We probably don’t say it enough. But Fairfax County is good for business.

Dozens of Fortune 500 companies are headquartered here, including Freddie Mac, Capital One, Hilton Worldwide, and Booz Allen Hamilton, because customers, airports, and the world’s most powerful city are all nearby.

And while those businesses are definitely successful and renowned worldwide, they are not necessarily the most legendary businesses in town. Ask a local and you’re more likely to hear about the Amphora Group, feeding locals at their diner and bakery in Herndon or through catering for over 40 years. In Alexandria, they’ll tell tales about the generations of children (myself included!) who have raided the “penny candy” aisle at the Hollin Hall Variety Store since 1958. And over in McLean, people will get downright misty talking about McLean Hardware, selling nails and screws to locals since 1948.

These are the businesses we visit every day. They are the places where teens score their first jobs. Where our neighbors and friends work. Where we shop local. If you’re visiting, include at least one of these legends while exploring our many attractions. We predict you’ll find a spot you love as much as we do!


In Alexandria, Springfield, and the Potomac Banks Area:


George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The National Museum of the US Army. Gunston Hall. Mason Neck State Park. The Workhouse Arts Center. There are countless reasons to visit the southern part of our county, also known as Potomac Banks. But save some time for our favorite businesses.

In the middle of a suburban neighborhood on the way to Mount Vernon—with no other businesses around—the Hollin Hall Shopping Center may seem out of place. Built c.1950, the entire shopping center is a holdover from a previous time. While many businesses have changed hands over the years, the 1950s barbershop is still the barbershop. The gas station is still the gas station. And the grocery store is still the grocery store (I was once told this tiny Safeway was one of the most profitable per foot in the chain!) Look for the aforementioned Hollin Hall Variety Store and Village Hardware, a small but robust shop that smells of nails, duct tape, and DIYers’ hopes and dreams.

Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant

Also in Alexandria, you’ll find Brobst Violin Shop, operating since 1966. Nalls Produce is on its third generation of Nalls, having opened in 1961. (Be sure to say hi to Penny the Pig.) And the Mount Vernon Inn has a legacy of feeding the masses dating back to 1798 and throughout the 1860s. Next door in Springfield, the Springfield Butcher has been slicing and dicing for over 30 years and Springfield Town Center (natives call it Springfield Mall) has been operating since 1973.


In the Vienna/Tysons, Fairfax, and Falls Church Area:


The central part of Fairfax County features attractions like Great Falls Park, Historic Fairfax Courthouse, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, and Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. If you are in this part of the county, you’re in for a treat. You won’t have to go far to patronize some of the county’s most established storefronts.

In the Vienna area, there are at least two restaurants you can always count on being there when you drive through. The Vienna Inn has been operating in the same location since 1960 (and they sell 10,000 chili dogs each month!) A few blocks away, you’ll find Anita’s New Mexican, a local chain that began in Vienna in 1974. Nearby, you can visit Terra Christa, a spiritual gift and bookshop for more than 35 years. And if you REALLY want to go back in time, the Freeman Store and Museum has a colorful history, serving mostly as a store since 1859. Not too far from Vienna, you’ll find Tysons Corner Center, one of the country’s first super-regional malls — an entire city has grown up around it since 1969.

Old Brogue Irish Pub - Great Falls - Stephanie Sheaffer - Restaurants
Image credit to Stephanie Sheaffer

The Great Falls and McLean areas have a number of legendary restaurants, in addition to the hardware store mentioned above and Mesmerelda’s Gift Shop, which has been in business since 1955. L’Auberge Chez Francois is an internationally known destination restaurant tucked away amongst the estates in Great Falls. This restaurant was established in 1954 and has been in its current spot since 1976. Also in Great Falls is the Old Brogue Irish Pub, a popular home to pale redheads like myself since 1981. In 1977, Rocco’s Italian Restaurant opened in McLean and has been going strong ever since. And, a short walk from Rocco’s, the McLean Family Restaurant has been passed through generations for over 40 years.


In Fairfax, the expansive Merrifield Garden Center is a destination in itself, offering plants and supplies. It has been in operation since 1971. The 1970s also brought Cox Farms (now in Centreville), which has great fall festivals and quirky attractions like Foamhenge. Woody’s Ice Cream has been a must every summer since 1988. And if you are looking for crabs (and you SHOULD be looking for crabs), Captain Pell’s has been Northern Virginia’s crab house since 1977 (1999 in its current location).

Rounding out this area is Falls Church. Peking Gourmet Inn has been serving duck to presidents since 1978. The State Theatre has been entertaining folks with movies, concerts, and events since 1936. Doodlehopper 4 Kids has been selling fun and nostalgia for more than 20 years. And Eden Center is the largest Vietnamese shopping center west of California, operating since 1984.


In the Dulles Corridor, Herndon/Reston, and Clifton Area:

Jimmy's Old Town Tavern - Herndon - Restaurants - Nightlife - Night

If you’re in the northwest region of Fairfax County, known to many as the Dulles Corridor, you might be visiting the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Dulles International Airport, the Winery at Bull Run, Paradise Springs Winery or Manassas National Battlefield Park. All of these popular attractions will put you in proximity to some of our most beloved and legendary businesses.

Herndon corners the market on long-established businesses in the region. Virginia Kitchen has seniority in Herndon, serving up breakfast and waitresses that call you “hon” since 1973. Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern is so established and beloved that it feels older than it is. The building it occupies was built in 1897, but Jimmy’s opened in 1997. Russia House has been expertly combining Russian and Georgian cuisine with French flair since 1992. And the Upholstery Shop has been recovering Northern Virginia’s sofas and chairs since 1977.

Image courtesy Reston Museum

Nearby, Reston made history in 1964 for being one of the nation’s first planned communities. The great experiment was a success, as is evident everywhere from the original Lake Anne Plaza to Reston Town Center.

Also in the northwest region, you’ll find the 75-year-old Clifton General Store and Main Street Pub. They are also known to serve really good burgers. It's worth exploring this quaint Town of Clifton while you're there.


No matter where you travel in Fairfax County, you’re never far from one of the beloved businesses that helped build this region—and luckily, haven’t gotten lost in the shuffle. That’s how you know these places are great. Whether it’s the taste of their food, their legendary service, or their commitment to the community, they’re not just businesses. They are family. Be sure to stop by a few the next time you’re in town!