Arlington, VA

After a little more than two years in business, the Burgerim at 3811 Fairfax Drive is closed.

Thanks to a reader tip, we can confirm that the restaurant closed before the new year. It opened on the ground floor of a Virginia Square office building in the fall of 2017, and is among a handful of Burgerim locations that have closed over the past year in Virginia.

At its peak Israel-based Burgerim had hundreds of locations throughout the country. It was listed as the fastest growing burger chain in the country in 2019, but that same year faced bankruptcy as its CEO fled the U.S. for Israel amid allegations of deceptive sales practices against franchise owners by promising unrealistic profits.

The burger joint features packages of up to 16 gourmet mini-burgers, in addition to other sandwiches, chicken wings and salads. Currently, the nearest Burgerim location is in Ashburn.

Neighboring businesses in Virginia Square include Thai Treasure and Tropical Smoothie Cafe.

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(Updated at 2 p.m.) Pasta lovers can take a sigh of relief, because the new owner of Ruffino’s Spaghetti House doesn’t want to change a thing.

Mina Tawdaros recently bought the long-time Arlington institution at 4763 Lee Highway. Ruffino’s first opened in 1975, and has satisfied Italian food cravings with a menu that includes the standards, from pizza to linguini to chicken marsala.

“The pasta is amazing, but you should really try the chicken parmesan and the pizza,” said Tawdaros, who is fulfilling his American dream with the purchase.

“Owning this place has been my dream since I came to America in 2013,” said Tawdaros, a 30-year-old lawyer from Egypt who now lives in Ashburn. “I worked for very little money for a restaurant for five years, and then later I was a shuttle driver, but that dream never left me.”

“Yesss my amazing husband Mina’s dream finally came true!” his wife Mary, a substitute teacher, posted on Facebook in October when the sale was completed. The couple wed in a Coptic Christian ceremony earlier this year.

Tawdaros said his mantra is this famous Napoleon Hill quote: “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.”

He won’t be changing the menu and will keep the small staff from the previous owner, Robin Gamza, who bought the business in 1981.

Tawdaros declined to discuss terms of the sale. Ruffino’s was listed for sale on a business listing site this summer, though the page has since been taken down.

Ruffino’s is open for dining, takeout and curbside pickup every Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on Friday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Photo (2) via Ruffino’s/Facebook

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A pair of Rosslyn restaurants within a block of each other in Rosslyn have shut their doors.

The Subway at 1401 Wilson Blvd and the Tom Yum District at 1515 Wilson Blvd are empty and have had their exterior signage removed. It’s unclear when each closed. Both primarily served a workday lunch crowd that was dramatically thinned out by the pandemic and office workers working from home.

Tom Yum District opened in 2013, and offered made-to-order Thai food in a fast-casual setting.

The Subway is no longer listed in the franchise’s locator, and the nearest location is at 1435 N. Courthouse Road. There are now nine Subway restaurants in Arlington, according to the company website.

By ARLnow’s count, Subway and Tom Yum District are the 21st and 22nd restaurant to close in Arlington since the start of the pandemic last March.

Map via Google Maps

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The top federal prosecutor in Northern Virginia is leaving office ahead of President-Elect Biden’s inauguration

After two-and-a-half years on the job, G. Zachary Terwilliger will step down this month as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Terwilliger, who has a close relationship with former U.S. Attorney General William Barr, told the Washington Post that the recent election of Joe Biden as president had consequences and that he preferred to leave his post voluntarily.

His last day is Friday, Jan. 15, after which he will join the Texas-based firm Vinson & Elkins LLP as a partner in its D.C. office. The Eastern District’s First Assistant Attorney, Rah Parekh, will take over in an acting capacity until the role is officially filled.

“It has been the honor of honors to be in the arena with so many dedicated individuals in the pursuit of justice, and I feel so fortunate to conclude my service as the United States Attorney in the district where it all began,” Terwilliger said in a prepared statement.

An Alexandria resident, Terwilliger led a staff of more than 250 personnel in the Eastern District, which prosecuted high-profile cases of national interest and oversaw investigations throughout Northern Virginia, Richmond, Hampton Roads and Tidewater. His work included charging ISIS militants known as “The Beatles” with murder, overseeing a massive heroin and fentanyl bust that put 35 people behind bars, and putting 11 MS-13 gang members in connection with the murder of two juveniles in Fairfax County behind bars.

Regina Lombardo, the deputy director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, commended Terwilliger as a “driving force” behind the Department of Justice’s enforcement of federal firearms laws.

“U.S. Attorney Terwilliger’s partnership with ATF’s Washington Field Division has been nothing short of extraordinary, and the Eastern District of Virginia is a safer place because of him,” Lombardo said. “I sincerely wish him all the best in his next endeavor.”

Terwilliger’s career began as an intern for the Eastern District in 1999. A graduate of the William & Mary School of Law, he was appointed a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in 2008. He was hired as an Assistant U.S. Attorney two years later, and then spent the next eight-plus years prosecuting cases until he was named by Attorney General Jeff Sessions as the acting Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia in May 2018. His appointment was later confirmed in the Senate, and was supported by Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner.

Terwilliger’s father was a former United States Deputy Attorney General and acting United States Attorney General. George J. Terwilliger III succeeded Barr as Deputy Attorney General after being nominated to the position in 1992.

Photo via U.S. Department of Justice

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(Updated at 6 p.m.) Metro 29 Diner has closed until further notice due to “COVID-19 concerns.”

The Arlington staple at 4711 Lee Highway made the announcement on its Facebook page on Dec. 26, and it is not yet clear when it will reopen.

“We had a very small contained outbreak and the people who were sick are now well,” co-owner Marta Bota told ARLnow. “We’re looking at the numbers rising, and we’re playing it safe. We’re evaluating it on a daily basis.”

Bota said that updates on reopening will be posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page and website.

“We’re always so appreciative and grateful for the support of the community, and our priority is their safety,” she said.

Metro 29 — which was named one of the top diner in Virginia in 2017 by the website Mental Floss — celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. The pandemic forced the restaurant to close from March until mid-June. It was back open, serving dine-in customers through most of December.

https://twitter.com/DCCelebrity/status/1344470403276632067

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Bitcoin has surfed to an all-time high amid the pandemic, and there’s at least five Bitcoin ATM machines in Arlington where you can buy the cryptocurrency.

One Bitcoin is currently worth nearly $27,000, just down from a recent peak, but still a massive increase as its value has more than tripled over the past year.

Locally, Bitcoin’s rise has been further fueled by a recent $650 million investment from Tysons-based firm MicroStrategy.

“The new pandemic crisis just sped things up,” local Bitcoin investor Raj Paladugu told ARLnow. “It could take money from the gold market in just three years, instead of the five years that was forecasted.”

Bitcoin ATMs — also known as BTMs — have been in Arlington since 2015.

At one location, the Bitcoin Depot ATM at the Pentagon City mall (1100 S. Hayes Street), customers can also buy the cryptocurrencies Litecoin and Ethereum, according to the company’s website.

Other publicly-listed BTM locations in Arlington include:

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Virginia’s hands-free law takes effect on January 1, and that means it will be illegal to drive holding any personal communications device in Arlington or elsewhere in the Commonwealth.

The law was signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam during the summer. Police will now be able to pull over drivers if they are seen to be holding cell phones.

Previously, only texting or emailing while driving was against the law.

Last year, there were 23,000 crashes in Virginia attributed to distracted driving, resulting in 120 deaths, Northam said in a news conference earlier this month.

Drivers can talk hands-free, but if caught holding a phone they face fines of $125 for a first offense, and $250 for a second offense or if drivers are holding phones in a construction zone.

There are some exceptions:

  • Drivers of emergency vehicles can use handheld devices
  • Drivers can hold devices while stopped or parked
  • Drivers can hold devices when reporting emergencies
  • Virginia Department of Transportation vehicle drivers can use handheld devices while performing traffic incident management services

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Don’t worry, bumble coffee — that concoction of orange juice, caramel and espresso over ice — is still on the menu at the cafe formerly known as This is Fine Coffee in Clarendon.

Kino Coffee has the same menu, but its offerings now include independent movies.

In May, owners Jason Blevins and Anna Tsybko converted a back room of their shop at 2607 Wilson Blvd into a small pop-up cinema. They painted the walls black and installed a large screen for indie films and documentaries.

Blevins and Tsybko opened This is Fine Coffee in January, taking over the space previously occupied for three years by Blümen Cafe.

“Nothing was wrong with [the old name],” Blevins told ARLnow. “There’s a bit of humor with ‘This Is Fine,’ but 2020 killed some of the humor with it. When we started to incorporate a pop-up cinema to the business model, we found it harder to convey that in the name. So, we chose ‘Kino’, which means movie theater in Russian and German and a bunch of languages.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the theater can only hold nine people, and tickets will be $8. The first movies will start premiering next month, and the theater has partnered with Magnolia Pictures to showcase new films, including “Stray” in March.

“We just opened seating inside two weeks ago,” Blevins said. “Until then, we actually hadn’t had anyone in the whole entire space longer than it took for them to pick up their coffee and leave.”

Blevins studied film at New York University, and said that old cartoons and silent movies from the Soviet Union will play in the theater on most days.

“We have movies going on in the back room and Eastern European-inspired drinks and pastry options,” he said.

Among Kino’s offerings is one sure to keep you awake during the slow scenes: the Atomic Bumble, an eye-opening mix of ghost pepper, espresso, orange juice and tonic water over ice.

“We just hope that people appreciate a different experience in terms of cinema and supporting independent businesses,” said Blevins.

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With performances canceled and potential gatherings impacted by COVID-19, a local nonprofit says that catastrophe looms for arts organizations without assistance from Arlington County.

Embracing Arlington Arts released its “State of the Arts in Arlington” survey earlier this month, and the results revealed a decimated local industry that has lost more than $10 million this year.

“We all can agree that the arts have been and will continue to be a critical component of our healing, our sanity, our quality of life and our overall well-being as together we fight this virus and protect our citizens,” Embracing Arlington Arts President Janet Kopenhaver wrote.

Embracing Arlington Arts is asking the Arlington County Board to consider helping local arts organizations with financial support, assistance locating safe performance venues, and facilitating introductions with potential corporate donors.

The survey of Arlington’s arts organizations found:

  • Arts organizations laid off 15% of full-time staff and 55% of part-time staff as of Nov. 1
  • More than half lost 41%-60% of their income
  • 43% reported that they would have to close their doors in the next 16 months without “additional financial resources”
  • Only 10% believe the earliest they will be able to offer live performances is within the next four months

Despite the challenges, Kopenhaver said that artists and arts organizations keep giving back to the community with virtual performances, donations for the Arlington Food Assistance Center, arts classes, and arts kits to the Bridges for Independence’s family shelter.

“From our younger generations to our seniors to residents with disabilities to those struggling with depression or mental illness, the arts can help us survive this pandemic and be stronger when we can all come together again,” Kopenhaver said.

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If you’re looking for a kid-friendly outdoor adventure, parks and rec employees just left 17 winter-themed chalk obstacle courses at parks around Arlington.

The Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation’s “Super Squad” has been leaving chalk obstacles for kids throughout the pandemic. They should last for a week if the weather holds, according to department spokesperson Susan Kalish, though some rain is in the forecast for Sunday.

“These festive obstacle courses are specifically designed to provide fun physical activity and important sensory input that aids in self-regulation,” Kalish told ARLnow. “By placing chalk obstacle courses in a variety of locations we will be providing a self-facilitated fun physical activity that can be accessed at any time.”

Clues for obstacle locations can be found on one of the department’s Facebook pages.

Below is a video from the Super Squad in action in October.

Screenshot via Arlington County

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