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DonRocks

Simply Fresh (Formerly Boss Hogs), Chef Rana's BBQ Cafe with Greek Specialties on Elm Street in McLean

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This is an interesting situation for me as moderator, and if we had an existing thread for Boss Hog's (we don't), I'd probably mark that as closed and give Simply Fresh a clean slate. Chef Rana (Rana is her first name) took over Boss Hogs in June, 2015, and changed it to Simply Fresh - both the interior and the patio look *nothing* like I remember Boss Hogs looking like, so unless I'm not remembering correctly, she really gave it a redo.

I was driving in McLean, and was planning on going somewhere else, but I saw the sign for Simply Fresh, and it looked brand new to me, almost like some sort of grand opening, so I parked on Elm Street and marched on in, shocked at how nice looking the restaurant is now. It's still a cafe, but it's very clean, and looks like it just opened last week (the cashier told me it's been open since the summer, which surprises me).

The cashier is a young gentleman, and Rana is his mom (I'm assuming from the language on their website (they have a second website, apparently for online ordering) that she's the owner as well as the chef). Since he's attached to the restaurant, and since there's such a diversity of items on the menu, I trusted him, and flat-out asked him what he liked. "I really like the lamb," he said, and so the lamb it was.

This is where it gets even more interesting for me, because last night I went to Hula Girl in Shirlington, and had what amounted to a blue-plate special with their steak teriyaki. As it turns out, the Roasted Lamb with Potatoes ($12.99) made these two restaurants, in my mind, somewhat alike - the lamb, too, was a blue-plate special. The dish was like something my mom would have made (if she was Greek) - a few slices of fully cooked leg of lamb, high on the flavor meter, accompanied by large, bite-sized chunks of roasted potatoes, and a side salad - both dishes (this one, and the one from last night) were meat-starch-salad, were about the same size, and were about the same price; the only thing different - vastly different - is the atmosphere of the two restaurants: Hula Girl is a bright, loud bar; Simply Fresh is a quiet, workaday cafe.

I had just gotten some always-needed cardio, and was starving - I knew halfway through the dish that I was not going to be terribly full, despite it being a perfectly reasonably sized portion of food. Knowing that the Orange Bowl was starting at 4PM, and that I'd be plastered in front of the screen (I'm watching and typing at the same time), I wisely got a second dish to go for later in the day, which was a "special" listed on the chalkboard out in front of the restaurant - however, the exact same dish is on their regular menu, so it was more marketing than anything else. I figured the Roasted Chicken with Potatoes ($9.50) would be the same plate of food as the lamb, and other than substituting chicken for lamb, it was. An uncut, half-chicken was well-roasted - rubbed, moist, and super tasty - whether or not you get the chicken or lamb depends solely if you're in the mood for chicken or lamb - I can recommend them both as good, hearty plates of food - nothing you'll remember in a month, but solid.

Just having finished the chicken dish a few minutes ago (I didn't even need to heat it up), I realize that this was my final meal, and final write-up, of 2015, and I can't think of anything I'd rather do to celebrate the New Year, than to support a local, family-owned, mom-n-pop (or, in this case, mom-n-son) restaurant - Hula Girl, too, despite it's pomp and circumstance, is pretty much of a mom-n-pop; just in a completely different style (and most likely with some investors).

Simply Fresh (the sign says, "Simply Fresh - barbecue & more") has BBQ, and a couple girls walked in and picked up a $100+ order, undoubtedly to celebrate New Year's Eve. Simply Fresh is big on breakfast, and across from the counter on the right, where you order your meal, it also has a counter on the left, with a pastry display case and an Illy coffee setup - this is probably where the cashier is in the mornings (have a look at this breakfast menu, and file it away in your head for future reference). They're open 7 days a week at 7AM each morning, except for Sundays, when they open at 8AM - I would not hesitate to try the breakfasts here. It's a pleasant, albeit somewhat stark, place to eat, and you won't regret coming here, although it wouldn't surprise me if there was a clunker or two on the menu (when one person does all the cooking, it's hard to do *everything* well).

Over the next hour or so, I'll be either cursing at the TV or jumping with joy (Clemson is down 17-16 at halftime to a resilient Oklahoma Sooner team), and then, when it's over, I'll forget about it (unless Clemson wins), and I'll be spending this evening doing exactly what I want to be doing, given that I can't be with the people I want to be with: staying home, not having a drop to drink, relentlessly practicing a Beethoven sonata, maybe watching a rerun or two, and being thankful for this wonderful community. Happy New Year, everyone! I hope that 2016 brings you everything you wish for, and please remember always how grateful I am to have you in my life.

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