This past weekend I stopped in each of the above joints.
Based on Joe H.'s recommendation in the "Wash Post best bets" thread below, I took my very pregnant ice cream craving wife and my 3 year old "there's always room for ice cream" son over to Nielsens' on Friday night after dinner.
There is a saying that if you are under 50, you don't know what frozen custard is, but we went to college in Fredericksburg where Carl's has been in existence for at least 50 years. Nielsen's is obviously a bit different - an inside service counter with tables and more than just custard as opposed to carl's where your seat was your car. We got my wife a hot fudge vanilla custard, I had a vanilla with mixed berries and spanish peanuts, and my son had a small child cup of chocolate. Total cost: $11. A bit steep compared to Carl's, but not terrible. The custard was exactly as I was hoping. Silky, dense, and creamy. I tasted my son's to check out the chocolate and it was very nice with no bitter cocoa aftertaste.
I liked the berry topping on mine. The berries were slightly tart and while I can't confirm it, they appeared to be fresh not too long ago. Having the slightly salty spanish peanuts on top were heaven. Other choices for the nuts were almonds, walnuts, and pecans.
My wife and I went to Amma vegetarian kitchen on Maple Ave. on Saturday at about 12:30 for lunch before schlepping out to Centerville to buy furniture. We ordered 2 of their daily specials and I started to panic when it showed up at the pick up counter. There were 7 cups of food plus a big bowl of rice and chapati on EACH tray.
I don't remember all the names of the dishes, but there was a super spicy soup that tasted of tamarind, a cauliflower and coconut curry, Chana marsala, raita, a potato and tomato curry, and a couple of others. The final "dessert" dish was a coconut flavored sweet raita with vermicelli like noodles in for good measure. I was surprised that we both ate all of the food except for my wife not finishing her soup. Her nose by that point was running too much to finish it. The only bad points were that the channa marsala was a bit too salty and the cauliflower/coconut curry was a little gritty from the spices not being ground fine enough. Other than that, it was good and fairly quick. Go for the food, not the atmosphere.
The place isn't much to look at. The counter guy had as much personality as the rag with which he was cleaning the tables. We were the only non-indian patrons in the restaurant for much of our lunch. This signalled to me the food was fairly authentic. Their samosas look very good and were very large for the price. Our lunch including two soft drinks ran $20. As former vegetarians, we were very pleased to find a full Indian vegetarian menu.
Hopefully next time I'll take notes on the names of the dishes so I can post a more detailed report, but it is a good option for those in the area craving south indian veg options.
Chris in Vienna