Rustico and Buzz Bakery Bringing Much-Needed Local Flair to Ballston

by ARLnow.com June 22, 2010 at 3:08 pm 8,171 34 Comments

When one thinks of Ballston, an image of soulless office towers, paint-by-numbers “luxury” apartments and oversized bars located in underperforming shopping malls may come to mind. To some degree, that reputation is deserved.

For several years now, Ballston residents have watched with envy as Clarendon has attracted a steady procession of new, homegrown restaurant developments. Ballston has retained its favorite watering holes, but there has been a dearth of new reasons to stay in the neighborhood after quittin’ time.

Enter Michael Babin, co-owner of Neighborhood Restaurant Group.

“We love Ballston,” Babin said in a recent telephone interview. “It’s just what we have been looking for.”

Babin, whose group runs Tallula and EatBar in Lyon Park and Evening Star Cafe in Alexandria, is making a major investment in Ballston. His company is taking over almost an entire block’s worth of ground level retail space with jumbo-sized versions of two of its newer Alexandria restaurant concepts: Rustico and Buzz Bakery.

Rustico, as we’ve previously reported, will be a beer lover’s paradise. It will feature 400 bottled beers, 40 beers on tap and two cask-conditioned ales.

The menu will be similar to the Alexandria location, with a large wood-fired oven on premises for pizza and other hearty foods. Chef Steve Mannino will, however, introduce a few new items, including some Mediterranean-influenced dishes created with the wood-fired oven in mind.

Buzz Bakery will seek to do for Ballston what Northside Social is doing for Clarendon — create a WiFi hangout that attracts coffee-drinking and pastry-eating crowds in the morning, lunch-time crowds in the afternoon, and wine and cocktail-sipping crowds at night (there will be a small bar in the back). It should be noted that the first Buzz Bakery, on Slaters Lane in Alexandria, actually opened well before Northside Social.

Buzz will have “a few wrinkles in the menu” and a feel that’s “coherent with the original location,” Babin says. “What’s neat about the Buzz atmosphere is that it’s not the typical bar atmosphere, and if you want that you can go to Rustico.”

Buzz and Rustico will inhabit two separate storefronts on the 4000 block of Wilson Boulevard, in the Liberty Center development. The storefronts will be divided by a small courtyard that features a rhythmic water fountain. Each restaurant will have abundant outdoor seating.

Rustico is slated to open in August. (Update on 10/7: We’re hearing that Rustico should open by the end of October.) Buzz Bakery will open at an unspecified time later this year.

Rustico and Buzz will likely be plenty busy in their first few months of operations, but Neighborhood Restaurant Group is positioning the restaurants in a location that may have a longer-term payoff. A large development across the street is currently a giant hole in the ground, but eventually it’s expected to become a mix of residential, retail and office space, and — perhaps — a hotel. All of those workers, residents and visitors will only have to look across the street to find the whole gamut of food and drink needs covered: morning coffee, breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, beer, wine and cocktails.

Babin says the company is looking forward to serving the “amazing people who live and work” in Ballston.

“We’re excited about joining the neighborhood, we really are.”

  • Rob

    I can’t tell you how excited I am to hear about both new places. Here’s hoping the prices aren’t out-of-control.

  • When did I miss the memo that Ballston and Clarendon are all of a sudden competing against each other!

    As for local flare – I wont even start on that one – other than to suggest that you are defining “local flare” as “urban hip.” Not everything has to appeal to yuppies. Some can be pizza hole in the walls that make a great calzone – or a chinese food joint that does great take out – or, well, heck – the library!

    • Y T Karashinski


  • lily

    What, Pizza Roma doesn’t count as “local fare”? Pizza snobs will disagree, but I say their thin greasy slices of cheese are the best $3 you can spend in this neighborhood.

    I am really glad about the coffee shop. Though it will probably be super crowded all the time since there are, inexplicably, no other coffee shops between Glebe and Northside Social.

    In my dream world, Central Library would stay open past 9pm and serve coffee. Arlington County is really missing out on revenue by not doing that!

    • Y T Karashinski

      I try not to spend too much time at Central Library — many of their employees are curt, snobbish and caustic — what a contrast to the folks who work at the branches!!

      Hmm.. maybe the Central Library employees need more coffee…….

  • Lou

    Ballston has IHOP and that just makes everybody else perpetually jealous.

    • Marisu

      IHOP in Arlington is the best!!!

  • Elle

    I’m so excited to have these two places coming within walking distance of my house. I hope they’ll feature good food and be successful.

  • Kelley Coyner

    Terrific. It will be great to have another venue like this. (BTW, could you make it easy to share these on facebook?) KSC

    • Y T Karashinski

      True — there is NO Facebook page for either one — none that I can find — unless it’s under a different monniker

      • Anonymous


        • YTK


  • MC

    This is fantastic news – Rustico rocks, and Ballston needs an alternative to the greasy food fare of sports bars and chain “family” eateries.

  • Mike

    Let’s hope the service is better than northside social. 7 mins to make a coffee?

    • Y T Karashinski

      Amen — and they never give you enough.

    • TAllen

      Hey, it’s not coffee, it’s art.

  • David Panarelli

    Hey, Kelley Coyner: It looks like you can share on facebook by using the icon that appears at the end of the post, in this case that’s right below the photos.

  • Such an odd view of Ballston! After dining at Willow, and 1Gen, I’m not sure the neighborhood is all chain restaurants. I, too, welcome Rustico and Buzz, two great establishments that deserve to expand. But why knock Ballston in the process? With its many vestpocket parks and occasionally terrific architecture, Ballston is a destination in its own right. Just look at soaring new Kettler arena, a few steps from Rustico. I love all of Arlington but I don’t like this writer’s attitude about beautiful downtown Ballston.

  • PLP

    4000 Wilson is near Wilson and Quincy.

    • Y T Karashinski

      Not far from the scenic Metrobus garage

      • RCW

        That Metrobus garage was demolished 6 months ago to make space for a new mix-muse development with DARPA as the main commercial tenant

        • RCW

          *Mixed-use (fixed)

          • No, I prefer Mixed Muse – we need more Muses around here.

  • Really?

    Yuk…hope you all enjoy the chain…overpriced for the quality of food. Although, the beer is good…would rather have something similar to MaddFox…now they serve food to compliment beer!

  • TS

    Haha. Glad you won’t be there to ruin it for the rest of us, “Really?” Rustico is amazing, food and beer alike.

  • Local

    Man this place might not open until next year. I walk bye the store everyday and the construction is going on at a snails pace.

    • I think snails could build that place alot faster.

  • Michele D

    Can we get someone to open an Indian restaurant in Ballston??? We have plenty of pizza and burgers now.

    • Just ONE Indian restaurant? We need at least two.

    • Allan

      There is an Indian Restaurant at the Comfort Inn on Washington Blvd.

      • Anon

        Yes- go to Sangam. It rules.

  • Pingback: Response #1: Arlington residents can “Eat More Chicken” November 18! « A Royall Juggle()

  • What’s the latest buzz on Buzz? Are they open yet????

    • LyonSteve

      Nope… No visible change on the outside at least.


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