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Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | January 27, 2014 at 9:55 am | 1,171 views | No Comments

A snowy Four Mile Run (Flickr pool photo by Ddimick)

‘The Springs’ Affordable Apartment Complex Approved — The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved “The Springs,” a 104-unit affordable apartment complex in the Buckingham neighborhood. The $38 million project was partially funded with a $7.82 million loan from the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund. [Arlington County]

Don Beyer to Run for Moran’s Seat — Former Virginia lieutenant governor Don Beyer, co-owner of the local car dealership chain, says he will enter the race for the Congressional seat of the retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D). Beyer, a Democrat, recently served as a U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein. [Washington Post]

Board Puts Kibosh on School Tree Removal -- The County Board has ordered Arlington Public Schools to halt the removal of trees at Ashlawn Elementary School ahead of a planned addition to the school. The order follows a public outcry about the tree removal, which was initially authorized by county staff but without a public process. ““We cannot let this happen again . we cannot allow trees to be chopped down,” Board member Walter Tejada is quoted as saying. “This is a problem.” [Sun Gazette]

Burst Pipe at Uncle Julio’s — A pipe burst at Uncle Julio’s in Ballston over the weekend, sending water “pouring” from the ceiling. No word on any damage to the restaurant. [Twitter]

Edelman to Talk at Library — Best-selling author and financial adviser Ric Edelman will discuss his book “The Truth About Retirement Plans and IRAs” at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) in March. The talk will take place from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 5. [Arlington Public Library]

Flickr pool photo by Ddimick

County Staff Pulls Back on Proposed Patio Restrictions for Velocity 5

by ARLnow.com | January 22, 2014 at 10:00 am | 1,799 views | No Comments

Outdoor seating at Velocity 5A county staff proposal that could have crippled Courthouse bar and restaurant Velocity 5 has been scaled back after some County Board intervention.

In December, county staff recommended that Velocity 5′s popular outdoor patio be forced to stop serving food and drink at 11:00 p.m., in response to “community concerns about noise.” That’s despite a report from the police department saying that noise complaints were down by 50 percent.

The owners of Velocity 5′s Courthouse location, which changed hands in early 2013, rallied supporters via social media after learning of the staff recommendation. Dozens showed up at the Dec. 17 County Board meeting where the proposal — part of the renewal of Velocity 5′s live entertainment permit — was under consideration. The Board ended up deferring the proposal until January to allow staff more time to work with the owners.

Co-owner Matt Rofougaran says the early serving cut-off could have put the restaurant, which employs about 30 people, out of business. Some 30-40 percent of Velocity 5′s revenue comes from the patio, he said.

“I would be shocked if we would be able to stay open… if they close that patio,” Rofougaran told ARLnow.com in December. “It’s not fair, they’re trying to punish us for something that we improved on.”

Rofougaran contended that the majority of the noise complaints came from one or two residents of the next-door Archstone Courthouse Plaza apartments.

“Most of the complaints were from one guy… who had problems with the previous owner,” he said. “A lot of customers live in the building and say they don’t hear anything from their apartments.”

Rofougaran said one complaint was for a barking dog on the patio, another was for a group of people singing “happy birthday,” and yet another was for boisterous people — who weren’t customers — walking by the patio.

After making their case, Rofougaran said the Board was “actually helping us” sort through the issues.

As a result, at its upcoming meeting on Saturday, the Board is slated to consider a new live entertainment permit renewal that does not place restrictions on Velocity 5′s outdoor serving hours. The patio will still be allowed to stay open and serve customers until 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday and until midnight Sunday through Thursday.

Velocity 5 will, however, face some new restrictions. It will need to hire a security guard to monitor the patio after 8:00 p.m. when it’s at capacity. Also, it will need to turn off any outdoor music at 10:00 p.m. and will have to turn off outdoor televisions at 11:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.

“Staff is not recommending that the outdoor seating area be closed at any specific time; instead, it is expected that the additional security presence outdoors will mitigate the impacts of the use,” the new county staff report. It adds that complaints about noise have been made by “a few residents” of the apartment building.

“The staff has agreed to work with us and has recommended changes to the entertainment license that we will gladly abide by,” Rofougaran said via email Tuesday. “We thank everyone for all their help, including the staff and the community that helped support us.”

Velocity 5 is still slated to be rebranded as “Social Haus,” as earlier reported. Rofougaran says they’re planning close the restaurant in early February for renovations. It’s expected to reopen as Social Haus in early March.

Staff Recommends Revoking Pines of Italy Entertainment Permit

by Ethan Rothstein | January 21, 2014 at 11:30 am | 1,934 views | No Comments

Pines of Italy at 3111 Columbia PikeCounty planning staff are recommending the Arlington County Board revoke the live entertainment and dancing license for Pines of Italy (3111 Columbia Pike).

The restaurant/nightclub/hookah bar was approved for the permit in March 2013, but, according to the county staff’s report, its owner never scheduled a meeting with the Arlington Heights Civic Association, which was a requirement of the permit. In addition, the restaurant was allegedly operating with live music on Thursday nights, which was not allowed by the permit.

The permit was scheduled for review in March, but because of the lack of compliance, as well as issues with the police and the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, staff recommended the Board review the license two months early.

“The applicant has demonstrated a lack of compliance with the conditions of approval and other state and county ordinances,” the staff report says. “Operation of live entertainment and dancing at this site will continue to generate issues given the combination of greater numbers of patrons drawn to the business by live entertainment and the applicant’s lack of compliance with use permit conditions and other laws, and lack of communication with the surrounding community.”

Pines of Italy has generated neighborhood controversy since it opened, with neighbors complaining about noise and crime generated by the business.

Before being approved for the live entertainment permit last March, Pines of Italy’s owner had applied for the permit in early 2012. The application was deferred twice — first because of “police and community issues” with the last restaurant in the space and again because Pines of Italy conducted insufficient community outreach — before its ultimate approval.

Arlington County Police Department has reported six calls for service at the restaurant since the use permit was issued, including “use of the premise for residential purposes” and serving alcohol when the kitchen was closed.

The County Board will review the permit during its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 28.

Eamonn’s on the Pike to Relaunch as ‘Society Fair’

by ARLnow.com | January 13, 2014 at 4:05 pm | 3,016 views | No Comments

Society Fair announcement on the front of Eamonn's (courtesy photo)After a year and a half of struggling with slow lunch and dinner business, Eamonn’s on Columbia Pike will be trying to capitalize on breakfast business by relaunching as “Society Fair.”

The restaurant at 2413 Columbia Pike opened as Eamonn’s and TNT Bar in August 2012. While the sit-down fried fish restaurant is popular in Alexandria, it never quite attracted the crowds needed to sustain the business on the Pike, we’re told. Instead of closing, over the next month owner EatGoodFood Group will transition from Eamonn’s to a second location of its “Society Fair” bakery, cafe, market and eatery, which is also popular in Alexandria.

Already, couches have replaced some tables and chairs, to give the space a more “warm and comfortable” vibe. More furniture changes are in the works, and curtains will be installed, at least in part to dampen noise. The hope is to become more of a neighborhood hangout, a formula that has worked for nearby William Jeffrey’s Tavern, the biggest success so far on a block of restaurants that are mostly treading water business-wise, thanks to virtually non-existent lunch business.

By mid-February, the restaurant is expected to begin opening at 7:00 a.m. to serve breakfast customers with coffee, espresso drinks and pastries made fresh at the original Alexandria location. At other times of the day the food offerings will be more of the small plates variety, plus paninis, charcuterie, cheese and salads.

TNT Bar will remain and will serve drinks every night of the week, we’re told, but will continue adding more affordable cocktail options. With the exception of perhaps a few lunchtime closures, Eamonn’s will remain open as the space is gradually transformed.

The Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema reports that fish and chips will remain on the menu once the Society Fair transition is complete.

Courtesy photo

Restaurant Talk: Dealing With Food Allergies

by Nick Freshman | January 9, 2014 at 4:30 pm | 1,556 views | No Comments

Restaurant Talk is an occasional feature written by Nick Freshman, a native Arlingtonian and co-owner of Spider Kelly’s and Eventide Restaurant in Clarendon. Photos added by ARLnow.com.

Pan seared Steelhead at Water & Wall restaurant in Virginia SquareHappy New Year, Arlington! It’s been a while, but I’m back.

What better way to start 2014 than with another controversial topic? Kids, food trucks, tipping; you name it, and I will take it on. Well, probably not tipping ever again. That was brutal. Point is, it’s fun to explore some of the more talked about areas of what we do. So what’s first on the list for 2014? Food allergies.

Food allergies can present the most significant challenges to successful service in a restaurant. In some cases, we are told that the literal life of a guest is being placed in our hands for the duration of the meal. No pressure, Chef. It’s hard enough for us to cook a steak medium rare some nights. It’s hard for the guest as well. To constantly have to interrogate the staff about ingredients, to always need to alter the menu and to live in constant anxiety that the kitchen got it right must be terribly stressful.

Working with customers with mild to severe to fatal allergies is something that we do on a nightly basis. In fact, it was this past New Year’s Eve in the dining room at Eventide that the idea for this column came about. Faced with a limited choice tasting menu, a guest was unsure if she would even be able to stay and eat. She informed us that she had a fatal dairy allergy and was carrying an EpiPen in her purse in case she went into anaphylactic shock. She also had a gluten allergy that while not fatal was serious.

Her dining companion’s New Year’s Eve wish was to not have to stab her friend Pulp Fiction-style as the clock struck midnight.

Food at Black Lime restaurant in Crystal CityMy answer? Let’s look at the menu and figure out how to make it work. That was not easy. We use more than our fair share of butter and there is flour in many more dishes than one might imagine. Step by step we went through the menu, consulted with Chef and tried to figure out a way to make it work on the fly.

That was an example of the most challenging situation — the menu is in front of the guest, they are stuck, and we are learning of a severe allergy as they are trying to find something to eat. It is unavoidable at times to be sure, but it can make things really tough.

On an average weekend night, we have four to five tables in the dining room that have some type of allergy. Is that on the rise? I don’t know. It seems like it, but many allergies — gluten being the primary example — have been historically undiagnosed. Regardless, it is something we deal with on a regular basis, and a conversation with some helpful tips might be a good idea. Allergy sufferers usually know exactly what they need and what they want, and they are usually very good at presenting their needs early and explicitly. However, they are not always the ones making the reservations or booking the events, so this information could be helpful for non-sufferers making the plans as well.

  1. Plan ahead. The earlier the information can get to the restaurant the better. You can include it in the notes when you book on OpenTable, or you can mention it when you call in. Be as specific as you are able. Exactly what the allergy is and the severity is important. If the diner has preferred substitutions, that is helpful as well. This applies to dietary choices as well as allergies (vegan, vegetarian).
  2. Do your homework. Everyone has menus online now. Yes, it is true that restaurants are notorious for not being completely current, but you can at least get an idea what the venue offers and what might work as a substitute in advance.
  3. We love the cards. Many guests arrive and hand a small card to the server that lists the allergies. They are clear and concise, and they go right to the Chef. That eliminates the potentially dangerous opportunity that something might be lost in translation.
  4. Be clear about the severity. By all means be overcautious, but also be conscious that there is a very big difference between a fatal shellfish allergy and a mild intolerance to cilantro. Restaurants should take all allergies seriously and honor all requests that they can, but if you overstate the severity, you could limit what you can have. With a fatal allergy, we will often rule out serving you any dish or ingredient that has been in the vicinity or even the same floor as the potential offender. With a mild allergy, we might just have to remove a garnish.
  5. Be a little patient with the kitchens. If we hear in advance that you are coming, there is a better chance we can come up with something more interesting for you. If we hear about it the moment of, there is only so much the kitchen can do. Also, sometimes in order to cover ourselves, if there is the slightest chance of any contamination, and there is a fatal allergy, we might just say “sorry, we can’t do such and such.” It’s the last thing anyone in the hospitality business wants to do, but sometimes we might not be able to accommodate a request.

(more…)

Hamburger Hamlet Now Closed in Crystal City

by ARLnow.com | January 6, 2014 at 2:00 pm | 1,774 views | No Comments

Hamburger-Hamlet1 Hamburger-Hamlet2

A long-time local restaurant has closed its doors in Crystal City.

Hamburger Hamlet, at the Crystal City Shops (1750 Crystal Drive), closed late last week. Its parent company filed for bankruptcy last year.

The owner of a California-based restaurant chain, which took over operation of the Bethesda Hamburger Hamlet location in 2012, had been hoping to acquire the Crystal City lease in order to open a 24-hour diner, but was ultimately unsuccessful.

“We offered the landlord a new lease,” W.W. “Biff” Naylor, owner of Du-par’s, told ARLnow.com. ”The landlord decided he didn’t want to deal with anybody who was involved with Hamburger Hamlet so we packed it up and left. I’m only going to go where I’m wanted.”

Over the weekend a Hamburger Hamlet location in Pasadena, Calif. was expected to re-open as Du-par’s, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

No word yet on what may replace Hamburger Hamlet.

Sultana Grill Closes in Bluemont

by Katie Pyzyk | January 3, 2014 at 11:45 am | 833 views | No Comments

Sultana Grill in Bluemont (file photo)It appears Sultana Grill (5515 Wilson Blvd.) in the Bluemont neighborhood has closed down.

The restaurant had been open for a little more than a year. The restaurant’s phone number seems to be disconnected, based on the automated message ARLnow.com received when attempting to call.

A tipster who reported enjoying the restaurant’s Moroccan food said he asked what happened and restaurant staff reported the business had been hurt by the lack of having an alcohol license.

The tipster also was told that a hookah bar might open in the space.

Hat tip to Eric LaKuch

Ballston Bailey’s to Remain Open but Change Locations

by Katie Pyzyk | December 20, 2013 at 2:30 pm | 2,118 views | No Comments

Despite the closing of the Crystal City Bailey’s Sports Grille last month and its parent company recently filing for bankruptcy, we’re told the Ballston Bailey’s will remain open, at least for now.

There are plans, however, for it to move to a new location.

According to a Bailey’s employee, the bar is planning to stay in the Ballston Common Mall, but move into the old Union Jack’s space. The employee was not able to provide any further details about reasons for the move, but confirmed that the Ballston Bailey’s will remain open and will be the only one in the D.C. area.

Right now, the plan is reportedly for Bailey’s to move into the new space this spring, possibly in April. A representative from parent company Fox and Hound could not be reached for comment.

Bangkok 54 Fire Shuts Down Market, But Not Restaurant

by ARLnow.com | December 12, 2013 at 4:30 pm | 1,555 views | No Comments

Fire at Bangkok 54 on 12/12/13Bangkok 54 restaurant (2919 Columbia Pike) was open for lunch and is now open for dinner today (Thursday) as usual, despite a fire that ripped through the business’ next-door market early this morning.

We’re told the Thai restaurant only suffered minor smoke damage as a result of the fire, which caused significant damage to the market. The heaviest damage was in the ceiling of the market, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Bill Shelton.

Fire investigators are still on the scene, trying to determine the cause of the fire. So far, there’s no estimate of the cost of the damage.

BREAKING: Fire at Bangkok 54

by ARLnow.com | December 12, 2013 at 12:15 am | 5,938 views | No Comments

Update at 4:30 p.m. — The restaurant portion of Bangkok 54 was open for business today.

Arlington County firefighters battled a two-alarm fire at Bangkok 54 on Columbia Pike early Thursday morning.

The Thai restaurant is located at 2919 Columbia Pike, next to the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse. The fire appeared to be in the Asian market portion of the business, not the restaurant itself. However, it’s likely that smoke from the blaze spread throughout the business.

The emergency response to the fire shut down Columbia Pike in both directions for about an hour and a half.

Red Parrot Closes in Ballston

by Katie Pyzyk | December 10, 2013 at 5:00 pm | 2,467 views | No Comments

Red Parrot Asian BistroRed Parrot Asian Bistro (1110 N. Glebe Road) in Ballston has closed after a little more than nine months in business.

The Asian fusion restaurant opened in March and held its grand opening celebration in May. However, owner Wendy Cheng said she found Arlington to be too far from Maryland, where she lives and runs the other two Red Parrot locations. She said the long commute was causing too many problems with maintaining the Arlington location.

Cheng confirms the Arlington location “is closed as of this week.”

Bakery Backs Out of Arlington Mill Location

by ARLnow.com | November 27, 2013 at 11:30 am | 2,218 views | No Comments

Arlington Mill Community Center(Updated at 11:40 a.m.) Pan American Bakery and Café is asking Arlington County to terminate its lease in the new Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwidde Street), ARLnow.com has learned.

The bakery was announced as the food service tenant for the center this past summer. As we reported at this time, the 1,875 square foot location on the center’s ground floor was to serve healthier foods, specialty coffee, gelato and salteñas.

Rent on the seven-year lease was to start at $56,250.00 per year and rise to $67,165.44 at the end of the seven year term. For reasons as of yet unknown — its owners could not be reached for comment — Pan American is now trying to back out of the lease.

“We have recently received a request from Pan American Bakery asking to terminate their lease,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jennifer Heilman told ARLnow.com. “Ultimately, this decision whether or not to terminate the lease will be made by the County Board as they approved the lease. There is no date set for this review by the County Board. We are currently exploring alternative options in the interim.”

No word yet on what might replace Pan American at Arlington Mill. The bakery has existing locations at 4113 Columbia Pike in Arlington and 650 S. Pickett Street in Alexandria.

In announcing the bakery as Arlington Mill’s restaurant tenant in July, county officials said its owners were chosen because of their “business experience, local presence, financial strength, willingness to accept the county’s monetary terms, and readiness to proceed.”

The community center will holding an open house on Friday, Dec. 6 and Saturday, Dec. 7.

Disclosure: Arlington County is advertising the Arlington Mill Community Center open house on ARLnow.com

Leek American Bistro Closed?

by Katie Pyzyk | November 13, 2013 at 4:05 pm | 2,950 views | No Comments

Leek American Bistro(Updated at 4:50 p.m.) It appears that Leek American Bistro (801 N. Quincy Street) in Ballston may have closed down.

Tipsters report the restaurant has looked deserted for several days. ARLnow.com staff stopped by today (Wednesday) and noted that the restaurant is dark, the doors are locked and the tables have been removed from the dining area.

Leek opened one year ago this month in the former Thai Terrace space.

Last week, Eater DC posted an article saying Leek closed briefly for renovations. The article included a photo of a sign in Leek’s window indicating the restaurant would re-open last Friday, November 8. That sign was not in the window, however, when ARLnow.com staff stopped by today. Nobody could be seen inside the restaurant, performing renovations or otherwise.

Leek’s Facebook page has not been updated since August. The restaurant’s owner could not be reached for comment.

Morning Poll: Most Wanted Restaurants

by ARLnow.com | November 1, 2013 at 10:30 am | 2,368 views | No Comments

Question markArlington has a lot of amenities — parks, trails, rec centers, sports fields, arts venues, shopping malls and so forth.

But when it comes to restaurants, there are a few things Arlington doesn’t have. In terms of eateries dedicated to certain cuisines, Arlington is lacking some varieties that our neighbors in D.C., Fairfax and Montgomery County have.

Of the following, which type of restaurant would you most like to see come to Arlington?
 

Fatshorty’s in Clarendon to Close

by ARLnow.com | October 22, 2013 at 12:00 pm | 5,458 views | No Comments

Fat Shorty'sLess than 7 months after opening, Fatshorty’s in Clarendon is set to close.

The restaurant, which specializes in sausages, mussels, beer and cupcakes, will close on Sunday, Oct. 27, according to an email sent to Groupon customers who previously purchased a coupon for Fatshorty’s.

The restaurant was a collaboration between local restaurateur Aaron Gordon (of Red Velvet Cupcakery and other restaurant concepts) and Hell’s Kitchen winner Rahman “Rock” Harper. It opened in April.

“Yes, we are closing,” Gordon confirmed to ARLnow.com this morning. “Our reasoning is that we were not making enough revenue and are being bought by another restaurant group.”

Additional details were not immediately available.

Fatshorty’s offered a “sausage blow out” this past weekend, offering half-off all sausage sandwiches, according to a Facebook post.

Hat tip to Benjamin M. and Richard H.

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