Press Club

The co-owner of popular Clarendon nightlife spot Spider Kelly’s is planning a new restaurant for the base of a Crystal City office building.

Restaurateur Nick Freshman is launching “The Freshman” at 2011 Crystal Drive, he announced today (Tuesday). He hopes to have it open by sometime in 2020.

Freshman hopes to offer “high-quality coffee, teas, and craft cocktails” at the restaurant, in addition to “breakfast, lunch and dinner options made in-house with fresh local ingredients.”

The Freshman will set up shop in a 3,400-square-foot space that was once home to a Noodles & Company location, which shut down last fall. The restaurant will have room for 120 diners and a 50-seat outdoor patio.

“I’ve seen firsthand how much the neighborhood has changed over the years and I knew I wanted to be a part of the growth,” Freshman, who lives in the area, said in a release. “When Amazon announced that they were coming to town, I knew that the opportunity to be part of this story was just too good to pass up, especially considering this is my backyard.”

Like most of the other office buildings across Crystal City, developer JBG Smith owns the property, and is trumpeting The Freshman as the first retailer to sign a lease in the area since Amazon tabbed the neighborhood for its massive new headquarters.

The company is planning an expansive new redevelopment of other retail offerings nearby, and it’s envisioning The Freshman’s arrival as one in a series of big changes on the way for the newly dubbed “National Landing” neighborhood in the coming years.

“The Freshman is a perfect fit for National Landing given Nick’s longstanding ties to the neighborhood and his concept’s natural appeal to the neighborhood’s residents, office workers and daily visitors,” Amy Rice, senior vice president at JBG Smith, said in a statement.

Freshman is launching the eatery in tandem with Mothersauce Partners, a restaurant advisory and investment firm he launched in 2016. The company has helped found The Eleanor and Takoma Beverage Company in D.C., with similar offerings as Freshman’s plans for the new Crystal City establishment.

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Nick FreshmanNick Freshman is a native Arlingtonian who is the co-owner of Spider Kelly’s and was the co-owner of the former Eventide Restaurant in Clarendon.

In this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast, we talked with Nick about the current state of Arlington’s restaurant business, why so many restaurants are closing, and why he’s decided to start investing in and advising new restaurants. Nick also discusses the ups and downs and strategy behind running a bar and restaurant.

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast, 26 Square Miles, on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

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The new beer garden at Spider Kelly’s is officially open for business.

The beer garden, which is located in the back patio of the Clarendon watering hole, first started serving customers last Thursday. With the sun finally shining after some not-so-nice weather this month, hopes are high for big crowds.

“We are really happy it’s here and our hope is that it will be something that our customers want,” said co-owner Nick Freshman.

“The goal in building it was to create a new outdoor space sort of supplemental to the space that we have inside,” Freshman said. “We kept a lot of the theme from the inside to the outside.”

A local graffiti artist, Andrew Funk, was hired to do a custom graffiti mural to add color to the space and to match the graffiti art inside.

The casual outdoor space offers seating for small and large groups. There is a combination of communal style seating with picnic benches and seating around two fire pits. There is also hightop seating at the bar. The large space offers a capacity of up to 300 people.

Beers, sangrias and ciders are served in the beer garden, and the beer list has been substantially expanded. There are 30 offered cans and 16 tap lines. There are also three homemade sangrias: red, white and sparkling.

For those arriving after work, there is a $4 happy hour drink special. The entire food menu is offered outside.

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It’s being billed as a beer garden — arguably the first or one of the first in Clarendon — and within about a month it will start serving Clarendon bar-goers who want to want to enjoy their brews outside.

Spider Kelly’s (3181 Wilson Blvd) is currently putting the finishing touches on a new, 2,500 square foot outdoor patio. It’s located to the right of the Clarendon watering hole’s back door, behind Don Tito and across N. Hudson Street from Brixx Pizza.

No opening date has been set yet, but co-owner Nick Freshman says he’s hoping planning to open “sometime before Memorial Day weekend.”

“It’s an extension of existing SK with same style and atmosphere,” Freshman tells ARLnow.com. The beer garden will feature:

  • Capacity for 300
  • 20+ foot concrete bar with canvas awning
  • Two fire pits
  • Bar tables, communal picnic style tables, benches and other types of seating
  • A large, commissioned graffiti-style mural
  • Six-foot fence around the patio
  • Lots of beer: 16 taps, 30 cans, ciders, sangrias, etc.
  • Large, telescoping umbrellas for shade
  • Tivoli-style string lighting

Freshman said Spider Kelly’s is also adding new bathrooms inside, doubling the existing restroom capacity.

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The concept for the original Spider Kelly’s was “a neighborhood hole in the wall,” says general manager and co-owner Nick Freshman. But the former hole in the wall has knocked down a few walls to become one of the biggest bars in Clarendon.

Spider Kelly’s has quietly taken the paper off the windows and opened for business, attracting about 100 customers last night, its first night open since renovations began in December. What would have been a big crowd at a normal bar was well under a quarter of Spider Kelly’s certified capacity of 455.

Pool tables, shuffleboard tables, dart boards and arcade-style video games have been brought in to add “more fun” to the neighborhood hangout. The well-received, value-priced menu has been expanded (more on that after the jump). Outdoor sidewalk seating for about 32 people will be added once the weather is warm enough, probably by the beginning of May.

The motivation for the new Spider Kelly’s was part vision, part opportunism. Just as the original Spider Kelly’s opened in 2008 by taking over the lease of a struggling restaurant, the new Spider Kelly’s came about largely because two neighboring businesses were looking to move or close up shop.

“We like to think of it as a natural evolution,” Freshman says. He and business partner Nick Langman — who also co-owns Clarendon Ballroom and Eventide Restaurant — dreamed up the idea of a “neighborhood spot, no pretension, just relaxed” back in college, a genesis that perhaps explains the obscure Hemmingway reference (Spider Kelly was a very minor character in “The Sun Also Rises”).

“It wasn’t without a certain amount of trepidation that we decided to expand,” Freshman said. Despite the lagging economy, Freshman says he Langman were impressed by Clarendon’s “resiliency,” including its ability to support the host of new food and nightlife options that have popped up in the past two years.

“I wouldn’t want be in any other neighborhood,” Freshman said, quipping that, in the end, “we figured someone has to get the economy going again, so we decided to quadruple in size.”

Spider Kelly’s will open at 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and at 11:00 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Lots of photos, and a first look at the new food and drink menus, after the jump.

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After acquiring two small, adjacent storefronts, Spider Kelly’s in Clarendon is aggressively expanding inside and adding sidewalk seating outside.

Based on a floor plan filed with the county (below), the new Spider Kelly’s will feature three pool tables, five shuffleboard tables, five video game machines, four darts stations, two old school basketball arcade games, a big  island bar, sidewalk seating for 32 and indoor seating for at least 150.

Permission for the outdoor seating and a new outdoor sign will be discussed and is expected to be approved at Saturday morning’s county board meeting. If all goes well, the new Spider Kelly’s could open as soon as next weekend.

We got a peak inside yesterday as job candidates trickled out the door, and there’s only one word to describe the interior: massive.

Check back here on Tuesday for interior photos. In the meantime, check out the floor plan, so big it had to be broken up into two separate images.

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Updates to a 14-year-old plan guiding future development in Clarendon are entering the home stretch.

This Saturday, the Arlington County Board is slated to authorize public hearings on the Clarendon Sector Plan update, which could culminate in a vote on whether to accept the updated plan on April 23. The county is also still seeking feedback on the updates.

Changes to the sector plan were prompted by a bevy of expected near-term redevelopments on the Silver Diner/The LotJoyce Motors and Wells Fargo/Verizon sites, as well as projects proposed by the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, the YMCA and George Mason University.

The update did not revisit any of the 2006 plan’s overarching goals, which envision Clarendon as an “urban village” with “accessible and connected spaces, and a rich mix of uses” that build on the area’s historical commercial focus, according to the county.

Instead, the updates focused on whether the 14-year-old plan’s recommendations for specific sites needed to be updated as new proposals come in. It provides guidance on land use, building heights and forms, and transportation, and explores how the county can redevelop a parcel it owns with some combination of a new fire station, open space and affordable housing.

Members of nearby civic associations, the Planning Commission and the Housing Commission are urging the county to prioritize different elements on the publicly-owned site, located at 10th Street N., between N. Hudson and Irving streets.

The lot is currently is home to three aging county buildings: Fire Station 4 (3121 10th St. N), the Fire Prevention Office (1020 N. Hudson St.) and Clarendon House, which has been vacant since the county moved the mental health rehab program run by the Department of Human Services to Sequoia Plaza (2120 Washington Blvd) in 2015.

Both Fire Station 4 and the Fire Prevention Office — home to the offices of the Fire Marshal and Battalion Chief — have reached the end of their useful life, the plan says. The Fire Prevention Office building will be relocated to county offices at 2020 14th Street N. in Courthouse while Fire Station 4 could be rebuilt on the same property or elsewhere.

Fire Station 4 and the Fire Prevention Office (via Google Maps)

The Planning Commission favors using the land for a blend of government and community facilities, such as a rooftop public space above a proposed fire station.

Ashton Heights Civic Association President Scott Sklar writes in a letter to the county that neighbors envision “a significant, unique playground for children from the new residential buildings, along with some basketball, racquet or pickleball courts in the space adjacent to the fire station, as it would be centrally located to serve Clarendon and nearby residents.”

Lastly, the Housing Commission would like to see affordable housing co-located at the site, as the sector plan area has only 82 committed affordable housing units — the lowest number in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, says Housing Commission Chair Eric Berkey said in a letter to the county.

“The Commission stated the priority should not be to provide luxurious amenities to those who live in single-family detached homes, but rather to provide homes to those who cannot afford them,” Berkey said. “Anything other than a structure which utilizes the full zoned height maximum would be a missed opportunity for the County-owned land.”

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A man sitting at a bar in Clarendon was repeatedly stabbed in a seemingly random attack on Saturday.

The stabbing happened at 7:30 p.m. at Spider Kelly’s (3181 Wilson Blvd).

“Upon arrival, officers located the male victim suffering from a laceration and the suspect being held down by witnesses,” Arlington County police said today in a crime report. “The investigation revealed that while the victim was sitting at the bar, the suspect allegedly approached him from behind and began repeatedly striking the victim with a sharp object.”

“The victim was transported to an area hospital with serious injuries,” ACPD said. “Patrick Casey, 34, of No Fixed Address was arrested and charged with Aggravated Malicious Wounding. He was held on no bond.”

Spider Kelly’s co-owner Nick Freshman said the attack looks “like a completely random act” by someone “who came in off the street.” The suspect walked in and started attacking a customer near the front of the restaurant without provocation, Freshman said, adding that his security staff jumped in and tackled the suspect, holding him until police arrived.

“I’m incredibly grateful to our staff and our security team… [they were] able to quickly detain the perpetrator and secure the weapon,” he said. “We’re praying for [the victim].”

“It was really pretty terrifying,” Freshman added. “It’s left our whole team pretty shook. I’m so sorry something like this happened.”

Asked about the suspect’s motive and about the weapon used, a police spokeswoman declined to provide additional details.

“There’s no additional details to provide at this time,” said ACPD’s Ashley Savage. “This remains an active criminal investigation and detectives continue to review evidence and conduct interviews to determine the events that preceded the incident. Anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4180 or [email protected]

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At the end of the long road from a pop-up in 2019, The Freshman is ready to graduate this week from long-delayed concept to Crystal City’s newest restaurant.

The Freshman is the creation of Nick Freshman, owner of Spider Kelly’s in Clarendon. The restaurant, which offers an all-day breakfast menu as well as lunch and dinner options, advertises itself as one of the first to come into the area in the wake of the Amazon HQ2 announcement.

The Freshman — located in a 3,400 square foot space at 2011 Crystal Drive — is scheduled to open this Wednesday, April 21, after a soft opening last week for friends and family.

“We are really excited to open our doors and begin serving the neighborhood,” said Freshman. “We’ve created an all-day space so we can offer something thoughtful and housemade throughout their day, from a pastry and a great cup of coffee before work to a handcrafted cocktail with dinner.”

The website says the new restaurant will feature coffee and cocktails, along with a selection of beer and wine, in addition to a “locally-sourced and seasonally-driven menu.”

“The menu includes a range of small plates, tartines, flatbreads and salads, and, of course, breakfast (which is offered from open to close),” says a press release.

“Favorites include the Virginia Ham + Dried Fig + Goat Cheese tartine, the Grilled Broccoli + Brussels Caesar, and the Grilled Octopus Escabeche, which includes an apple-fennel pico de gallo, Chicken Fried Oysters and Spring Pea Hummus,” the release continues. “The Freshman‘s breakfast menu includes a vegan Tofu Scramble + ‘Cheese’ sandwich and a range of pastries, including Vanilla Cardamom Bread and a Bacon, Cheddar and Jalapeno Scone.”

The restaurant will be open from 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, and from 8 a.m.-11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The Freshman will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The press release said the restaurant will offer dine-in service with masks required, as well as patio service and takeout. There is season for 120 inside and 50 on the patio.

Freshman had originally planned to open the restaurant early last year, but the pandemic disrupted those plans. Instead, relief program Hook Hall Helps used The Freshman’s empty space as a hub for distributing care kits and family meals to hospitality workers and families in need. The press release noted that the program has since moved into the former Cosi space next door and will remain open.

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A little over one year after signs went up for The Freshman (2011 Crystal Drive), the coffee shop, restaurant and gathering spot in Crystal City is finally preparing to open its doors.

A PR firm representing the cafe said it will have both dine-in and takeout options when it opens next month.

“We can confirm [a] mid-April timeline… we will offer takeout, delivery and dine-in,” a representative said. “The Freshman will be an all-day spot — coffee-to-cocktails — and feature dishes inspired by local, seasonal ingredients.”

The restaurant is the latest project from Nick Freshman, who also operates Spider Kelly’s in Clarendon.

The Freshman built anticipation in 2019 with a small but popular pop-up in Crystal City Shops, but the pandemic left grand opening plans up in the air. While the restaurant was on hold over the last year, relief program Hook Hall Helps used The Freshman’s empty space as a hub for distributing care kits and family meals to hospitality workers in need.

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Planned coffee shop and restaurant The Freshman, at 2011 Crystal Drive in Crystal City, could open in a few months after being in the works for a little over two years.

Owner Nick Freshman told ARLnow that he’s looking at opening The Freshman sometime in April or May, though no date is set in stone yet.

A limited version of the restaurant had opened as a pop-up in Crystal City Shops in 2019 and all the signs of an impending opening were in place last year, but a plan to ride out the pandemic has been less feasible as the virus’s impacts continue to drag on. Freshman, who also owns Clarendon bar Spider Kelly’s, said he remains optimistic about a turn-around ahead.

“We are facing the same challenges to opening as so many others in the business, but we have been fortunate to be able to wait this out,” Freshman said. “I am optimistic that things are starting to turn a corner, but we are still a long ways away from a return to normalcy as far as dining out. I am hopeful that vaccinations will continue to increase in pace, and that along with Spring will make people feel safer about dining out.”

Vaccination numbers are on the rise in Arlington, but Freshman said the success of The Freshman is also partially contingent on a return of office workers to buildings around Crystal City, which may lag vaccinations by months.

“It sounds like it will be well into the Summer or even Fall before most people return to their offices, and that is a big part of our business model here in National Landing, but our style and product will appeal to the many residents who live here, and we hope to be able to serve them this Spring,” Freshman said. “In the meantime, it has been great to be able to serve a part of our community through our partnership with Hook Hall Helps.”

Hook Hall Helps is a relief program that has used The Freshman’s empty space as a hub for distributing care kits and family meals to hospitality workers in need.

“It was certainly not how I planned to open the doors to the restaurant, but we are a community-focused business, and there are people right here in the National Landing and Arlington community that are hurting,” Freshman said. “I feel very fortunate to be able to use the space to help in some way while we wait to serve the entire community.”

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