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Sangam Restaurant Closes on Columbia Pike

by ARLnow.com June 11, 2012 at 1:35 pm 7,402 64 Comments

(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) Sangam Restaurant has closed, less than a year after it moved from the Comfort Inn in Ballston to 3205 Columbia Pike.

Owner Edward Dean says financial difficulties forced him to shutter the location. For the time being, Dean says he’s continuing to operate a delivery and catering business, with the same staff as Sangam, out of another Indian restaurant in Arlington. Customers can call 703-524-2728 to place orders, he said.

Dean, a retired diplomat, says he lost more than $1 million trying to make the restaurant work between 2004 and today. While perhaps not a financial success, the restaurant did win some accolades, including three straight first place awards at the Taste of Arlington.

Even though it struggled while on the ground floor of the Comfort Inn, Dean said moving Sangam to its most recent location on Columbia Pike was “the biggest mistake I made.”

Now, Dean says he’s looking for a partner to try to get the restaurant up and running again in another location. If that doesn’t work, Dean said, he may have to abandon his restaurant ambitions altogether.

  • MB

    That’s too bad. Food was great (and Mr. Dean seemed a fine fellow). I wish him luck.

    • JohnB

      Agreed. Food was great, but the location was [email protected] I can’t imagine how much he had to spend to improve the dining room from crack house to just run down. And trying to park there was a pain. He probably would have done better in one of the small spaces in Penrose/Sienna Park.

      • EWWW

        His food was never that good. The owner was nice enough, but there were multiple times I had gotten take out and it was ice cold.

        • brian

          you don’t know how to use a microwave?!

    • RebeccaK

      That’s the second business to fold in that location since the Pines of Italy had its decades-long run. Both of the replacement restaurants (Kabob House and Sangam) tried to run food service out of the street-level area and the upstairs dining room. Maybe that was one of the drags on being able to turn a profit.

  • veeta

    I really wanted this place to work, but it was poorly run. More training and less boasting would have gone a long way, as would not opening before the place was ready.

  • Chris Slatt

    Mr. Dean was awesome! We were a loyal customer of the Ballston location, but the food seemed to suffer after a few months at the Pike location – not sure what changed, but we ordered less and less.

  • Catheryn Kutsch

    Why are restaurants closing on Columbia Pike? We are very unhappy that Sausa closed. But what is it about Columbia Pike that seems to be an undesirable destination?

    • Catheryn Kutsch

      Sorry. Typo. Sauca.

      • David

        Sauca’s location on the Pike was on problem, they also jumped the shark when they went from counter service and $8 sandwiches to table service and $11 sandwiches. Fried yuca side for $5, and came with 6 pieces as well. I had Sangam delivery a few time and enjoyed it.

    • meh..

      Suaca did TOO much TOO fast. They started out perfect….but then went too far trying to spice things up…

      Kinda like when someone has a nice car, then goes to AutoZone one day and just goes HAM on the accessories….

      • Tabby_TwoTone

        Or like Callista Gingrich’s plastic surgery. She hardly intended to end up looking 20 years older, right?

    • CW

      Looks to me that the theme is more that rich people who try to run experimental restaurants as a side project aren’t having much luck these days.

      • meh..

        Sauca might fit this description…but not Sangam. He’s been an Arlington fixture for YEARS. Definitely not an experiment. Maybe moving to that location on the Pike was an experiment I guess.

        • CW

          I did not follow his finances or story much when they were in the Ballston space but the article seems to imply (and his desire to move would confirm) that the venture was not profitable. I guess “fixture” is open to interpretation but it didn’t seem like people were ever beating down the door.

      • South Awwlington

        Amen Cdubs.

    • Read the articles

      Actually, if you read the articles, Sauca closed because the owner was tired of working 14 hour days. No big conspiracy.

      • In addition to doing to much, too fast -the undergrounding of wires along that section of the Pike where Sauca was becamse the ‘death blow’

        That and the vagrants laying, and I mean laying, in the parking lot next door…

        Can’t wait to see what all is will look in 7 years…

      • meh..

        Of course that’s the pretty spin the owner would put on it. I’m not slighting him, he was a nice guy. Enjoying eating there….but he should have left well enough alone. He was working 14 hours days because he was doing too much, too fast. He was running 2 – 3 food trucks, also running a brand new restaurant in a challenging location. TOO MUCH. Not sure what part of my comment would lead you to believe I didn’t read the article about the subject….

    • KalashniKEV

      “But what is it about Columbia Pike that seems to be an undesirable destination?”

      Oh, man… do you really want an answer to that?

      • FrenchyB

        Yes, please enlighten us.

    • The Pike is undergoing major renovations and will be for some time.

      If you think back to when the metro was being built in the R-B cooridor, you’re remember how many businesses lost it in that transition.

      To keep some businesses, Arling -from what I am told- offered a lot of special deals for some to stay back when that orange line was being built -it’s why you see, barely, a lot of Vietnamese mom and pops still there.

      When the line was fully up and the Wilson was stable, they were bought out… thus Annandale.

    • Anon

      Why are restaurants closing on Columbia Pike? Because there’s no streetcar, of course! (sarcasm alert)

  • Too Bad

    I never had the opportunity to go to the Ballston location, but I went to the spot on the Pike last fall, and I thought it was wonderful. Major bummer about it closing. If they re-open somewhere else, I’m there.

  • Christine

    It is too bad. Though I have to say, I didn’t go back after my first time eating there because there was ZERO spice in the Tikka Masala. It was very bland and luke warm and I was quite surprised based on the reviews. Note: We ordered carry-out.

  • meh..

    Columbia Pike is a GREAT location for restaurants….but there are locations ON the Pike that are just horrible. There are plenty of vacancies in the new apartment high rises, maybe looking into a nice fresh new home is the ticket.

    • Tabby_TwoTone

      Yeah, I see an icky building in a rundown part of the Pike near a tattoo parlor and it just doesn’t make me hungry. Exhibit A: Mrs. Chen’s.

      • meh..

        Not to mention the schizophrenic presentation….is it a Carry Out? A Dine In? Wait…do I order down here then go find a seat up stairs? Wait…which door do I go in? Wait…do I parallel park or just pull in? Wait..i’m upstairs, above ground, but….where are the windows???

        • meh..

          And why are there TWO signs for the same restaurant? And who’s Ed??
          Wait…how do you cater internationally???? FedEx?

      • SoArl

        Yeah – I don’t understand why some people seem to freak out at the thought of those nasty rundown buildings being knocked down and redeveloped.

      • FoodSick

        Mrs. Chen’s, “for when you’re to busy to reheat your own garbage”

    • MB

      I don’t really understand the failure of the Sauca/Bob&Edith’s II location. Aren’t people always bitching about parking? That’s about as easy as it gets in Arlington, and yet . . .

      • John K.

        It doesn’t matter how much parking you have IF people won’t drive to your location (there’s a little of that) and your place isn’t worth coming to. Sauca almost had it with it’s first concept. B&E II was a disaster. They must have put their reasonably competent people on weekend breakfast only. It was so poorly run it deserved the miserable death it found.

        Maybe Sangam could pick itself back up and take over the spot…

        • Tabby_TwoTone

          No, they sucked on the weekend too. I walked out.

      • Arlingtonian

        Yeah, I was more likely to go to Sauca just because of the big beautiful parking lot out front. No garages, no pay to park … awesome. Hope to see something great open back up in that spot soon.

  • LifeorLiberty

    Please Please Please Come back to Ballston !!!

    Take the old Chevy’s location

    ooooh how we need some Indian food here in B-ton

    • EastPike

      Is saying B-ton a thing now? Or were you just throwing that out and hoping it sticks? I, for one, hope this never happens again.

      • LifeorLiberty

        just shorthand..no hope to stick…just want indian food in the neighborhood. = (

        will happily trade a bistro/market/tavern/sports pub with crappy tunnel food for a mediocre indian restaurant !!

    • Dave

      Ballston ain’t his kind of town.

    • South Awwlington

      like Bon-Ton?

    • Kiffee

      Concur & second the motion. I LOVED Sangam – please come back!

  • Currymeup

    When it was in Ballston I liked Sangam enough to go back now and then, but I always thought it was hit or miss. Sometimes I felt like my food was made to order, and sometimes I felt like I was getting re-heated leftovers from the lunch buffet.

    • JohnB2

      I agree. I liked the place for the most part when it was in “northwest” Ballston, but sometimes it felt like I was getting reheated buffet food. They were also good about making the food more/less spicy upon request.

      I’d love an Indian place to come to a more central location in Ballston. Plenty of ground floor retail space available.

  • Pie

    Grade F meat fit for human consumption!!!

  • ballstonguy

    If there were only a streetcar on Columbia Pike to bring customers in, Sangam might have survived.

    • Rick

      Yeah, I’m sure that was the nail in the coffin, no streetcar.

  • tender_bro_sports


    • JohnB2

      Dude, hate to break it to you but they left Ballston 10 months ago; we’ve already survived a winter without them. Closest Indian food is now on Lee or in Clarendon.

  • Bummed

    DARN! I was so excited that Sangam was close enough to me to deliver (the old Ballston location was too far from my placE). And there aren’t any other Indian places near me that do, so it looks like I’ll have to start learning to make my own. Boo.

  • The Dope of South Arlington

    Maybe because the guy ain’t Indian? Just a thought…

    • I love this site!

      Laff of the day, ‘cus itz tru!

    • Idiot

      Edward Dean is Indian. Not all Indians are named Patel or Singh.

  • JC

    I ate there about 10 times, and enjoyed the food, and intended to be back. I think that is a particularly tough location. The foot traffic isn’t high, so you need to know it’s there or be very experimental. Long ago, I think the italian place which was there had problems bringing them in too, even though the food was good.

    • John K.

      The foot traffic is rather high in this area. However, foot traffic looking for Indian or Italian food… yeah… shaa… Still rather low.

  • Tabby_TwoTone

    This guy should turn it into a food truck business. That sort of food is more lunch-friendly (imo).

  • jaynon

    I like how the owner blames the Pike as the reason for failure…nit that the fact that the owner is all bluster and had no idea how to run a business! I gave them many tries in both locations….the 3rd strike was when i went on at 4:30 on a Wednesday to make an order and the only guy working was a gut who spoke no English….good riddance to Sangam, there are MANY other Indian joints that are 100 times better!

  • Kari

    I actually called to order this weekend before I realized it closed. They moved to a new location on Glebe (I think near Glebe and Pershing). I was going to get delivery, but he wanted me to call some random guy’s cell phone to place an order (and after getting my CC stolen from another restaurant in the area) I didn’t feel comfortable doing that.

    But I always enjoyed it. I will miss having a walkable indian food location.

  • Chissy

    Perhaps streetcars could have propelled it to success……………….

  • justsaying

    I don’t think there are many Indian folks posting here, because I worked in Ballston for years, and every Indian co-worker I had said this place was very mediocre at best.

  • The butter chicken needed work, but aside from that, I really liked their lunch buffet. Too bad.

  • Blooman

    Used to regularly eat at the old location on Glebe. It was good. Then we visite this location for the buffet. Dead quiet, seemingly no one around. Finally a guy wandered out and implored us to sit. But we were not gonna stick around for a warmed-over buffet or wait for them to cook fresh food, if they would have done so.

    To those who say the location was the problem, I have two words for you: Thai Square.

  • info81

    The food was not very good, there was not enough spice or taste, it is as simple as that. I ate there four times as it was close by in Ballston.

    Cooking Indian food is not rocket science. My co-worker in a previous job would like me have some of his wife’s cooking, it was glorious.

    hint: Cook things to order.

  • cjw

    I went in once with my mom to try the lunch buffet. The food was somewhere between fine and good (although lukewarm at best), but the atmosphere was just shockingly bad. Dingy surroundings, cheap plastic utensils, warm water in a styrofoam cup. It is right across the street from me and I LOVE Indian food, but I have never wanted to go back. Way too depressing.

    So…totally not surprised they didn’t make it. Not the Pike’s fault.


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