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Clarendon Wine Club (staff photo by Madisson Weyrich)

The opening of a wine store and bar in Clarendon is approaching, after numerous delays and setbacks.

The aptly named “Clarendon Wine Club” at 1114 N. Irving Street originally hoped to open this past fall. According to one of the owners, who requested they not be named, there is no set timeline for opening but they are hopeful to begin operating “someday soon.”

The owners, a self-described “Lyon Village couple,” said the landlord of the space passed away and the estate changed hands several times, resulting in significant delays.

“Unfortunately, we have had a lot of setbacks, including several transfers of custodianship of the landlord estate that delayed signatures and paperwork,” the owner told ARLnow. “Arlington has our paperwork, and it is pending currently.”

The business is a couple of doors down from O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub and around the corner from Clarendon Ballroom, which was revamped in 2022 with a new interior, a renovated rooftop and a pizza take-out window.

Clarendon does have at least three other businesses that can reasonably be classified as wine bars. Screwtop Wine Bar on N. Fillmore Street recently underwent an ownership change but is still operating as a wine shop. Northside Social Coffee & Wine at 3211 Wilson Blvd. is a self-titled “neighborhood café, wine bar, bakery & coffeehouse,” per their website.

The Board Room at 925 N Garfield Street, meanwhile, has a Champagne lounge that serves wine of the bubbly variety.

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Love is in the air and in National Landing.

This week and next, several events in Pentagon City and Crystal City will celebrate the day of love with specials and experiences for attendees spending the day solo or with a loved one.

Kick off Valentine’s Day this evening by saying goodbye to old loves — whether it is an ex-partner, a job or that bag of clothes you’ve been meaning to donate — at the Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington Innovation Studio + Store, which opened last month in Amazon’s second headquarters in Pentagon City.

The pre-Valentine’s Day event today from 5-7 p.m. at 525 14th Street S. features drop-in activities include writing goodbye letters on burning paper and making sage bundles to burn, plus snacks and tea.

Then, on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14), wine and dine a loved one, or yourself, at local restaurants in the area.

Say “I love you” with old-school Italian dishes such as salmon piccata, veal saltimbocca and clams casino, paired with wine, at La Bettola Italiano (558 23rd S.). The cozy, not overly formal restaurant is only offering its special Valentine’s Day menu with wine pairings on Feb. 14. Be sure to make reservations, which can be done on the website.

Next up on the food tour is Surreal, with its oasis-like outdoor dining experience suitable for both singles and couples.

The gourmet diner, which opened late last year in Crystal City (2117 Crystal Drive) is offering a three-course menu for single diners starting at 7 p.m. in the private dining room.

For couples, Surreal is open for both lunch (12-2 p.m.) and dinner (4-10 p.m.) with classic chocolate lava cake service and inventive options, such as a crispy tuna poke pillow. Reservations can be made on Surreal’s website.

Those seeking a more intimate atmosphere can head to Beauty Champagne & Sugar Boutique (576 23rd Street S.) where, on Valentine’s Day, just two couples will get to have the wine room to themselves. For $250 per pair, the wine bar will serve cocktails, wine, champagne, small bites, a main course and dessert. Couples can nab either the 5:30-7:30 p.m. slot or the 8-10 p.m. slot.

Outside these slots, the wine bar will be open regular hours for a more low-key Valentine’s or Galentine’s Day, with sparkling wine, light bites and treats. RSVP by Saturday, Feb. 10.

National Landing has a few kid-friendly Valentine’s Day activities, too.

On Monday, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. families can bowl and play arcade games  at Bowlero while raising money for the Leadership Center for Excellence. The organization helps local leaders “expand their network and access quality leadership development,” the website says.

Tickets, sold on the center’s website, include two hours of bowling, shoe rental, a $5 arcade card plus food and drinks.

On Wednesday — Valentine’s Day — children and adults can get crafty at a card-making pop-up co-hosted by MoCA Arlington and Amazon in Met Park from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In the mood for a tragedy? Head to Synetic Theater (1800 S. Bell Street) for its rendition of “Romeo and Juliet,” a tale of star-crossed lovers, a bitter family feud and a romantic yet ill-fated destiny. Its wordless production from Feb. 9 to March 14 is a “unique and stunningly visual interpretation of a classic story, capturing emotion with every movement,” the website says.

Photos 1, 4 and 7 via Facebook

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Lee’s Sandwiches, which bills itself as the “World’s Largest Bánh Mì Chain,” has temporarily closed its doors in Ballston but may reopen under new ownership.

The Ballston location at 801 N. Quincy Street appears to have been closed for at least a month and is listed as “temporarily closed” on Google Maps and on a sign posted inside the door.

It first opened on N. Quincy Street in August 2020, replacing a Subway which closed in 2019.

The Ballston spot was the second East Coast location for Lee’s Sandwiches — a California-based franchise — following the first such location opening in 2016 at 3037 Annandale Road in Falls Church.

Tamy Nguyen Duong, who owns the Falls Church franchise location, says she recently purchased the Lee’s Sandwiches store in Ballston. She told ARLnow that the Ballston shop will reopen soon, though she could not give an exact date.

Her nephew will run the shop and is still deciding whether to operate it under the “Lee’s Sandwiches” franchise, she said. Either way, 801 N. Quincy Street will eventually resume selling sandwiches and coffee, according to Nguyen Duong.

The chain has a variety of sandwich options but specializes in bánh mì, a popular Vietnamese sandwich with savory ingredients in a short, toasted baguette. Lee’s is also noted for its Vietnamese iced coffee.

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Valentine’s Day cookies from Village Sweet bakery in Arlington (file photo)

Arlington has plenty of dimly lit, romantic restaurants and charming, cozy local spots suitable for a date night.

Whether you’re hoping to share a bowl of noodles “Lady and the Tramp”-style, split a slice (or whole pie) with a partner, or would rather skip straight to dessert, these local spots have you and your loved one covered for Valentine’s Day next week.

Don’t want to venture out on Feb. 14? Stay in with take-home treats from your favorite local spots suitable for solo diners, a duo or even with a group of friends.

1. Village Sweet

5872 Washington Blvd, Westover

We’re starting with dessert on our romance roundup. Begin your Valentine’s Day with the sweet smell of croissants, cookies and other Valentine’s Day treats at Village Sweet Bakery.

The bakery’s holiday offerings are available now and include a royal wedding layer cake, “brown sug’ah” cupcakes with spiced graham buttercream, strawberry and black velvet swirl loaf and chocolate snacking cake with Irish coffee buttercream. Place your order ahead of time or stop by and peruse all of Village Sweet’s offerings.

Surreal is opening in Crystal City in the fall (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

2. Surreal

2117 Crystal Drive, Crystal City

Step into a garden-like oasis for a dinner experience suitable for both singles and couples at Surreal, a gourmet diner that opened late last year in Crystal City. Surreal is offering a three-course Valentine’s Day menu for single diners starting at 7 p.m. in the private dining room. For couples, Surreal is open for both lunch (12-2 p.m.) and dinner (4-10 p.m.) with creative favorites like chocolate lava cake service and the crispy tuna poke pillow.

Reservations can be made on Surreal’s website.

Interior of WHINO in Ballston (Photo courtesy of Timothy Yantz/WHINO)

3. WHINO

4238 Wilson Blvd., Second Floor, Ballston

Step into the colorful and carefully-curated WHINO, a restaurant, bar and art gallery where you and your valentine can peruse art and the menu. This year, WHINO is offering a special Valentine’s Day dinner menu on Wednesday, Feb. 14 from 5-10 p.m. The menu has not yet been made available, but WHINO’s current menu can be found on its website.

Reservations can be made online.

Some dishes on the menu at Padaek (courtesy Noh Leftovers)

4. Padaek

2391 S. Glebe Road, Arlington Ridge

Elevate your dinner experience with a five-course chef’s tasting menu this Valentine’s Day at Padaek, which opened last fall in the Arlington Ridge Shopping Center.

Inspired by Chef Seng Luangrath’s 35-year marriage, the menu of Southeast Asian dishes include goong nahm paa (Argentine red shrimp with chili garlic and lime sauce), pak naam (flash-fried sweet potato leaves with tamarind sauce), gaeng som (chicken consommé, Chilean sea bass, pickled lime, roasted cherry tomatoes and smoked hot pepper), and kanom soat sai (steamed sticky rice cake stuffed with caramelized shredded coconut and coconut cream).

The dinner is $89 per person. Reservations are required and can be made on Padaek’s website.

Ambar in Clarendon

5. Ambar

2901 Wilson Blvd., Clarendon

Looking to share new experience this Valentine’s Day? Ambar is offering a Valentine’s Day feast of traditional dishes from the Balkan Peninsula, prepared with a modern twist. The dinner features small plates including spreads, charcuterie, soups and salads, seafood, dessert and more to share.

The Valentine’s Day menu is $94.99 per person (tax and gratuity not included) at Ambar Clarendon. Pre-selected cocktails are priced at $0.99 per drink and featured beverages include an Ambar Old Fashioned, mango lemonade, margarita, kiwi smash, red punch sangria and a variety of wine and beer. Ambar’s Valentine’s Day menu will be available exclusively on Wednesday, Feb. 14, from 4-11 p.m.

There is a 2-hour time limit for all parties. Reservations can be made on Ambar’s website.

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A bar and restaurant with French bistro inspiration and an “eclectic ambiance” is set to join several new businesses in Crystal City next year.

Bar Colline, created by D.C. brothers and hospitality entrepreneurs Eric and Ian Hilton, will join six street-level offerings at two new apartment buildings at 1900 Crystal Drive, announced developer JBG Smith in a press release.

The new restaurant is anticipated to open in early 2025 and will be an interpretation of French bistro Café Colline, which the brothers opened in the Lee Heights Shops along Langston Blvd in June 2020.

The Hilton brothers, operating as H2 Collective, have received national attention for their burgeoning D.C. restaurant empire, including Cafe Colline, Chez Billy Sud in Georgetown, Brighton at the Wharf and El Rey taqueria in Ballston and on U Street NW in D.C.

They are also behind Players Club, Parc de Ville in the Mosaic District, Solace Outpost in Falls Church and delivery-only burger purveyor Gee Burger.

The newest venture will boast a bar and private dining room with an “eclectic ambiance,” a press release from JBG Smith said. Bar Colline’s menu will feature shareable plates, wine and inventive cocktails.

The venue will join multiple businesses coming to the new apartment buildings, dubbed The Grace and Reva. They are Chinese-French fusion restaurant Bar Chinois, Cuban café and bar Colada Shop, national blowout and hair styling brand Drybar, a nail salon called nailsaloon, and popular chains Tatte Bakery & Cafe and New York-based Van Leeuwen Ice Cream.

JBG Smith is also behind an explosion of food options in Crystal City after opening a 1.6-acre dining destination in the Crystal City Water Park last October in an effort to “[cultivate] engaging places that create lively communities and exciting experiences,” JBG Smith Senior Vice President of Retail Leasing Amy Rice said in the release.

“We’re thrilled to welcome H2 Collective’s newest concept, Bar Colline, to the neighborhood and expect it to offer customers a unique and compelling reason to return again and again,” Rice said.

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When friends Alex Lopéz, Carlos Olarte and Ernesto Valenzuela opened Sabores Tapas Bar last year on Columbia Pike, they did not anticipate becoming a community staple so soon.

Since its debut last February — replacing a former Taqueria el Poblano location — the tapas bar was named one of the top 100 places to eat in the U.S. in 2024 by Yelp. Sabores ranked 48 on the list of 100 and was the only Northern Virginia restaurant to be featured.

Sabores was also named to Northern Virginia Magazine’s 2023 Best Restaurants list, cementing it as a new mainstay in the Penrose neighborhood.

“It was amazing news, we got really excited,” Olarte said. “It didn’t sink in completely until when it was announced and we saw the hype and started receiving phone calls from people that we knew, from customers calling us.”

Sabores samples regional cuisine from Spain and several Latin American countries, including Colombia, Venezuela and Honduras, from which López, Olarte and Valenzuela hail, respectively.

This is the first restaurant the trio has opened, though the restaurateurs have a combined 70-80 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, particularly in managing and opening restaurants, Olarte says. They worked together at a Brazilian steakhouse in Fairfax as well as Jaleo in Crystal City, which closed in 2021.

After the Yelp ranking, the business at 2401 Columbia Pike saw an immediate increase in customers, including upticks in large parties and reservations.

“We really, really welcome that push,” Olarte said. “People are being great. A lot of regulars, a lot of people coming in. It makes sense.”

As Sabores Tapas Bar welcomes more repeat customers, the restaurant become a place where “everybody knows everybody,” he continued.

“We really have become part of the neighborhood,” Olarte said.

Following the Yelp write-up, Sabores started serving bottomless brunch on Saturdays and Sundays and is working on launching a new lunch menu.

“We realize that a lot of people in the area are looking for something quick, so we’re adding more sandwiches, more salads, and also like a pre-fixe menu so people can pay a fixed price and get like three tapas of their choices so they can get in and out — something really quick and affordable,” Olarte said.

In the future, Olarte says he and his business partners are considering expanding Sabores as well perhaps opening other concepts. Right now, however, they are focusing on keeping up with the excitement at the current tapas bar.

“We’re hoping, right now especially with this, to start getting to a level that we feel comfortable that we can spare a little bit of our efforts for the new ventures,” Olarte said.

Despite these plans, the trio is still focused on serving Columbia Pike.

“This is our home,” Olarte said. “We can’t wait to see you again and again and again and again.”

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NiHao Crystal City rendering (courtesy of Nahra Design)

(Updated at 10:10 a.m.) Arlington is set to see a number of new restaurants on the scene this year.

We’re tracking at least 19 eateries hoping to open in 2024, from burger joints to Chinese restaurants, and even some by acclaimed local chefs.

Which are you, personally, most looking forward to? For the purposes of this poll, we’ll exclude nationwide chains and one spot mostly serving desserts — Van Leeuwen in Crystal City.

When we asked this same question last year, the top vote-getter was Sabores, which was recently named a Top 100 U.S. restaurant by Yelp (more on that in an article later t0day).

Links to more info, below, on each of the new-for-2024 restaurants.

  1. Carbonara (Ballston)
  2. Thakali Bhatti (Ballston)
  3. Immigrant Food (Ballston)
  4. Roggenart Bistro & Cafe (Ballston)
  5. Zazzy (Clarendon)
  6. Kirby Club (Clarendon)
  7. Mister Days (Clarendon)
  8. Burger Billy’s Joint (Cherrydale)
  9. Yunnan by Potomac (Pentagon City)
  10. 2910 Kitchen & Bar (Columbia Pike)
  11. For Five Coffee (Rosslyn)
  12. NiHao (Crystal City)
  13. Lantern Restaurant and Bar (Crystal City)
  14. Tatte Bakery and Cafe (Crystal City)
  15. Bar Chinois (Crystal City)
  16. Colada Shop (Crystal City)
  17. Bar Colline (Crystal City)
  18. Columbia Pike Deli (Columbia Pike)
  19. Andy’s Pizza (Virginia Square)
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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring Three Ballston Plaza

(Updated at 9:45 a.m. on 2/6/24) A private equity firm has partnered with Arlington-born juice and smoothie bowl shop South Block in a deal that will help the local chain advance its plans to add dozens of locations up and down the East Coast.

South Block owner and founder Amir Mostafavi will stay on as CEO post-acquisition, per a press release announcing the deal. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Mostafavi tells ARLnow he calls this deal a “strategic growth partnership,” as he and the whole South Block team will stay on while Savory Fund will help with its plans to reach 50 locations from the Mid-Atlantic up to the Northeast. The investment fund will also help with business operations, including human resources, finance and accounting, marketing, legal and facilities management.

“First and foremost, we have a great team at South Block already, a great foundation to build on,” Mostafavi said. “We’re excited about growing the business… My team is going to work alongside them and gain knowledge and experience as we’re building our team up in South Block, as we’re continuing to grow.”

South Block Owner Amir Mostafavi in Rosslyn (courtesy of Amir Mostafavi)

Savory’s Managing Partner and Co-Founder Andrew Smith told ARLnow that, when it acquired a majority position in the company, keeping Mostafavi on was a non-negotiable.

“He’s done an incredible job leading this team to the successful level that he has,” Smith said. “He absolutely stands, amongst his peers, way ahead [in] the way that he runs [South Block], and I think it’s because he’s been patient: He hasn’t worried really about growing as fast as he can. He’s been growing as methodically as he can.”

Mostafavi started South Block with its first location in Clarendon, naming the company after its position on the south side of the block, near Trader Joe’s. As the juicery added locations, all within the D.C. area, Mostafavi started searching for a capital partner in 2022 to help him continue to expand the business.

“We’ve done what I think is a great job getting us to 15 locations and we could probably navigate on our own getting to 50, but to have a partner that… has your back, that will support you and that you can learn from just makes the journey feel a lot more relaxed and attainable,” Mostafavi said. “Any time as an entrepreneur that you can try to reduce some of the pressure and stress, that’s a good thing.”

Mostafavi says he was drawn to the Savory Fund after their initial introduction.

“They’re just great people, they genuinely care about the founder of their portfolio brands, the culture and that’s what they go looking for is brands that have a great fan base, a great company culture, that are founder driven, that put people first and that’s what I was looking for,” he said.

The Utah-based investment group says it “specializes in taking fast casual and polished casual food and beverage concepts” and scaling them “into 30-unit+ powerhouse brands.” Smith, Savory Fund’s co-founder, told ARLnow he wants to maintain South Block’s cult following amid the planned expansion.

“More important than scale, where we add dozens more units, we want to grow the business from within and make sure that we grow the base of our cult following and the locations we currently have,” he said.

By focusing on South Block’s leadership ranks and its business processes, he said, Savory Fund will help it “continue to maintain the great business that it is and continue to maintain the cult following that we have within South Block, and continue to maintain that leadership presence, especially in the Northeast.”

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A D.C.-area pizza shop known for its pepperoni cups and specialty slices appears to be opening in Virginia Square.

Andy’s Pizza will replace the now-closed Ballston Place Gourmet, a local deli operated by the Chang family since 2004. It sold everything from wine and local beer to breakfast platters, Korean bibimbap, condiments and microwave popcorn.

A commercial electric permit posted on the window of the former deli at 901 N. Pollard Street was issued on Jan. 12. The storefront is largely vacant with the exception of some bare equipment and furnishings.

Neither the permit holder nor the property owner have responded to requests for comment, but a Virginia filing for “Andys Pizza Pollard St LLC,” filed last July, is consistent with LLC filings for other Andy’s Pizza locations in Virginia.

The forthcoming pizzeria joins eight existing Andy’s Pizza locations: five in D.C., one in Maryland, and two in Virginia — at Tysons Galleria and in Old Town Alexandria.

It is unclear when Ballston Place Gourmet shuttered but it could have been upwards of one year ago, per a social media post.

Hat tip to several tipsters

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Lunar New Year celebration at the Pentagon City mall (courtesy of Fashion Centre at Pentagon City)

You can celebrate the Year of the Dragon this month at a handful of Lunar New Year celebrations across Arlington.

In East and Central Asian cultures, the Lunar New Year heralds the arrival of spring and the beginning of a new year on the lunisolar calendar. This year, it falls on Saturday, Feb. 10.

For the Chinese New Year specifically, celebrations will run through Saturday, Feb. 24.

There are a few places and organizations in Arlington joining in the festivities, offering everything from ceremonial teas to limited-edition ice cream flavors to lion dances to dragon parades.

Central Place Plaza in Rosslyn (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

1. Central Place Plaza

1800 N. Lynn Street, Rosslyn

Celebrate the approach of the Lunar New Year on Thursday, Feb. 8 from 5-7 p.m. at Central Place Plaza where attendees can experience a lion dance performance by Hung Ci Lion Dance Troupe, drink ceremonial tea provided by the Asian American Chamber of Commerce, eat fortune cookies and more. This event is free and family-friendly.

The Hung Ci Lion Dance Troupe performance, a Lunar New Year tradition, starts at 6 p.m. Before the performance, grab your Rosslyn-inspired fortune and enjoy ceremonial tea. Tae-Gu Kimchi will also be on-site selling its handcrafted Napa cabbage kimchi.

Long Branch Nature Center (file photo)

2. Long Branch Nature Center

625 S. Carlin Springs Road, Glencarlyn 

Visit the Long Branch Nature Center on Saturday, Feb. 10 from 3-4:30 p.m. to celebrate Lunar New Year. Meet live animals, make Lunar New Year crafts and take a short hike with paper popper “firecrackers” to chase away the New Year’s beast, Nian.

Reservations are required.

Lunar New Year celebration at the Pentagon City mall (courtesy of Fashion Centre at Pentagon City)

3. Pentagon City mall

1100 S. Hayes Street, Pentagon City

Ring in the Year of the Dragon with festivities at the mall on Saturday, Feb. 10 from 1-4 p.m. This celebration is in the food court of Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, located on the at the Metro level, and will include lion dances, dragon parades and musical dance performances.

This public event is in partnership with the Asian American Chamber of Commerce.

Ice Cream Jubilee in Ballston Quarter (file photo)

4. Ice Cream Jubilee

4238 Wilson Blvd, Ballston

Lunar New Year flavors are back at Ice Cream Jubilee in Ballston Quarter and include red bean almond cookie, strawberry matcha latte, mango sticky rice and a vegan mango sorbet. The flavors are available as scoops, tasting flights and pints for shipping.

Know of any other Lunar New Year celebrations or businesses marking the occasion? Be sure to let us know in the comments.

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Vitality Bowls in Rosslyn has closed its doors after nearly eight years.

In 2016, a franchise location of the California-based superfood café opened in Rosslyn on the ground floor of 1515 Wilson Blvd, between Presidential Bank and a dentist’s office.

The interior of Vitality Bowls Arlington is now empty and the phone number is not in service. The Rosslyn location is no longer listed on the company’s website and Google marks the location as “permanently closed.”

The restaurant served organic smoothies, juices, salads and paninis and specialized in açaí bowls.

The café sat less than a half-mile from South Block, an Arlington-born smoothie and açaí shop that is enjoying substantial growth and looking to expand throughout the D.C. region. The South Block Rosslyn outpost opened in 2019 and is one of 15 locations total, with four others operating in Arlington.

In Rosslyn, smoothies and juices can also be found at bubble tea joint Gong Cha and frozen yogurt shop Ice Berry, both within a half-mile of the now-shuttered Vitality Bowls.

Vitality Bowls did not respond to a request for comment.

With the Rosslyn franchise closed, there are no other Vitality Bowl locations in Virginia. The brand, founded in 2011, recently added several locations throughout the U.S., with most of its outposts in California.

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