There was a time in my not-so-distant past where any weekday lunch outings took place in the culinary dark ages: a food court. I worked in an office park in Tyson’s Corner and lunches out invariably ended up at (gulp) the mall. As you can imagine, I found this distressful.

Luckily in short order I was directed to Coastal Flats, a bright spot in a bleak food landscape. Coastal Flats is part of the Great American Restaurant Group which also brought us Carlyle, a neighborhood favorite in Shirlington. Like all restaurants in this group it has a gimmicky theme that informs its menu and general decor. In this case it is… the coast. Which coast isn’t made clear (at least not to me) but I get the feeling people who have OBX stickers on their car will feel very at home here.

One of the first things that impressed me about the restaurant was the bar. Cocktails here are suprisngly good and I’m especially fond of the mojitos . The standard flavor is listed on the menu but the ocassional friendly bartender will kick it up with pomegranate juice, adding a great punch to the flavor. Regardless of the flavor, all mojitos are served with strips of raw sugar cane which I chew shamelessly between sips.  Food and “outdoor seating” after the jump.

Photo courtesy of Lakegan, Picasa

Before being seated, the hostess will often ask if we prefer indoor our outdoor seating. This polite question never fails to make me snicker but it is a particlar quirk of Tyson’s Corner dining. Most restaurants include “patio seating” which is essentially a table outside the restaurant wall in a walkway of the mall. In this case, your option is to enjoy a delicious mojito and dinner across from Cusp, an expensive clothing boutique for high schoolers with NASA-like clothing budgets. Needless to say, I prefer to sit “indoors” but your preference may vary.

The second highlight at Coastal Flats is the bread basket. Baked goods at the Great American Restaurant Group are so universally well received they opened a bakery: Best Buns Company. The bread basket is served gratis to all diners and we dive headfirst into its yeasty, buttery comfort.

Food at Coastal Flats focuses on classic American with an emphasis on dressed up seafood and southern-influenced. Appetizer favorites include the crispy sweet and spicy calamari served with pepper jelly, which tastes like it would be just at home in a Chinese restaurant as it does here. The warm goat cheese salad served with mixed greens and spicy pecans is a close to comfort food as a salad can get. The goat cheese is lightly breaded and served warm but still retaining its shape (two patty sized rounds) on top of a mound of greens dotted with dried cranberries and tomatoes.  Moving on to sandwiches and entrees, seafood based dishes continue to outshine their neighbors. Shrimp rolls and lobster rolls deliver a nice kick without too much filler served with a grilled corn on the cob. The pecan-crusted trout with a citrus sauce and a couscous on the side is a light option.

While I would not go out of my way to dine at Coastal Flats I do recommend it for anyone looking for a decent meal while in the Tyson’s Corner area. The service is dependable, the food is consistent and hey, you can sit outside regardless of the weather. 

Coastal Flats
7860l Tysons Corner Center
McLean, VA 22102
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