The crossroads known as "Seven Corners" in Falls Church, Virginia, is not quite an example of all roads leading to Rome; unless Rome was an immense strip mall, tucked into an asphalt tangle of slow-going state highways, crammed with over 100 Vietnamese shops, and blessed with a free parking lot that forever smells like grilled pork.
Known as Eden Center, this suburban complex has been growing into the East Coast capital of Vietnamese immigrant culture for almost 40 years. The Center produces celebrations for the annual Tet and Moon Festivals, as well as an annual memorial for Virginia's own Vietnamese American Freedom Fighters Day. The flag of South Vietnam—which has long been retired in what is now the Socialist Republic of Vietnam—flies alongside the U.S. flag as a constant reminder of the war that came to define two nations.
It also marks the spot for a treasure trove of Vietnamese food. Restaurants, bakeries, and provision stores handily outnumber the handful of jewelry shops, book stands, and bars that dot the winding hallways and storefronts of the complex. While the absolute head count of Vietnamese Americans in Falls Church doesn't come close to rivaling those of San Jose or Houston, one visit to Eden Center is a concentrated dose of the dining experience you might come across in larger Vietnamese hubs.
You'd be hard pressed to decide on a single thing to eat in the Eden Center wonderland, let alone identify the greatest hits, so here are 10 must-eats to start us off. Then, I ask of you, fine Serious Eaters in Virginia: What else should we be eating in the garden of Eden Center? And, if you need a Vietnamese food primer, here you go.
The Cheat Sheet: 10 Must Eats at Eden Center
Cơm Tấm at Thanh Truc
Bun Rieu at Huong Viet
Bun Thit Nuong at Huong Viet
Bún Chả Ha Noi at Hai Duong
Bún Bò Huế at Hai Duong
Egg Noodle Soup With Duck at Hai Ky Mi Gia
Pho at Pho Xe Lua
Fried Tofu and Desserts at Thanh Son Tofu
Beef Jerky From Phu Quy Delight
Pâté chaud at Les Baguettes