Relaxing Place for Coffee, Food and Conversation

It’s The Commons Fooderie in Fairfax City’s Old Town Plaza.

When husband-and-wife Usman and Hanna Saleem were looking for somewhere to open another location of The Commons Fooderie, they were delighted to find an available spot in the heart of Fairfax City.

“We’re a fast-casual restaurant serving coffee, breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week,” explained Usman Saleem. “And with residential homes and commercial businesses, plus George Mason and the [Fairfax County] courthouse nearby, Fairfax City has the perfect blend of customers.”

Commons Fooderie is at 3955 Chain Bridge Road, across from Hamrock’s Restaurant. It’s also on the corner of Old Town Plaza, next to Bollywood Bistro, and is open daily from 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

The Saleems are Springfield residents, and Usman is a 2008 Mason grad with a degree in business. They also have Commons Fooderies in Washington, D.C., Tysons Corner and Reston. But their restaurant in Fairfax is particularly spacious, light and airy. Indeed, said Usman, “When we first saw this space, we fell in love with the large, open windows, the street views on Chain Bridge Road and its proximity to the parking garage and to GMU.”

“It’s why we created the long, wrap-around tabletop under the windows to encourage people to work, study and hang out here,” he continued. “We also have a comfortable nook with couches and tables where people can have a sandwich and visit with friends.” Smiling, he said, “We’re business on the outside, fun in the middle.”

Hanna designed the interior to be a place where customers feel so welcome and at ease that they’ll want to keep returning. And the restaurant itself is named in honor of a college commons. “We’re all about community and a common place for gathering,” said Usman. “We wanted to create an environment people would feel comfortable coming to every day.”

Besides that, said Hanna, “What sets us apart from other businesses is that we come from immigrant families – Korea for me and Pakistan for my husband – so we can relate to everyday Americans just trying to make it. So we keep our prices reasonable.”

A cup of coffee, for example, is $3; and basic lattes range from $3.50 to $5. “People are excited we’re here and appreciate what we have to offer,” said Usman. “We’ve had a great reception.”

The most-popular food item, said Hanna, is the spicy turkey avocado sandwich that includes provolone cheese, lettuce, red onion and spicy mayo. Following closely is The Bistro – grilled chicken, bacon, mozzarella and lettuce with honey mustard on a submarine roll. 

“Everything is made to order,” said Usman. “So when you order it, it’s made fresh.” 

The gyro, club salad, cheeseburger and chicken quesadilla are hits, too. And, added Hanna, “You can’t go wrong with our rice bowls.” Three bowls are offered – gyro, chicken tikka and chicken teriyaki. There are also wraps, melts, vegetarian options, soups and sides such as mozzarella sticks, tater tots and onion rings. Hanna also recommends the bistro fries served with spicy mayo and parsley.

But that’s not all. Breakfast offerings include a variety of omelets, including ham and cheese, spinach and mushroom, and steak – made with sliced ribeye, cheddar, mushrooms, onions and green pepper. There’s also a pancake platter, breakfast burrito and breakfast sandwich. And Hanna noted that their bread and bagels are fresh every day.

As for the customers, they’re giving The Commons Fooderie rave reviews. On a recent weekday, Sarah Kim, who does marketing for a tech company, was there for a business meeting. 

“I’ve been here before, and the aesthetic is modern, yet cozy,” she said. “It’s a nice escape from the office and, honestly, the food and drinks are phenomenal. Their menu is made by people who care, and you can tell by the love that goes into their food.”

Kim likes their tuna melt the best. “It’s amazing,” she said. ‘Their bread is very fresh, and I have it without the cheese. I have a dairy allergy, so I appreciate their alternative milk. The vanilla oat-milk latte is my favorite; I try to replicate it at home, but it’s never the same.”

City resident Liz Moran is also a repeat customer. “I like the different seating options, and both the prices and the coffee are really good,” she said. “Last time I had the tuna sub, and the bread was delicious. Today I had a chai latte, and it was excellent. I also love having another great business here in Fairfax City, and I can walk here from my home. You see people you know when you go to places in the City. There’s a camaraderie and community here.”

That day, she and her cousin, Kathy Dutke of Springfield, were about to have lunch there. It was Dutke’s first time at The Commons Fooderie and, she said, “I love how open and airy it is. It’s also convenient to get to, and I liked the free parking in the parking garage. And I’m looking forward to trying the bistro sandwich.”

During the restaurant’s ribbon cutting – attended by local officials and members of Fairfax City Economic Development, the Old Town Fairfax Business Association and the Central Fairfax Chamber of Commerce – City Councilmember Jon Stehle filled in for Mayor Catherine Read, who couldn’t attend that day.

“On behalf of Mayor Read and all my colleagues on the Council, we’re ecstatic to have you here,” he said. “This is a cornerstone of our downtown, and it’s awesome that you chose to be here. The Flats [college housing] is around the corner, and Mason students can walk to and from here.” 

“And by making this another place to stop in the morning for coffee and conversation, you’ve really helped energize our vibrant downtown area,” continued Stehle. “It’s exactly what we’re looking for – you help bring our community together.”

Then, thanking everyone for coming, Usman said how thrilled they were to be in Fairfax City. “We’re locals, and this area has always been in the forefront of our minds,” he said. “Besides serving really great food and drink, we’re looking forward to being a staple in the community for, hopefully, a very long time to come.”

Commissioner of the Revenue Page Johnson, a fellow Mason alumnus, said, “Small businesses are the backbone of our business community, so welcome. We’re really pulling for your success.”

“Page and I both grew up here, so we’ve been in Fairfax City since we were little boys,” said Treasurer Tom Scibilia. “So we’re happy to see the development of this area.” 

Furthermore, he added, “My wife and I have been looking for an after-church place to go and hang out and have coffee, so this might be a good spot for that. Our church gets out at 10:30, and the Mason kids aren’t awake, yet. We’re excited to have you here – welcome.”