Ben’s Chili Bowl Coming to DCA — Just a week after announcing the opening of a new location in Rosslyn, the owners of the iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl in D.C. say they’ll open a location at Reagan National Airport next year. It’s part of an effort by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to revamp the concessions offerings at local airports. Legal Sea Foods and Pinkberry will join Ben’s, along with a Spanx outlet. [Washington Post]
Panhandler Helps Solve Missing Dog Mystery — A long-time Arlington panhandler has helped a local woman solve the mystery of her missing dog. Laurie Nakamoto had searched for her missing dog, Ms. Winter, since July and it led her to Glen Hilbrand, who has staked out a median near the East Falls Church Metro for about 18 years. Hilbrand had seen Nakamoto’s deceased dog in the road, and removed it so cars wouldn’t continue to run over it. Nakamoto says it gave her a sense of closure to hear from Hilbrand what happened to her pet. Hilbrand attended the memorial service Nakamoto held for her dog. [Washington Post]
Doorways for Women and Families Raises $180,000 — At its 35th Anniversary Brighter Futures Breakfast last week, Doorways for Women and Families raised $180,000. Doorways helps local people affected by domestic violence and homelessness. Since opening its first emergency shelter in 1982, Doorways has provided shelter for more than 3,200 women, men and children.
O.C. Donut Store May be Coming to Arlington — The Fractured Prune, an Ocean City institution known for its hot, hand-dipped, homemade donuts, is expanding to the Washington area. The company is looking at Arlington as a possible location for a new store. [Washington Business Journal]
National Merit Semifinalists Announced — Eighteen Arlington Public Schools students have earned the honor of being named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. The semifinalists include 4 students from H-B Woodlawn, 9 students from Washington-Lee, 2 students from Yorktown and 3 students who are attending Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. [Arlington Public Schools]
O’Connell Impresses on the Gridiron — Bishop O’Connell High Schools’s football team is 2-1 after three games, and the Washington Post writes that the team has “turned some heads with their high-octane offense and stout defensive effort.” [Washington Post]
A spinoff of the recently opened Kapnos will occupy a space at 4000 Wilson Blvd in Ballston, which is the Liberty Center South development. That’s the development where Taylor Gourmet will go in as well, as announced earlier this summer.
Kapnos Taverna will feature the same types of Northern Greek inspired fare found at Kapnos. Unlike the D.C. location, the Ballston restaurant will offer weekday lunch, weekend brunch and a happy hour menu.
“Guests have been asking me to build a restaurant in Virginia or Maryland since we opened Graffiato in 2011. Kapnos has been wildly popular in its first few months, and we think this sister concept will be a great addition to the booming neighborhoods in Arlington,” said Isabella in a press release. “Next spring, our team will travel to Greece, and we plan to build the menu around reinterpretations of regional cuisine.”
The 4,700 square foot space will have seating for 185 guests inside, and 40 on the outdoor seasonal patio.
If all goes according to plan, the restaurant is expected to open in summer of 2014.
Ben’s Chili Bowl is hoping to become part of the Arlington community when it comes to Rosslyn early next year, co-owner Nizam Ali said.
Occupying Ray’s Hell Burger’s old space at 1725 Wilson Blvd is a chance to replace a valued piece of the community, Ali told ARLnow.com.
“Ray’s was there, and everyone really valued Ray’s,” he said. “It was a great place, I’m sorry to see it go. It was an opening, and it left kind of a void that people flock to that was local and very special. It seemed like a special attempt to go there.”
The Ali family, which has owned Ben’s at it’s original U Street NW location in D.C. since it opened in 1958, have only begun expanding in the last few years, with new spots in Nationals Park, FedEx Field and the restaurant Ben’s Next Door. The Rosslyn restaurant will be its first “brick and mortar” expansion, Ali said.
“I think in our expansion, there’s so much love for the original Ben’s for many reasons, we hope that that love will continue as we expand,” Ali said. Ben’s is also working to open another spot on H Street NE, but no other concrete expansion plans are in the mix. “These stores are part of testing the waters a little bit.”
The space will be about 1,700 square feet, smaller than the original Ben’s, but Ali said he wants people to walk in and feel like they’re in the same place. However, Rosslyn Chili Bowl customers can hold one thing over the patrons of the original: they can pay with credit cards, Ali said.
Ben’s had previously looked into moving to Clarendon, hearing that it was an ideal spot for its late-night crowd, but couldn’t make a location work. Ben’s in Rosslyn will be open well into the night anyway, Ali said. The U Street store is open until 4:00 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and until 2:00 a.m. Monday-Thursday.
“Our goal is to be available for folks late at night as it’s needed,” he said. “I think it would be good to stay open late as long as we’re not bothering anybody… We’re a family that’s invested in communities, we want to have a community feel. We know we’re entering into a community already, we’re kind of the outsiders coming in, it’s about being respectful.”
The Ali family signed the lease in late August. Nizam Ali said he’d like to be able to open at the beginning of the new year, and hopes to partner with Arlington County to make that a reality. However, he said early 2014 is a safer prediction for when the restaurant will open.
Photo via Facebook
Washington Business Journal has today’s scoop that Ben’s Chili Bowl will be opening a new location in Rosslyn.
The new Ben’s will be located in at 1725 Wilson Blvd, in the former Ray’s Hell Burger space, WBJ reported.
But will the idea of scarfing down a chili half smoke closer to home be enough to drive Arlington residents to the new restaurant? Or is part of Ben’s allure tied to the original U Street NW location — whether it be the location’s history or proximity to popular bars?
After it opens — early next year, according to WBJ’s Rebecca Cooper — which Ben’s Chili Bowl will you be more likely to go to?
Photo via Facebook
Bracket Room, a new upscale sports bar in Clarendon, is planning to open its doors on Thursday, Sept. 5.
The restaurant received its liquor license this week and will be wrapping up interior construction over the next week. Co-owner and reality television star Chris Bukowski says the Bracket Room will distinguish itself from other sports bars in the area by offering a higher-end, “female-friendly” experience, complete with a wide variety of cocktails and shooters and higher-quality food.
“What’s going to separate us any every other sports bar is our food,” Bukowski told ARLnow.com. “We have put in the most effort into our food. It’s not going to be your typical bar food… that’s what’s going to bring people back.”
Bracket Room chef Roland Kator, a personal friend of Bukowski who formerly worked at restaurants in Las Vegas and Chicago, including celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill, has helped design a menu that includes both bar favorites and slightly more adventurous fare. Pizza, burgers and tacos are available, as is ceviche, Maine lobster and a “superfoods salad.”
Lined with flat screen TVs and wood paneling, the bar’s modern interior suggests a lounge more akin to Las Vegas than Arlington, which is what Bukowski was aiming for. Adding to the high-end vibe: a private, 20-person VIP area with a customized iPad to control the TVs and the volume.
Bukowski first came up with the idea for the Bracket Room 5 years ago. His TV fame, through roles on ABC reality shows “The Bachelorette” and “Bachelor Pad,” gave him a “marketable name” that helped to make the restaurant a reality, he said. Already, fans have been coming into the under-construction restaurant seeking photos.
While many celebrity chefs are content to put their name on a restaurant with which they have little on-going personal involvement, Bukowski, as a celebrity owner, says he will be more hands-on. He has put his TV work on hold until at least the spring, so he can focus on running the restaurant.
“We have to have everything perfect, from our construction to our staff,” he said. ”I will be here every day — interacting with people, making sure everybody’s having a good time.”
Bukowski noted that he “lives literally right above the bar” — in the Lyon Place apartment building. He moved in about 7 months ago.
“I love Clarendon… it’s a perfect location,” he said, when asked about why he chose Arlington and not his native Chicago as the place to open the bar. “The demographic is right up my alley… a lot of young professionals, people that are right out of college that are hungry to make a career for themselves, but still like to go out and enjoy the nightlife.”
Building Permits for Major Projects — Developers have filed applications to begin construction on two major building projects. At 20 stories, the soon-to-be-built office building at 4040 Wilson Blvd will be the largest of the three Liberty Center buildings in Ballston. Also set for construction: 2145 Lee Highway, better known as the Bergmann’s development. That project will include 175 apartments, 27 townhouses and a MOM’s Organic Market. [Washington Business Journal]
At Kettler, Olympic Hopefuls Expect Gold — The prospective USA Hockey players who are holding orientation camp at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston through Thursday expect to be a favorite to win gold at the Sochi Olympic Games in 2014. [Associated Press]
Copperwood Tavern Now Hiring — “Cabin-style” restaurant Coppperwood Tavern, located in the former Bistro Bistro space at 4021 Campbell Avenue in Shirlington, is now hiring. The restaurant will hold an employment open house for all positions tomorrow (Thursday) from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. [Facebook]
Catching Up With Dave Arlington — “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark chats with WASH-FM deejay Dave Arlington, who used to be a disc jockey at Arlington-based WEAM. [Falls Church News-Press]
A new restaurant specializing in food from Bangladesh opened its doors today at 5169 Lee Highway.
Aladdin, in the Garden City Shopping Center near the Yorktown neighborhood, opened for lunch today with a limited menu, owner Harun Rashid said. He is planning a grand opening on Sept. 1.
Rashid and his wife, Shiuli, opened their first restaurant in 1994 in New York City. After a few years there, they moved to Atlanta, then to Rockville. They sold their restaurant in Maryland and signed their lease in Arlington in May.
He didn’t initially plan to have a soft opening before Sept. 1, but he said many of his Bangladeshi friends “were getting frustrated” that they couldn’t eat at the restaurant yet.
“We’re eager to see the local crowds,” Rashid said. “Most of our customers are American and have our lunch buffet. They love it here. In Georgia, they just go to Waffle House, Waffle House, Waffle House all the time and don’t try anything else.”
The buffet is open from noon to 3 p.m. and costs $9, Rashid said. Aladdin’s specialty, however, is the Kachi Biryani, a slow-cooked, lamb delicacy they only serve on Saturday that customers need to call and order in advance. Rashid said he already has an order for five dishes from an former Maryland customer this Saturday.
“We think we make the most authentic Biryani,” he said. “It takes six hours in total to make, and we won’t reheat it. It’s a very expensive, very tender meat, and a very unique cooking process.”
Bengali food is very similar to Indian food, Rashid said, but there are subtle differences in its texture and spice. Rashid’s two children were sitting quietly in the restaurant Thursday morning when he spoke to ARLnow.com. He emphasized that it’s a family-owned and operated establishment and he hopes to build ties to the area.
“I’m very proud to be part of the Bangladeshi community here,” Rashid said.
Ballston is getting a little more Belgian, thanks to the opening of Mussel Bar and Grille (800 N. Glebe Road) this week.
The restaurant is holding its soft opening for invited guests today and tomorrow, and will open to the public for dinner on Thursday. Friday will be the first day it will open for lunch.
This is the third Mussel Bar and Grille location, joining others in Bethesda and Atlantic City. Owner and chef Brian McBride hopes to expand to as many as 10 locations. He thought Arlington seemed perfect for the newest location.
“This Arlington area seems to be booming,” McBride said. “This is going to be a fun spot. It’s designed to be a neighborhood gathering place. It’s not pretentious, it’s very casual.”
As the restaurant’s name implies, mussels are the house specialty. Mussel Bar and Grille has exclusive rights in the D.C. area to Penn Cove mussels. That variety comes from the oldest mussel farm in the United States, and McBride says they have plumper, sweeter meat.
“We pay a lot more for those mussels than the standard P.E.I.s [Prince Edward Island mussels],” said McBride, “Just so we can have the best mussels we can get.”
Other seafood dishes include Maryland crabcakes and lobster rolls. The restaurant also offers options for customers wishing for something other than seafood, such as brick oven fired pizzas, steak frites and a lamb meatball sandwich.
Chefs at Mussel Bar and Grille concentrate on old fashioned food preparation techniques, according to McBride. He notes that although each dish will look modern, no shortcuts will be taken, unlike other chain restaurants.
Along with the mussels, the restaurant will focus on Belgian beers. The bar offers 18 beers on tap and more than 100 others in bottles. Bartenders will be able to suggest beer selections that complement each customer’s dish.
“The goal is to introduce as many different kinds of Belgian beer to Arlington as we possibly can,” said McBride.
Bar Manager Adam Jarvis pointed out that the restaurant also serves up specialty drinks highlighting the time when the Bob Peck Chevrolet dealership sat on the land. The drinks bear the names of Chevy models like El Camino, Bel Air and Camaro.
“This is a big thing, to keep the Arlington community, and the history of Arlington as well,” said Jarvis.
Mussel Bar and Grille will have happy hour specials every day of the week from 3:00-6:30 p.m.
“I think people should be happy on the weekend,” McBride said. “It shouldn’t just be a Monday through Friday thing.”
The goal is to accommodate everyone at the restaurant — from bar goers to business people to families. Customers can sit in the dining area, order at the bar or enjoy the outdoor seating.
“Customers rule,” said McBride. “We don’t set too many rules”
One rule the restaurant does abide by, however, is limiting the number of customers allowed in at one time for the first few weeks. McBride said it gives staff a chance to acclimate to the new system and smooth out any issues. He expects to go “full blown” in September and will begin offering weekend brunch at that time. For now, the restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday, and will begin serving on Mondays after Labor Day.
Pines of Florence abruptly closed up shop in Virginia Square in late June and was replaced quickly by the planned Water and Wall restaurant, operated by the owners of Maple Ave Restaurant in Vienna. On Sunday, the Italian restaurant and pizza shop launched a soft opening at 3207 Columbia Pike.
Pines of Florence owner Shafi Khan said he was forced to leave his old location after an acrimonious eviction battle with his landlord, which included Khan suing to stay in his old space and taking the landlord to court.
“For me, that location was the best for delivery, it was very centrally located,” Khan said. “I had to let 10 people go. That hurt me more than anything else.”
The Columbia Pike location is smaller — with a capacity for 61 customers upstairs and 38 downstairs — than the 115-seat Virginia Square space, Khan said, but he promised that the menu will be unchanged. The space was previously occupied an Ethiopian restaurant and by Sangam Restaurant, an Indian restaurant that closed last summer. Khan and his staff worked long hours the past few weeks trying to get it ready to open.
Khan said Pines of Florence is offering customers 50 percent off of their total bill — not including alcohol — until Sunday, Aug. 18. The deal is intended to bring customers back to the business after its brief hiatus, a point of concern with the new storefront.
“I’m very worried about our future here,” Khan said. “This is a very difficult time for business, people are very health- and money-conscious. We just have to keep offering good food at fair prices, but it’s going to take some time to get the customers to come back.”
Mussel Bar & Grille, a gastropub from restaurateur Robert Wiedmaier, is expected to open in Ballston next week.
The restaurant is taking reservations for dinner on Thursday, Aug. 8, which, we’re told, is its current expected opening date. Through its big plate glass windows at 800 N. Glebe Road this week, managers could be seen training staff and construction workers could be seen putting the finishing touches on the wood, concrete and steel interior.
Mussel Bar, which has existing locations in Bethesda and Atlantic City, N.J., will serve “mussels & frites, wood-fired tarts (Belgian pizzas) with seasonal toppings, grilled meats and fish, salads, soups, sandwiches,” according to its website.
Owner Sahjahal Mia, who owns Taj of India in Georgetown, said he’s been looking to open a second Taj of India location in Virginia for a couple of years. Once the location on the 23rd Street S. restaurant row opened up, he knew he’d found a home.
“There are a lot of restaurants on that strip, but no Indian restaurants,” Mia told ARLnow.com. “I’ve been visiting 20-30 times, and every time it’s crowded. I think we’re going to do well.”
Mia’s Georgetown location has been open since 2002 serving traditional Indian fare and offering customers carry-out and delivery, including online ordering through services like Seamless and GrubHub. He said the offerings at the Crystal City restaurant, slated to open in mid-September, will be the same.
Mia’s observation of the 23rd Street restaurant row differs from that of Gordon Vivace, who owned Cucina Vivace.
“That strip is not in good shape and is simply no longer a location where an upscale restaurant can survive,” Vivace said when he closed his doors in March.
The only other Indian restaurant in the Crystal City/Pentagon City area is Kohinoor Dhaba on S. Eads Street, so Mia feels he is better positioned to succeed. In fact, he said, he has had several calls for delivery to Crystal City from his Georgetown restaurant. Although it was out of his delivery range, he has told his drivers to make the trek anyway, just to build up a following.
“We have a lot of customers who have come from Crystal City hotels to our restaurants,” he said. “We needed to be here.”
The restaurant will offer upscale takes on traditional bar food like burgers, wings, ribs and fries, as well as higher-end items like Maine lobster and healthier options like ceviche, a “superfoods salad” and chilled asparagus. A brunch menu is also offered.
The drink menu includes at least 15 beers on tap, from a $4.50 Miller Lite to a $6 Kona Big Wave. Sixteen bottled and canned beers are available, with prices starting at $3 for a PBR can. Numerous varieties of wine and cocktails are also available, but perhaps the most talked-about offering will be the 64 shooters, which are arranged on an NCAA-style tournament bracket. The “winning” shooter is $3 until March, while the 63 others are $6 apiece.
Bracket Room is located in the former Burapa Thai space at 1210 N. Garfield Street. Among the three partners in the business are Chris Bukowski, of “Bachelorette” and “Bachelor Pad” reality show fame.
The sports bar hopes to open its doors at some point next month (August). A press release announcing the menu, after the jump.
Although it’s only considered a “soft opening” period, BonChon officially opened its doors today at 2209 N. Pershing Drive, near Clarendon, to let the public try out its Korean chicken.
The dining area quickly filled when the restaurant opened at 11:30 a.m. and customers steadily streamed in through lunch hour. Although BonChon will be open for lunch and dinner, for the first few weeks the restaurant will be closed from 2:00-4:00 p.m. while staff members work to perfect operations.
The restaurant has a dining area, bar area and a separate counter for customers to pick up carry out orders.
Although the menu lists side dishes, salads and appetizers, the main attraction is the crispy fried chicken which comes as drumsticks, wings or chicken strips. Orders are accompanied by garlic soy sauce or hot sauce.
BonChon, which means “Original Village” in Korean, started out in South Korea and quickly came over to the United States. It now has more than 50 locations around the world.
A recently-filed permit application says that Bar Louie is planning to open at 320 23rd Street S. The Texas-based bar/restaurant chain has more than 40 locations across the country, including two nearby locations: next to the Gallery Place Metro station in D.C., and in the Rockville Town Square development in Maryland.
Bar Louie also has restaurants in Miami, Tampa, Chicago, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. It describes itself as “an eclectic urban bar made famous for our signature martinis, cocktails and dynamic beer selection.”
So far, no word on when Bar Louie is expected to open.
Update at 5:15 p.m. — A Bar Louie spokeswoman denies that a final location has been chosen for the restaurant.
“We are continuing to review locations in Arlington, Va.,” said Bar Louie marketing manager Amanda Utter. “At the present time nothing has been finalized.”