A carnivore’s delight and restaurant staple in Falls Church has got to be Victor’s Grill Churrasqueria on Lee Highway, famous for its steaks, food and culinary practices from South America.
Victor’s (whose “churrasqueria” name is Spanish for “steak house”) has served the Little City and its area residents for decades.
The restaurant prides itself on food served according in the South American way with huge pieces of grilled steak served on big platters and plopped in the center of a table with side dishes which range from yuca and plantains to American-familiar fries and mashed potatoes.
Victor Serrano, the son of Victor Serrano, the owner, took time from managerial duties last week to sit and talk about the family’s business.
The most popular dish on their menu, Serrano said, is the “Parrillada Argentina” ($78.95).
Whoa! That’s a lot of money for one but hold it: That’s for four (and maybe, more). Just take a look at what’s included: two short ribs, two Argentine sausages, two flank steaks, two New York strip steaks, sweet bread and cow’s intestine, sides and one blood pudding (a sausage; not a dessert and famous in South America, Serrano said).
South Americans use their hands and bread to eat steak right off the grill, not on plates, and, no, Serrano smiled, they don’t burn their fingers because someone is slowly carving the meat. (The restaurant serves food on plates.)
At Victor’s, grill marks crisscross the steak and cooked onions.
“We are trying to replicate scenes from a South American cookout, so we have the platter,” Serrano said, “which we put in the middle of the table with side orders.” (A question is: How big is the table? I observed many customers coming to eat in groups, easily accommodated at Victor’s. )
“South Americans are known for eating steaks when they gather with family and friends and for special occasions.” (According to a beef website, Beef2Live, Uruguay consumed the most beef per capita in the world in 2016, followed by Argentina, Hong Kong, the U. S., Brazil and Paraguay.)
But I was not four but one, and Serrano recommended for me the Churrasco Argentino ($35.95) which might as well have been for four since that’s how many meals it lasted me.
(Although it seems like “Argentina” enjoys favored nation status on the menu, Serrano assured me the restaurant plays no favorites when it comes to food.)
My entree was a piece of New York strip steak topped with grilled onions, two sides, and bread.
(My membership in the “faux” vegetarian society has gone lapse. Indeed, I salivated at the prospect of having steak, my first in years. For vegetarians, Serrano smiled and said slowly: “This place is a nightmare,” and he went on. At George Mason University where he was a student, “I used to have a professor from India. He came here once, and he was not happy. We had to take him somewhere else.” And we both laughed.)
I ordered my steak medium well (hot and almost brown on the inside; one of five ways to order meat) and it was perfectly cooked, moist with the hint of grilled flame, and meek seasoning which did not overpower the taste. Delicious with every bite, even the leftovers! This could be compared to the ecstasy brought on by afternoon chocolate, but this was meat. (Making me wonder why I had ever joined the “fauxs” anyway.)
For a side, I ordered cheesy rice, my first experience with it and more to come! It came out in a bowl, looking like a chunky white sauce and mixed with white cheese and hidden rice, unlike anything I have found in an American restaurant.
The salad was okay, but why waste an authentic South American choice at Victor’s on a side as boring as lettuce, tomatoes and beets? Dumb me! The rolls were warm and tasted homemade which Serrano confirmed they were.
Besides steak, Victor has several chicken choices and a kid’s menu ranging from a hamburger and fries ($5.50) to a kid’s pizza ($8.95). Thanks to Covid, seafood and pasta inventories have been reduced or deleted from the menu.
“We are famous for our breaded steaks,” Serrano beamed. “They are deep-fried and topped with optional two fried eggs and ham. It’s kind of like a pizza, but with ham and cheese and marinara sauce. They are why people come here. A replica from South America and we are one of the few restaurants in this area, maybe the only one, that has them.” (Do the calories count? Who’s counting?)
Several weeks ago, before its liquor license was approved, I visited the new Cuates Grill in Falls Church where I was deprived of a much-desired margarita. Having a strong yearning for one ever since, and to celebrate National Margarita Day February 22 (a bit early, as if I needed an excuse!), my taste buds were about as excited as an Olympian getting ready to leap at the top of the half pipe.
The margarita wait was worth it. “Kevin” at the bar made me a perfect drink, not too strong as they often are, not too weak, saltless per request, and big. Neither he nor another server were willing to guess the quantity of the “small” cocktail ($8.95) which I pegged between 10 and 12 ounces. Certainly, too big to have two and drive home!
Fanny’s Grill, a Bolivian restaurant now occupies Victor’s first home in Falls Church on Washington Street which Serrano launched in 1999. Victor’s opened its second location in the present spot in 2003, but “it was hard to run two restaurants” which were located fairly close to each other. The original restaurant closed in 2011.
The Serranos live in the City of Falls Church where Serrano, the son, graduated from George Mason High School.
Covid’s aftermath has left the family feeling “blessed. We are doing much better than before,” and the larger-than-expected crowd in the middle of a weekday afternoon was proof.
The restaurant was hard hit by Covid’s darkest days, some days with no sales at all, yet Victor’s remained open, and followed guidelines.
Now, the big issues facing it and other restaurants are the labor shortage and inflationary pressures.
“We learned that we have to be more proactive and manage everything and plan for the unexpected or otherwise you cannot survive in the industry,” Serrano said.
Victor’s has a new menu but inflation’s ugly head leads the owners to consider whether they should raise prices. They don’t want to reduce their large portions “because that’s what we are known for,” Serrano said.
“Restaurants are not like grocery stores which can immediately raise prices.” If restaurants did that, they would lose business, he noted. Some restaurants are charging more and some have closed, but survivors persist, making sure their food and service are great and protecting their namesake.
Victor’s hours on weekdays are 10:00 a.m.—- 9 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. — 10 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m.— 9 p.m. They are located at 7634 Lee Highway, Falls Church 22042.