Roll Play Grill is the latest incantation in the fast casual revolution. If you’re like most people in the DMV, you’ve probably visited several fast casual restaurants by now (Chipotle, &Pizza, ShopHouse) so let’s analyze what makes them work. First, the restaurant has to serve really tasty food. Nothing is more important than that. Yet, other factors include reasonable pricing, convenience, upbeat service, along with that intangible but vital feature, imagination. Roll Play Grill offers all that and more. This time, there’s healthful, super-fresh Vietnamese cuisine on the assembly line.
Opening in November of 2015, a local entrepreneurial Vietnamese family and their friends founded the restaurant: “The owner of Roll Play Grill is a restaurant group called Happy Endings Hospitality Group. Di Dang and Hac Dang—two former professional poker players—are two of the main members,” says Tuyet Nhi Lee, another co-owner (and girlfriend of Di Dang). Lee and her family had worked for years as caterers, developing their recipes and constructing Vietnamese cuisine that could be served quickly but remained culturally and aesthetically authentic. Lee’s mother, Tuyet Hoa, took it a step further when she made her families’ recipes fit into the fast casual model. With the support from the other members of Happy Endings, Hoa is onsite daily, overseeing the Roll Play kitchen. “Customers have loved our food, which has made my mom, our master chef, super happy. She has some other secret items to be added to the menu including her Banana Chia Pudding,” adds Lee.
Customers choose from three foundations—spring rolls, noodle bowls, banh mi sandwiches or Vietnamese noodle soup (Pho)…Next, they add their choice of protein—tofu, garlic shrimp, pork belly, five-spiced chicken or lemongrass beef. Insert up to five diced toppings for free…
The food—that’s what’s really important, right? At Roll Play, customers choose from three foundations—spring rolls, noodle bowls, banh mi sandwiches or Vietnamese noodle soup (Pho)—to create their custom meal. Next, they add their choice of protein—tofu, garlic shrimp, pork belly, five-spiced chicken or lemongrass beef. Insert up to five diced toppings for free, including fried shallots, mango, crushed peanuts and red pepper. The Magnum Rolls and banh mi get the most raves on social media. For those unfamiliar with traditional Vietnamese cooking and terminology, there’s no need to customize your entrée, Roll Play’s recommended ingredients will definitely do.
All the entrees are pretty substantial, and you can easily get your fill. They’re served with a traditional Vietnamese sauce; select from spicy or regular peanut, chili or vinaigrette (the spicy peanut rocks). When you bite into your Magnum Roll, you’re going to see cilantro that looks like it was picked a few minutes before. The carrots snap, the jalapeno’s crunch and burn, the tender noodles inside are al dente…every ingredient standing firm, harmonizing, elevating that fancy dance in your mouth. Roll Play also offers side dishes too—select their crispy fried rolls over extras like the avocado or fried egg.
“My personal favorite item, when I’m in not counting calories, is the Pork Belly Banh Mi with Sriracha Mayonaise. It’s savory, and the mayonnaise adds a ton of flavor. But I can’t eat too many of those,” notes model-gorgeous Lee. “I also go for the Five Spiced Chicken Mangum Rolls or Beef Pho with Shirataki Noodles. They’re both really delicious and healthy.”
Little touches make a difference, and Roll Play’s owners understand that. There’s the water cooler with free cucumber/mint water, Pucks’s hi-style fountain service with sugar free juices, and the crazy-good Young Coconut drink that the staff will open on the spot for you to sip, then scrape clean. It’s not cheap, but you’re paying for freshness and quality here.
Located in a strip mall on Route 7 in Tysons Corner, Roll Play has become popular with both to-go customers and those who want to eat-in. The hipster décor, Touch Screen Kiosks, and Vietnamese street food menu, add to the ambiance of the place. The metal and wood tables are family style, with little shelves built on top, for your phone or sauces. You’re likely to engage in a conversation as a result of this configuration. You’ll probably discuss how good your food is, or ask someone to Insta-you in front of the restaurant logo painted on the wall.
Roll Play has an open food prep area where you can watch Hoa and her staff chopping fresh vegetables and slicing meats, then hand-building your dish. Mostly they are friends and family, the staff, with a cheerful energy unique to today’s fast casual restaurants. Happy Endings happens to be the same charismatic family behind Chasin’ Tails Crawfish in Arlington and Centreville. Next up for this team is Teas’n You, an Asian teahouse opening in May, also on Leesburg Pike, a few blocks away from Roll Play. Teas’n You will serve finger foods and Asian-influenced tea.
Because this restaurant is the brainchild of millennials, trendiness and modernity is an essential part of the business model. With a snappy website, urbane interior design, high tech ordering system, and fresh understanding of our multi-cultured community of Northern Virginia, you might find yourself thinking, “I’m ready to invest!” Or “my friends are going to love this place, if they can find a parking space.” The idea depends on your age, but either way, you’re going to like the food, and my guess, you’ll be back to try something new. And isn’t that the point of fast casual?
P.S. There’s a parking garage in the back of the building; ask the cashier at Roll Play for a free token.