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Sauca Restaurant on Columbia Pike Closes

by ARLnow.com — May 15, 2012 at 11:30 am 6,261 93 Comments

 

Less than a year after it first opened, Sauca restaurant at 4707 Columbia Pike has apparently closed.

The eatery was shuttered and dark last night, with only a single piece of printer paper in the door to announce its demise. It read: “Regretably [sic] Sauca has closed this location. Thank you for your patronage and wishing you all the health and happiness in the world.”

Sauca was unique in that it took the menu from an existing fleet of food trucks and tried to build a brick-and-mortar restaurant around it. Despite the fact that it added a lush outdoor patio, a liquor license, and happy hour specials to the food-truck-to-restaurant formula, we’re told that Sauca still struggled to attract a consistent customer base to its slightly off-the-beaten-path location.

Sauca is owned by 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. The Sauca Twitter account has not been active since last Tuesday.

  • Arlington, Northside

    Location/Timing had to hurt. If they could have held on for five years, they would be a hit should Columbia Pike get the revival that is being talked about. With its cool retro-1950s Al’s Diner like style the place has huge potential, eventually. As of now they just can’t get the traffic in that spot.

  • novasteve

    DREMOS!!!!!!!!!!

    • TheBeermonger

      As always, I must endorse this line of thinking.

    • demonfafa

      This one might actually work! The 16 buses would make it accessible to anyone on the Pike and there’s certainly enough parking for events and they have a patio for the summer.

      OH GOD PLEASE MAKE THIS HAPPEN!

  • Really

    I heard that place really Sauca.

  • jackson

    I liked the food both times I went there. Too bad they couldn’t make a go of it.

    • South Awwlington

      Yes, the food was good. I never got the impression that it was to be a permanent fixture though. There is no way he could have competed with the huge investment and construction companies that are about to move into our hood during its redevelopment.

  • South Awwlington

    The entire corner is for sale for 3 million. Perhaps it sold…

  • Josh S

    Yeah, location and the giant parking lot in front – discouraged walk-up traffic.

    • John Fontain

      How would that small parking lot in front discourage walk-up traffic? Do you really believe that people would be walking by on the sidewalk out front and think to themselves, “I’d like to go eat at that place, but damned if I’m going to walk 30 feet through this parking lot to get there!”

      • drax

        Yes, John. People are less likely to see inside from that distance and be attracted to it. People don’t like going in a place and finding out they don’t like it and then leaving – they want to browse from the outside first. It’s subtle psychology, but it’s much more powerful than you think, and if you walk around and look you’d notice it at work all around you. Successful retailers understand this stuff.

        • Chris Jackson

          The parking lot in front made it 10 times more likely that I WOULD eat there–not the other way around. I never had to worry about finding a (free) parking spot at Sauca.

          I don’t think the parking lot had anything to do with their demise. What did the place in was the perplexing switch from order-at-the-counter to sit down service (and corresponding price hike). We went probably 6 or 7 times when it was order-at-the-counter, but stopped going all together when it switched to table service.

          • brian

            they should have allowed it to be a day-laborer sight.

        • John Fontain

          drax or whatever your handle is, thanks for the lessons in marketing and human psychology. they were worth the price i paid for them. but it’s still laughable to think that people walking by wouldn’t eat there just because they didn’t want to walk through the parking lot.

          • sim city

            i live in the neighborhood. That block of the pike not really a nice place to walk. I have walked to Sauca from Barcroft, but the restaurant isn’t going to be supported by foot traffic from one neighborhood. It’s over a mile from central pike biz district at walter reed. Moreover, those two blocks are an odd mix — a busy shopping center catering mostly to low-income population, the reliable Atlacatl, a gas station, a used tire store, a used car dealership, an African convenience store, a goodwill, a hairdresser. Each area has its own crappy parking lot.
            So the demographic of the location is definitely mixed, but in my opinion, Sauca’s market was yuppies slumming it. So if Sauca were going to survive, it would be from people who drive there. Yes, sad to see them go but I never felt compelled to go there much; $8 banh mi when the $3 version at Eden is better; other good sandwiches but i don’t like sandwiches for dinner. And it is, frankly, an ugly corner that certainly didn’t entice me as a destination for a stroll, even just down the block.

          • John Fontain

            Right, so it’s the overall location that was hurting traffic, not the little parking lot out front.

          • speonjosh

            Think about the gelato joint in Clarendon. If it was behind a large parking lot, would it get as much business?

            Parking lots are hostile to pedestrians and an eyesore to everyone. This property would be better served if the building was on the street and the parking was behind or below.

          • Cookout

            Parking lots are not just hostile to pedestrians, they threaten to tip our society into chaos.

            Parking lots : pedestrian relations :: Sam’s Corner schedule : all dudes going full Trevor on citizens of Clarendon

          • John Fontain

            I know, right? Some of these characters views on things are so nutty it would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

    • Suburban Not Urban

      That’s nonsense, that location lives and dies on vehicle traffic not walk bys.

  • Joe Hoya

    I really enjoyed that place. The food was good, and having the patio was nice on warm days. It was a bit of a drive from my North Arlington home, but it was well worth the trip when I made it. Too bad.

  • Tabs

    Aw, that’s too bad.

    I liked it but only made it there a couple of times. Thought it would be a good place to hang out, but the location didn’t work for it being that kind of spot.

  • Novadweller

    I loved this place! He had really done an awesome job with the decor and of course the food was amazing. One of the only places with large outdoor seating on the pike. I will say it was pricey, but the portions were huge, and soooo yummy I never regretted going. Hope he gets another brick and mortar location near me soon! I love that old building, I hope someone will finally find success in it instead of it getting sold/torn down.

    • Arlingtonian

      I love that building too. It stands out and I would hate to see it torn down so another boring high-rise can go up.

  • David

    Very sorry to hear them closed, I was a big fan of their trucks, and liked their restaurant until they started charging $11 for the Saucas instead of $8 (like the trucks). The food was really good, and customer service always friendly.

    • http://www.scotchyscotchy.com Bret

      I totally agree. The price hike and (terrible) table service crushed the cool-chillout vibe.

    • Christine

      This was my reason for not going there anymore too, David. When they first opened, you walked up and ordered your food at the counter. Then they decided to have waiters, which didn’t really fit the atmosphere to me, AND up-ed the price by $3 a sandwich. That along with a tip made the price $5+ what it was before. I know that isn’t really a lot, but the food was more lunch type food than dinner food, so $5 extra for a sandwich is a lot. After the second time, despite how tasty the food was, we never went back.

  • Bob

    I had one of the most memorable dining experiences there in a long time. The food was very good, yes, but one of the owners challenged me to a game of pool while we waited for our food.

    It is my own fault for not going back and now I’m regretting it.

  • http://www.scotchyscotchy.com Bret

    I feel like I watched the demise first hand. I was a regular customer until they started having table service instead of the diner style order-at-the-counter-and-we’ll-bring-it-to-your-table. The prices really jumped up at that time and the table service was terrible and not worth the extra expense and time. Many times, you’d wait to order for a very long time, wait for your order for much longer, have your order would still come out slightly messed up anyway or missing something. You’d get a wonderful apology and explanation but the laid back experience from before was crushed. My wife and I just missed the simplicity to the whole thing and it really turned us off terribly and never went back.

    • Rich

      Agree 100%. I stopped going once it switched to table service and raised the price. I was probably there once a week when it first opened and it seemed like it was gaining steam. Once all the changes started it just was not worth the cost to eat there. The Sauca meal should not cost $16.

      • Ballstonian

        I had a similar experience when I went to Lime Fresh in Clarendon. I found it weird and bad that it wanted to be both table service and walk up rather than just doing walk up. Having to (or at least being told to to) wait for the waiter to get drink refills or salsas, when they’re 10 feet away is just silly and annoying.

        • Tre

          I could go for some Lime Fresh right now… but yeah, that quasi-table service confuses me still.

        • speonjosh

          I have the same feeling about Pain de Quotidien or whatever the heck that place is called in Clarendon. (Another location in Alexandria, I believe.) It should be walk up but then they try to intercept you and seat you. It’s just weird – went once, never have been back….

    • Ashley

      Ditto! I went once after they switched over to table service and haven’t been back. It was a horrible experience. The menu suddenly expanded tenfold and the service was the worst. So sad – they really had a great thing going, but I guess business must have been sliding if they had to turn to such desperate measures.

  • DarkHeart

    IIRC, the price point was a little high for the surrounding demo.

    • John K.

      This^^^. There’s a ton of foot traffic in the area, but they want the minutas in the parking lot, not the Saucas inside. The price hike/change in service structure killed the outside traffic.

  • Rick

    Could the roads leading to it make a Kabul road feel like the autobahn have anything to do with it? I don’t care who’s on that strip its not worth the vehicle damage.

    • Taxpayer

      Exactly.

  • Daniel

    How is Sauca unique in going from a food truck to opening a restaurant? Didn’t District Taco do this quite successfully as well?

    • E2DAV

      If you really want to be stupidly specific, there is a difference in “unique” and “one of a kind”. Unique is the fact that there are over one hundred operating trucks in the DC area and only two (a third on the way) have started a brick and morter.

      • Andrew

        Unique: existing as the only one or as the sole example; single; solitary in type or characteristics: a unique copy of an ancient manuscript.

        • E2DAV

          Fair enough, the strict interpretation is literal to one. However, practically the word is used (and generally accepted) as rare or special. It’s not a misuse of the word if two out of more than one hundred are the only one’s who’ve done something.

          • yep

            No. Unique means one only.

            It’s not like ‘couple’, which can be casually used to mean two or three or a few. It has a specific meaning.

          • Tabs

            Yes indeedy.

  • Douglass Parker

    Man that Saucs!

  • Garden City

    Rats. I liked that place, although I liked the order-at-the-counter service much better than the table service.

  • Meh..

    A shame…places like this fold…yet places like Taquero Poblano prosper and grow….
    Location, Location, Location I guess…

    • Lee-n-Glebe

      Good margs at Taqueria Poblano!

    • Sam

      I tried Taqueria Poblano this week, the new one on the Pike, and I have to say..it sucked. I’m not a picky eater, but it’s Tex-Mex, yet no frozen margaritas, no queso dip, and stale chips. The server was friendly, but awkward at the same time. Unless I hear they had some opening week jitters and have improved, no way I’d go back.

  • drax

    So does this mean Sauca will have the same hours as Sam’s Corner?

  • John

    It was very good food, however, really expensive. 2 entrees 2 sodas and a sides cost well over $40 and add table service to that. Rather go to Shirlington Village for that price. Chipotle would do great in that location!

    • http://twitter.com/jennrubenstein jenn

      ooh, chipotle would be great there…

      • arlcyclist

        District Taco would be even better.

    • Buy Local, Eat Local

      What does location have to do with price? Some of the best food available is not necessarly in the best of locations.

      Commerical rent here is out of control. Plus, too many people would rather do the corporate chain or worse be addicted to clicking to buy most everything.

      Food truck? Minimal investiment, no property taxes or rent has to be paid for the space the truck sit in. Minimal food requirements, minimal equipment requirements. Minimal compliance to food codes.

      Brick and mortar restaurant? Major investment. Property taxes, rent, need for stricter compliance to food code and building code requirements. LOTS more overhead equals more expensive food.

      Shirlington Village is ok, but what about parking? Oh, yes, a parking garage. Lots of walking and a Disney like experience.

      Unreal “realness”, simulated “village”. What has happened to the real villages? Blenderized and homogenized. No character, more like a movie set. All front with no reality, no soul. Looks like something everyone wants, yet nothing is unique. Plastic.

      Chipotle can be just as expensive, so what is the difference? A big one, it is a chain. Chipotle is just another blenderized and homigenized corporate chain fast food joint. Predictable? Yes. Every one of them have basically the same menu. Impressed? Nah. Much better real food out there. Bet anyone willing to settle for Chipolte is willing to settle for less. Been there; haven’t been back since. Food was close to being only a shadow of Latino food.

      Plus, when everyone cries about their local taxes, the corporate chain stores only return LESS THAN 15% to the local economy. Local businesses return ALMOST 70%. Think about that the next time your car is damaged because of a bad road. Think about that when the LOCAL schools cut back on services and salaries.

      Many people here want everything at their beck and call. Too used to corporate chains that offer less than an optimal, but because they don’t want to take any chances. Tpp used to takinig mediocre and thinking its something good.

      People want the “experience”. Has life become that boring that people take the corporate chain experiences as what is real?

      When is the last time anyone taken the chance and supported a local business over a corporate chain?

      Buy Local, Eat Local

      • Arlingtonian

        Your post depresses me, because everything you say is the truth. I would much rather have Sauca’s perfect yucca fries than a bland Chipotle burrito any day. More importantly, I’d rather have more places with local flavor than a bunch of chains that I can visit anywhere else!

      • South Awwlington

        I agree with 90% of what you say but as someone who has worked in the food industry, I take issue with:
        “Food truck? Minimal investiment, no property taxes or rent has to be paid for the space the truck sit in. Minimal food requirements, minimal equipment requirements. Minimal compliance to food codes.”

        1.) There is cost associated with doing business and that cost varies per location.
        2.) I don’t know that “Minimal compliance to food codes.” is a selling point I would use to bring business to my establishment.

        That said, I do like Sauca and it’s a shame. Can’t say I didn’t see it coming though.

      • HP2000

        Don’t agree with your assessment of Shirlington Village. The only “national” chain there is Rockets. Everything else is a local chain if a chain at all. The eateries in the older section have all been there a long time and have established local character and reputation. Would you prefer that the newer section still be an empty Best store and parking lot? Did you like the library and Singature in their old locations? Better yet, would you rather the entire area still be an industrial dump crica 1980? If you want a real village like you desribe, then take a walk up Shirlington Rd… you’ll find it. There’s a lovely “open air” market a few blocks away.

      • pennylane

        There’s not “a” garage in Shirlington. There’s 5. If you don’t want to park in a garage, don’t come.

  • http://twitter.com/jennrubenstein jenn

    that’s too bad. i was there several times, for dine in as well as take out, and was always very impressed by the food. i’ll always thank them for introducing me to banh mi, which i had somehow never had the opportunity to try… needless to say, they got me hooked.

    unrelated: i realized i’ve been posting without logging in for a while… oops.

  • Jillian

    This is really too bad. We frequented them – enjoyed the food, but were also confused by the effort to turn it something more upscale. Was so looking forward to the patio once the weather got more consistently warm. Sad.

  • other side of the river

    Did the trucks shut down, too?

    • Arlingtonian

      Somebody please say the trucks are alive and well ….

      • PearDPea

        Trucks are still rolling according to their twitter

  • http://www.arlnow.com Lauren

    this is awful. I loved their food too and the outdoor patio was amazing.

    Obviously I did not go often enough because I never saw the waiter at your table thing. Every time I went he was quite busy and I enjoyed chatting with him.

    I do think location had LOTS to do with the place. The massive parking lot was not good and I do agree people will not walk that little bit to eat at a good place. The restaurant was too removed from the street itself. I also thought he needed to clean up the parking lot of all the weeds, trees, etc., that make it look run down – but he did not have time.

    Hopefully he will reopen at another location – right on the pike – near foot traffic. Every time I drove nearby I thought of stopping for some food.

  • Yuck

    That entire area is a dump hole.

  • Bummer

    Two big reasons this place didn’t do well, neither to do with location:
    1) the food truck never serves in Arlington anymore, only in DC. You need the truck to promote the restaurant…and they ignored their core customer-base of Arlington-ians. People from DC aren’t going to come to Arlington just to eat at Sauca.
    2) they tried to do way too much with that restaurant…liquor license, happy hour, table service, patio, weird lounge/karaoke area. It was just too much. Stick to the basics, just serve good food quick and easy and people will come eat there. Should have followed the District Taco model.

    Its a shame, their food was good and original…no other place to get a similar menu that tastes as good.

    • Glen Carlin NOW

      The last time I ate at the restaurant I asked the owner why don’t the trucks go to Ballston anymore? He replied that he’s making all his money on the DC side, while in Arlington he simply wasn’t getting enough business to make it profitable.

      Shame about the restaurant, however the price hike drove off what fan base he was building.

  • Arlingtonian

    This sucks :( I really liked their food.

  • aroundtown

    Outdoor furniture in the “dining room” and college dorm decor didn’t help. Always had great food though. Hoping for a return of Bob and Ediths!

    • TS

      Ditto!

  • John Fontain

    Didn’t there used to be a Roy Roger’s in this location? Hey Plamondon Companies (owners of Roy’s), please bring a location back here!!!

    • http://www.arlnow.com Lauren

      yep over 20 years ago.

      • SteveP

        Probably a little less that that. I used to work from 1994-2000 at a place near the Drafthouse and for the first couple of years I’d occasionally get a breakfast sandwich there on the way in. I think they closed in response to McDonalds buying the chain?

        But yeah, it’s been a long time.

        • FrenchyB

          Yep, I remember going there in the mid-90s as well.

  • Aaron

    Now if only Lost Dog would close, then the cognitive dissonance between “Columbia Pike” and “something good” will be completely eliminated!

    • LuLu

      What’s wrong with Lost Dog?

  • MyHood

    This is sad news. I was just telling the SO that I was craving the fish taco and wanted to head over there next weekend to hang on the patio. Such a loss.

  • Dawn

    Wish the food trucks would come back, it was my favorite for lunch.. and then it just stoped coming to Rosslyn.

  • chihuahua

    I went there the first week they opened. I was impressed with the refurbishment & decolletage. Location not too bad.

    I did not go back a second time because the one thing I had– a banh mi – was nasty. It was 3 times the price of a normal banh mi, had no resemblance in taste or look to a banh mi. If I remember correctly, it was a pita-like bread with chunks of pork in a sauce. And no greens. Why call it a banh mi? I took one bite and threw away the rest. Shook my head everytime I passed by the almost empty parking lot every few weeks or so…

    • Trevor

      I think you need to look up the word “decolletage”.

      • chihuahua

        ok, you’re right about, but you don’t know for sure if I wasn’t referring to a female order taker’s manner of dress on the day I entreed Sauca.

        • Trevor

          I was hoping you were – any chance you got a pic?

          • chihuahua

            of the Sauca employee – what for? so you can banh mi?

          • Arlingtonian

            lmao

          • other side of the river

            +1

  • LuLu

    I wish Bob & Edith’s would move back in there!

  • http://www.arlnow.com Lauren

    why do folks like Bob & Edith’s? The few times I have eaten there the food did not impress me. I remember one time my toast was burned. The lines were also long. So what’s the deal???

    • Jacob and Emma Stoltzfus

      Scrapple.

  • Joan

    Where was Arlington’s Economic Development Office, CPRO, Chamber of Commerce, etc? How about the Chef who does restaurant makeovers of the Discovery Channel? I am tired of seeing one minority-owned restaurant after another fail.

    • Quoth the Raven

      Should the restaurant have been subsidized? Is that your suggestion?

    • Larry the Table Guy

      What is the problem that you see that needs to be fixed? Why should an otherwise non-viable business plan survive simply because it is implemented by a minority?

  • Newsy Mom

    No surprise – prices were higher than expected for a place like that, and honestly, that decor was very odd if you ask me. Seemed like more nightclub/after hours decor in a diner like setting. Should have just stuck to the basics to attract the neighborhood crowds that are already here.

  • ShirlingtonBF

    That location must suck. Bob & Edith’s tried and closed also…..

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