The District Taco cart, which was launched four years ago and has now spawned four brick-and-mortar restaurants, is retiring today in Rosslyn.
District Taco owner Osiris Hoil said the team that runs the cart is needed to support the restaurants, with locations at 5723 Lee Highway and at Metro Center, Eastern Market and soon-to-be-open Dupont Circle in the District. The decision was purely a business one, but that didn’t make it any easier for Hoil, who opened the cart using family recipes after being laid off from a construction job.
“It’s very emotional for me, because when we started four years ago it was just me and my taco stand,” Hoil told ARLnow.com today. “It’s part of my heart, but as a business decision, we had to let it go.”
Hoil said that, in addition to the Dupont Circle location opening next month, he plans to open in Crystal City, Rosslyn, Alexandria and Vienna, and is looking at space in Rockville and Reston Town Center. No new location is firmed up yet, he said, but he hopes to open another store by the end of the year and three or four next year. The taco stand is just too unpredictable to continue to operate while District Taco grows, said Hoil.
“One of the challenges we’re having is the weather,” he said. “This wintertime has been really cold, but also it’s just one of the reasons. We’re growing pretty aggressively this year and next year and we need our team to focus on our restaurants. It’s a little bit harder to manage the stand than a restaurant just because it’s a mobile unit and anything can happen while traveling.”
It might not happen right away, but Hoil is determined to open up spaces in Rosslyn and Crystal City close to where his taco stand set up shop most days. He said he’ll likely try to move into Rosslyn once the Central Place construction is complete.
Today in Rosslyn, in honor of the stand’s last day, District Taco is offering two free tacos to every customer that stops by, while supplies last.
(Updated at 12:30 p.m.) Comedian Bill Cosby joined Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette and other local notables in helping to open the new Ben’s Chili Bowl in Rosslyn this morning.
Cosby’s jokes and antics drew laughs from the large crowd of media and spectators that gathered to see the ribbon cutting for the iconic U Street eatery’s first stand-alone, brick-and-mortar expansion. Other attendees and speakers included the Ali family, which owns the restaurant; the ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago, late founder Ben Ali’s home country; WPGC DJ Shack Nd Pack; and Rosslyn BID President Mary-Claire Burick.
Cosby joked that as an aging Navy veteran, he was glad to have a Ben’s Chili Bowl near Arlington National Cemetery.
“The reason why this establishment has decided to open here is for me,” he said. “I’m 76-and-a-half years old. I’m going to have my 77th birthday in July… I spent four years in the Navy, which means I am eligible for a military funeral. Now, my can ghost make the trip here instead of flying over to U Street.”
“Over in that cemetery there is no cholesterol,” he continued. “There are no triglycerides. Eat as many as you like. Double down on the cheese and fries. A lot of people may not go to heaven, because this is heaven.”
Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette presented Cosby and Virginia Ali, Ben’s widow, with keys to Arlington. Cosby quipped that he would use it to get out of parking tickets.
“Whoa, who put me on stage after Bill Cosby?” Fisette said, to which Cosby shot back: “your mother did.”
“Thanks for choosing Arlington… for your second spot,” Fisette said. “As I’ve always said, chili for breakfast, chili for lunch, chili for dinner and a half smoke for dessert.”
Customers flooded into the the restaurant following the ribbon cutting, leaving a large crowd outside the doors, waiting to get in. Hundreds showed up to the Colonial Village Shopping Center parking lot to see Cosby speak and get some of the first tastes of chili, half smokes, hamburgers and milkshakes after standing outside in near-freezing temperatures.
The restaurant is located at 1725 Wilson Blvd, in the former Ray’s Hell Burger space. It’s owned and operated by three sons, Nizam, Kamal and Sage, and one daughter, Vida. The family said during the ribbon cutting that the restaurant plans to stay open until 4:30 a.m.
“The chili will sober you up,” Cosby said of Ben’s likely late night customers.
Heavy Seas Alehouse in Rosslyn (1501 Wilson Blvd) opened last week and welcomed big crowds immediately.
General Manager Keith Kirkland said the restaurant has done more than $70,000 in business in just five days, including its soft opening last Wednesday. They’ve also gone through more than 50 kegs of Heavy Seas beer, he said.
“That’s much more than we expected,” he told ARLnow.com today. “Those number are even bigger considering we were shut down yesterday [during the snowstorm].”
The restaurant is open every day at 11:00 a.m. (10:00 a.m. on Sundays) and is open until 2:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights. In addition to the seven Heavy Seas beer offered on draft, the alehouse offers six other Virginia beers, eight beer cocktails and lunch and dinner menus.
(Updated at 12:40 p.m.) Adiam Berhane can be seen almost every day at her independent coffee shop at 1919 N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn buzzing about, bussing tables, serving drinks and carrying on conversations with customers like she’s hosting a large Sunday dinner.
Berhane opened Caffe Aficionado with her partner, Clark Donat, in October, and ever since it has been drawing something rare in this age of online criticism — almost universally positive reviews. It has a full five-star rating on Yelp after 26 reviews, rare for even the most well-regarded restaurants. Local food critic Don Rockwell was glowing in his review as well.
“Well, I may change my mind after thinking about this some more… but for now, Caffe Aficionado sits all alone, atop Rosslyn,” Rockwell wrote in December. “Even if this ranking is temporary, hopefully it will draw attention to what is one of the finest coffee shops in the area. I love this place, and you will, too.”
When Berhane was asked about the positive reviews, she mentioned the one negative review she received on Yelp (there are 24 five-star reviews and one four-star, which she also mentioned), frustrated because she feels the customer was mistaken in her criticism. The chief complaint: a supposed lack of skim, soy or almond milk lattes — which the cafe does now serve.
“Those hurt the most, the bad reviews,” she said. After being pressed to acknowledge the positive reactions, she said, “We’re really happy with it. I think it’s all about service. Follow the Golden Rule, it’s not that hard.”
Berhane and Donat rarely go a moment in the shop without talking to someone in their New York accents, and Berhane is most excited about the neighborhood’s reaction. She added a lunch menu with just four sandwiches — with options like a tuna sandwich with olive tapenade and no mayonnaise — and started opening on Saturdays.
The pair refuses to use any artificial flavoring in their coffee and espresso, which they buy from Handsome Coffee in California. They just recently started offering honey cinnamon and vanilla lattes, recipes Donat took weeks to perfect.
“We wanted to preserve the integrity of the coffee,” he said. “People are in search of something a little special, so people come in and they’re happy to get special attention and a quality product.”
Caffe Aficionado is open weekdays from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
A grand opening celebration is scheduled for the new location, at 1725 Wilson Blvd, at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 6. Cosby is “100 percent confirmed” for the event, the Rosslyn Business Improvement District was told today by the restaurant’s owners.
Cosby is arguably the biggest celebrity fan of the landmark U Street eatery, and counts the owners, the Ali family, as friends. The comedian is expected to give a few remarks with the family before the store’s opening.
Arlington County Board members are also expected to be in attendance.
Photo via Facebook
Workers erected a sign at the new Ben’s Chili Bowl in Rosslyn this morning.
The sign, advertising the landmark D.C. eatery’s half-smokes, burgers, hot dogs and milkshakes, is now up at 1725 Wilson Blvd, which was formerly the home of Ray’s Hell Burger. (Ray’s moved to a new location across the street.)
Ben’s owner Nizam Ali was originally hoping to open the location — the first in Virginia — as early as New Year’s Day. Due to construction delays the opening is now expected to take place in about two weeks.
We’re told a grand opening celebration is planned for 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 6.
Photo courtesy @hilary1121
The state Office of Transportation Public-Private Partnerships (OTP3) announced in July that it was reaching out to developers to gauge interest in leasing VDOT’s air space over I-66, east of N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn, and over the East Falls Church Metro station.
According to county staff, private developers have expressed enough interest that the county wants to further study the plan. An initial study will be rolled into an amended contract with a planning and preservation firm that is already working on the Realize Rosslyn sector plan update. Depending on the outcome of the initial study, the county could fund more study in the future before a decision is reached to lease the air rights.
The previous contract with the firm had been for $493,544, and the County Board is likely to approve an additional $290,706 for not only assisting county staff with the air rights study, but also for an increased role in Realize Rosslyn.
Realize Rosslyn, a planned update to the Rosslyn Sector Plan, has been in the planning stages since 2011. A Board-appointed panel has been charged with sorting through the community concerns and developing the framework for the future direction of Rosslyn development. The panel was initially supposed to meet six times annually, but it has increased its scope of work and has met closer to 22 times annually.
A framework of the sector plan is expected to go before the Board this April, and county staff hope a full new Rosslyn Sector Plan will be complete by November.
Image via OTP3
A new food truck, DC Sliders, has come to serve lunch to customers in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.
The truck’s first day in Arlington was Feb. 6. It serves an array of mini-burgers, including the “Elvis” slider, featuring the King’s favorite sandwich ingredients: peanut butter, banana and bacon. Currently, it has regular stops in Courthouse and Rosslyn, as well as Reston and Tysons Corner, but it has also stopped in Ballston in the last two weeks.
Other menu items during its stop in Rosslyn yesterday (Wednesday) included the “Del Toro” — which comes topped with tomato salsa, refried beans, guacamole, corn, greens and tortilla chips — and the “Slider Mac,” a burger topped with ketchup and macaroni and cheese. Customers can choose two types of sliders and combine with an order of garlic fries for $11.
The line for sliders at 11:45 a.m. was the longest on the block, even with four other food trucks parked close by.
The truck was launched in Loudoun County last August, according to co-owner Carmen Morse, who owns the truck with her husband, Chris. Carmen Morse told ARLnow.com that they are waiting for permits to park in D.C. and, if business continues to go well this summer, they are aiming to launch another truck and, a bit down the road, open a brick-and-mortar store.
Heavy Seas says it will open to the public on Thursday, February 27. It’s the Baltimore brewery’s second restaurant location.
A press release from the company notes that it plans to make food, not just beer, a major draw.
For Heavy Seas’ menu, Chef Seeber highlights fresh seafood sourced locally whenever possible. Starters include local oysters, soft pretzels with crab, grilled sausage sliders and Tasso ham hushpuppies. Choose from small plates like chicory salad with a soft poached egg or Prince Edward Island mussels in a broth of Heavy Seas Gold Ale seasoned with fennel, roasted garlic butter, tomato and, in true Baltimore fashion, Old Bay. Larger dishes have their place here as well with options like savory braised rabbit fettuccine and pan roasted sea scallops. Seeber’s bill of fare pushes expectations of Alehouse food overboard. Plated beautifully with bold flavors to accompany their selection of beers, the menu is as purposeful and satisfying as the beer.
Beer aficionados won’t be disappointed with the array of beers able to be paired with any dish. Heavy Seas offers a selection of six year round drafts on tap including their flagship brew, Loose Cannon, a triple-hopped IPA with notes of grapefruit, herbs and pine, as well as the Small Craft Pilsner, Peg Leg Imperial Stout, Gold Ale, Powder Monkey Pale Ale and Cutlass Amber Lager. The bar will have rotating seasonal drafts like the Winter Storm and Riptide White IPA. As advocates for the microbrewing industry, the Alehouse is proud to feature a selection of craft beers local to the DMV alongside Heavy Seas taps. Now food and beer enthusiasts alike can plunder the stores of Baltimore’s best craft brewery just outside of DC.
The restaurant will offer lunch and dinner Monday through Sunday; 11am daily – close.
Rosslyn workers got a “hump day” surprise Wednesday when a camel showed up in front of the WJLA building at the corner of N. Lynn Street and Wilson Blvd.
According to the camel’s handler, the large ungulate was brought to Rosslyn by the TV station in honor of “hump day.” The camel is from a ranch in Berryville, Va.
A crowd quickly formed at the plaza in front of the building as onlookers snapped photos with cell phones and quoted the popular GEICO commercial featuring a camel in an office on a Wednesday. One even quipped to the handler that he should be walking through aisles of cubicles, not outside in the plaza.
Hat tip to WJLA’s Alex Liggitt
Developer JBG expects to begin construction on the first of two planned towers of its Central Place development by early spring, the company says. The 31-story, 355 foot tall building will house 377 “impeccably-designed residences” along with 25,000 square feet of retail space. There will also be a 15,000 square foot public plaza built with the development.
“Central Place will be a striking addition to the Virginia skyline and offer some of the most spectacular views available of the nation’s capital,” JBG said in a press release. “It will be the tallest building in JBG’s development portfolio.”
The building will also be one of the tallest, if not the tallest, residential building in the Washington, D.C. metro area. No word yet on whether the building will consist of rental apartments or condominiums.
The development will require the closure and demolition of an existing, stand-alone McDonald’s restaurant and a small existing public plaza. The site is on the same block as the new entrance to the Rosslyn Metro station.
Chevy Chase-based JBG, which is partnering with the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio to finance the development, told Rosslyn stakeholders that construction will begin soon and the McDonald’s demolition will be underway by May.
“Beginning next Monday, February 10th, Clark Construction will mobilize and construction will begin with the installation and relocation of utility lines on North Lynn Street,” the company said. “Demolition of the existing McDonalds building and excavation activities will begin in approximately 3 months.”
Last year JBG completed then sold the Sedona and Slate apartment development, located at 1510 Clarendon Blvd in Rosslyn. The company is planning to eventually build a matching Central Pace office tower, to the south of the residential tower.
Renovations for Crystal City Sheraton — The Crystal City Sheraton hotel (1800 Jefferson Davis Highway) will close in mid-April and undergo renovations.. The 218-room hotel will reopen as a Westin. Nearly 100 workers will be laid off during renovations. [Washington Business Journal]
New Signage for WJLA Building Approved — A divided Arlington County Board has approved new rooftop signage for the office building at 1100 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, also known as the WJLA building. The board split its vote 3-2 after residents expressed concern that the new signage would “be detrimental to their neighborhoods” and local monuments. The potential signage is for an unnamed prospective client. [Sun Gazette]
Board Approves New Transportation Funding — The County Board on Tuesday gave the okay to Arlington’s share of a new regional transportation funding stream. The county will receive $11.4 million in the first year, which will go to support projects like the Columbia Pike streetcar, a western entrance to the Ballston Metro station, local transit service and “complete streets” improvements. [Arlington County]
Galaxy Hut Named Top Karaoke Spot — DCist has dubbed Clarendon’s Galaxy Hut (2711 Wilson Blvd) “Arlington’s favorite dive” and one of the “best places for karaoke in the D.C. area.” [DCist]
Alexandria is Poised for Growth – Arlington’s neighbor to the south, Alexandria, is poised to begin booming with new development. The city expects a new Potomac Yard Metro station and the impending move of the National Science Foundation to the Eisenhower Valley area to further spur development. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
A car crashed into an elevator lobby in a Rosslyn parking garage Tuesday evening.
The incident happened around 6:00 p.m. below the office building at 1776 Wilson Blvd. We’re told the driver, a “young woman,” accidentally rammed a parking gate, then somehow slammed into the elevator lobby, shattering plate glass and damaging the elevator bank itself.
No one was hurt, but initial reports suggest several people were briefly trapped in the elevator as a result of the crash.
Graham Holdings Coming to Rosslyn — Graham Holdings, the firm once known as the Washington Post Company, is moving to Rosslyn. Now without the namesake newspaper, Graham Holdings includes education firm Kaplan, a cable television business, Slate.com, Foreign Policy magazine, and social marketing firm SocialCode. The company is moving to a 34,000 square foot space in Arlington Tower, at 1300 17th Street N. The move will help Rosslyn — home to WJLA, NewsChannel 8, Politico and the Washington Business Journal – brand itself as an emerging “media hub.” [Washington Post]
Sickles Enters Congressional Race — Del. Mark Sickles, who represents Fairfax County in the Virginia House of Delegates, is now the fifth Democrat to enter the race to replace Rep. Jim Moran (D) in Congress. [Roll Call]
TJ Prospects May Get Testing Do-Over — Students from Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties who took the entrance exam for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a magnet school, may get a do-over. Technical difficulties prevented some students from saving the essay portion of the computer exam. [Reston Now]
Arlington Group Helps Undocumented Students — The Dream Project, an Arlington-based organization, is helping undocumented students apply and pay for college. The group was co-founded four years ago by Arlington School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez. [Washington Post]
Pike Road Closures Tonight — VDOT will be removing an overhead sign across Columbia Pike at S. Queen Street tonight. Drivers should expect road closures of “up to 20 minutes at a time,” according to Arlington County. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by J. Sonder
Heavy Seas Alehouse, which has been under construction at 1501 Wilson Blvd for months, is targeting next month for its opening.
“We are aiming for somewhere around the week of Feb. 17,” The Alehouse said last week. “No official date yet, though.”
The alehouse, affiliated with the Baltimore brewery of the same name, was originally targeting a December opening date. In recent months, it has been hiring staff and, last Friday, announced its Chef de Cuisine would be Marc Kennedy, former executive chef at McCormick & Schmick’s in Crystal City.
The 6,000-square-foot alehouse will be at the corner of N. Oak Street at 18th Street in Rosslyn. The bar will have 15 taps rotating primarily with Heavy Seas beers. It will open daily for lunch at 11:00 a.m. and will be able to fill growlers for customers.