Lebanese Taverna, which began as a single storefront in Arlington operated by an immigrant couple and their five children, is celebrating its 35th anniversary with events and specials over the next two months.
On July 28 and 29 at the Westover location (5900 Washington Blvd) and Aug. 6 and 7 at Pentagon Row (1101 S. Joyce Street), Lebanese Taverna will serve dishes from its 1979 menu with the original prices to commemorate the year the restaurant opened.
The restaurant is also currently taking submissions for a social media contest, in which longtime customers can email the restaurant their favorite Lebanese Taverna memory and then vote on their favorites by liking them on the restaurant’s Facebook page. A limousine will chauffeur the winners to different Lebanese Taverna locations for a five-to-six course meal, Shea said.
“We’re celebrating our uniqueness,” said Lebanese Taverna Vice President Grace Shea, the youngest child of founders Tanios and Marie Abi-Najm. “Thirty-five years is a long time for a restaurant to be open.”
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) will present a congressional proclamation of congratulations to the Abi-Najm family at a private event Friday evening, Shea said. The Westover restaurant will be open Friday at 6:30 p.m. for a kickoff event with the 1979 prices for invited guests from local civic associations and members of the public who happen to stop by.
“I’m proud of my family and what they’ve accomplished over the years,” Shea said. “When my parents came here they had five kids, $500 and spoke no English.”
The Abi-Najm family came to Arlington in 1976 to escape the civil war in Lebanon. Marie Abi-Najm worked as a teaching assistant and Tanios Abi-Najm did odd jobs and painted until they saved enough money to open their own restaurant in 1979, in the same storefront they still occupy just down the street from their house, Shea said.
“My dad always loved food and it was a way for him to bring a piece of Lebanon here to us,” Shea said. Her mother came from Dfoun, Lebanon, a village famous for producing chefs.
At first, Lebanese Taverna served pizza and subs and operated under “Athenian Taverna,” the name used by the previous tenants. Shea’s parents and her four siblings in high school were the only employees during the first year, causing business to suffer, she said.
In 1979, the restaurant only offered shish kabob and hummus as menu specials because they were novelties for most Arlington residents. However, their traditional food starting piquing customers’ interests after their first year in business, inspiring the Abi-Najm’s to change the restaurant’s name and put Lebanese fare on half their menu, according to Shea.
“We’d sit down for our family dinners at the restaurant and customers would say, ‘Wow, what is that? We want some of that,’” Shea said. The restaurant kept its half-Italian menu until 1983.
Once the restaurant was officially Lebanese Taverna, a second location opened in 1990 on Connecticut Avenue in D.C. It later expanded to include the Lebanese Taverna Market in D.C., catering division, six restaurants and four cafés it has today.
Daycare Owner Sorry for Leaving Child Outside – An Arlington home daycare owner says she’s sorry for leaving a three-year-old girl outside in the rain and cold without a jacket or shoes. Police were called to the home after neighbors say they heard the girl crying and trying to get back in the home. [WJLA]
Arlington Teacher Surprised by Award — Barrett Elementary School teacher Joshua McLaughlin was surprised Tuesday afternoon when he was presented the Virginia Lottery Super Teacher Award during a school-wide assembly. McLaughlin is one of eight teachers to win the award along with a $2,000 cash prize and $2,000 classroom supply credit. [Arlington Public Schools]
A-SPAN Making Progress on 100 Homes Initiative — The Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network continues to make progress on its 100 Homes initiative. So far A-SPAN has placed 87 formerly homeless individuals into housing, including 12 chronically homeless veterans. [Falls Church News-Press]
Westover Farmers Market Starts Summer Hours – The Westover Farmers Market will begin its summer hours on Sunday, May 4. The market will be open an hour earlier than the winter market, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. [Westover Farmers Market]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
(Updated at 3:05 p.m.) The Westover Beer Garden (5863 Washington Blvd), which once struggled to stay open under onerous Arlington County regulations, plans to open a second location near Clarendon next year.
The new beer garden will open on the ground floor of the new Garfield Park apartment building (925 N. Garfield Street). It will features a “beer garden and haus,” a “butcher shop with emphasis on local farms,” and an on-site brewpub that will offer “Arlington County’s first local brew,” according to owner Devin Hicks.
The new beer garden will also serve as a music and event venue and will offer food similar to the current location, but with an expanded menu.
“Our present Beer Garden and Haus utilizes the local, grass fed meats of our in-house butcher shop,” Hicks noted. “Menu items include burgers with house-cured bacon, brisket, pulled pork, house made roast beef, corned beef, sandwiches, salads and a vast array of sides.”
The brewpub will initially offer a double IPA, an IPA, a German-style pilsner and seasonal beers, all brewed on-site, according to Hicks. The brewpub will utilize a 10-15 barrel system, he said, and a brewing line may be made available for select local homebrewers. (A 30-barrel system is typical for a new, production craft brewery.)
“Arlingtonians love their beer and… I think the area’s excited about having a local brew,” said Hicks. “We wanted to stay in Arlington and this seemed like the appropriate spot. The area is begging for a venue like this.”
The outdoor beer garden, in the semi-circular area in front of the Garfield Park building at the corner of Washington Blvd and 10th Street N., will have a 122-person capacity, according to Hicks. The venue’s indoor capacity is 210.
Hicks says he hopes to open the new location by March of 2015.
Westover’s Pete’s Barber Shop is no longer home to its namesake now that Peter Xereas has retired.
Xereas, a Greek immigrant, had owned the barber shop at 5847 Washington Blvd since 1968 when he officially retired Feb. 28. Pete’s was named the best barber shop in Arlington for 2013 by the readers of Arlington Magazine.
Chris Hewitt, who had worked under Xereas for about five years, has taken over the lease and operation along with his wife, Elaine Prettyman, who also works at the shop.
“He decided to hang up the clippers,” Hewitt told ARLnow.com while attending to a customer’s hair. “He’s still in good health, and he said he wants to enjoy it.”
Hewitt was hired after a barber had left Pete’s for a different job. Hewitt said on his first day, Xereas let him know the shop would eventually be his.
“That first day, I was in the chair right next to him,” Hewitt said. “He said ‘I’m not gonna be working much longer, so when I retire, you can have the barber shop.’ I said ‘sounds good,’ put my time in and tried to learn the place.”
Hewitt said Xereas is planning on returning to his native Greece for the summer to visit his ill sister. Xereas had been planning to retire since his wife died last year, and the paperwork for transferring the lease and the business over to Hewitt was complete at the end of February.
When the customer in Hewitt’s chair, Ed, heard ARLnow.com ask about how customers had been reacting to Xereas’ retirement, Ed turned around and said, “Oh my goodness.”
“That’s how they have been reacting,” Hewitt said with a laugh. “Pete loves his customers. He said he’s going to miss everyone so much, so retiring was hard.”
As news of Xereas’ retirement spread to Pete’s customer base, several regulars sent emails to ARLnow.com lamenting the loss of their favorite barber.
“The men in the house are going to look much worse for this turn of events,” one reader wrote.
“He is an Arlington icon and will be missed,” said another.
Toward the end of the haircut, Hewitt turned his customer’s chair around and trimmed his eyebrows and his mustache.
“That’s something Pete used to do,” Ed said.
Judging by the deluge of views and comments on our article about the Italian Store planning to open a second location, in Westover, most residents are excited about the opening.
But not everybody thinks the Italian Store will be an all-over positive development for the neighborhood.
Here’s a letter to the editor from former Westover resident Kyle Herchert:
I live in Rosslyn now, but from 2005 to 2012, I lived in the same house in Westover. (Tara Leeway Heights if you want to be a stickler).
I still remember the day I discovered the Forrest Inn. It was like a scientist who haphazardly stumbles upon a whole new species. I couldn’t believe there was a place like that in Arlington! It was amazing to me. I loved the fact that there was still a place that had remained unscathed amid the rapid growth we’ve all experienced living in Arlington over the last decade.
In many ways, all of Westover is like the Forrest. The entire strip had managed to retain its sleepy town feel even amid the hustle and bustle of the biggest little county in America. I’ve always enjoyed that feeling. It’s the feeling you get walking out of Pete’s Barber Shop, where I still get my hair cut, to stroll down to the Beer Garden just to check out the vibe. Westover just felt like home.
On the surface, the introduction of the Italian Store seems like a natural fit to the area – and in almost every way it is. It’s a mom and pop shop opening in the quintessential mom and pop town. However, the undeniable popularity of the Italian Store will undoubtedly attract huge numbers to the area. Once that happens I think it’s just a short time before investors realize that they can have success in the Westover area as well. How long will it be before the Forrest becomes a Boston Market or even worse, and Palm Beach Tan.
Maybe I’m being paranoid, I guess only time will tell.
– Kyle Herchert
A new weekend feature in 2014, ARLnow.com is now publishing letters to the editor. To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Updated at 7:00 p.m.) The Italian Store will be opening a second location next year, in the Westover neighborhood.
The store, which sells sandwiches, pizza, wine and gourmet Italian grocery items, has enjoyed considerable success at its Lyon Village location, at 3123 Lee Highway. The new location, at 5839 Washington Blvd, will be about twice the size as the original, according to owner Robert Tramonte, whose family has owned and operated the store since 1980.
“Our square feet is more than double that of the Lyon Village store, approximately 6,000,” Tramonte told ARLnow.com. “We envision doing everything that we currently have at Lyon Village plus a new Illy espresso coffee bar and other surprises.”
The Italian Store will replace a 7-Eleven convenience store, which closed its doors last night (Sunday). Customers are being asked to instead shop at the 7-Eleven at 6730 Lee Highway.
Tramonte says he expects to begin “a total renovation” of the new location next month.
“Our projected opening date is May 18th pending a fast track permitting process,” he said.
Correction: This article previously stated that the new location would be the Italian Store’s first expansion. Tramonte says the family “has had several other stores… over the years” but currently operates only in Lyon Village.
The Jefferson (900 N. Taylor Street) senior independent living community is looking for people to help its residents feel beautiful. It’s seeking volunteers to help give manicures.
The Jefferson will provide all the necessary manicure supplies, volunteers just need to show up and help to do the residents’ nails. Volunteers of nearly any age are welcome, but those under age 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Anyone interested should contact Jocelyn Hunt at 703-741-7585 or via email.
There are numerous other volunteer opportunities available on Volunteer Arlington’s website, including those listed below:
- Turkey Trot Volunteers — Helpers are needed for Arlington’s 8th annual Turkey Trot race on Thursday, November 28. In addition to those who can assist with tasks like setup and water station attendants on the day of the race, volunteers are needed on Tuesday, November 26, and Wednesday, November 27, to register participants. No special training is necessary, but volunteers must be able to stand during the event, which will take place rain or shine. Any helpers under age 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Volunteers can register online or contact Mark Riley at 703-927-0328 for more information.
- Shelving at Westover Branch Library — Westover Branch Library needs people to help put returned materials in numerical order and prep the materials for re-shelving. Volunteers must be dependable and should enjoy working on detail oriented projects. Two-hour shifts are available on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Helpers who are 18 and older must consent to a background check. Anyone interested should contact Barbara Dean at 703-228-7688 or via email.
- Mentor Latino Youths — Helpers are needed for Edu-Futuro’s Emerging Leaders Program. The program assists youths who are contemplating attending college with applying for scholarships, submitting college applications and improving speaking/writing skills. Mentors will meet with their assigned students on six Saturday mornings this fall. Applications can be found online and are due on Wednesday, October 23. Applicants must undergo a background check and attend an orientation. For more information, call 703-228-2560 or email email@example.com.
Walk into The Forest Inn in Westover on a Friday evening, and chances are you’ll hear southern rock emanating from the jukebox in the corner, two friendly bartenders chit-chatting with the patrons, and more than a dozen customers gabbing like old friends.
In fact, all of The Forest Inn customers are old friends. Asked how many people in the bar were there every week, Manager Ken Choudhary looked around and simply said, “everyone.”
The Forest Inn opened as The Black Forest Inn in the mid-1970s in what is now the Post Office building in Westover, and moved to its current location — sandwiched between Ayers Variety & Hardware and Toby’s Homemade Ice Cream — 31 years ago.
Since then, not much has changed. The food and drinks are as standard as pub food gets, few items on the menu are pricier than $10 and there is just one tap: Budweiser. There used to be a lot more bars like this in Arlington, but as urbanization and the explosive growth of young, affluent newcomers to the area has taken hold, The Forest Inn is one of the last vestiges of a bygone era: a true dive bar.
“There are very few places you can go by yourself and you don’t feel a little weird,” said Gary Harvey, an Arlington native — like many of his fellow regulars — who has been coming to The Forest Inn just about every Friday night for 12 years. “It’s a throwback to Arlington’s roots. There are really not many bars around here like this anymore.”
Even the customer base at The Forest Inn, while largely consistent, has changed over the years. Choudhary and his partners changed the restaurants hours from 7:00 a.m. to midnight to 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. a couple of years ago, which has brought in some of the younger crowd, many of whom stumble in after the Westover Beer Garden a few doors down closes.
The old crowd is also a fan of the change, and they’ve stayed just as loyal. Choudhary said the bar is like its own little neighborhood.
“They’ve come in here for so many years,” he said. “My whole clientele is people who do construction jobs, painters, landscapers, but we get engineers and lawyers, too. It’s a good mixture.”
Harvey said he’s had HVAC and landscaping work done on his house by friends he met at The Forest Inn. However, his favorite times at what he simply calls “The Forest” are chatting with his elders.
“There are some old-time, native Arlingtonians in their 70s who are here every week,”
he said. “To hear them tell stories about the area when they were growing up, it’s really special.”
Dave Batten is a chef at LA Bar & Grill on Columbia Pike, another of the dying breed of dive bar, but the Westover native still finds himself at The Forest Inn on Saturdays and Sundays, and “maybe a night or two during the week.” And he has plenty of stories.
“I was delivering papers in the 1970s when it was called The Black Forest Inn and owned by this German guy named Rolph,” he said. “He used to feed me breakfast in the morning and I would go out and buy groceries for the restaurant.”
Since Batten has grown up, he said he’s met two ex-girlfriends at his neighborhood bar. “I didn’t meet my current girlfriend there, that’s probably for the best.”
As the Nationals game gets underway, the chatter and music don’t die down even a little, but the patrons’ eyes drift upwards toward the screen, just as they would in the living room of any one of their homes. In fact,
“The regulars here are like family,” Batten said.
A noted streetcar critic will address a meeting of the Northern Virginia Tea Party on Tuesday.
The event is scheduled from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Westover Branch Library (1644 N. McKinley Road). Randal O’Toole, a transportation expert at the libertarian CATO Institute, will “speak about current transportation policy issues, including the Columbia Pike streetcar.”
O’Toole wrote the book The Vanishing Automobile and Other Urban Myths: How Smart Growth Will Harm American Cities in 2001, and published a policy analysis entitled “The Great Streetcar Conspiracy” last year. The analysis says municipal streetcar systems are being encouraged by the federal government and by “engineering firms that stand to earn millions of dollars planning, designing, and building streetcar lines.”
“Streetcars are the latest urban planning fad, stimulated partly by the Obama administration’s preference for funding transportation projects that promote ‘livability’ (meaning living without automobiles) rather than mobility or cost-effective transportation,” O’Toole wrote.
“Based on 19th-century technology, the streetcar has no place in American cities today except when it functions as part of a completely self-supporting tourist line. Instead of subsidizing streetcars, cities should concentrate on basic — and modern — services such as fixing streets, coordinating traffic signals, and improving roadway safety.”
(Supporters argue that a modern streetcar system is a clean and efficient transportation solution that reduces traffic congestion and promotes economic development.)
Tuesday’s event is free and open to the public. “Extensive free parking in the evening is available at the rear of the adjacent elementary school,” according to the event invitation.
Photo via CATO Institute
Pentagon City Mall Renovations — Coming on the heels of the news that Ballston Common Mall will be getting a revamp, the owners of Fashion Centre at Pentagon City announced plans to renovate that mall as well. Although no formal plan has been revealed, changes could include adding office space or apartments. Renovations for the 24-year-old mall would be paid for out of a pot of about $1 billion that Simon Property Group Inc. has set aside for updating its properties. [Washington Business Journal]
Fire Hydrant Color Meaning — Arlington doesn’t have one standard color for fire hydrants; instead, the county adopted a coloring system in the 1990s indicating the flow of water at each particular hydrant. Blue hydrants have water flow above 1,500 gallons per minute (gpm), green is between 1,000 and 1,500 gpm, orange is 500 to 1,000 gpm and red is below 500 gpm. The color scheme allows firefighters to quickly determine if one hydrant will be enough to fight a fire, or if a water relay system is necessary. [Washington Post]
More Signs Requested for Westover Market — Organizers of the Westover Market believe a drop in attendance occurred for the new winter market because of the county’s sign restrictions. There has been a drop of up to 90 percent, according to organizers, and they believe the attendance would be greater if they were allowed to post more signs advertising the market. The County Board asked County Manager Barbara Donnellan to investigate the issue. [Sun Gazette]
Library Hosts Croatian Ambassador — The Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) will host a celebration of Croatia tonight featuring music, food, cultural displays and a visit from Croatian Ambassador Joško Paro. The event begins at 7:00 p.m. [Arlington Public Library]
Hybrid Tax Petition — Virginia Senator Adam Ebbin and Delegate Scott Surovell launched a petition to get Gov. Bob McDonnell to eliminate the so-called hybrid tax in the newly passed transportation bill. Under the bill, drivers of hybrid vehicles would have to pay a $100 fee each year. McDonnell said he’d review that portion of the bill. [NBC 4]
Thieves Steal Wheels from Hotel — Two suspects were seen stealing tires and rims from two vehicles parked at the Crystal City Gateway Marriott (1700 Jefferson Davis Highway) early Thursday morning. A security guard tried to intervene but the suspects fled. Arlington, particularly south Arlington, has seen an apparent uptick in wheel thefts recently. [NBC Washington]
Santa Coming to Clarendon Saturday — Santa Claus will be coming to Clarendon on Saturday evening. The Jolly Old Elf will arrive at Market Common Clarendon (2700 Clarendon Blvd) on a “big red sleigh,” otherwise known as an Arlington County fire truck, at 4:00 p.m. He will be on hand for photos until 7:00 p.m. There will also be strolling carolers and other family-friendly entertainment. It’s the shopping center’s 12th annual “Winter Wonderland” event. [Market Common Clarendon]
Last Westover Farmers Market of 2012 — The new Westover Farmers Market will hold its last market of the year from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. The market, located at the corner of Washington Blvd and N. McKinley Road, will go on a holiday hiatus before returning on Jan. 13, 2013. The market’s winter hours run through April. [Westover Farmers Market]
Brink Commends Funding for Blind Students — Del. Bob Brink (D-Arlington) is praising Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) for his proposal to add $4.9 million in funding for blind and visually impaired students to the upcoming Virginia budget. The funds will help localities cover the cost of teachers, teacher’s aides and staff for blind and visually impaired students. [Alexandria News]
Bike Advocates Call For Plowed Trails — Bicyclists are calling on Arlington County to start plowing snow from bike and pedestrian trails. “By failing to plow the trails, [Arlington's Department of Environmental Services] puts more people onto the streets in cars,” said one bicycle advocate during yesterday’s county-organized online snow chat. “Is that really what you want, during a snow event?” [Along the Pike]
Flickr pool photo by Philliefan99
Human Rights Award Winners Announced — The Arlington Human Rights Commission has announced the winners for the 2012 James B. Hunter Human Rights Award. Two community groups — Wakefield High School’s Project Upstanders and Washington-Lee High School’s Best Buddies Club — received the honor, along with two individuals — recent Wakefield graduate Sara Heisey and Santa Fe Cafe owner John “Kip” Laramie. Awards will be presented at a ceremony on December 13. [Arlington County]
Red Top Toys for Tots Drive — From now through Monday, December 17, all Red Top Cabs will serve as Toys for Tots collection sites. Customers can bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate when riding in one of the cabs. Red Top will deliver the toys to the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation for distribution to local needy children. Arlington Yellow Cab is also participating in the program.
Board Approves Year-Round Westover Farmers’ Market — At its meeting yesterday (November 27), the County Board unanimously approved a new schedule and location for the Westover Farmers’ Market. The existing summer market will now run from May through November and a winter market will run from December through April, essentially making it a year-round market. The winter market will be smaller than the summer version. As far as location, the market will now be located mostly on the Reed School property.
The Arlington County Board is scheduled to consider an expansion of amplified music at the Westover Market beer garden (5863 Washington Blvd).
In June, the beer garden was granted a permit to allow amplified outdoor music on Saturday nights. In response to the market’s request to expand amplified music to three nights per week, county staff is recommending the County Board meet the business half way and grant a permit to allow amplified music two nights per week — on Fridays and Saturdays.
Only one neighbor has complained to the county about the amplified music, according to the staff report.
“No formal complaints have been made to the Zoning or Code Enforcement Offices since amplified entertainment was started one night per week in June 2012,” staff noted. “Staff has received informal complaints and concerns by one neighborhood resident. However, the applicant has been found upon investigation by staff to be compliant with the Noise Ordinance, and compliant with all conditions of approval.”
Westover Market also requested permission to operate the beer garden year-round, but staff concluded that such a move would require a change in the Zoning Ordinance. The ordinance requires all outdoor cafes in the county to be “seasonal” in nature — typically open from April to November and closed in the winter.
The Board is expected to consider the amplified music request at its meeting this coming Saturday, Nov. 17.
All of the products in the store are handmade by people in lesser developed countries including Kenya, Guatemala, South Africa, Nepal and Madagascar. Rather than resorting to working in a sweat shop, the laborers receive a fair wage for their products and are involved with a system that helps the goods get to market in more developed nations. Many of the items are created from recycled goods and promote sustainability.
“Fair trade is huge in Europe, it’s quite big on the West Coast and I think it’s going to continue to grow here,” said owner Lisa Ostroff. “When people come in they’ll see this is not a charity. They’re all beautiful things and they secondarily help someone struggling in some of these countries.”
Ostroff has lived in Arlington for nearly 30 years and wanted to open a store that tapped into her time spent studying international relations and non-profit management.
“It sort of brings all my skills together,” said Ostroff. “I’m not able to go there and be in the Peace Corps at this time in my life, but this was a good way to help people without actually being over there.”
Fair trade coffee will be sold by the bag, and customers can sample freshly brewed java. Ostroff hopes customers will visit the store for more than picking up a birthday or holiday gift. She pointed out that some smaller items could be hostess or teacher gifts, and many of the items can simply be a personal treat.
“Think of it as a little something for yourself, because it’s not expensive,” she said.
For now, Ostroff is working to stock the last few shelves and tie up loose ends. Trade Roots will officially open once its occupancy certificate is approved, which Ostroff hopes is in the next two weeks.
“I just think this is great for Arlington. Arlington is a liberal community,” Ostroff said. “I’m actually surprised that there isn’t something like this already. I’m hoping that this really grows.”
A little before 10:00 a.m., three cars became involved in an accident near N. Longfellow Street. Police and fire fighters blocked off Washington Blvd for several blocks while crews extricated a woman trapped inside her vehicle. She was transported to Fairfax Inova Hospital, and a person from another car was transported to Virginia Hospital Center with minor injuries.
Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Gregg Karl wasn’t able to give an update on the extricated woman’s condition. He did say regardless condition, it’s standard procedure to send a victim to a trauma center such as Fairfax if emergency crews had to remove the person from a vehicle.
The scene drew crowds and neighbors explained to each other what they had seen.
“A car came flying over the hill,” said a neighbor who witnessed the accident and wishes to remain anonymous. “People are going to keep doing that until somebody gets killed.”
A firefighter on the scene, however, said medics aren’t sure if the driver who was extricated may have experienced a medical emergency before becoming involved in the accident.