The Woodbridge Living Top 10 in 2010

It’s that time of year — time to roll out our list of local businesses that we’ve chosen as the 10 best independent small businesses in our area. We’re all over the map with these, as they represent businesses that include food and beverage, skis and bikes, fine cuisine, incredible pies, pizza, sparkling jewelry and more. It’s likely that some of you will agree with this list, and others might not. If you agree, great! If not, we’d love to hear what you would call out as a better option for this list. If you know of a place we haven’t tried yet, we’re eager to hear about it.

It was an interesting year — a transformative year. A year that gave hope to a growing local economy as sales by most local business accounts were better than last year, which were only marginally better than the year before, which were only marginally better than the year before that. So at least there’s a trend. Here, we revisit some of our favorite places from the year that was, and reveal a couple new ones, too, in no particular order:

Best Pizza: Astoria Pizza & Restaurant – Talk about a throw-back. Astoria is a step back in time to the 70s when it first opened its doors. They don’t even have a website. The decor pretty much is as it always has been, but you’re not going here for the decor. You’re going here for some of the best pizza this side of New York and for great, belly-filling family dinners like lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken and veal parmigiana and some great subs and gyros. Every day Astoria has lunch and dinner specials — real values. It’s the kind of place families have been coming to for generations now. Having grown up in the Philly area, the pizza here reminds me of the kind you can find along the boardwalks at the Jersey shore — the kind you find at Mack & Manco’s and Sack o’ Pizza and Pasta of Ocean City, Mack’s of Wildwood — relatively thin crust, at once yielding and soft but with just the right crunch on the bottom and a nice tooth to it, with a perfect combination of sauce and cheese. If you haven’t tried this place before, you owe it a visit. Our sons have had all kinds of pizza, and they also call this their favorite.

Classic southern barbecue from Dixie Bones -- beef, cornbread, coleslaw, beans and rice ... and a glass of sweet tea.

Best Barbecue: Dixie Bones – Hands down the best around. Real hickory-smoked pit barbecue, pork or beef, plus pulled chicken, fried catfish and their own “Dixie Dog” — a house-made sausage — anchors a menu that also includes standout traditional Southern sides of cornbread, collard greens, coleslaw, potato salad, beans and rice, and more. You’ll drive yourself crazy trying to decide whether to go for the pork or the beef. Don’t stress; just order a combo so you can indulge in both. And my, oh, my, don’t forget about the pies. If you can save room for their pecan pie, you’ll be glad you did; and on Thursdays only they also serve their very special lemon chess pie. If you really want to indulge, queue up for their Sunday brunch. You’ll most likely be waiting in line for a table, but it’s worth the wait. You’ll find Dixie Bones on many a “Best of” list, including Washingtonian magazine’s, where it made the list of top 100 Washington area restaurants. Dixie Bones opened in Woodbridge in 1995 after founder Nelson Head decided to make the move from Capitol Hill. They also do catering like nobody’s business if you’re in need of serving a group of 15 or more. Website: Dixie Bones

Best Fine Food: Bistro L’hermitage – There’s not much competition in this category in Woodbridge. In fact, there’s none. We wish there were — great independent restaurants dedicated to the art of fine cuisine. Wouldn’t that be great? But Bistro L’hermitage stands alone. Even if there were more competition in this category here, we’re convinced Bistro L’hermitage would still come out on top. In fact, Bistro L’hermitage stacks up against any restaurant of similar ilk that you could find anywhere in DC. And you don’t have to invest in a 60-minute round-trip drive up and back and deal with sketchy or ridiculously expensive parking. Bistro L’hermitage will serve you one of the best meals you’ll ever have, guaranteed. Ever. Right in your own back yard. Longtime restaurateur Youssef Eagle Essakl has built this place with his own hands, literally plank by plank, stone by stone. It’s a bistro born of love and dedication, and the food is the clear star. Start out with their Salade Verte or Salade de Cesar Classic; you’ll know immediately you’re in for something special. Move on to an entree of seared scallops, seared peppered tuna or roasted duck breast. Heaven. This is a place we locals should support as much as possible. Cook a few more meals at home for your family and save up the money you’d spend on sub-par national chain fast food and spend it here instead. You’ll thank us, and you’ll add your name to the list of fans of the best food and best restaurant in our area. Website: Bistro L’hermitage

Jake Shortt, a manager at Village Skis & Bikes in Lake Ridge, waxes a snowboard in the back of the shop. / ©HopkinsPhotos

Best Outdoor Gear Shop: Village Skis & Bikes – If you’re serious about biking, skateboarding, skiing or snowboarding, this is the place to come to. You’ll be treated like a client, which is what you’ll become if you gear up here — not just another customer. The folks at Village Skis & Bikes are passionate about what they do. Owner Jim Haugen has been doing this since he was a 14-year-old, and it shows. He’s got gear of great value in his shop — not necessarily the most expensive, and definitely not the least expensive — but gear of great value. And he or one of his staff will put you into equipment that’s just right for you. He’s been at his shop in Lake Ridge since 1984, and he knows what he’s doing. Trust his expertise; you won’t go wrong. Website: Village Skis & Bikes

Best Jewelry Store: Quinn’s Goldsmith – We like the philosophy here. “I think that independent small businesses have a better mentality for servicing their customers than a big-box store that just wants to deal with price and says, ‘See you later,'” says owner Terry Quinn. One of those big-box stores here in Woodbridge that Quinn’s Goldsmith competes with is the biggest jewelry distributor in the world. “They sell more jewelry than anyone else in the world,” he says. “But their 70% off of a $200 chain is about $50. And the exact same chain in my store is $36. Everyday. So I don’t play the game of 400-500% markup. I’m making a living, I don’t make a killing. I’m in business to — as my parents said — ‘We’re in business to serve the public.’ Everybody’s supposed to be here to create happiness and to serve others.” This is why Quinn’s should be your local jewelry store. And they’re about to open a new store in Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center, which is anchored by Wegman’s. Website: Quinn’s Goldsmith

Fresh slices of pie await shoppers hungry for "just a bite."

Best Desserts: Mom’s Apple Pie Company – As we mentioned in our review a little earlier this year, Mom’s Apple Pie Co. is pie perfection. It’s the kind of pie you’d make at home if you had years of experience and really knew what you were doing. Consistent quality and the most flavorful fillings you’ll find anywhere. At their quaint shop in Occoquan, you can buy whole pies, or just get a slice with a cup of coffee if you’d prefer that. Our favorites: Virginia Blackberry Crumb, Sour Cherry Crumb, Butter Pecan Apple Crumb (you’re noticing a trend here, aren’t you?) and Lemon Chess. They’ve also got great breads, cookies, jams, and an attached shop that sells an eclectic mix of wines. Website: Mom’s Apple Pie Company

Best Sub Sandwiches: Buffalo Philly’s – Buffalo Philly’s is a bit of an odd bird — kind of a mashup of a Philly cheesesteak and hoagie place and Buffalo wings place. Founder of the business, Chris Roth, said that he loved Buffalo wings and cheesesteaks and decided to create a restaurant around the concept of bringing the two together. Again, my Philly roots are showing here, as this is an authentic replication of the Philly cheesesteak, hard to come by outside of the Philly area. Great hoagies, terrific cheesesteaks and tasty wings. A casual place and a great value for your casual dining dollar. And there are three locations nearby, two in our immediate area. Website: Buffalo Philly’s

East Moon Asian Bistro's "Tokyo Roll"

Best Asian: East Moon Asian Bistro – No wonder it won in this category — East Moon Asian Bistro is an Asian fusion restaurant and touches on cuisine from Japan to China to Korea to Vietnam to Thailand and maybe beyond. East Moon Asian Bistro is a relatively new restaurant that opened earlier this year in the relatively new storefront plaza (officially known as the Madison Farm Shopping Center) at Minnieville and Caton Hill roads. The sushi offerings are standouts here — from the basic tuna, salmon and California rolls to the amazing “chef’s special rolls,” like the Lucky 7, Dragon, Godzilla and Woodbridge Bomb rolls. Everything we’ve tried here every time has been excellent. We’d check the Lucky 7 roll (a spicy salmon roll tempura-fried, covered with masago and scallion) as spectacular. Give it a try — eat in, takeout or delivery. You’ll love it. Website: East Moon Asian Bistro

Best Furniture Store: Knock on Wood – Knock on Wood Furniture began at a North Carolina crafter’s market, when owners Lance and Laura Frye sold 10 pieces of furniture. Within seven years, the Fryes brought their business to their home town of Woodbridge. They set up shop on Route 1, right across from the Prince William Plaza Shopping Center and the Popeye’s Fried Chicken. It’s a family-owned and operated business that offers guaranteed low prices for unfinished, quality all-wood furniture. They’ve had a tough year, as co-founder Laura Frye recently passed away at age 43 — far, far too young, leaving behind a husband and four beautiful young children. This is a place that deserves your business if you’re in the market for dressers, desks, bookshelves, side tables, etc. They have both unfinished and finished furniture, all-wood, dovetail construction, quality stuff. They can custom-finish something for you, and the prices for either their finished or unfinished all-wood furniture rival the prices you’d pay at big box stores for that all too familiar inferior particle board/wood furniture that will fall apart within a year of use. Or sooner. The Knock on Wood furniture will last generations. Website: Knock on Wood

Best Appliance Store: Appliance Connection – Their slogan on their website says it all: “Luxury at Warehouse Prices.” This is a great place to get high-end appliances at very reasonable prices, especially if you can wait for their once-a-year sale. The close-outs you find at that sale may represent the best appliance bargain you’ll ever find. Ask to get on their mailing list for that one. They’re a family-owned business that’s been on the Woodbridge landscape since 1985. They have a great selection of some of the most well-known and trusted brands. As they say, they “don’t carry every brand … just the ones that count.” Their sales force averages about 18 years of experience at selling appliances. They’re a great group of folks to do business with, and always will help you make the best decision without pressure. Website: Appliance Connection

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