Well Ledo's is one of WTOP's main sponsors.
Their news room is called "Ledo's pizza glass-enclosed nerve center” :
>>"You have to pick and choose. Generalizations are often misleading."
I think I've eaten at 95% of restaurants in Annandale and I make it a point to eat at any new one that opens at least once.
But I stand by my statement, given the size of the Korean community here the level of consistency and quality are fairly poor.
I think a lot of the problem is that a lot of the Korean restaurants in this area try to do everything under one roof. Overly large menu, everything from bibimbap to bbq, and a lot of places also throw in sushi or Japanese dishes just to be safe.
The kimchi, which is the first and most import impression a restaurant makes, is too frequently terrible in this area. Often plagued by mere neglect (kimchi needs to be stirred daily), its not rare to go to a restaurant in Annandale and have kimchi with pockets of acidity indicating it wasn't properly stirred and cared for.
But as you said, you have to pick and choose, and you have to put some effort in finding places that are good. There are exceptions,Vit Goel being one of them (though having its ups and downs in the past). The decent places in Annandale are the ones that focus on a smaller menu.
As far as Woo Lae Oak, its consistent, and the menu is generally good. Due to its size and scale, its one of the few places that has actually managed to have a large menu and be consistent with most of their dishes. I've also noticed it seems to be the place where Koreans take guests from out of town.
I would say that Woo Lae Oak is generally consistent and the quality is high (I've been going there since the Arlington days). The banchan is more hotel-style than home style, especially the kimchee.
The reality is that Korean food in the DC area isn't very good. Most places in Annandale are very questionable in quality particularly when BBQ is concerned.
I think popular places like Yecheon and Honey Pig are pretty horrid with low consistency in my opinion.
There are exceptions, such as Ju Mak Jib, whose kimchee is excellent (maybe even the best in this area), as is the rest of the banchan and the intestines are excellent, but the atmosphere is very poor and the owner barely speaks (easily misunderstood to be poor service; though its not).
Outside of BBQ, Tok Sok Jib is good particularly for their grilled and fried fish dishes for lunch (which are very affordable), and Bang Ga Nae if you like Jun Gol black goat (but maybe not so much for anything else on the menu).
LIghthouse Tofu in Annandale had a period of poor consistency, but the quality has dramatically improved since its expansion. From my experience the Rockville location has been consistently bad (but it might have changed since I haven't been there in awhile). But LIghthouse is the best location for sundubu and is generally very good for the rest of the menu.
So it comes down to what you want. Woo Lae Oak is consistent, and most of their menu is probably more hit than miss. Its more expensive than Annandale, and there might be specific dishes that are better in Annandale than Woo Lae Oak, but in a much less fancier atmosphere.
I was actually replying to the fact that the NYT article mentions that they want to make 2-3 new Eataly's a year. And that there really isn't an ideal location within DC to meet the criteria that has been mentioned (relative to size and price).
Hence, Tysons Corner, which isn't in DC, but will have a metro access in the next couple years and is located in an area that meets the criteria in size would probably be ideal. Given the pace that Eataly is expanding, even if its not on the immediate agenda the DC area probably will be in the near future.
If they are looking for something that large, 50-60k sq-ft, they'll need to make it in some place like Tysons Corner.
ESPN Zone, all three stories, is a mere 41k Sq-ft. In addition, it'll be incredibly expensive to rent given the location.
The recent Bed, Bath, and Beyond flagship in Tysons Corner is 55k Sq-ft. There is VERY few places in DC that could meet that footprint criteria. Obviously, the further you go out the cheaper it gets. The Wegman's in Fairfax is 128k sq-ft, the Leesburg Wegman's is 145k sq-ft.
Eataly will need to figure out what is the best location/size/price ratio.
With the metro coming to Tysons in the next year or so, and the potential suburban market, personally, I think Tysons would be the most ideal area. Especially given the rent and size they are looking for. Its is also centrally located, meaning they can get customers from NoVa/DC/Maryland.
That said, I've been to the Eataly in Tokyo and its incredibly small.
Went for lunch and dinner. Its busy all the time.
The burgers were good. I still prefer Shake Shack, which uses a combination of sirloin, chuck, and brisket in their burger patties from Pat LaFrieda. I might be wrong but Smashburger tastes like it only uses chuck (like Five Guys and In-and-Out).
I tried the Capital and the Classic. The Capital burger I wasn't impressed with, but the brioche bun was good. With the cheese, and onions, etc it wasn't able to get that smashed crust that is their name sake. I think they use the Miraclean griddles, that Shake Shack uses; that get real hot, and give you that nice crust. Unlike the Capital, the Classic had the crust as advertised, and was the better burger.
For the Classic the cheese didn't have that melty-gooey quality that's in In-and-Out. Which was disappointing. It was just normal American cheese that stayed nice firm and square on my burger. But there was an option for Sharp Cheddar, (I don't think its 6-mo aged cheddar cheddar like Elevation Burger).
Service was excellent. They assign you a table at the register so you're not fighting for it. They also come around to your table as well to check on things and ask if you need a box for your food. Its in-between a waiter and fast food experience, but without the tipping.
Personally, I would say its better than Five Guys, its kinda Shake Shack-lite in its burger style. But based on mood and preferences I could see people preferring Five Guys style burgers. The beef and tomato quality is nowhere near Shake Shack neither is the cheese, but SmashBurger might be in a better location depending on where you live.
Its already been mentioned, but Hana Market and Maruichi in Rockville are a good bet. Also mentioned are that the more generic Japanese goods are available in Korean markets like H Mart and Grand Mart.
One thing that Hana/Maruichi have over the Korean markets is that you can special order specific goods and produce directly from them. One example is ordering Japanese vegetables from Suzuki Farms, which is a nearby farm that specializes in Japanese produce (they also make pickles). I believe they primarily supply produce to Japanese restaurants.
On a related note, it should be mentioned that August 19th, Hana/Suzuki Farms are having an open house in Falls Church from noon-5pm: 6531 Kerns Road, Falls Church, VA 22044
A&J's fried chicken is definitely very good, as well as their fried pork, but its different from what I would consider 'traditional' fried chicken. Its not as crispy, uses only dark meat, and has an obviously Asian twist. However, relative to the price, I'd say its incredible. I usually order it with the soup noodles and order extra Chinese pickles.
While we are on the subject of Asian fried chicken, I personally recommend Bon Chon in Annandale as my favorite. They only fry the chicken upon order, and it takes a good 15-20 minutes, so it does take awhile, but its incredibly crispy and the meat is still very moist. Another Korean fried chicken chain, Cheogajip (Love Letter), can also be recommended. Korean fried chicken I've come to appreciate for its incredible crispness and the very subtle sweetness in its batter.