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Big Restaurant Shakeup at Pentagon Row

by ARLnow.com January 4, 2012 at 1:45 pm 11,800 65 Comments

There’s a big restaurant shakeup underway at Pentagon Row. Baja Fresh and PR Grill have closed their doors at the shopping center, while Lime Fresh Mexican Grill and Nando’s Peri-Peri restaurant will be opening later this year.

Baja Fresh, located near the Harris Teeter grocery store, closed on Dec. 31, according to a note in the window. The restaurant’s main sign has already been taken down.

Baja Fresh will be replaced by Lime Fresh Mexican Grill, a fast-growing chain that’s also opening a location in Clarendon. The Pentagon Row Lime Fresh location is expected to open this spring, according to the Pentagon Row Facebook page. The Clarendon location, meanwhile, is now expected to open on Jan. 16.

Florida-based Lime Fresh is backed by the company behind the Ruby Tuesday restaurant chain.

PR Grill closed recently so that the owners could “concentrate on other business,” according to a web site where just about everything remaining inside the restaurant is being auctioned off. PR Grill’s web site is still live, however, touting the restaurant’s “variety of American steak and seafood dining hot off the grill.”

It’s unclear if it will be opening in the old PR Grill space, but Pentagon Row announced this afternoon that Nando’s Peri-Peri will be opening in the shopping center this summer. The local chain bills itself as “the home of legendary, Portuguese, flame-grilled, Peri-Peri chicken.”

The restaurant shakeup comes as Federal Realty, the company that owns Pentagon Row, is preparing to revamp the property’s central plaza area. The company’s proposal to reconfigure the plaza is expected to be considered by the Arlington County Board later this month. The reconfigured plaza would allow for a larger skating rink, among other changes, we’re told.

Update at 2:30 p.m. — A reader points out that Pentagon Row eateries Sandella’s Flatbread Cafe and Maggie Moo’s have also recently closed.

  • LP

    Yes to Nando’s in VA! No more having to trek to Dupont or Chinatown.

    ARLNow – I don’t think classifying Nando’s as a “local chain” is appropriate as it has it’s roots in S. Africa and are predominant in the UK and other countries.

    • Sam

      Yeah, Nando’s is definitely not a local chain.

    • AllenB

      +1 Will love having a Nando’s a bit closer to home.

      • Ballston

        Sweet! I <3 Nandos! If the recent trend of awesome things coming to VA keeps up, we'll never have to enter the District again.

        • Quinch

          Good Ballston – stay in VA!

    • Common Minter

      Nando’s is overpriced and under-flavored compared to Super Pollo, Pollo Rico, or any of the other chains with “pollo” in their names. Plus they don’t have beans/rice or spinach as a side. I predict they won’t last long.

      • LP

        They have Portuguese Rice – will that suffice?

        And I have to disagree about overpriced and under-flavored – the Peri Peri sauce has tons of flavor (and heat)!

        • Common Minter

          Glad you like it. My take on it was that for what–8$?–I got a piece of OK chicken and some fries. VS with one of the pollo places, $6 gets you unbelievable chicken (crispy skin), plus a wider choice of sides.

          • Arlingtonian

            My fiance and I ate at the one in Chinatown a few years ago and got a similar impression. And the peri peri sauce wasn’t even all that hot. We were both not impressed. I’m always willing to give it one more try, so we’ll see if maybe it was just that location having a bad night or whatever.

      • Walter White

        Nothing beats Los Pollos Hermanos !

        • FrenchyB

          Especially when washed down with a frosty cold Schraderbrau.

          • SkinnyP

            That’s church, yo .

        • Last chance to look at me, Hector.

        • Jessie

          Hahaha…. +1000

      • White

        You are on crack. Nando’s is so much juicer and more flavorful than the Pollo’s. Those places are overrated in my opinion.

        • Common Minter

          Try the Super Pollo on N. George Mason. Trust me.

          • White

            The last time I went to Super Pollo I was peeing out of my butt for hours. So no thanks.

          • CW

            Some of Super Pollo’s sides are great but EPR has them beat on the total package.

      • sue

        Nope. Compeletely different styles of chicken from different places.

        Nando’s is HOT, HOT, HOT..if you want it to be. I like the chicken places you mentioned but they aren’t in the same category as Nando’s.

  • Don

    Hard to believe that PR space is large enough to host a Nandos but I can’t say I’ve been to one other than the Penn Qtr location. Is the one in the Dupont area of similar size?

    • Steamboat Willie

      Nando’s in DuPont is in a decent sized space, albeit deep and narrow. I like the chicken, though the price is a tad too high to be considered fast food, but I guess that’s the goal.

  • Schmeff

    I had Nando’s for the first time recently with a Groupon and it was delicious. Will definitely be hitting this place up.

  • drax

    What is the difference between Baja Fresh and Lime Fresh Mexican Grill besides the name?

    • LP

      Not much at all. But competition is what is all about.

    • That Baja Fresh used to be great. Someone said the chain was bought by another company and that it went downhill after that.

    • Michael Hedrick

      Lime is FUN, has service at your tables, offers beer-wine-margaritas,has over 50 hot sauces, seasonal salsas, Fresh music, atmosphere!!!….both are QSR-Quick Service Restaurants! At Lime we just know we are a better value. To “LP” comment… you are exactly correct….competition is all about out performing your peer group! I’m jazzed to be in your neigboorhood. Please come check us out! Ask for Mike Hedrick. Arlington I’d love to personally meet you all.

  • WFY

    I thought the plaza was pretty well designed, but given the turnover of restaurants, I can’t say I’m surprised they are rethinking it. The parking isn’t too convenient there and the foot traffic is limited by the Riverhouse campus (fair amount of elderly residents, though that is probably changing) on the west nothing on the north but parking, I-395, etc.

    I just hope Sin’e sticks around, I love the potato soup there. The ice rink, small as it is, was great to have when I lived in Riverhouse too.

    • Tabs

      The parking situation is terrible at Pentagon City.

    • Suburban Not Urban

      Doesn’t help that getting from the mall to Pentagon Row is a disaster.

      • Nooner

        Exactally, there is one random staircase in the parking garage and fence cut between the two.

      • Louise

        Seriously? It’s super easy! You walk through the food court, up a stairway, cross the service road, and you’re there. Not hard at all.

        • CrystalMikey

          + uno

        • Ren

          Not sure what makes a staircase random vs. nonrandom but it does seem to get me from the metro level to the Harris Teeter level just fine. I’m going to miss Baja.

  • Dwigt

    Welcome to Arlington: Home of Disposable Restaurants.

    Although now that we have Ruby Tuesdays-backed concepts moving in, they will have the bucks to stick around.

  • Stillwell87

    Woah, I’m a Riverhouse resident (right across the street) and I didn’t even know PR Grill had closed! Kept meaning to try that place, just never got around to it. Oh well, looking forward to trying Nando’s, I’ve heard a lot about them.

    • Grandstander

      You’re not missing anything. I was actually shocked they’ve managed to stay open this long. Really happy to have even a half-way decent place replacing it.

      Baja Fresh, on the other hand, surprised me. That place didn’t really seem like it was hurting for business. I had stopped eating there after I got sick twice in a row from their food. Perhaps it was a health dept issue?

      • Rick

        Last time I went in there it smelled like the toilets were backed up…

  • mapchick

    I wonder if the outdoor bar at PR Grill (that sadly was hardly ever busy) will be continued by whatever ends up in that space. I feel like with better food and drink options that could be a more popular set up.

  • Dude Where’s My Car

    I first heard of Nando’s chicken a few weeks ago when they pulled the controversial ad showing Robert Mugabe as the Last Dictator Standing:


    Ironically this ad was produced *before* Kim Jong Il “rung down the curtain and joined the Choir Invisible.”

    Was disappointed to read that Nando’s was a South African chain, as I didn’t see myself getting there anytime soon…. Now I’m finding out there’s one in Dupont, and coming soon to Arlington! 🙂

    Look out, Colonel Sanders! Your days as the head of a military junta may be coming to a close 😉

    • Steamboat Willie


      That video was fantastic. Thanks for the link. I’ve sent to my South African friends.

  • YTK

    I defiitely will not miss Maggie Moo’s — the woman behind the counter was lacking in some of the social graces, to put it mildly.

    • Arlingtonian

      I agree!!!!

    • I’m looking forward to the Nando’s also.

  • demonfafa

    Too bad. I like Baja Fresh a lot. Their salsa bar is quite awesome and fresh.

  • Also, the Tibetan Souveniers shop closed a month or two ago, and the American Express travel agency has been vacant for a long time. That makes six vacant storefronts in Pentagon Row. I’m surprised about Baja Fresh, but PR Grill had it coming. Whereas its neighbors had dim, intimate lighting, PR Grill had harsh, too-bright lighting that made the place feel like you were in a warehouse and everyone was watching and listening to you. Also, most of the people who go out to eat in Pentagon Row decide which restaurant to eat at by standing in the middle of the courtyard and reading the signs. The name PR Grill told nothing of what kind of food or restaurant it was.

  • JimPB

    The restaurants come and go.

    Then there’s getting back to basics.

    What’s a home kitchen and eating area for? Preparing meals and eating them there, inviting family and friends to join in with contributions of food and enjoyable talk in quiet (no unpleasant or blearing music — or music of your choice and at the sound level of your choice

    For variety: Search for new recipes on line, then implement. Or bring in a local person (broadening one’s network of friends) from another country/culture to share their prized native dishes. Prepare the food together, enjoying the interaction and seeing what goes into the final products. Eat and share reactions — and other good conversation.

    Makes a residence a home.

    • Tabs

      What time shall I arrive?

      • JimPB

        What will you be bringing for the table?

        • Tabs

          I have a delicious wild rice salad recipe.

          Always ready with the wine.

  • wow just before the end of the year I went to that Baja Fresh and ordered some tacos and soup. Everything lacked salt. The food used to be so good and I was so disappointed that I swore I’d never buy a thing there again.

    Someone read my mind . . .

  • JimPB

    Salt is a significant risk factor for hypertension (high blood pressure), and thereby for adverse events like strokes. American prepared foods typically have excessive salt (check the info on containers of store foods; you’ll see).

    Eating with little or no salt added is usually a readily acquired taste. If you must have salt, individually add the absolute minimum.

    • Sunny617

      Wow…preaching about eating out AND our salt intake. Thanks, Mom…er, I mean, JimPB. Don’t you have some video game-playing children to go scold?

    • Lauren

      I know all about salt and how people believe salt intake is linked to HBP and reading labels. My BP is perfectly normal (on the low side of normal) and I enjoy salt in my food. Salt makes food taste good. Food without salt is bland. You are kidding yourself if you think food tastes good w/o seasoning.

      This is not a personal attack, but your comment reminded me of a man I met years ago in the old Whole Foods in Annandale (when it had it’s original name which escapes me now). We were standing in line and he kept telling me all the did NOT eat. He was skinny, pale, and had all sorts of nervous ticks going on. He needed a real good piece of seasoned steak, with some fat, protein and flavor and a big baked potato with butter.

      We do reach a point where we get obsessed with things hurting or killing us and we stop enjoying life.

      I’m not saying BF should put a whole salt shaker in a taco, but seasoning is necessary for good to be good.

      • PHD

        Fresh Foods?

    • Tabs

      I’m with JimPB on the salt issue.

  • Rick

    Can that Sprint store go too? I’ve never seen so many inept people in the same color shirt..

    • Joe hoya

      I take it you’ve never been to a Redskins game.

  • Jan

    I eat at Baja Fresh regularly and the Pentagon Row store was always busy. I am shocked it closed, I’ll miss it – though the quality was better in the past. And parking was always a problem. I’m really surprised the chain isn’t doing well overall, it’s my favorite Mexican “fast” food.

    • Jan

      And the sign on the door says the store is temporarily closed, which sounds odd since the sign is gone…

  • charles

    Some parts of Pentagon Row are just death to businesses. The County did a quite a poor job of laying out the area (read: bending over for whatever the developer wanted).

    • Arlingtarian

      Have you ever tried to follow the sidewalks or crosswalks in and around Pentagon Row? It’s as though they got half way through the design process and called it quits. It’s downright dangerous to be a pedestrian there.

  • Racine Holiday

    Pentagon City is your typical suburban haut trying to pass as city living. Actually it’s not too bad for such a small space. Enlarging the ice rink will be a real plus. In it’s current state, it is a real joke if you are over 5 years old.

  • t

    So did the PR Grill not serve Peurto Rican food?

  • Steve S

    Update: The Maggie Moos will now be a YogiBerry. Sign in the window to confirm it as of 1/23.

  • Mike P

    In no particular order:
    PR Grill = Pentagon Row Grill. A friend and I both got sick there.

    Annandale Whole Foodas was Fresh Fields.

    Horrible parking and worse accommodations for pedestrians at PR.
    But nice to have some decent restaurants in walking distance (however dangerous the walk may be.


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