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Sauca Restaurant Opens on Columbia Pike

by ARLnow.com — June 2, 2011 at 12:13 pm 7,473 77 Comments

Its neighbors include a Goodwill store, two check cashing businesses and a service station. Two recent occupants of its building were shuttered and still hold sizable tax debts to Arlington County. Yet Sauca restaurant opened last night at 4707 Columbia Pike with a distinct sense of optimism.

“The history of this place has not been good,” admitted owner Farhad Assari, a former international investment banker who left a lucrative gig in Dubai to move closer to his family and pursue his culinary dreams. Like many other food entrepreneurs these days, Assari started small — launching several food trucks that served hearty world cuisine — before trying to translate his street success into a four-walls-and-a-roof restaurant.

Despite the building’s ignominious past and off-the-beaten-path location near Four Mile Run, Assari said he couldn’t imagine opening the restaurant anywhere else.

“This is exactly what I wanted, it’s as if they planned it for me,” he said. “I love it… I think we’re going to get people from all over.”

To achieve his vision for the restaurant, Assari has had to put in time and money — lots of it. The building could charitably be called a dump before Sauca moved in. Now it’s freshly painted, restored, landscaped and furnished. The interior looks like a traditional diner, but with a pool table, public internet terminals, eclectic decorations and a few flat screen TVs showing international soccer matches. Outside, under the funky curved roof, is a surprisingly lush patio with wrought iron furniture, Tiki torches and, eventually, a V-shaped lounge area and outdoor bar.


Despite the attractive space, ample off-street parking and battle-tested food, the restaurant will still face plenty of challenges. Convincing customers to travel to the western portion of Columbia Pike won’t be easy. While a nearby bike path and bus route offer convenient travel options, the restaurant will struggle to attract the car-less who stick to Metro corridors. Prices are fairly reasonable, but some locals may be reluctant to regularly shell out $7 to $11 for the sit-down version of Sauca’s popular food truck dishes (there are also soups, salads, sides and desserts on the menu).

Later this summer, after Sauca receives its liquor license, Assari plans to hold a grand opening celebration. For now, his tireless five-hours-of-sleep-per-night effort to get the restaurant off the ground — and possibly revitalize a sleepy commercial strip — will continue.

“It’s a tremendous amount of work, but it’s done with love,” he said.

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  • South Arlington

    Can’t wait to try their Sunday Special. Going tonight to pick up a butter chicken Sauca.

    Any idea what the sides they’re offering are?

  • VA

    One thing that I think works in their favor is the covered outdoor seating – even if not the prettiest location, few other Columbia Pike restaurants have outdoor seating, and those that do are pressed right up against the street. Especially after Sauca gets its liquor license, this could be appealing for those of us who crave a little fresh air from the spots closer to Walter Reed.

  • JTak

    I get the distinct impression from the first paragraph that the author thinks there is something unappealing about a Goodwill Store. I’m curious as to why a retail store that provides access to inexpensive clothing and household goods for many low income residents, protects our environment through reuse and recycling, while funding job training programs and services for the unemployed is some sort of eyesore. In my humble opinion, it should be viewed with pride and optimism.

    I hope that Sauca is as successful as Goodwill has been in this community for many years.

    • One Thing

      JTak- I love going to that goodwill, but even so, the observant person has to admit that there are sometimes some shady characters there. A policeman I spoke with (after someone followed me out of the Goodwill on Glebe and wouldn’t stop banging on my car window), said that Goodwills often hire people on parole and those doing community service for crimes. So, aside from maybe some sketchy patrons, they’re also hiring some shady people. That’s at least one reason that the author might’ve pointed that out as a concern…since the outdoor seating area faces the Goodwill.

    • SoCo Resident

      ARLNOW’s not so veiled snipe at the Goodwill Store and a service station are par for ArlNow, always looking down on certain sectors of the community . In ArlNow’s world these would be banished, replaced by bars and cupcake places. Actually, the restaurant looks about exactly as it did when Bob&Edith’s II lived there.

      Like JTak, I too hope that Sauca is as successful as Goodwill has been in this community for many years. It is totally unnecessary and shameful to put down good neighbors when introducing a news business, ArlNow. Growup.

      • One Thing

        SoCo, would you buy a piece of land next door to build a house and raise your family? Just hoping you’re consistent…

      • Maria

        SoCo, you do almost nothing but complain about how bad and/or biased you think ArlNow is. Might I ask why you still visit this site?

        • G

          +1

        • SoCo Resident

          The story shouts out ARLNOW’S bias as JTak and I have noted. Others, including Maria, think that sancrosanct ArlNow, and maybe all other news reporters, can do no wrong and should never be questioned. ArlNow’s and Maria’s vision of Arlington is a Goodwill store-, check cashing-, gas station-free Arlington. One in which “challenged” Goodwill workers will not be seen, nor the County’s low-income residents afforded a place to shop or cash a check

          Now, “One Thing” asserts that there are some “shady characters” in Goodwill. Define shady characters so we will know them “One thing”? Are they dark skinned cus I am getting the distinct impression that is what this is about! “One thing” then goes on to assert that Goodwill hires those who are on parole (as if restaurants don’t!). Such an accusation against Goodwill deserves a well-founded response and I nominate ARLNOW to research this.

          This story and exchange, as well as numerous earlier ARLNOW “stories” have demonstrated obvious underlying bias against certain socio-economic groups in Arlington. ARLNOW clearly does not serve all of Arlington.

          • One thing…

            SoCo: Are calls of racism what you’ve stooped to? I don’t follow your comments regularly, but I have to think anyone who does, or who knows you in real life, must find it pretty intolerable to be around you. So, just as a quick tip, taking that chip off your shoulder might make you a nicer person and a little less quick to stereotype others. Aside from that, I think the fact that (a) It’s confirmed that Goodwill hires criminals, and (b) I was followed out to my car, by, (gasp), a white guy, who then harassed me, I’d say it’s perfectly reasonable to assert that Goodwill has some shady characters, (outside of the 95% of nice and friendly people who shop and work there).

          • SoCo Resident

            A highly personal attack.

          • Stu Pendus

            I’m not sure you are well suited for the internet. You seem to be taking this way too seriously.

          • http://www.arlnow.com ARLnow.com

            This comment has been edited. Please refrain from personal attacks and name-calling.

          • Boom! Roasted

            Among the places not served by ARLNOW are fictitious neighborhoods.

    • http://www.arlnow.com ARLnow.com

      No one’s going to stand up for the check cashing stores, which provide essential financial services to the under-banked? Or the gas station, which I often fill up at?

      The only reason these are mentioned is because they’re not typical of the kind of retail you would expect to see surrounding a new, well-capitalized independent restaurant.

      No condescension is intended.

      • John Fontain

        You beat me to the punch. I was about to post something along the lines of “JTak, I get the distinct impression from your post that you think there is something unappealing about check cashing stores, given that you didn’t stand up for them in your post.”

      • http://twitter.com/jennrubenstein jenn

        i’m glad you posted this – and sorry you had to. i didn’t read it any other way.

      • doodly

        No, but I’m going to bash you for using the goofy term “under-banked.”

  • cheeseeater

    Same exact menu and prices as the food truck (except for the whole chickens and Sunday bbq) Nice! Arlington needs more reasonably priced restaurants like this.

    • Tabby

      Menu looks appetizing. There will be beer and wine too?

  • Brittany

    I hope they turn the Goodwill store into a bar with a rooftop deck

    • John K.

      As a nearby resident, I would fight that to the death. Go to Clarendon.

  • SaveDaveMcKenna

    “The history of this place has not been good”

    All I know is that Bob and Edith’s didn’t make a go there. Are there other stories about the location? Higher crime area?

    • LVGuy

      In fairness, a “higher crime area” in Arlington is about equivalent to walking around the National Mall in DC.

      • jan

        +1

    • doodly

      He means other businesses have failed there. As the story makes pretty clear.

      • SaveDaveMcKenna

        What else has been at that location?

        • One Thing

          There was some (Peruvian, maybe?) chicken place there, from what I remember of the signs that were still up. Memory could be wrong though.

          • SoArlRes

            I believe the sign read, “Golden Chicken.”

        • PhilL

          Roy Rogers

          • SaveDaveMcKenna

            Love Roy Rogers > Arby’s.

          • John Fontain

            Same here. There is truly no comparison between the roast beef sandwiches. Roy’s is made from a real roasted beef while Arby’s is made from a processed beef loaf. The current owners of Roy’s Franchising, based up in Frederick have done a terrific job of breathing new life into the Roy’s chain. The locations up there are much better than the three around here (in Kingstown and in Alexandria). If Roy’s ever opened a new spot in Arlington, I’d be in a lot of trouble.

          • Sean

            John,

            I’m glad you posted that. I was a HUGE fan of Roy’s throughout the 70′s and 80′s until they changed the recipe to the roast beef some time in the 90′s, I think. When they announced they had brought back the original recipe at one point, I gave it a try but it was not the same. I had read up recently on the history of Roy Rogers and learned about the recent effort to restore the chain to it’s former glory. I’ve got to get up to Frederick to give it a try.

            One place that comes close is a restaurant called Canopy in Ellicott City. Great pit beef sandwiches. It seems that greater Baltimore is the place to go to get great pit beef sandwiches. Unfortunately, I’ve heard the best ones are found in some unsafe locations.

          • FrenchyB

            Roy’s did fine there; unfortunately, the evil empire known as McDonald’s bought up the corporately-owned (non-franchised) Roy Rogers locations and shut them down to squash competition.

          • PhilL

            You know, a purchase requires two willing parties. And Hardee’s was involved too.

          • FrenchyB

            Anytime Hardee’s is involved, nothing good will result.

          • doodly

            Let’s get a few things straight. Hardee’s biscuits rock, especially since they go on sale starting at midnight. And a Roy’s Double-R Bar Burger was the best thing to eat for dinner before going out and drinking and then going to Hardees’ for a biscuit. I have spoken.

          • PhilL

            Totally random photo of the old Lee Highway Roy’s showed up in this Onion article.

            http://onion.com/ky1zI7

          • DW Smith

            I remember a Hot Shoppes Jr. being there and once Bob and Edith’s ran the place. Improvement is making it’s way down the Pike but hopefully it won’t take away all the grit. Once upon a time Shirlington was something more than Bars and overpriced hamburger shops. It had services for people that were affordable, not so much anymore.

  • Westover

    Hopefully they drive the store better than they drive the truck, just saw the truck make a seriously illegal turn downtown and almost took out two others cars in the process…….

    • CW

      Just laughed out loud…

  • SaveDaveMcKenna

    What’s up with the bed chamber?

    • Tabby

      Looks like it’s from Bali. Makes me think of bedbugs though.

  • CrystalMikey

    Pretty stoked to try this place out.

  • charlie

    i always thought this was a fabulous restaurant location. the outdoor seating is awesome. i wish him well.

  • ArlingtonNative

    Good Luck to you Sauca! You’ve clearly put a lot of time, effort and resources into your establishment – I hope you reap the rewards of those efforts!

  • Juke Jointer

    Bob & Edith’s II may have had some issues, but getting customers to come to this location wasn’t one of them. It was frequently packed when I used to go there on the weekends for breakfast.

    Plus, the shopping center across Buchanan Street from Sauca is a beehive of activity. Sauca’s location is hardly off the beaten path — it’s really convenient for those of us who live in the adjoining Barcroft neighborhood. There are lots of other nearby neighborhoods as well.

    • G

      Agreed. Walking distance from my condo off Four mile run! I’m glad this area is getting some nice restaurants, like the newly opened Cafe Sazon across the street.

      • SArl

        Went there this weekend and loved the dinner!

  • Hank HIll

    i will contiune to avoid Columbia Pike

  • John

    It still looks too much like Roy Rogers. I don’t think I’ll be eating there. It’s like the Pizza Hut building on Lee Highway that became an Indian restaurant and now some other establishment. If it still look’s like what it was, I’m not goin.

  • SoCo Resident

    From: Goodwill HELPING VIRGINIANS:
    As an employer in Virginia, Goodwill gives back to the communities we serve beyond our vocational programs. We generate tax revenue that supports our local economies. In 2009 the VGN member organizations operated 69 retail stores that returned millions in Virginia sales tax on gross revenues of more than $72,000,000. Those same donated goods salvage programs kept over 38 million pounds of refuse out of Virginia landfills.

    Through our workforce development initiatives, the VGN employed nearly 3,000 workers supporting programs that provided almost 60,000 people employment services.

    So, lets get them off the Pike and out of our community!

    • doodly

      Who said anything about getting rid of Goodwill?

  • MC

    Any business that plants flowers is trying to be a good neighbor.

  • BuchananGuy

    Shouldn’t a news item about a restaurant make some mention of the menu or type of food served? Other than the photo of their menu you seen to have overlooked this (to me) rather obvious bit of information.

  • SoArl

    I just finished their buttered chicken – it was great.
    Thank you, Mr. Assari for opening a decent place to eat down this way on the Pike!

  • NewsyMom

    I just want to know the official pronunciation of the restaurant’s name?

  • John Andre

    Rather surprised at the anti-Goodwill talk here.

    So when will Columbia Pike get a good upscale grocery store that’s not a Safeway or Giant? Such as a Bloom, a Wegman’s, a Fresh Fields or a Trader Joes? To be frank, we could do better than yet another Seven Eleven, or even the well-established Food Star.

    • SoCo Resident

      Unfortunately, Goodwill which contributes tax revenue, provides jobs and aids the community in many ways is looked down upon in this article and discussion. Those who do reflect poorly on themselves.

  • dbokie

    Love the food truck, definitely will be dining at Sauca this weekend! The flatbread is absolutely delicious.

  • JTak

    SoCo – Thank you and the few others who actually had something nice to say about Goodwill. I found all of the other disparaging comments extremely disappointing and ignorant. I never made a negative comment about the gas station or check cashing services. Your assumptions about my lack of inclusion in my comments were just that – assumptions. I defended Goodwill because I work for Goodwill. Yes, Goodwill does hire ex-offenders. Do those of you who view that as a negative believe that ex-offenders who have paid their debt to society don’t deserve a second chance? Would they be better off being forced to beg for food, or worse, back into a life of crime so that they can eat? Someone commented about a “shady character” that harassed her. While I’m sorry that happened, but I hear about “shady characters” in supermarkets kidnapping children, subway stations beating up patrons, at businesses shooting up employees. I find it sad that to some, Goodwill seems to be the organization upon whom they place the moniker of finding “shady characters”. I can point out thousands of shoppers and donors who have never had anything but a good experience. One incident and the organization is painted as surrounded by “shady characters”. For the record, Goodwill also hires and trains people with emotional, physical and developmental disabilities. They work to get people off of welfare and back into the workforce. How little many of you know of this wonderful organization who has given a second chance to so many. Shame on you for being so narrow minded.

    I won’t comment anymore, but I will eat at Sauca and welcome them to MY neighborhood.

    • SoCo Resident

      Well said JTak. Thanks for your eloquent defense of Goodwill which this news story and its commentators tried to malign. Enjoy you lunch at Sauca!

      • One thing…

        Maybe you should hire them to babysit your children, if you don’t think they’re shady.

        • doodly

          What a ridiculous comment.

          • Last one

            Doodly, I’m merely making the point, after they attacked me for saying that, although I love going to goodwill, there are sometimes Shady characters there, that if they don’t consider anyone there shady (despite criminal records), then they shouldn’t have a problem hiring them in any situation. If not, they should at least concede that there are, in fact, some questionable people there. Alright, sick of this discussion.

          • doodly

            There are shady characters all over the place. And it’s absurd to suggest that someone shouldn’t be trusted to do any job unless they can be trusted enough to babysit your kids. Which is what makes your comment ridiculous. Don’t pile on the ridiculousness, it’s already pathetic that you attacked a store that tries to help the most needy in our community.

          • Last one

            I support that store w/ business (and donations) all the time. I didn’t attack it, I merely stated that there are some shady characters at goodwills in the area. (In addition to the majority of people which are great, which I also mentioned, ugh) Look at the VA sex offender registry, I’m not crazy.

          • doodly

            Again, there are shady characters all over the place. Why mention them specifically with Goodwill?

  • SoCo Resident

    Plenty of felons and shady characters in the restaurant business, just look at the long list of Arlington felony embezzlers who daily steal meal taxes from the County.

  • CarsSuck

    just ate there yesterday evening…. Mumbai Butter Chicken over rice. AMAZING. The ambiance is nice, and I can’t wait to go back and try other menu items. The price can’t be beat. Try the Sea Salt Yuca.

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  • Rachel

    Comic Sans seems more like a shady character.

  • http://www.friesian.com/ Casimir Poskrybyshev

    I’m surprised the article would call the location ” off-the-beaten-path” … gads, I don’t think you could get away with calling any place within half a mile of Bailey’s Crossroads as off-the-beaten-path! And the plentiful parking is such an important asset.

    I was also really surprised that Bob & Edith’s II did not work out there. They had a great reputation as an eatery, and for heaven’s sake, if they could get by at their primary location (for which both parking, and ease of car-movement, were appalling) I thought they would be on easy street here. The times I went there, they were excellent and business seemed good.

  • http://www.friesian.com/ Casimir Poskrybyshev

    PS, Bob & Edith’s (Number 1) is apparently still around; I shouldn’t oughtta refer to them in the past tense …

  • Charles

    *DISLIKE* $9 for the SOB pita = a cup of flavored rice rolled in bread. Not going back.

  • Kathy

    Yeah for Sauca! I’m a big fan of their truck and am so looking forward to having a cool place to stop by for lunch or dinner off the WO&D. I’m sure other bike commuters will like it too. I really like the decor inside the place.

    I hope they do well.

  • Anne

    Just ate at Sauca tonight for the first time and I was extremely impressed with the food and the ambience. Beef Shwarma was outstanding!!!! Also thought the variety of books to browse through highlighting various parts of the world was a pretty cool touch.

    My compliments to the owner. I will definitely be back — often — and will strongly recommend your restaurant to friends.

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