The new Sweet Leaf Cafe in Courthouse quietly opened its doors this past weekend and handed out free food to customers who stopped in. Now, the restaurant is officially open for business.
Sweet Leaf Cafe moved in at 2200 Wilson Blvd, formerly occupied by Hikaru Sushi. It is the third location, with others in McLean and Vienna. Owner Arita Matini said she’s been wanting to expand into Arlington for a while.
“I love the young environment here, it’s so refreshing,” she said.
Matini believes the cafe stands out because it doesn’t specialize in just one food item. Customers can pick up a little bit of everything, including sandwiches, smoothies, coffee or all day breakfast items. There is also a kids menu and a variety of freshly baked treats.
“We try to do a little bit of everything but also try to keep it simple. We care about providing really good quality food and being part of the community,” said Matini. “Customer service is really big for me. I want to be sure that everyone who comes in is really happy when they leave.”
Matini grew up in Northern Virginia and was an interior design major at Marymount University. She was inspired to get into the restaurant business during her commute to and from Marymount because she felt there were too many chain restaurants in the area. She sought help from her mom, who owns Sweet Stuff in McLean. Matini says all the members of her family now play some role at Sweet Leaf Cafe.
“It wasn’t really something that we thought we were going to do, it was one of those things that kind of just happened. We all loved it and it was successful and we wanted to open another one,” said Matini. “My parents definitely helped me out. Without them, this probably wouldn’t have happened.”
From the couches in the lounge area to the doorknobs functioning as coat hooks to the pieces of an old chicken coop serving as a holder for bags of chips, Matini’s interior design education shows through. She travels around the area searching for unique antiques to adorn the restaurant. She describes the vibe as “farm fresh, country, like your mother’s home.” The free sunflower seeds placed on the table for customers to munch on also add to the country feel.
If things go well with the new location, Matini would like to expand into other areas of Arlington, such as Rosslyn. She hopes to have a grand opening celebration in a few weeks. Until then, the staff will continue serving the curious customers who have been steadily coming in.
“It’s been a good welcome to the neighborhood,” said Matini. “Everybody’s been really nice and welcoming.”
Little City Gourmet, a new restaurant and coffee shop in the East Falls Church neighborhood, is slated to hold its Grand Opening on April 15.
Located in The Crescent building at 2121 N. Westmoreland Street, three blocks from the East Falls Church Metro station and a block from the W&OD Trail, the cafe will fill a void in the neighborhood left by the closing of Bear Rock Cafe.
“Little City Gourmet will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner — with specialized kids’ menus — as well as specialty desserts,” the restaurant said in a press release. “Illy coffee, fine wines and craft beers will also be offered. The café will offer dine-in seating for approximately 20, with outdoor sidewalk seating available as well.”
Executive Chef and owner Rachelle Slotnick says the cafe will emphasize its food menu.
“Much of the food will be made daily on-site or sourced from our local business partners,” she said. “We will offer a range of meal options for our guests, from ‘grab and go’ meals for take-out or eat-in, to a chef-selected ‘daily dinner’ that can be pre-ordered online and taken home, to tapas-style dinners for groups looking to share a leisurely meal at our café.”
Little City Gourmet will be open Monday to Friday from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Free Wi-Fi and free garage parking will be offered.
Photos courtesy Little City Gourmet
Building permits are up at the former Hikaru Sushi space at 2200 Wilson Blvd, one block from the Courthouse Metro. At that location, Sweet Leaf will be competing with a nearby Starbucks and Java Shack for cafe customers, but will fill something of a salad void following the closure of Rabbit Salad and Grill in Clarendon.
Sweet Leaf’s menu includes breakfast items, sandwiches, salads, ice cream, frozen yogurt, cupcakes and other pastries, tea, coffee and espresso drinks.
Owned by Arita and Andre Matini, Sweat Leaf Cafe first opened in McLean when the siblings were just 22 and 27, according to the restaurant’s website. The Vienna location opened in 2011.
One local business owner, who didn’t want his name used for this article, lauded Sweet Leaf and its owners.
“I think it will be f–king awesome for this neighborhood,” he said. “That’s one of the places we need around here, I think it’s great news and they’re really great people.”
The Ballston location of the Marvelous Market, a small regional chain of gourmet food stores/cafes, has closed permanently.
Located at 888 N. Quincy Street, the store closed its doors for good on Monday, a tipster said. The contents of the store — including tables, signs, sinks, appliances and electronics — were promptly put up for auction.
The store was owned by a independent franchisee, not the chain’s parent company, according to Ryland Johnson, the director of operations for the Marvelous Market. There are currently 5 company-owned stores and 2 franchise stores open in the D.C. area, he said.
Johnson declined further comment.
The Ballston store is not the only Marvelous Market location to close recently. A McLean location closed in March, a Reston location and a Tenlytown (D.C.) location closed last year, and today it was revealed that the chain’s Capitol Hill franchise has severed ties with the company and reopened as “The Silver Spork.”
According to the company’s web site, the Ballston location was the last remaining Marvelous Market in Virginia.
Hat tip to @zippychance
Arax Cafe (5852 Washington Blvd) in the Westover neighborhood has closed its doors for good.
A sign in the window of the now-empty coffee shop reads: “To our extended family… we are sorry to announce we are closing at the end of the month. Thank you for 11 fabulous years!”
Arax Cafe enjoyed generally positive reviews on Yelp, where patrons raved about the shop’s Armenian specialties, including pastries and meat pies.
Hat tip to Megan F.
Senor Pan opened its doors yesterday at 922 S. Walter Reed Drive. The South American bakery/cafe serves specialty baked goods and coffee, as well as a variety of other dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The menu includes breakfast sandwiches, empanadas, pupusas, and quesadillas. There are sides like fried yucca and fried plantain. And there’s a hot bar where you choose a meat and various toppings and place it either in an arepa, tostada, tortilla, pita, salad bowl or rice bowl.
While Senor Pan is primarily South American, there are other culinary influences at work. Co-owner Andres Vives brings and Italian influence to the restaurant, and Senor Pan’s pastry chef — who hails from France — brings a French influence.
Senor Pan will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Cafe Wilson (3033 Wilson Blvd) closed up shop on Friday.
The cafe and deli was noted for its vegan sandwich options and its close proximity to the Clarendon Metro station.
The cafe’s owner told ARLnow.com that she was not given the option of renewing her lease, though she would have liked to. The owner, who declined to give her name, said she hopes to reopen at some point in a different location on Wilson Boulevard.
After about eight years in business as Greenberry’s, the new owner of the coffee shop between Rosslyn and Clarendon has decided to go “indie.” Out is the Charlottesville franchise that just won a “Best of NoVA” award in the latest issue of Northern Virginia Magazine. In is “Bean Good: The Coffee Pub,” a brand of owner Shain Noorali’s own creation.
Without the legal constraints of a franchise, says Noorali, the cafe will be able to offer more items, including locally-roasted coffee, locally-sourced food and, of course, beer and wine.
“It gives us the freedom to do things we wanted to do,” said the McLean resident, who grew up on a coffee farm in Tanzania.
Later this summer Noorali expects to introduce new desserts — gelato and cupcakes are both possibilities. Then this fall she expects the license to come through to serve beer and wine. At some point Noorali also hopes to introduce live entertainment — local musicians, mostly.
While the name has changed and new offerings are being added, Noorali — who has owned the store for a couple months now — says that the low-key vibe will remain.
“There are not going to be any drastic changes… we’re not going to change the culture of this place,” she said. “We really want this to be a place where everyone feels comfortable… a living room away from home.”
H/t to Lauren Hassel
You don’t typically expect to find anything of any culinary significance between a hair salon, a check cashing store and a Goodwill outlet, but Cafe Sazon (4704 Columbia Pike) may be the exception to the rule.
Sazon means “seasoning” in Spanish, which is a good way to describe the contrast of the cafe’s smartly-decorated interior to the rather drab section of Columbia Pike outside its windows. Open since January, Cafe Sazon specializes in South and Central American food and baked goods, with a few American items thrown into the mix.
Co-owner Adriana Torres, who has not left the area since she moved from Bolivia to this section of the Pike as a seven-year-old kid, says that business has started out slow but is picking up. Thanks to a favorable mention on the “22204″ email listserv, she says her customer base — primarily Hispanic — has gotten a bit more diverse lately.
Cafe Sazon is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and has items on the menu for all three meals. There are omelettes, freshly-baked pastries (made by an in-house baker), fajitas, soups, salads, and daily specials. On the drink menu is coffee, trea, cappuccino, Latin American sodas and Api Morado, a surprisingly delicious Bolivian specialty made with boiled red corn and “zest.”
The cafe offers free WiFi. Torres says she’ll soon be opening the restaurant’s basement for movie screenings and special events.
Update at 6:40 p.m. — Bayou Bakery is experiencing a delay in getting its Certificate of Occupancy, according to spokesperson Simone Rathle. That may force the hoped-for Thursday opening to be pushed back.
If the food and coffee at David Guas’ new Bayou Bakery taste half as good as the place looks, the bakery may very well be on track to being Courthouse’s favorite hang out.
The elaborately-decorated, Louisiana-themed cafe is expected to open at some point on Thursday, according to Guas. An exact opening time hasn’t been chosen, but the doors could be unlocked as early as 7:00 a.m.
Guas isn’t thrilled with comparisons to Northside Social — the Clarendon cafe was originally supposed to be Bayou Bakery before a disagreement between Guas and his business partners prompted them to open as Northside instead — but Bayou Bakery has the same general business plan: coffee, beer, wine and food in a comfortable, social environment.
What sets Bayou Bakery apart is the focus on the Louisiana theme. Guas, who was born and raised in New Orleans, has filled the space with music, art and knick-knacks that give Bayou Bakery an unmistakable and authentic sense of place. And if the aesthetics don’t let you escape the neighborhood’s urban, workaday surroundings for just a moment, the menu is sure to do the job.
Beignets, gumbo, Andouille sausage, chilled Gulf shrimp, spiced pecans — and even a salty caramel popcorn mixed with pieces of bacon — all promise to satisfy discerning Cajun palates. Localists will be heartened to know that despite the cafe’s Louisiana theme, many of the ingredients will be locally-sourced.
The food menu is more extensive than Northside, but the coffee program is much the same. Guas said it was his intention to serve Counter Culture coffee from the beginning, and he’s not letting Northside’s devotion to Counter Culture change his admiration for the company and its product. One unique twist will be Bayou Bakery’s French-pressed chicory coffee, which is blended in-house using a custom Counter Culture roast and imported chicory.
Bayou Bakery will initially feature one draft beer — Abita Amber, naturally — and six bottled beers, including four other varieties of Abita. There will be eight wines by the glass, including an ice wine.
Guas, a big fan of root beer, will start with three different varieties. He plans to eventually serve eight to ten types of root beer. Luzianne sweet tea, homemade lemonade, Trickling Springs milk, Boyland’s Vintage Soda, and Virginia-bottled Aquava mineral water are also on the drink menu.
Bayou Bakery is expected to get its certificate of occupancy today, the last regulatory step before opening. Guas says the cafe, which includes a comfy lounge with a flat-screen TV, should seat about 60. This spring, the bakery plans to open a sidewalk cafe with seating for another 30.
If you’re in Clarendon tomorrow night, and you find yourself wondering where the smell of barbeque is coming from, look no further than the big red building at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and Fairfax Drive.
Northside Social will be smoking not one but two pigs on its patio tomorrow, part of the cafe’s inaugural “Pigtoberfest.” The pork will be accompanied by side dishes and several rare Octoberfest beers and pumpkin ales.
The event starts at 6:30 p.m. and costs $35 per person plus tax and tip. Weather-permitting, outdoor seating will be available.
Call 703-465-0145 to make a reservation.
Last month we reported that the Bear Rock Cafe in Westlee had closed as the first step in a change in ownership. Now the Shirlington location has closed as well, and we’re told both will be shuttered for good.
The phone number for the Westlee location has been disconnected. The phone at the Shirlington location was answered by an employee who said both locations were closed permanently. When we asked to speak with the owner, the person on the other line hung up the phone.
It’s not immediately clear why the owners decided to close up shop. However, in recent months Yelp reviewers reported that the Shirlington location was regularly running out of menu items, a likely sign of economic distress.
“I liked the place,” said Alana Foster, who was dining outside at Busboys and Poets after discovering that Bear Rock’s doors were locked. She said she appreciated the cafe’s free Wi-Fi, the relatively low prices (compared to Busboys) and the electrical outlets for laptops under every booth.
“I’m sorry to see it go,” she said.
The Bear Rock Cafe at Lee Highway and Westmoreland Street is closed indefinitely while the store undergoes a change of ownership, we’re told.
A sign on the door said the cafe is “closed for the day,” but a woman who came to the door to accept a delivery said she did not know when it would reopen. The store has been closed for at least two days.
Reviews on Yelp have been sharply critical of the previous owner. It’s not clear who the new owner is.
Big news. The space in Courthouse once occupied by the late, lamented Camille’s Sidewalk Cafe has a new tenant.
Culinary consultant and cookbook creator David Guas is planning on bringing a Louisiana-inspired “community bakery cafe and coffee house” to the space at 1515 North Courthouse Road, and he has applied for a liquor license to boot.
We’re working on gathering the details about the forthcoming Bayou Bakery, but suffice to say the name alone sounds mouthwatering.
Bayou Bakery just applied for a license to serve wine and beer. The form describes the restaurant of having a seating capacity between 1 and 100, which doesn’t really narrow it down much.
More info when we get it.
Update at 9:45 a.m. — As a commenter points out, Bayou Bakery was originally supposed to be the concept behind Northside Social. But a partnership between Guas and the owners of Liberty Tavern eventually dissolved, leading the Liberty Tavern folks to develop their own concept. Guas has been looking for a new space ever since.
Update at 11:15 a.m. — A representative of Bayou Bakery points out that the logo used for this story is an old one and will likely not be used for the new location.
A big, big thanks to @jamesp326 for the tip.