No matter where you are in Northern Virginia, you aren’t far from a Lost Dog Café. The beloved local pizza and sandwich chain just recently added a Dunn Loring spot to a roster that includes two outposts in Arlington and one in McLean, to make four in all. But there’s a lesser-known member of this family of pet-rescue supporting restaurants: The Stray Cat Café.
Within the same plaza as the original Westover Lost Dog location is an eatery devoted to all things feline. Step inside and you’ll see dozens of cats painted right on the door. One full length of the long restaurant is devoted to fanciful murals of oversized cats curiously making idyllic evening scenes their playplace, all above a narrow line of booths and tables. On the opposite wall are framed pictures of cats; one might even call them portraits, each with a unique character, should diners succumb to feline fever. There’s a bar on that wall, as well, dispensing cleverly named brews like the Catfishhead IPA among an ample selection of draft and bottled beers.
The menu may seem familiar to Lost Dog regulars – indeed, several of the restaurant’s popular sandwiches can be found at Stray Cat, but don’t be surprised when your Healthy Dog hummus pita becomes a Healthy Cat, and your Big Dog becomes The Grande Gato, still loaded with chicken and cheese. But beyond the décor and the cat-for-dog name swaps, there’s enough here to make Stray Cat feel unique.
Most noticeably, there are no pizzas and pastas here. But they aren’t missed in a menu of burgers and entrées unique to the restaurant.
A half-pound Angus beef burger with a side (the standard is curly fries) sets diners back $9.95 and gets the basic toppings – lettuce, tomato and red onion slices, and a pickle spear on a kaiser roll. In addition to beef, there are also turkey, veggie, tuna steak, and even bison patty options, each at their own charge. You can also dress your burger from a selection of cheeses and toppings like sautéed mushrooms and bacon, each at their own additional charge. But for $1.50 more, you can choose from a dozen “styles,” each with a recommended toppings combination. Zesty Cat style, for example, brings the burger out with pepperjack cheese and smoky bacon slices, and a cup of mild horseradish sauce (it’s meant for the burger, but you might end up dipping your curly fries in it – after all, the Mouse Tails appetizer serves just that for $4.95).
The entrées include the type of deep-fried platters expected of a beer-slinging restaurant – fish and chips and fried shrimp – but the selection is heavy on Tex-Mex options like (here we go again) “Mexicat” tacos and “Cats-a-dillas.” The Cabo Cat Enchiladas ($10.95) are served with a light spread of red sauce and a dollop on the side of guacamole, sour cream, and pico de gallo, but the focus of the dish is a tortilla baked with extreme amounts of cheese and loaded with shredded, marinated chicken or pork.
For non-alcoholic libations, Stray Cat has the shakes and malts of its predecessor, but also smoothies like the Emi’s Escape ($5.95), made with strawberry, mango, and a bit of the house “lounge cat lemonade” for a light, refreshing drink.
There’s a lot to love about a neighborhood bar with an ample and varied list of eats. That’s part of what’s made Lost Dog Café so successful over the years. But when a burger craving hits, or you’re looking for something new, Stray Cat Café is (dare I say it) the purr-fect option.
Stray Cat Café is located at 5866 Washington Blvd., Arlington. For more information, call 703-237-7775 or visit thestraycatcafe.com. Restaurant hours are Monday – Sunday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.