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(Updated at 5:20 p.m.) Two local chefs have been named semifinalists for a prestigious James Beard award.

Rahman “Rock” Harper of Queen Mother’s Fried Chicken on Columbia Pike and Kevin Tien, owner of Hot Lola’s in Rosslyn and Ballston, were both recognized as semifinalists for “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic” in this year’s James Beard awards. The nominations were announced last week.

Named after the famed American chef, the national award recognizes “exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality, media, and broader food system.”

The Alexandria native Harper is the owner and head chef at Queen Mother’s Fried Chicken, located inside the local incubator Kitchen of Purpose at 918 S. Lincoln Street, just off of Columbia Pike, in the Alcova Heights neighborhood.

It opened in late 2020 with a menu, as might be expected considering the name, focused on fried chicken sandwiches.

Harper is also an author and winner of the third season of the cooking reality show “Hell’s Kitchen.” He told ARLnow that being named a James Beard semifinalist was a “pleasant surprise” and that the response from critics and diners alike has been “surreal.”

“They remind me that while pursuing my passion for telling Black stories through food, we will be rewarded with positive feedback along the journey,” Harper said via email. “Columbia Pike and Arlington have been incredibly supportive and welcoming to Queen Mother’s and I look forward to being here for many years! I hope this can serve as an example to customers, restaurateurs, elected officials, and developers that the future of Arlington and Northern Virginia dining is pretty bright.”

While Tien was actually nominated for his cooking at D.C.’s Moon Rabbit, he’s also known for Hot Lola’s and its two Arlington locations. The fast-casual restaurant also serves fried chicken sandwiches, but Tien’s blends Sichuan spices with the traditional Nashville recipe, creating his own brand of hot chicken.

The first Hot Lola’s location opened in the Ballston Quarter food hall in 2019, while the Rosslyn restaurant opened this past summer. Another location is coming to Fairfax County’s Lincolnia neighborhood.

Tien told ARLnow that being nominated for a James Beard award is an “amazing accomplishment” and represents “more than just good food and service.

“It represents the commitment we make to our team, our community, our purveyors that we are cooking with purpose and for a cause,” he said via email. “To have a restaurant in Virginia with two other amazing Virginia chefs, Rock Harper and Joy Crump whom I love so much is incredible. The Arlington and NoVa dining scene is amazing and I am happy to be a small part of it.”

Ruthie’s All-Day chef and owner Matt Hill was named a Mid-Atlantic semifinalist last year as well.

It’s been a big month for local restaurant recognition. Four Arlington eateries were included in Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants list for 2023 last week, while Charga Grill on Langston Blvd was named the area’s best casual restaurant by Washington Post food critic Tim Carman earlier in January.

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Inbound platform starting to get crowded at the Ballston Metro station (courtesy photo)

(Updated at 2:40 p.m.) The Ballston and East Falls Church Metro stations are among those set to be impacted by a multi-week closure starting in June.

WMATA recently announced that it is planning to shut down a significant portion of the Orange Line during the summer for “system maintenance and modernization.”

Two Arlington stations — Ballston and East Falls Church — will be impacted by the infrastructure projects. The current plan is that only trains going east, towards Virginia Square and D.C., will be available at the Ballston station from June 3 to June 26, while the East Falls Church station will be shuttered during that time period.

The rest of the Orange Line, from West Falls Church through the end of the line at Vienna, will be closed for a longer period of time, from June 3 to July 17.

Elsewhere, there will be ten days of single-tracking from Stadium-Armory to Cheverly stations on the Orange Line and a complete 44-day shutdown from July 22 to Sept. 4 on the Green Line from Fort Totten to Greenbelt.

Metro summer 2023 shutdown map (image via WMATA)

The reason for the shutdown, WMATA said, is to move forward on “five major projects to improve rail service reliability and modernize rail systems and facilities for customers.”

Those include completing a station roofing project on the Orange Line, replacing 30 miles of four-decade-old and failure-prone steel rails, installing fiber optic cables, modernizing information displays in the downtown stations, and elevator and escalator work at the Dupont station.

“Metro has used the lower ridership months in the summer to advance large maintenance and infrastructure projects with significant customer impacts,” the announcement notes. “By working closely with local jurisdictions, providing extensive free shuttle bus operations, and deploying comprehensive communications and outreach activities, Metro places significant effort to minimize the disruption to customers and the region.”

As for what the “free shuttle bus operations” could mean, county officials told ARLnow that hasn’t been figured out quite yet.

“WMATA will be scheduling coordination meetings with local jurisdictions to develop shuttle plans,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Claudia Pors told ARLnow via email. “As of yet, we haven’t heard from WMATA on their timeline. I don’t expect it to be dissimilar from other temporary station shutdowns.”

Locals have dealt with similar shutdowns. In September, Metro shuttered much of the Yellow Line for bridge and tunnel repairs as well as continuing work on the new Potomac Yard station. The Yellow Line shutdown is expected to continue at least through May, with free shuttles provided for impacted riders.

When Metro instituted similar construction-related shutdowns in both 2020 and 2018, the agency also provided free shuttle bus service.

A major portion of the latest work will be focused on “replacing 40-year-old steel rail that has become significantly more susceptible to rail breaks than rail in any other part of the system.” Metro says that it has been tracking rail breaks and determined the stretch of track between Ballston and Vienna “to be a top priority” for replacement.

The Ballston Metro station averages about 3,500 daily entries on weekdays, which is more than the Clarendon, Courthouse, and Virginia Square stations but below Rosslyn, Crystal City, Pentagon City, and the Pentagon. East Falls Church averages about 1,600 entries.

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A Lunar New Year celebration is coming to the Pentagon City mall this weekend.

On Saturday, Feb. 4, the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City is partnering with Asian American Chamber of Commerce (AACC) on an event to ring in the Year of the Rabbit.

The festivities, starting at 1 p.m. on the Metro level of the mall, are set to include music, dancing, and treats.

This is the seventh year the mall and the Tysons-based nonprofit have come together to celebrate the Lunar New Year, one of the most celebrated holidays in the world.

“We hope to bring joyful celebration to the community, uplift the spirit in these challenging times, preserve the cultural traditions and celebrate cultural diversity,” AACC president Cindy Shao said via email.

Shao said that attendees can expect traditional dragon and lion dances as well as cultural performances representing a number of Asian countries like Thailand, Indonesia, China, and India. There will also be magic and fashion shows as well as pastry samplings.

A number of the mall’s stores will be offering specials during the event as well.

“This year, we are excited to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit and usher in new beginnings, good luck, health and prosperity for 2023,” Shao said.

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Girl Scouts deliver cookies to Virginia Hospital Center (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

This week begins one of the favorite times of the year for many: Girl Scout cookie season.

Friday (Feb. 3) marks the first day of in-person booth sales in Arlington. Friends and family order taking by scouts started in December, and orders are now being delivered. Cookies will be sold through March 12.

In addition to the old favorites like Thin Mints and Samoas, a new cookie has been added to the line-up: the Raspberry Rally.

It’s been a bit of an up-and-down few years for local cookie sales. While business started off as normal in 2020, the beginning of the pandemic shortened the season and shifted all sales online. Thousands of boxes were left unsold.

Sales stayed mostly virtual in 2021, at least in Arlington. While business remained down, local troops didn’t let unsold cookies go to waste by donating nearly 700 boxes to the staff at the Virginia Hospital Center.

Last year, cookie sales essentially returned to pre-pandemic operations with booths set up in 15 locations across Arlington County. More than 4 million boxes were sold locally, per the regional Girl Scouts chapter, far exceeding its initial goal of 3 million boxes.

Booths are scheduled to be set up in about 20 Arlington locations this year. Below is the list of Arlington booth locations for cookie sales this coming weekend.

For the full calendar between now and March 12, go to the Girl Scouts Cookie Finder.

  • Ace Hardware (2001 Clarendon Blvd)
    • Saturday, Feb. 4, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
    • Sunday, Feb 5, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Ballston Metro Station (901 N. Stuart Street)
    • Friday, Feb. 3, 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
    • Saturday, Feb. 4, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Big Wheel Bikes (3119 Langston Blvd)
    • Friday, Feb. 3, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
    • Saturday, Feb. 4, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    • Sunday, Feb. 5, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Central Place Plaza (1800 N. Lynn Street)
    • Friday, Feb. 3, 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
    • Saturday, Feb. 4, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Courthouse Metro Station (2100 Wilson Blvd)
    • Friday, Feb. 3, 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
    • Saturday, Feb. 4, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • The Crossing Clarendon (2801 Clarendon Blvd)
    • Saturday, Feb. 4, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    • Sunday, Feb. 5, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • East Falls Church Metro Station (2000 N. Sycamore Street)
    • Friday, Feb. 3, 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • Giant Food (2501 9th Road S.)
    • Friday, Feb. 3, 4 p.m.to 8 p.m
    • Saturday, Feb. 4, 11, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Giant Food (2901 S. Glebe Road)
    • Friday, Feb. 3, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
    • Saturday, Feb. 4, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    • Sunday, Feb. 5, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Giant Food (3450 Washington Blvd)
    • Friday, Feb. 3, 4 p.m to 8 p.m.
    • Saturday, Feb. 4, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    • Sunday, Feb. 5, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • GNC (1100 S. Hayes Street)
    • Saturday, Feb. 4, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
    • Sunday, Feb. 5, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • The Jefferson (900 N. Taylor Street)
    • Sunday, Feb. 5, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • MedStar Capitals Iceplex (627 N. Glebe Road)
    • Saturday, Feb. 4, 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
    • Sunday, Feb. 5, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Meridian (900 N. Stuart Street)
    • Saturday, Feb. 4, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Safeway (2500 N. Harrison Street)
    • Friday, Feb. 3, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
    • Saturday, Feb. 4, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    • Sunday, Feb. 5, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Safeway (1525 Wilson Blvd)
    • Sunday, Feb. 5, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Safeway (5101 Wilson Blvd)
    • Friday, Feb. 3, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
    • Saturday, Feb. 4, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    • Sunday, Feb. 5, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • St. Agnes Parish Hall (1910 N. Randolph Street)
    • Sunday, Feb. 5, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Virginia Square Metro Station (3600 Fairfax Drive)
    • Friday, Feb. 3, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Westover Market (5863 Washington Blvd)
    • Saturday, Feb. 4, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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The Old Bike Shop in Lyon Park is closing next month after a decade in business.

Owner Lawrence Behery told ARLnow that he’s shuttering the used bike repair and sales shop on N. Pershing Drive because of a decline in business and family health challenges.

While Behery said he doesn’t know the exact date of the closure yet, he expects it to happen at the end of February. Additionally, the shop is now only open three days a week from Friday through Sunday. The Old Bike Shop first opened in 2013.

It’s been a bumpy road for Behery and the Old Bike Shop over the last two years.

The pandemic was “crazy” for the bike business and sales were good at first, Behery said, but then his mom was diagnosed with cancer and business began to decline. Last year was particularly tough with sales dropping to the point where the shop “cost me money.” Then, his mom suffered a stroke and Behery became her caretaker.

“Learning to do that with the business not doing so well… it was really tough,” he said. “I really love serving the community, but it’s a delicate balance. I’m trying to fight the fight, but I have both hands tied behind my back and I’m just a little guy.”

Another reason for the closure is the soaring costs related to warehousing and storage. Behery said that storage unit prices have “skyrocketed” leaving him making tough decisions about what parts and inventory to have on hand.

Rent at 2647 N. Pershing Drive, however, has stayed consistent, something that has allowed the shop to survive as long as it has. Behery called his landlord “fair” and a “very decent human being.”

Over the last several days, ARLnow has received notes from readers and loyal customers, asking about how the community could help to keep the shop around. Behery said while that’s a very kind sentiment, he needs to take a step back to help his loved one.

“This is hard for me because I love it, but can’t digest it all… running a business and taking care of mom,” he said. “I just want one hand free. I can’t concentrate on everything.”

He does hope that someday he’ll be able to return to selling and repairing bikes for the Arlington community. As Behery put it, now is the time to take care of his family so that he can come back stronger in the future.

But he’ll always have the memories and is thankful for the community support.

“It feels like that little shop is sorta like a neighborhood bar… I’ve seen kids grow up, from their first bike to the one they take to college,” Behery said. “I have had gratitude to this community since day one.”

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Ballston is about to get spicier with Hangry Joe’s Hot Chicken Pub & Wings opening next week.

The Nashville-style hot chicken chain plans to open its newest location on Monday (Jan. 30) at 875 N. Randolph Street, a block away from Wilson Blvd and a couple of blocks from the Metro station.

The location is the former home of breakfast and lunch spot Laura Cooks, which closed in July.

ARLnow first reported that Hangry Joe’s was coming to Ballston late last year. It was initially scheduled to open in early December, but it was delayed by several weeks.

The menu mostly consists of spicy fried chicken in sandwich, tender, and nugget form. The website touts its secret chicken recipe as a reason for its success. The location is expected to serve beer and wine as well, having applied for a Virginia ABC license.

The first Hangry Joe’s was opened near Richmond in 2021 by the founder of frozen yogurt purveyor Sweet Frog.

The fast-casual franchise has since expanded rather quickly. While this is the first Arlington location, there are already eleven other locations across Northern Virginia including several in Alexandria and Fairfax County. They’ve all opened within the past year.

Currently, there are plans to open eateries in at least nine other states across the country plus one in Dubai.

With Hangry Joe’s opening, the battle for Ballston’s best hot chicken is heating up with Hot Lola’s in the Ballston Quarter food hall now facing some competition.

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Ruthie’s All-Day in Arlington Heights (photo courtesy of Ruthie’s All-Day)

(Updated at 11:30 a.m.) Four Arlington eateries were included in Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants list this year.

Cafe Colline, CHIKO, Ruthie’s All-Day, and SER all received a coveted spot on the list, which was published by the regional magazine for the first time since February 2020. That year, only two Arlington restaurants made the list.

SER in Ballston made the list this year as well as in 2020. The Spanish tapas restaurant on N. Glebe Road first opened in 2015 and has since faced a number of obstacles including flooding and pandemic-related challenges.

“My wife, Christiana, and I are extremely grateful to the entire SER family – both our amazing team and our incredible guests who have supported us along the way. They have truly made our vision of making SER a warm and inviting neighborhood spot a reality,” co-owner Javier Candon told ARLnow in a statement. “We’ve lived in Arlington for more than 20 years and know that Arlington has always had exceptional restaurants. However, seeing the restaurant scene grow and evolve has been truly extraordinary. Arlington is a vibrant, fun foodie community that embraces different cuisines and experiences.”

The other three restaurants are all newer additions to the Arlington dining scene.

Cafe Colline on Langston Blvd in the Lee Heights Shopping Center opened in June 2020, in the midst of the pandemic. The “neighborhood French bistro” is owned by local sibling restaurateurs Eric and Ian Hilton. The brothers also run El Rey taqueria in Ballston as well as several well-regarded D.C. eateries.

“It means a lot that our little neighborhood bistro in Arlington is on this list! It is wonderful to see the hard work of our amazing staff and Chef Brendan L’Etoile recognized among Washingtonian’s very best restaurants,” a restaurant spokesperson said about the honor. “We hope that this brings more guests to venture across the bridge to experience the many lovely restaurants Arlington has to offer. We can’t wait to bring more great food and warm service to Arlington for years to come.”

Ruthie’s All-Day has been racking up recognition ever since it first opened just over two years ago in Arlington Heights. Run by chef Matt Hill, it was named one of the area’s best barbecue joints in 2020 as well as an Arlies award winner last year. This past year, the restaurant won a RAMMY for”Casual Restaurant of the Year” and Hill himself was a James Beard semi-finalist in 2022.

“We are so honored to be included in this year’s Washingtonian List of Top 100 restaurants. Our team at Ruthie’s works hard every day to provide great food and hospitality, and the recognition goes a long way to show support for us,” Hill told ARLnow. “The restaurant scene in Arlington is vibrant and growing, with many talented restaurants and chefs, and we’re proud to be part of the community.”

CHIKO in Shirlington is another eatery that’s been on top of a number of lists in recent years. The popular D.C.-based Chinese-Korean restaurant opened its fifth location on Campbell Avenue in late 2021, expanding out to Virginia for the first time. Its owners Scott Drewno and Danny Lee, known as “The Fried Rice Collective,” were named the D.C. region’s restaurateurs of the year at the RAMMY awards in July.

“We are thrilled to be listed as one of Washingtonian’s top 100 restaurants this year, especially as we now have a location in Northern Virginia,” a CHIKO spokesperson told ARLnow via email. “We are happy to be listed amongst such great restaurants, many of which are in Arlington County.”

A number of other nearby restaurants were on the top 100 list as well, including La Tingeria. The former Arlington-based food truck known for its birria tacos moved to Falls Church in late 2021 and was nearly forced to shut down by the city due to a parking situation.

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The Nespresso store at the Pentagon City mall is closing (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 2:00 p.m.) The Nespresso store is closing at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City.

The international coffee brand announced it will be closing its Pentagon City mall location early next month with its final day on Sunday, February 5. The reason, per a company spokesperson, is “shopping trends.”

“Nespresso evaluates the marketplace and shopping trends regularly to determine how we can deliver superior customer service and a high-quality coffee experience,” the spokesperson wrote ARLnow via email. “Following our latest evaluation, we have decided to close the Pentagon City boutique.”

The decision to close this location is part of “our long-term business strategy and reflects evolving consumer trends,” said the spokesperson.

They also noted that all employees affected by the closure and are “in good standing” will be given the option of taking another role at Nespresso or a severance package. The Nespresso stores at Tysons and in Bethesda will both remain open, so presumably, employees at the Pentagon City location could be moved to those locations.

“While we are confident this is the right step for our overall business operations, this is a decision that affects real people and their families, and we know it causes challenges and uncertainties for our employees,” the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, a new Korean corn dog eatery is coming to the mall.

Kong Dog is expected to open within the next two months, per a company spokesperson, though it’s unclear exactly where and when. The mall’s website initially said February 15, but that specific date has since been removed from the site.

Kong Dog serves up Korean-style corn dogs with toppings like cheese, fried potato, and ramen. With U.S. locations mostly centered in Illinois and New Jersey, the Pentagon City eatery appears to be the first coming to this area, though a new Georgetown location is also “coming soon” per the company’s website.

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Two new Asian restaurants are coming to Clarendon later this year.

An “authentic” Chinese dim sum restaurant called Tiger Dumpling and a Japanese izakaya-style restaurant called Izakaya 68 are coming to the 3200 block of Washington Blvd in Clarendon, signage in the window suggests.

Both restaurants are owned by the Ivea Restaurant Group, which runs a number of Asian-inspired restaurants across the region. That includes Ballston’s Gyu San, which is expected to open this year.

A spokesperson for the group told ARLnow that the two restaurants — they declined to confirm the name of the izakaya-style eatery — are now aiming for a summer opening, a bit of a pushback from the hoped-for April launch date.

The location in Clarendon was chosen due to the neighborhood’s foot traffic and because it is on the ground floor of a relatively newly constructed building, the owners said. The restaurants will be filing spaces that were previously home to Utahime and La Finca, with the former closing in 2020 and the latter in 2021.

Those restaurant spaces have seen considerable turnover, owing at least in part to the placement at the edge of the Clarendon business district, though residential development on the former Red Top Cab lot may help them feel less on the periphery to diners.

Prior restaurants that have come and gone from the spaces include pan-European pub Park Lane Tavern, ‘Top Chef’ contestant Katsuji Tanabe’s Le Kon, and “cajun seafood and sushi lounge” Asiatique.

Tiger Dumpling and Izakaya 68 are not the only Asian restaurants coming to Clarendon. Wagamama is expected to reveal an opening date for its new location in the former Oz space “shortly,” according to a spokesperson. Wagamama was recently voted the sixth-most anticipated 2023 restaurant opening in Arlington by ARLnow readers.

Hat tip to Sean Alpert

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A new D.C.-based coffee shop is opening a second location in Arlington Forest.

La Coop Coffee is moving into the Arlington Forest Shopping Center on 1st Street N., just off Arlington Blvd. The announcement was first made on the coffee shop’s social media channels earlier this month.

The hope is to open in the first week of February, co-owner Juan Luis Salazar Cano told ARLnow.

It’s filling a space that’s already been built out for a coffee shop by moving into the former home of Sense of Place Cafe, which closed this past summer because of the owner’s health. It’s next to Brick’s Pizza.

La Coop opened its first location in D.C. in July 2020 and has since started selling at regional farmers’ markets, including the Lubber Run Farmers Market. They got such a following, Cano said, that when a space opened at the nearby Arlington Forest Shopping Center, neighbors started messaging La Coop’s owners about the availability.

The owners have considered Arlington locations in the past, including in Rosslyn, but never made the move. But Arlington Forest offers a “community and supportive neighbors” said Cano, leading the coffee shop to open its first store outside of the District.

Cano owns the coffee shop with his wife, Stefanie Fabrico. La Coop is noted for providing “ethically-sourced” coffee from Guatemala that pays growers and framers up to 40% above the market rate.

What makes La Coop different, explained Cano, is that they are part of the process from “plant to cup.” His father in Guatemala is part of the cooperative and is also one of the farmers they work with.

“We are part of a family of farmers,” Cano said. “We are very conscious of the struggles that farmers have all over the world.”

La Coop had some issues with its D.C. landlord in 2020, but those have since been resolved. They are “definitely thinking” about opening more locations in Arlington and across the region but, at the moment, remain focused on opening its newest shop in Arlington Forest, said Cano.

“We are always looking for community,” he said. “[Arlington] has that.”

Image via Instagram/La Coop Coffee

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A new urgent care clinic is opening in Pentagon City, filling a space that once served Italian sandwiches.

Another location of NOVA Patient Care is coming to 1301 S. Joyce Street at Westpost, the shopping center in Pentagon City formerly known at Pentagon Row. The urgent and primary care clinic provides immediate daytime care, with hours currently planned to be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

This will be the second Arlington location of the urgent care clinic, with the other just two miles away on S. Bell Street in Crystal City. It will be the company’s eighth clinic overall in Northern Virginia.

No word yet on when it might open, in the storefront next to Walgreens. ARLnow has reached out to both the clinic and Westpost for a timeline but has yet to hear back as of publication.

NOVA Patient Care is opening in the former location of Napoli Salumeria, an Italian market that closed about a year ago and was only open for just over a year. The urgent care appears to be retaining the distinctive bright blue doors and awning that marked the entrance of a spot that formerly served up focaccias and sandwiches.

Elsewhere at Westpost, a once-buzzy sandwich spot is opening inside of the “cube.” Local chef Tim Ma is reviving his “Chase the Submarine” concept inside the stand-alone space that housed Bread & Water until this past fall. It’s expected to open in the next few weeks.

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