New Mexican Restaurant TTT Opening Today in Clarendon

(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) Arlington’s newest stop for tacos is holding a soft opening tonight (Friday) in Clarendon.

Tacos, Tortas, and Tequila (TTT) is the colorful creation of serial restauranteur Ivan Iricanin, who also owns Ambar and Baba across the street. Iricanin modeled the menu after Mexico City’s street food.

Starting Friday and continuing through Sunday, Iricanin says TTT will test out a limited version of its new menu with a dozen types of tacos available to order in groups of three. TTT will serve patrons from 4 p.m. until 1 a.m. tonight, he said.

The new restaurant’s soft opening continues this weekend, with TTT serving up taco combos Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

“The goal is to be a neighborhood gathering spot,” Iricanin told ARLnow Friday morning, gesturing to the downstairs bar where he hopes people will order drinks, food, and bring books or laptops to hang out.

Eventually, he plans to open TTT for brunch seven days a week, keeping the taco eatery open from 7 a.m.

TTT occupies the ground floor of the giant, three-story homage to Mexican cuisine that Iricanin opened in what used to be La Tasca at 2900 Wilson Blvd. A mural of traditional Mexican motifs adorns the new eatery’s open kitchen in the style of Diego Rivera, and murals along the wall help guide patrons to the right floor.

The concept is similar to the Iricanin’s Silver Spring TTT, but he says the new spot will be unique because of a a collaboration struck with famed Mexican chef Gerardo Vázquez Lugo of the award-winning Nicos restaurant in Mexico City. With Chef Lugo’s help, the theme of the Clarendon building’s three restaurants — TTT, Buena Vida, and Buena Vida Social Club — is traditional Mexican food not altered for American palates.

“What I learned from Ambar is if you stay true to the roots and present the culture you can’t go wrong,” said Iricanin.

Upstairs from TTT is Buena Vida, a sit-down restaurant that opened Monday with a focus on what Iricanin called “indigenous recipes” of traditional family-style cooking in Mexico. Waiters prepare caesar salads and guacamole fresh at patron’s tables using  rolling side carts that line the edges of the spacious room overlooking Wilson Blvd and N. Fillmore Street.

Buena Vida’s menu features cold starters like tropical ceviche with tuna, cucumber and pineapple and classic starters like queso fundido served with herbs and tortillas made in-house. Entrees are a mix of meat and seafood dishes, like a Yucatan recipe for duck cooked in a pumpkin seed sauce.

The rooftop floor will host a third restaurant and bar space newly named “Buena Vida Social Club” and is still under construction. Iricanin says he hopes to open it in late April.

“It’s a challenge opening one restaurant. We’re opening three,” Iricanin admits.

He plans to also seat patrons on patios outside Buena Vida and TTT come early summer, pending better weather and sidewalk seating permits. With the patios, the three-story establishment will be able to seat a combined 345 people.

Despite the “tequila” in the name, Iricanin says he’s focusing on growing the restaurant’s wine selection. At the moment he says he’s importing craft wines from Mexico’s Baja region to pair with the menu, and hired a sommelier from Mexico City to help make the selection for Clarendon.

“Their wine culture is growing, there are amazing wines there,” said Iricanin. “My goal is by the end of the year to have 50 to 80 wines.”

Other future plans include using the 190 inch projection screen installed in front of TTT’s mural for game nights during the World Cup, or black and white movies on Fridays.

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Facility Helping Families Supervise Visitation Is Seeking Volunteers

The Arlington Juvenile Court Services Unit is looking for volunteers to help with a new program helping families affected by domestic violence.

The Safe Havens Supervised Visitation and Exchange Center opened in January and supervises children during visits with parents accused of abuse. It’s also a safe meeting place for parents with shared custody who need to exchange children for visits, but may need to be kept separated from each other.

Safe Havens is seeking volunteers to spend eight hours a month at the center helping with tasks like escorting children between rooms.

The center is hoping volunteers can also help answer phones, assist program coordinators with record keeping, and keep an eye on supervised visits after being trained in the center’s procedures by staff.

The goal of the facility is to “improve safety for the community at large, eliminating the need for families in conflict to meet in public places” per the county’s January announcement of its opening.

The Safe Havens center is located at the county’s Stambaugh Human Services Center (2100 Washington Blvd) in Penrose. During the weekdays, the facility is open Wednesdays and Fridays from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. On weekends, it’s open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.

A county spokeswoman said the center is especially in need of volunteers who speak Spanish, and have experience working with children and families in crisis.

Judge George D. Varoutsos, who is Chief Judge of the Arlington County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, previously said he was “thrilled” to see the center open.

Arlington’s Project PEACE, a group dedicated to ending sexual and domestic violence at the Department of Human Services, was tasked by Varoutsos to create Safe Havens after the judge said he realized supervised visitation “has been missing from the array of services that we can provide victims of domestic violence in Arlington courts.”

Interested volunteers are asked to contact Safe Havens coordinator Joanne Hamilton at 703-228-4021.

Photo via Arlington County

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Rosslyn Safeway Upgraded With New Starbucks, Seafood, and Shelves

The long-awaited upgrades to Rosslyn’s aging Safeway are almost done, store staff say.

Customers may have already noticed several changes in the store at 1525 Wilson Blvd, also known as the “Subterranean Safeway.” The Starbucks counter is now located by the front doors, rebuilt with the coffee company’s trademark white subway tiles.

Today (Thursday) people queued in long lines for coffee at 8 a.m. and a store employee joked that customers were already “wearing the new Starbucks out.”

Inside the Rosslyn store is also a seafood department — the location’s first — situated in the rear next to the new “Butcher Block” section with sliced meats.

The frozen section also has new freezers. Shelves in several aisles were also replaced with new ones placed wide apart and lit by LED strips. New self-checkout machines have joined the check-out aisles.

Store managers have also expanded the produce section, housing the fruits and vegetables in new wooden displays.

Construction continues in the deli and bakery section of the store, which staff told ARLnow is being expanded to include a flower section and curve around the wide alcove under the street windows.

The Rosslyn Business Improvement District said previously that the upgrades would be completed this spring.

Safeway replaced the tile floor with concrete, added the self check-out machines, and began replacing the raising aisle shelves in January “to provide more space for a greater variety of products.”

Rosslyn residents has long requested renovations on the store, which has operated out of the location since 1962.

Neighborhoods previously told the BID that “better grocery stores” was a top priority for the neighborhood.

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Long-Time Jeweler at Courthouse Plaza Now Closed

Courthouse Jewelers at Courthouse Plaza is now closed “permanently,” according to a tipster and online business listings.

The shop on 2200 Clarendon Blvd bought and sold jewelry and was known for its watch repairs.

“It was a venerable institution,” said the tipster. “Bet they changed thousands of watch batteries for county staff over the years.”

As of today (Thursday) the inside of the small shop is empty. The only light left on is the white, block-lettering sign on the awning outside.

The shop’s website also appears to have shuttered. Courthouse Jewelers’ owner could not be reached, the shop’s phone number has been disconnected and its Facebook page has been inactive since 2012.

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Podcast: An Exit Interview with Alex Koma

On his last day on the job, we sat down with outgoing ARLnow managing editor Alex Koma to talk about Arlington, Amazon, ARLnow, our new editor Airey, and a bunch of other topics that don’t start with the letter “A.”

Alex is now reporting on real estate development at the Rosslyn-based Washington Business Journal, but you can hear from him on this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast. For more about his new employer, check out last week’s episode with WBJ Editor-in-Chief Doug Fruehling.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn. We used some new recording equipment this go-round, so please forgive the resulting audio glitches — we’ll try to get them ironed out prior to the next episode.

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New Restaurant Coming to Walter Reed Drive ‘Bermuda Triangle’

An angular strip of land along S. Walter Reed Drive where restaurants frequently appear and disappear seems to be again preparing to host another eatery.

A construction permit application was filed last week for a planned restaurant at 1621 S. Walter Reed Drive. The permit calls for “interior alterations… including kitchen equipment, floor and wall coverings, partitions, plumbing and electrical fixtures.”

No structural changes are planned.

Among the various restaurants to call the building home over the years was The Corner Tex-Mix, which closed in 2016 under somewhat mysterious circumstances.

Hat tip to Chris Slatt

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New-Look Wendy’s Now Open on Route 7

Now sporting a fresh look to go along with its fresh beef, a Wendy’s along Route 7 has reopened following renovations.

The fast food outpost now features an electronic order status display, a faux fireplace, a Coca-Cola Freestyle drink machine and a flat panel TV currently tuned to ESPN.

Located at 5050 S. Chesterfield Road, not far from Wakefield High School, the renovated Wendy’s sits next to a 7-Eleven store and a Taco Bell, on a small peninsula of Arlington County surrounded on three sides by the borders of Fairfax County and the city of Alexandria.

The renovations are nearly identical to those at the recently reopened Wendy’s at 3431 Columbia Pike.

More from a press release:

With revitalized decor, comfortable seating and other amenities, customers will enjoy a stunning new Wendy’s® experience when they visit the remodeled restaurant at 5050 Chesterfield Road, Arlington, VA beginning March 16.

The restaurant was remodeled using an innovative interior and exterior design, which is part of an ongoing effort to provide an enhanced customer experience — from the high-quality food to the restaurant environment.

“This restaurant has bold curb appeal and features a compelling design–inside and out,” said Arif Islam, Wendy’s Region Manager. “It’s very different from what our customers in Arlington are used to, but we think they’ll really like the fresh look and feel of the new Wendy’s.”

The interior showcases open, bright dining areas with multiple seating options, including private booths, cozy lounge seating and a Wi-Fi bar. A Coca-Cola® Freestyle® beverage dispenser that allows customers to customize their drink choices is also available. The touch screen, self-serve fountains offer over 100 regular and low-calorie beverages, including a variety of branded waters, sports drinks, lemonades and sparkling beverages.

“Our ultimate goal is for our customers to have the best dining experience, and we think they will be surprised and excited about their new Wendy’s,” Islam said.

Map via Google Maps

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Eagle Nest Spotted in Ft. Bennett Park

As has become something of an annual occurrence, an eagle nest has again been spotted in or near Arlington’s Ft. Bennett Park, overlooking the Potomac.

Though we haven’t heard of any eaglet sightings so far, county naturalists believe the behavior of the eagles that have been tending the nest suggests there are, in fact, eggs or hatched chicks inside.

“I too have seen the eagle sitting on what are likely eggs (maybe newborn?) on the nest,” wrote Arlington County Natural Resources Manager Alonso Abugattas. “An eagle sitting on there for extended periods of time that would suggest eggs or newly hatched young.”

“The current nest [is] located in a Sycamore tree between the south-bound and north-bound lanes of the George Washington Parkway,” David Farner, manager of the county parks department’s Conservation and Interpretation Section, told ARLnow. “It’s difficult to tell at this point whether there are eggs or recently hatched chicks or how many. But the behavior of the adults would suggest that they do have eggs or chicks. It’ll be few more weeks before any chicks will be big enough to be seen in the nest.”

ARLnow first reported on an eagle nest in Ft. Bennett Park in 2011. There have been a number of subsequent nestings, including in 2012, 2016, 2017 and 2018, according to news reports and Farner’s recollection.

Other D.C. area eagles have also been in the spotlight this month. At D.C.’s National Arboretum, an eagle pair dubbed Mr. President and First Lady are being watched for signs of egg laying, WTOP reported today, while the pair known as Liberty and Justice had their nesting attempt end in disappointment when a raccoon climbed into their nest and dined on an egg.

Photo courtesy Jim Balick

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Arlington High School Student Rocks ‘The Voice’

A senior from Arlington’s H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program appeared on NBC’s The Voice last night.

While Calista Garcia didn’t move on to the next round, her audition did get praise from the judges — including John Legend and Adam Levine — for her choice of song. Legend said she has a “powerful voice” but “wasn’t quite there.”

Garcia made headlines last year after she was selected as a 2019 Strathmore Artist in Residence.

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Construction Underway at “The Lot” in Clarendon

Construction is now underway at “The Lot,” a long-awaited outdoor beer garden in Clarendon.

A red, enclosed deck and pine picnic tables are being built at the site, at the corner of Wilson Blvd and 10th Street N. The Rebel Taco food truck is now parked on the site behind a fence.

The site has been in the works for two years on a former used car lot in Clarendon. Since then progress has been slow: a wooden fence erected in October last year was the first major work. In February, crews replaced the site’s old Prime Auto Group signs with two black billboard-style signs reading “The Lot: Beer Garden.”

The company behind The Lot is Social Restaurant Group, which also opened Pamplona and Bar Bao. Originally, they planned to open The Lot in March 2017 but were delayed until the summer, then the following spring, citing a lengthy permitting process.

The Lot’s permit application asked for at least 150 seats, an enclosed deck, and a kitchen.

Social Restaurant Group co-founder Mike Bramson told ARLnow last year he hoped The Lot would offer “a vast variety, from Belgian to German to local craft beers” as well as frozen drinks, food from the Rebel Taco food truck, and games like cornhole and giant Jenga.

The beer garden’s website is currently blank and its Facebook page has no information yet on when it may open.

 

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‘The Pinemoor’ Coming to Former Clarendon Grill Space

The space that once housed Clarendon Grill is going to be a bar and restaurant once more.

“The Pinemoor,” described in a bare-bones Facebook profile as an “American bar/restaurant,” is coming to the space. Signs in the window, which sport a distinctly Old West design, say the restaurant is expected to open this summer.

Tipsters told ARLnow they have seen construction activity inside the restaurant space, though it is mostly blocked from view by curtains.

Clarendon Grill had hosted bands and other nightlife at the 1101 N. Highland Street space in Clarendon for 22 years before closing late last year. “C-Grill” was renovated in 2010 and a back outdoor patio was added.

Hat tip to @6number6. Photo courtesy Alex Koma.

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Easter Bunny Hopping Over to Pentagon City Mall Next Month

If the 76-degree weather and the blossoming cherry trees around Arlington weren’t enough of a sign of spring, here’s another: the Easter bunny is coming to town.

The fluffy, often bespectacled mascot of Christianity’s second-most-celebrated holiday will be on hand for photos with children at the Pentagon City mall starting on Friday, April 5.

More from a press release:

Families are invited to celebrate spring by snapping photos with the Easter Bunny at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City. Beginning Friday, April 5, shoppers can hop down the bunny trail near Nordstrom on the First Level to meet and take egg-citing photos with the Easter Bunny. As an added convenience, shoppers can make an appointment online to skip the line by visiting simonbunny.com!

Shoppers can also look forward to a Caring Bunny event on Sunday, April 7. Caring Bunny is a private event designed for children and young adults with special needs to have an opportunity to visit the Easter Bunny and take memorable photos with their families. Fashion Centre at Pentagon City will make the necessary adjustments to the environment to support special sensory, physical and other developmental needs. The event will be held from 9 a.m.-11 a.m., and guests are encouraged to use the entrance closest to Nordstrom. To reserve an appointment, visit bit.ly/FCPCCaringBunny19.

Little ones are invited to ring in the season with a special Breakfast with the Easter Bunny at The Ritz-Carlton, Pentagon City on Saturday, April 13 from 8:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m. The festive morning will include a cookie decorating station as well as a special appearance by the Easter Bunny! Breakfast is $42 per person, excluding tax and gratuity. For reservations, please call 703.412.2728.

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Goody’s Mural No More After County Regs Force Clarendon Pizza Favorite To Repaint

The outside of Goody’s is now sporting eye-watering lime green and red paint after county zoning regulations forced the pizzeria to cover its colorful, culinary mural.

Tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, cheese, slices of pizza, and gyros adorned the creme-colored walls along with an Italian flag after Goody’s commissioned the mural from a local artist.

The county’s planning department warned the Clarendon staple that Arlington’s zoning ordinance requires permits for artwork that “relates to the advertisement of a business and its services” and that without a permit they’d be forced to paint over the mural.

Goody’s is owned by Glenda Alvarez who took the reins from Vanessa Reisis last spring and was unavailable for comment Friday morning.

Alvarez’s husband Danny Sabouni owns Arlington Watch Works next door and told ARLnow that Alvarez had to repaint Goody’s yesterday (Thursday) but she was not fined.

“We can put bicycles or cars outside, whatever else. But we cannot put posters or signs advertising what we sell,” Sabouni said of the zoning ordinance’s requirements. “It’s pathetic.”

A spokesperson for the Arlington County Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development did not respond in time for publication.

Sabouni says Alvarez is considering commissioning a new mural for the eatery, but it’s a difficult process because the language of the ordinance doesn’t clearly distinguish between what’s a sign and what’s art.

“It’s so vague that nobody can understand it,” he said.

Previously, Alvarez said she painted the building to make it more “attractive” to customers, adding “We just wanted to get a little more attention from people walking by.”

County inspectors famously cracked down on artwork judged to be advertising in 2010 when Wag More Dogs on S. Four Mile Run Drive included dogs in their mural.

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Police to Hold Anti-Drunk Driving Event in Clarendon This Weekend

Police are encouraging people not to drink and drive during Arlington’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities this weekend with a free event about blood alcohol levels.

The annual event, called “Don’t Press Your Luck,” will be held Saturday from 5-7 p.m. on N. Hudson Street between Wilson Blvd and 13th Street N. by the James Hunter Dog Park and Don Tito restaurant.

Police will be using the “Virtual Bar” app by Responsibility.org to show how a person’s gender, weight, and food consumption affects their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and impairs their ability to drive.

Officers plan to close the two blocks of N. Hudson Street from 4-8 p.m. Saturday for the event, and are warning drivers to look out for temporary “No Parking” posted signs nearby.

Virtual Bar was touted as “way to help promote responsible drinking decisions, especially as people explore how foods they are likely to consume when out drinking.”

Arlington County Police are organizing the event together with Responsibility.org and the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP), which advocates for ways to reduce drunk driving across the Greater Washington region.

WRAP’s annual St. Paddy’s Day $15 Lyft discount to discourage drunk driving also returns this year. The promo code will be posted on WRAP’s website at 3 p.m. Sunday and the code will work for the first $1,500 customers between the hours of 4 p.m. Sunday and 4 a.m. Monday.

From ACPD:

St. Patrick’s Day can be a celebratory time, often including alcohol. The green beer and merry-making of the holiday unfortunately lead to dangerous driving conditions as party-goers head home. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2017, 59 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes over St. Paddy’s Day holiday weekend across the nation. And, more than one-third (37% of all motor vehicle crash fatalities involved drunk drivers. The Arlington County Police Department (ACPD), the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) and Responsbility.org are teaming up to remind that if your plans include drinking, plan ahead to take a sober ride home.

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Two New Restaurants Open in Ballston Quarter’s Food Court, With Others Nearly Ready for Diners

Slowly, but surely, restaurants in Ballston Quarter’s food court are opening to diners.

When the development opened up its “Quarter Market” to customers earlier this month, just one restaurant (Mi & Yu Noodle Bar) was open for business. In the days since then, two more have joined the club.

The first was Copa Kitchen and Bar, a Spanish restaurant serving up small plates, flatbreads and sangria from its “sangria garden.”

Copa opened for business last week, according to Ballston Quarter’s social media accounts, and the restaurant space is now adorned with all manner of soccer-themed apparel. Eventually, Copa also plans to offer outdoor seating in the development’s plaza.

Next up was Hot Lola’s, a fast-casual restaurant offering spicy, fried chicken sandwiches. The eatery opened last weekend.

Chef Kevin Tien, who also backed the Petworth restaurant Himitsu, plans to use Sichuan spices to flavor the sandwiches, which should pack plenty of punch. Diners will also be able to order chicken tenders, but those aren’t available on the restaurant’s menu just yet.

Ice Cream Jubilee, a local chain offering exotic ice cream flavors of all kinds, could well be the next shop to open. The stand is mostly set up, and an employee there said the eatery could be ready to serve up scoops as early as next week.

Workers also seem to have made plenty of progress on Turu’s, a restaurant from the creator’s of D.C.’s Timber Pizza Company, though no employees were at the stand Wednesday afternoon.

Nearby, another restaurant backed by Timber Pizza’s owners, the Ballston Service Station, also seems to be nearing an opening.

Details are still scarce about what, exactly, the location will serve up, but a quick glance behind some construction screens revealed what appeared to be a line of beer taps. State records show that the restaurant is asking for a permit to serve both beer and wine at the location.

It’s been a series of false starts for Quarter Market, and the development as a whole, though shops at Ballston Quarter did start opening slowly this fall. A project to build a new pedestrian bridge linking the development to the area’s Metro station via the Ballston Exchange building has also faced some hold-ups.

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