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by Ethan Rothstein — March 13, 2015 at 11:30 am 4,908 0

Clarendon’s newest watering hole will be open to the public this weekend, serving tacos, Tecate and plenty of tequila.

Don Tito will open to the public in the former Eventide space at 3165 Wilson Blvd this Sunday starting at 5:00 p.m. It will be considered a “soft opening” as the staff “works the kinks out,” co-owner Scott Parker said as he gave ARLnow.com a tour of the space yesterday.

The three-story restaurant, including two large indoor bars and a roof deck with views of Washington, D.C. and Ballston, is owned by the same group that owns A-Town Bar and Grill in Ballston.

We’re absolutely over-the-moon thrilled to open,” Parker said. “We hope that Don Tito brings a place where people of all ages can enjoy great Mexican-American fusion [cuisine] by my partner Mike, while at the same time being somewhere people can love to have a few drinks.”

Drinks will not be in short supply, with more than 60 types of tequila and a margarita list that includes “The Don,” a $59 concoction of Don Julio 1942 tequila, housemade sour mix, orange juice and Grand Marnier Cuvée de Centenaire, which comes in a take-home Don Tito glass. There are 14 beers on tap at $6 each, save for the $5 Miller Lite.

The restaurant offers 14 different tacos, including a surf and turf, a tuna with avocado and a Chinese five-spice pork taco. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Parker plans to make tacos half-price.

by ARLnow.com — March 13, 2015 at 10:40 am 1,588 0

Red Top Cab's surface parking lot on N. Irving Street(Updated at 12:50 p.m.) Red Top Cab may be considering selling its headquarters in Clarendon, but it’s not considering ending its service in Arlington, company officials say.

Red Top has signed a purchase agreement with a developer for its properties on Washington Blvd and N. Hudson Street, the Washington Business Journal reported. While that article said Red Top’s future was “unclear” — the reporter was not able to talk to a Red Top rep before publication – Director of Sales and Marketing Von Pelot says the company’s future is secure, even in the age of Uber.

“I was reminded of the words of Mark Twain when his obituary was prematurely published, ‘Reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated,’” Pelot said via email. “Our recent development and introduction of the Red Top Select app which provides our customers with the convenience of booking, tracking, and paying for their ride through their mobile phone, is an example of our continuing commitment to our customers and our community.”

“Red Top Cab has served our community for over fifty years and plans to continue to do so,” Pelot continued. “Over the years we have moved our offices from time to time to update our facilities and accommodate a growing staff. Each time careful planning has enabled us to make these moves without any interruption of service to our customers.”

Red Top moved to its N. Hudson Street location in 1970, after its founding in 1964 by Washington-Lee High School graduate Neal Nichols. Before that it had another office in Clarendon, at 10th Street and N. Highland Street. Red Top’s dispatch center moved to a nearby location at 3251 Washington Blvd in 1994, Pelot recounted.

While a redevelopment deal has been struck, with plans to eventually build 584 apartments on Red Top’s property, Pelot said Red Top is staying put for now.

“No move is imminent,” he said. “Planning is very much in the early stages.”

Pelot declined to discuss where Red Top may move its offices next.

“As is often the case in situations such as this, discussions about relocating our facilities are governed by rules of confidentiality and I can only tell you that we plan to continue to provide service to our Arlington community,” he said.

Disclosure: Red Top Cab is an ARLnow.com advertiser.

by Ethan Rothstein — March 12, 2015 at 3:00 pm 6,233 0

A Chinese restaurateur with a cult following will open his first restaurant in Arlington in two days.

Oriental Gourmet in the Lee-Harrison Shopping Center just closed this month, but chef Peter Chang‘s team is full steam ahead in trying to transform the space into Peter Chang Arlington, set for a soft opening at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday.

Chang got his start in the U.S. cooking at the Chinese Embassy before serving his speciality, Szechuan cuisine, at little-known China Star on Main Street in the city of Fairfax. He moved around Northern Virginia to a restaurant in Alexandria and back to Fairfax, before moving to Georgia, picking up devoted followings in each area.

Chang’s followers are so devoted, and his nomadic tendencies so consistent, that a lengthy New Yorker magazine profile was devoted to them — despite Chang having never opened a restaurant north of the Mason Dixon line.

Recently, he’s started opening up Peter Chang restaurants in areas of Virginia farther south, starting with Charlottesville, Richmond, Williamsburg and Fredericksburg. Chang’s daughter, Lydia, said “Everyone is excited” for her father’s return to his Northern Virginia roots.

“We’re here to provide amazing, authentic Chinese cuisine,” Lydia Chang told ARLnow.com in the under-renovation restaurant space this morning. “Peter loves Northern Virginia and he knows there are a lot of people who appreciate authentic Chinese cuisine. He’s just here to do it right.”

Doing it right means a sit-down Chinese restaurant serving more than 100 menu items, including many of the dishes that have grown Chang’s following: dry-fried eggplant, duck in stone pot and pan-fried steamed pork belly. Lydia Chang said, if he wanted, her father “can create hundreds of different menu items.”

Restaurant openings, especially in Arlington, are notoriously fraught with long delays, often being pushed back months, even years. Some may be taken aback at how quickly Chang plans to open — just a week or two after the closing of Oriental Gourmet —  but blazing his own path is nothing new for the mercurial chef.

“It’s not anybody else who wants to do this, it’s Peter’s decision,” Lydia Chang said. Pushing back the opening “is not our style. We’ve been talking about Northern Virginia for years. He’s always wanted to come back.”

The soft opening and early weeks will determine Peter Chang Arlington’s hours, Chang said. The restaurant is planning a grand opening Wednesday, March 18.

by ARLnow.com — March 12, 2015 at 11:30 am 913 0

Tuckahoe Park field renovation plan

The Arlington County is planning renovations at Tuckahoe Park (2400 N. Sycamore Street).

The county’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation has scheduled an open house later this month to discuss the plans and solicit community feedback. The open house will take place from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 26 in the Tuckahoe Elementary School library.

The parks department says the renovations, planned for 2016, will focus on the park’s two softball fields.

“Renovations include the spectator and players’ bench areas, bullpens and batting cages, and improved access to the fields for people with disabilities,” the department said in an email. In addition, the renovations will allow the combined natural turf outfields of the two softball diamonds to be used as a soccer field.

A separate, previous improvement project for Tuckahoe Park’s playground was approved by the County Board in 2013.

by ARLnow.com — March 12, 2015 at 10:30 am 8,434 0

Bob and Edith’s Diner, the iconic 24-hour eatery on Columbia Pike, is expanding with two new locations, including one in Crystal City that’s expected to open later this month.

Bob and Edith’s has taken over the space vacated by the former Cesar’s Diner, at 539 23rd Street S., after the end of February. Owner Greg Bolton says he hopes to open a new 24-hour Bob and Edith’s location there, serving the same diner fare as the Pike location, by March 25.

“Same menu, everything’s the same,” said Bolton. The new Crystal City location will have 20 booths, while the original has 17.

Bolton said he’s been eyeing the location — which is within easy walking distance of huge office and apartment buildings, not to mention hundreds of hotel rooms – for 10-12 years, but it only recently “dropped in my lap.”

“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “This place is a gold mine.”

Bolton and colleagues have been busy thoroughly cleaning the interior and preparing to install new equipment, including new grills, refrigerators and a new counter. Much of the diner, including its blue booths and its gleaming metal exterior, will remain. Bolton said he’s also planning on taking advantage of the outdoor seating area in front of the diner, when the weather allows.

The Crystal City location is the first of two new locations Bolton is planning to open this spring, after years of running Bob and Edith’s as just one single diner. Another location, in the former Tommy Thai restaurant at Springfield Plaza in Springfield — “next to the Christian store,” Bolton noted — is expected to open as soon as April.

Bolton said he’s expanding “more for my kids than myself.” The Pike diner was first opened by Bolton’s parents, Robert and Edith, in 1969. It’s remained a family affair ever since, with Bolton, his wife Victoria and more recently his two children, Tammy and Chris, helping to run the restaurant alongside a couple of close family friends.

“I can go to the Gulf and [water] ski and play golf all day long, you don’t have to tell me twice,” Bolton said. “But I want to set them on another level.”

There was a second Bob and Edith’s location for a while, situated on Columbia Pike a mile and a half west of the original, but it closed in 2007. Bolton explained that it ultimately just wasn’t a good fit.

“It was just too big, it was really more of a restaurant, I felt, not a diner,” he told ARLnow.com. “I just sold it, put a few dollars in the bank, and moved on.”

The former restaurant is now slated to be torn down and replaced with a four story condo building.

As for whether Bob and Edith’s might take advantage of the Crystal City nightlife and start serving beer, Bolton didn’t hesitate with his answer.

“No liquor, just a real diner,” he said. “I don’t want the responsibility, to be honest with you. There’s enough responsibility just running a business 24 hours.”

Bolton said he’s perfectly content to let other bar owners on 23rd Street serve the booze.

“They get them drunk and I’ll sober them up,” he said.

by Ethan Rothstein — March 11, 2015 at 5:30 pm 1,471 0

A new exhibit at Crystal City’s Gallery Underground, in the shops at 2100 Crystal Drive, might hit too close too home for some new parents.

Screaming Babies” is a solo exhibit by artist Linda Lowery on display now in the free and open art space. Lowery has been drawing infants in states of “raw emotion” for years, in myriad colors, sizes and methods.

“The pain and discomfort depicted in these portraits is a metaphor for the pain and discomfort we experience all of our lives,” Lowery said about her works. “When we see a picture of an infant crying, we identify with the baby’s pain or feelings of abandonment and insecurity and fright.”

The pieces are all available for purchase. The exhibit will run until Saturday, March 28

by Ethan Rothstein — March 11, 2015 at 2:30 pm 2,569 0

RA Sushi roll (photo via Facebook)RA Sushi, a Japanese restaurant chain owned by Benihana, appears on its way to move into 3001 Washington Blvd in Clarendon.

The location would be RA Sushi’s first in Virginia. The chain’s closest restaurant, in Baltimore, has a seven-page menu and offers hand rolls for $5.50 and specialty rolls from $8.50 to its king crab roll for $17. It also sells sake and sake bombs, as well as a list of cocktails, beer and wine.

The restaurant is hoping to add an outdoor cafe along Washington Blvd, but county staff have deferred their recommendation due to concerns about the width of the sidewalk.

RA Sushi would be yet another new business in the large new office building, following Citizen Burger Bar, Cherry Blow Dry Bar and Pure Barre. A Peets Coffee & Tea is under construction at the corner of Washington Blvd and N. Highland Street

We’re told that the chain has yet to sign a lease, but talks have been going on for some time.

Photo via Facebook

by Ethan Rothstein — March 10, 2015 at 1:00 pm 1,221 0

House of Mandi goes into the former Sultana Grill space in BluemontSultana Grill, the Moroccan restaurant in Bluemont that closed, then reopened, then closed for good last year, could soon be replaced.

Sultana’s sign is gone, and in its place is a sign for “House of Mandi Middle Eastern Grill.” The phone number has been removed from the windows, which are covered in paper.

When Sultana first closed its storefront at 5515 Wilson Blvd, next door to Arlington Pharmacy, some suspected it was due to a lack of any alcohol being served, including beer and wine. When it reopened, the new management dismissed that as the reason. According to our tipster, it closed for good a few months ago.

It’s unclear when House of Mandi will open. It does not have an active application with the state Alcohol Beverage Control Board.

Hat tip to Daniel Manchester

by Ethan Rothstein — March 10, 2015 at 11:40 am 4,075 0

(Updated at 12:10 p.m.) The wait to try the winner of last year’s Ballston Restaurant Challenge is over: SER, the traditional Spanish restaurant, is open for business.

Serving dishes from every region of Spain, chef and co-owner Josu Zubikarai doesn’t shy away from the idea that only “foodies” might try certain items from his menu, like the Txipirones — squid in its ink, tentacles and all.

“Spain is less than half the size of Texas, but the variety of food is incredible,” Zubikarai said from his resturant at 1110 N. Glebe Road yesterday. He’ll cook up baby eels, octopus and barnacles. “I love barnacles and the baby eels are very good, but I know not everyone will order them.”

While some of the dishes suit the more adventurous, the chef who founded D.C.’s La Taberna del Alabardero 26 years ago is also happy to offer up Spanish crowd pleasers like six different kinds of paella, including seafood, duck and rabbit. He’s especially proud of his bacalao al pilpil, a traditional Spanish cod dish made in a salt and olive oil emulsion.

SER — which is both the Spanish word for  “to be,” and an acronym for “Simple. Easy. Real.” — is in the midst of a soft opening the next two days, offering 20 percent off all food. Thursday will be the restaurant’s grand opening. SER will only open for dinner, at 5:00 p.m., until Monday, March 16, when it will start serving lunch at 11:00 a.m.

Happy hour is every day from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the bar, which also features an extensive list of cocktails, three different sangria options and eight different sherries.

Customers will not only be able to enjoy Zubikarai’s traditional seafood options, but they can also order plates of Spanish charcuterie and a “cochinillo,” which is a roasted suckling pig and serves up to three people for $58. It’s safe to say there are not many restaurants in Arlington offering such dishes.

The bold menu is partly a representation of the special circumstance SER — which is co-owned by Javier Candon, whose wife, Christiana, is “the face” of the business — finds itself in. As the winner of the Restaurant Challenge, after the other finalist, D.C. chef Victor Albisu, dropped out, the restaurant was given a year of free rent and an interest-free, $250,000 loan. SER can afford to find a customer base without having to compromise with a more broadly appealing menu.

That’s music to Zubikarai’s ears, because he reminisces about the days back in Spain when restaurant critics wouldn’t write about an establishment until it had been open at least three years.

“In Spain, people love bullfighting and they say a restaurant is like a bull: it has to be 4 or 5 years old before it’s ready to fight,” he said. “With the year of free rent, we can hire more people, spend that money on training and have much more opportunity to find customers.”

by Ethan Rothstein — March 5, 2015 at 10:30 am 4,860 0

Sledding at H-B Woodlawn (Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin

(Updated at 10:45 a.m.) The snow has started falling and the schools are closed, which means it’s time for winter frolicking.

For some, that means staying in, drinking hot cocoa and catching up on Netflix. For others around Arlington, that means throwing on some snow pants and boots, grabbing a sled and taking to a nearby hill for sledding.

We compiled a list of favorite sledding destinations around Arlington, asking Twitter followers for recommendations and compiling some others from memory and from around the web.

Here is a list of spots around Arlington, both north and south, for everyone who loves sliding down hills on plastic projectiles.

  • H-B Woodlawn — 4100 Vacation Lane, always a popular spot and lends itself to some hangtime in the air (pictured above)
  • Reeves Farmhouse – 400 N. Manchester Street, the hill leading down to Bluemont Park has been popular for years
  • RiverHouse Apartments — Corner of Army Navy Drive and S. Lynn Street, the hill leading down to the pool
  • Jamestown Elementary — 3700 N. Delaware Street, “around back by the tennis courts of Jamestown ES, around front by the staff parking lot for younger ones” (@zippychance)
  • Virginia Hospital Center Urgent Care — 601 S. Carlin Springs Road, in the back (@John_Wallll)
  • Dept. of Human Services headquarters – 2100 Washington Blvd, near Route 50 (@ingrid28)
  • Southgate Road — “By the Air Force Memorial” (@matthewhurtt)
  • U.S. Marine Corps Memorial – Near Rosslyn (Reddit)
  • Tuckahoe Elementary — 6550 26th Street N., the field next to the school (@dmgalvao)
  • Columbia Commons — 5100 8th Road S., “in the back of building 5100″ (Reddit)
  • Lubber Run Community Center — 300 N. Park Drive, “the hill behind the playground … Very steep!” (Reddit)
  • McKinley Elementary School — 1030 N. McKinley Road (@sophiepyle)
  • Reed School1644 N. McKinley Road (All Around Arlington)
  • S. Hayes Street — from Fort Scott Drive to 25th Street S., “if the snow was especially fast — all the way to 24th Street. An absolutely amazing hill without exaggeration.” (Reddit)
  • Nottingham Elementary — 5900 Little Falls Road (Reddit)
  • Ashlawn Elementary — 5980 8th Road N., the park behind the school (All Around Arlington)

Did your favorite spot get left off the list? Any recommendations on the best of the best? Tell us in the comments about your favorite sledding hills in the county.

Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin

by Ethan Rothstein — March 3, 2015 at 6:05 pm 9,583 0

Chasin' Tails co-owners Terrell Wilbourn and Au DangTen months after first-time restaurateurs Au, Di and Hac Dang, Terrell Wilbourn and their three other partners opened Chasin’ Tails in Westlee, they weren’t sure they’d be in business much longer.

“We thought it was over,” Wilbourn admitted. He said he would have gone back in time and told himself, “Don’t open a restaurant. Just don’t do it.”

That was back in February 2013. A bumpy opening in April 2012 didn’t stop customers from coming in all summer, but once the winter rolled around, the Cajun seafood restaurant whose mantra is “No Plates. No Forks. No Rules.” started struggling to fill tables. Waiters were getting antsy because they would work six-hour shifts and make less than $30 in some cases. Things were looking bleak.

“That winter was brutal,” Au Dang said. “The honeymoon period was over. We weren’t getting the same amount of customers. We knew things weren’t going well.”

The ownership group didn’t do themselves many favors. When they opened, some menu items took more than an hour to be prepared. The veteran general manager the restaurant newcomers hired to help guide them was fired after two months because he didn’t fit. Dang remembers giving a customer a free lobster meal after it had come out late. The customer took to Yelp to blast him, saying he didn’t know what he was doing giving away free lobsters.

“We tried to do whatever we could to make customers happy,” Dang said. It didn’t matter; Chasin’ Tails was floundering. “We took responsibility. It was our fault. It’s our job to make the experience as good as possible.”

The Chasin' Tails ownership group (photo courtesy Au Dang)Then, spring hit. Any restaurant specializing in replicating Louisiana crawfish boils, complete with paper tablecloths, corn on the cob and seafood bibs is destined for a slower winter season. Customers started to come back. Prep times shrank from an unacceptable 45 minutes or more to a reliable 15-20 minutes.

Next month, Chasin’ Tails will celebrate its three-year anniversary. The business is doing well enough that the owners are launching three spin-off restaurants in Northern Virginia, including another Chasin’ Tails in Centreville.

“Everything’s painful at first,” Wilbourn said today, sitting down with ARLnow.com in the restaurant at 2200 N. Westmoreland Street. “Like riding a bike or overcoming a social anxiety. I know it’s a cliché, but it gets better.”

That’s not always the case in the restaurant business. Chasin’ Tails defied low expectations of its lifespan when it opened. Dang said he reads Yelp reviews every day and early on, they were “destroying us,” he said. “But it was all true.”

“Great food and very cool set up,” one Yelper wrote in May 2012. “Worst service I have had in years.”

“Overall, the food is good,” another reviewer wrote that month. “The downside is the service. Our server was very nice but he placed our order and then entered the witness relocation program.”

Fast-forward three years, and Chasin’ Tails has an average four-star rating, and most of the recent reviews are five stars. The restaurant, which opens only for dinner on weeknights and at noon on weekends, is so busy that a reservation is considered a must, unless one has at least a half hour to spare. (more…)

by Ethan Rothstein — March 3, 2015 at 4:30 pm 1,493 0

Orangetheory Fitness' future location in BallstonThe second location of Orangetheory Fitness in Arlington is coming to Ballston, just two blocks from the Metro.

After opening in Rosslyn last summer, franchise owner Mark Steverson said the reception has been good enough to expand further in the county.

“We’ve been very busy, but more importantly, the community has really responded well and taken off with the concept of what we do here,” he said. “It’s great to see he community in better shape since we’ve moved in.”

Orangetheory’s next location will be at 4201 Wilson Blvd, in the ground floor of the National Science Foundation’s headquarters.

The space, a former Bank of America branch, is 4,200 square feet, Steverson said, and it will be the largest of Orangetheory’s 180 gyms in the country when it opens this summer.

“The bigger space will allow us to fit more people into a class, while keeping the group personal training feeling,” Steverson said.

Orangetheory specializes in hour-long group interval training workouts that use a combination of treadmills, rowing machines, free weights and a suspension system, monitoring each participants’ heart rate to maximize calorie burn.

While Steverson is prepping for a July opening in Ballston, he’s also looking for a third Orangetheory location in Arlington. He said he has a franchise agreement to open in Crystal City and Pentagon City, and is currently exploring locations. He hopes to open in south Arlington by the end of 2015.

by ARLnow.com — March 2, 2015 at 4:45 pm 4,823 0

Eventide Restaurant in Clarendon (file photo)(Updated at 5:10 p.m.) Don Tito is expected to open next week in Clarendon.

The “tacos, tequila and beer” spot will be opening in the former Eventide space at 3165 Wilson Blvd. Scott Parker, one of five partners in the business, says Don Tito should officially open to the public on Sunday, March 15, with a “soft opening” starting perhaps as soon as Wednesday, March 11.

Interior work is still underway, but should be wrapping up before the soft opening. The establishment’s exterior sign is expected to arrive this coming Thursday.

Parker says Don Tito will be different than A-Town Bar and Grill, the popular but sometimes rowdy Ballston bar that’s owned by the same group.

“[Don Tito] will have more of a lounge feel to it,” Parker said. “It will be a good place to have a good time and drink but it won’t be as much of a party atmosphere.”

He added that Don Tito will have a bit more of an emphasis on food compared to A-Town.

Parker said retrofitting the former Eventide space went “as well as could be expected.” Patrons can expect a “cantina look” inside, with a lot of exposed brick, wood grain and two bars on the rooftop.

The roof will open when the weather allows, he said.

File photo

by ARLnow.com — March 2, 2015 at 1:30 pm 2,977 0

The former Blanca’s Restaurant at 2900 Columbia Pike may be getting a makeover in an attempt to attract a new restaurant tenant.

The aging, two-story structure sits on the corner of Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive, dwarfed by the adjacent Halstead apartment building. It has been vacant for years, despite the high-profile location across from the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse.

In recent years, the building has been toured a couple of times by potential tenants, including the owners of a popular north Arlington coffee shop and gathering spot, but the poor condition of the interior and other expensive challenges have been viewed as obstacles to opening in the space.

Now, we’re told, the siblings who own the building are planning to renovate in order to jump start the process of finding a tenant. Since December, Ramon and William Darcey have been applying for various building, electrical and other permits. So far, most of those permit applications have been rejected.

The permits detail ambitious plans to renovate the interior, expand the second floor, install an exterior staircase, set up a rooftop seating area near the rear of the building and remove landscaping in order to install ground-level outdoor seating. In September, the county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board was briefed on the plans and offered design suggestions for keeping potentially historic elements of the Spanish Revival-style building in tact.

The building and property was assessed at $765,200 for 2015. Several “for lease” signs have already been placed outside the building and inside its windows.

by Ethan Rothstein — March 2, 2015 at 11:00 am 4,291 0

The future location of Park Lane Tavern on N. Irving Street in Clarendon The future location of Park Lane Tavern on N. Irving Street in Clarendon

A tavern serving European dishes, European beers with imported European furniture and European lighting fixtures plans to open in Clarendon this summer.

Park Lane Tavern has leased space at 1200 N. Irving Street, in the new Beacon at Clarendon apartment building. Owner Greg Knox said the third location of his restaurant — following openings in Hampton and Fredericksburg farther south — will be 5,000 square feet and unlike anything else in the neighborhood.

“I think it’s going to be pretty unique in that area,” Knox said. “There are a lot of quality places up there, but we’re going to stand out a little bit.”

All of the décor is imported from Europe and the menu items read like a tour through a culinary travel magazine — there’s fish and chips, Jagerschnitzel, salmon beurré blanc, bangers and mash, florentine stuffed mushrooms and pizza. Park Lane will serve a variety of European craft beer and have a “very extensive, high-end scotch and bourbon section.”

“We don’t call it a gastropub, but that’s what most people would identify it as,” Knox said.

Knox said Park Lane Tavern plans to open by August or September.

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