go to be the dazzler on date night. This show-off restaurant from celebrity chef Santosh Tiptur, a Loudoun resident and dessert dream maker, features a sleek design and slate of creative dishes – seared scallops with cocoa nib crust and white chocolate puree or a cocoa-rubbed New York Strip with a chocolate Burgundy reduction, to name a couple. Thirsty? The elaborate cocktails from General Manager Samet Yuksekgonul are crafted with every bit as much care as the dishes.
*Restaurants had to be open for one year as of April to be considered for this list.
Editor's note: This year's Loudoun 20 was finalized by Loudoun Times-Mirror editors Trevor Baratko and Karen Graham. Collaborators -- essentially our informal judges -- were restaurateurs Jason Miller, Jason Maddens and Rich Rosendale and local “foodies” Tiffany Meehan, Katie Barchas Wilson, Arzo Hatef and Angela Rabena. Maddens, Rosendale and Miller's participation was not a factor in their respective restaurants making the list. The release of this issue is the first time this year's Loudoun 20 has been made available to the public, including to our collaborators.