Contrary to its bland exterior in Loehmann’s Plaza, the interior decoration of Sign of the Whale restaurant is reminiscent of the captain’s rooms in a 16th century pirate ship-dark wood paneling and arches shine in the dim glow of muted yellow lighting and cool air.
This hidden treasure is not to be confused with the popular Sign of the Whale bar in D.C. At this Sign of the Whale, which was founded in the mid-1980s and has gone through several different owners since then, patrons lounge at the comfortably spaced tables or sit at the long, dark bar. The interior provides a comfortable atmosphere in which guests can dine on original meat and seafood dishes while courteous staff provides timely, unobtrusive service.
Its menu references characters in the famed novel Moby Dick in the titles of its items. Moby Dick’s fictional narrator, Ishmael, the tyrannical ship captain Ahab, along with Queequeg-a chieftain’s son from the South Seas-and the intellectual first mate Starbuck all make appearances in the “Whale Burgers” section of the menu.
Besides the interesting the menu’s multiple references to characters in Moby Dick, there is also live music and dancing on Friday nights.
Sign of the Whale’s cuisine is sea-based. The appetizer menu boasts a diverse set of dishes-from the Crab, Artichoke and Spinach dip to the Stuffed Mushroom Caps or the Super Nachos. Prices range from $4.95 – 8.95.
Soups and salads are available, and the house soup is the Nantucket Seafood Chowder. Chili or French Onion soups are alternatives. The Caesar, Bosun and Flagship salads, among others, can be ordered with the restaurant’s homemade dressings.
The “Golden Fried Seafood” section of the menu includes a breaded clam basket, a crab cake sandwich, a fried fish platter and lightly breaded sea scallops served as a meal. An array of “Whale Burgers,” lean ground beef patties served on Kaiser rolls with French fries and cole slaw, are available as well. For the pasta section, the Shrimp, Bacon’ and Tomato includes diced bacon and creamy Alfredo sauce, while Bayou includes Andouille sausage, chicken breast and large shrimp sautéed together in herbs and spices, served with the pasta of the day.
The sandwich list leaves room for choices. There is a Veggie Sub, a Philly Steak and Cheese, and Cajun Chicken and Roast Beef sandwiches. The average sandwich costs around $8. My guest ordered the Crab Reuben sandwich, a mouthwatering mixture of many thin slices of tender, sweet ham, layered in between thick pieces of Swiss cheese and a portion of juicy, chunky crab salad, drizzled with Thousand Island dressing and grilled in between huge slices of fresh Rye bread.
For other sandwich options, try the popular Whale Club – white toast stretched around a heap of crab salad, soft turkey slices, bacon, lettuce, tomato and cheddar jack cheese, and remoulade-a yellowish French condiment with an Aioli or mayonnaise base.
My order, the Fish ‘N’ Chips, is a large, deep fried Bayou catfish fillet rolled in cornmeal, a southern take on a traditionally English dish. It was served with a hearty amount of golden brown “chips,” or French fries, as they are known in America. The fillet was fried enough to be warm on the inside with a pleasantly crunchy, brown salty exterior, and underneath the filet were long, massive fries-crispy and thick, with a soft, hot inside and slightly salty surface. At only $10, I felt the meal was a real value.
In addition, we ordered coffee, and Sign of the Whale’s light, bold brew complemented well our heavy dishes.
The dessert menu, which we did not sample, offers Hot Fudge Ice Cream Cake, Key Lime Pie and Tollhouse Cookie Pie a la mode, all for under $5.
From the food to the extraordinary décor and the friendly staff, my experience was well above par. Sign of the Whale is a place I will return to for tasty fare, attractive surroundings and the sensation of venturing out into the sea.
Sign of the Whale
7279 Arlington Blvd.
Falls Church, Va.
Open for lunch and dinner daily, 11:30 – 2 a.m.