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Pike fried chicken spot Queen Mother’s moving to revamped Crystal City Water Park

The revamped Water Park in Crystal City is reopening this summer along with nearly a dozen new restaurants, including acclaimed local fried chicken spot Queen Mother’s.

The 1.6-acre park on Crystal Drive is reopening to the public this summer after a year-long construction effort, park owner JBG Smith announced this morning.

In addition to a number of food and drink spots, the revamped park will feature a live performance stage, public art installations, a building with public restrooms and bike facilities, and a “modernized fountain water wall” that empties into an “immersion fountain,” per a press release and renderings provided to ARLnow.

On top of the water wall will be an open-air raw and cocktail bar simply being called “Water Bar.” A New York-style pizza place will also be located in the park.

There will be a total of nine 300-square-foot restaurant kiosks lining Crystal Drive. Each will hold a small-scale eatery “meant to serve as incubator opportunities for up-and-coming culinary talent,” said the press release.

Among those are several notable local restaurants, including Queen Mother’s Restaurant — currently on Columbia Pike — and Reston-based Tiki Thai.

The full list of restaurants moving into the kiosks is below.

  • Brij, a DC-based café and wine bar by Skyler Kelley, whose vision is to bridge people and communities together with proceeds benefiting single mothers, the LGBTQ+ community, and the un-housed.
  • Bubbie’s Plant Burger, a plant-based and kosher certified Americana burgers, fries and soda pop shop from chef Margaux Riccio and general manager Shaun Sharkey, the creators of DC’s award-winning Asian fast casual restaurant Pow Pow.
  • Cracked Eggery, launched by Potomac native Mike Tabb and his partners as a popular food truck serving inventive egg sandwiches, bowls and tasty sides throughout DC. It now has permanent locations in Cleveland Park and Shaw, where it occupies space in a JBG SMITH-owned building.
  • DC Dosa, Bombay-born Priya Ammu’s South Indian street food concept, and her first location outside of Union Market.
  • Dolci Gelati, a DC-born gelato shop by Gianluigi and Anastasia Dellaccio serving up 450+ seasonal and artisanal flavors made fresh on a daily-basis as well as a robust coffee/espresso program.
  • Falafel Inc., launched by Ahmad Ashkar in Georgetown with a simple, inexpensive menu of falafel bowls, sandwiches and sides and the goal of feeding refugees alongside the World Food Programme.
  • PhoWheels, a family-based business from Tuan and Jennifer Vo featuring Vietnamese inspired dishes. Their kiosk will be the first brick and mortar location for the popular DC food truck.
  • Tiki Thai, a new outpost of chef Porntipa “Pat” Pattanamekar’s Reston eatery that has been dubbed “Virginia’s first premier tiki bar and Thai restaurant,” offering a wide-range of eats inspired by Thai and Polynesian cuisine.
  • Queen Mother’s, Virginia native and James Beard Award Semi-Finalist Chef Rahman “Rock” Harper’s tribute to his mother through his renowned fried chicken joint.

Queen Mother’s owner and chef Rahman “Rock” Harper, who was semifinalist for a James Beard award earlier this year, told ARLnow that the new Crystal City location will serve the fried chicken sandwiches and duck-fat fries the restaurant is known for. The plan is to also debut new flavors — and alcohol.

“We’re going to introduce some cocktails, maybe a cocktail on tap or a beer or two. So you’ll be able to get your chicken sandwich and your duck-fat fries with a nice little tasty beverage,” Harper said.

The new location at the Water Park will also mark the end of Queen Mother’s run on Columbia Pike, at least for restaurant-style service. Harper said he’s going to keep the space to help with catering orders, though.

The fried chicken eatery opened inside the incubator La Cocina VA, now called Kitchen of Purpose, in late 2020.

The last day of restaurant service at 3505 Columbia Pike will be this Saturday (May 6). Queen Mother’s will then shutter for a couple of months, except for catering orders, as they prepare the move to Crystal City, Harper said.

While he will always love Columbia Pike, it was time for a change.

“For me, the reason why I decided to move was because of all the resources, diversity, and vibrance of what is being built over there, particularly by JBG Smith, is just a place where we want to be,” Harper said. “Queen Mother’s is about building community and… it’s an exciting, really vibrant community that’s being built. It was a no-brainer for me to go down there.”

Between the Water Park and the pending debut of Amazon HQ2, there are numerous new food options opening in Crystal City and Pentagon City, collectively known as National Landing, in the coming months.

That includes a number of local spots like Peruvian Brothers, Good Company Doughnuts, NiHao, Toby’s Homemade Ice Cream, and Markers Union as well as buzzy D.C. eateries like Taqueria Xochi and Surreal, all coming to HQ2.

Optimism remains high for the area despite Amazon’s announcement in March that it was delaying the second phase of HQ2.

“No concern at all,” Harper said about the delay. “The Amazon current headquarters is right across from our shop [and] the Water Park. There are two apartment buildings that are going up that will be occupied soon. And, also, it’s not like a new neighborhood… there are hundreds of thousands of people that are already there that are looking for exciting food options now. Like, right now. There’s no concern.”

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