There are times when going out for dinner and a movie with your significant other can be as depressing as spending a Saturday night at home. It’s the predictability of the event, entering a boxy restaurant for food, then a boxy theater for entertainment. A late night yawn, a tired drive home, then bed.
Dinner and a movie at the Mosaic District in Fairfax, Virginia is a wide-open, exploratory event with lots of opportunities for surprise, whimsy and fun. One of the biggest surprises is its location: this vibrant, architecturally interesting, walkable “urban district” is just outside the Beltway off Lee Highway, among one-story industrial parks and retail centers that need a facelift. The developers -- who also developed Union Market in D.C. -- had a vision when they pictured this place here.
Chock-full of distinctive restaurants, interesting retail stores and opportunities for fun – a piano on the sidewalk, a giant chessboard, an outdoor movie screen – the Mosaic District makes sure that once you’ve parked your car in their multi-story lot for your dinner-and-a-movie date, you won’t need it again until you’ve thoroughly enjoyed yourself.
Romantic dining – Put on your fancy clothes and head to Four Sisters Vietnamese Restaurant or Sea Pearl for an elegant meal with a nice bottle of wine. Call for a reservation at Four Sisters if you intend to be on time for the movie; its 23 years in business and move from Seven Corners hasn’t detracted from its popularity. With ocean-blue walls and lovely seafood presentations, Sea Pearl is a pretty date spot.
Fun dining – Matchbox and Cyclone Anaya’s Mexican Kitchen offer a meal that’s a little more raucous and booze-oriented. While Matchbox restaurants are proliferating like bunnies all over the DMV, I have yet to find one that disappoints with their inventive cocktails, great beer selection, re-interpreted bar food and super-cool interiors. Cyclone Anaya’s have margaritas as big as your head.
Casual dining – The Mosaic offers lots of quick bites that are easy on the wallet: Cava Mezze Grill (referred to as the “Chipotle” of Mediterranean food on Yelp), Sweetgreen (salads), and Taylor Gourmet (subs) are all interesting grab, eat and go food options right across the street from the movie theater. If you want to go even more casual, have an impromptu picnic on the green in front of the theater. Go to Red Apron Butcher for truly astonishing sandwiches or to Le Pain Quotidien for a baguette and other picnic fixings.
Indoors – The Angelika Film Center throws the tired idea of a boxy movie theater with sticky floors and insolent teen employees into the trash. A three-tiered cinema temple of glass and gleaming wood, the Angelika honors the fact that adults are shelling out big bucks to see a movie these days and makes it a true experience. The theater offers a coffee bar and pastries downstairs, beer and gourmet hotdogs on the theater level, and a bar – yes, a bar – on the top floor. You can buy an entire bottle of wine at the bar and take it into the theater with you. You select your seats ahead of time and take your time getting there, rather than fighting to snatch a seat like animals. And when you amble into your movie with your bottle of wine and your gourmet hot dog, the theater – generally filled with adults – is as quiet as a tomb. My love for this place knows no bounds.
Outdoors – Or maybe you’re not as crotchety as I am and would enjoy a little people watching and children laughing and summer breezing as you enjoy your movie. The Mosiac hosts summer movies every Friday night on its ginormous outdoor screen at Strawberry Park, the wide green space just outside the Angelika Film Center. Apollo 13 is playing tonight.
After the Movie
The fact that the Mosaic District has provided so many incentives to stroll, relax and wander is my favorite aspect of the place. Don't head to your car after the movie. Take a second to enjoy this area and the amazing partner at your side.
- Have a delicious drip coffee at the glass-enclosed coffee shop, Dolcezza in the Park.
- Stroll the wide sidewalks and window shop at stores like Anthropologie, South Moon Under and Paper Source.
- Get you feet wet in the rainbow-colored fountain in Strawberry Park.
- Enjoy post-movie gelato at Dolcezza.
- Play the piano on District Avenue.
- Indulge in the cocktail you didn't have before the movie at Matchbox or Sea Pearl.
- Play a game of chess on the giant chessboard in Strawberry Park.
- Dance to the bands playing in Glass Alley every Saturday evening from 7/26-8/23 at the Summer Block Party, with food and drink provided by Red Apron Butcher.
Take this handy map with you to explore all the fun of the MOSAIC DISTRICT
In-Between Tip: If you’re approaching the Mosiac District from the East, you’ll be tempted to turn left at Gallows Road and then right to enter the shopping area. Don’t! You’ll be snarled in pedestrian traffic that makes everyone testy. Instead, stay on Lee Highway until you hit the next light at Eskridge Road. This left and the next two lefts into the Market Garage are effortless and will prevent you from starting your night out in a bad mood.