Press Club

JINYA Ramen Bar is set to open its newest location in Ballston this weekend.

The noodle eatery says its official opening will happen this Saturday (May 21) at 11 a.m. The first hundred people in line will get free ramen. Additionally, there will be specials, a live DJ, and coupon giveaways.

The restaurant first announced it was coming to the space adjacent to the Quarter Market food hall in November. It was formerly occupied by Copa Kitchen & Bar, a Spanish tapas restaurant and soccer-watching venue. That restaurant closed in the fall 2021.

JINYA was initially aiming to open in March but experienced delays “common in construction,” according to a spokesperson.

This will be the restaurant chain’s fifth D.C.-area location with other locations in Reston, Merrifield, D.C., and Bethesda. It has locations across the United States and several in Canada.

JINYA Ramen’s D.C. area locations are all owned by Sam Shoja, a company spokesperson confirmed. He’s also the co-owner of Paraiso in D.C. and previously held a stake in Hot Lola’s, which has a location in Ballston Quarter and is another that is opening in Rosslyn soon.

JINYA eatery specializes in ramen made with broths that are simmered for up to 20 hours, according to its website.

“JINYA is ramen culture, where the relationship between broth and noodles is serious but delicious business,” the company previously said a press release. “From the water we use to prepare our broths — we only use FUJI which is 99.9 percent free from impurities — to the special aging process that our noodles undergo before they’re cooked and served, we’re crazy about ramen and pay meticulous attention to everything that goes into your bowl… You’ll quickly see why at JINYA we say, No ramen, no life.'”

0 Comments

JINYA Ramen Bar is aiming to open its newest outpost at Ballston Quarter by early next month, a restaurant spokesperson tells ARLnow.

We reported late last year that the ramen eatery was coming to the former location of the Spanish tapas restaurant and soccer bar Copa Kitchen and Bar, which had closed after more than two years in the space adjacent to the Quarter Market food hall.

JINYA is now aiming for an opening date of Saturday, May 7, though the spokesperson cautions that it is not yet finalized.

The growing, international restaurant chain’s move into Ballston marks its fifth D.C.-area location including restaurants in Reston, Merrifield, D.C., and Bethesda.

The D.C.-area locations are owned by local restaurateur Sam Shoja. He’s also the co-owner of Paraiso in D.C. and formerly had a stake in Hot Lola’s, which also has a location in Ballston Quarter. That eatery is opening another outpost in Rosslyn sometime in the coming months.

JINYA Ramen Bar has more than 40 locations across the U.S. and Canada. It specializes in ramen made from broths that are simmered for more than 20 hours, plus Japanese whisky and rice bowls.

“JINYA is ramen culture, where the relationship between broth and noodles is serious but delicious business,” said a press release from last year. “From the water we use to prepare our broths — we only use FUJI which is 99.9 percent free from impurities — to the special aging process that our noodles undergo before they’re cooked and served, we’re crazy about ramen and pay meticulous attention to everything that goes into your bowl.”

JINYA isn’t the only restaurant in Ballston readying itself to open. Grill Kabob, Silver Diner, Pirouette Cafe, and Hawkers are all planning to start serving in the coming months. In Ballston Quarter, British cuisine purveyor Salt Pop Kitchen is hoping to open by May 1.

0 Comments

British-inspired Salt Pot Kitchen is planning to open in Ballston next month.

The Loudoun County-based “upscale British street food” eatery is moving into the Ballston Quarter Market stall formerly occupied by perogi stand Rogi, co-owner Wendy Salt tells ARLnow.

Salt Pot Kitchen is looking to start serving by May 1.

The restaurant comes from mother and son team Wendy and Charlie Salt — hence, the restaurant’s name — who are currently working out of a commercial kitchen in Leesburg. This is their first brick and mortar location after mostly selling their British delicacies like sausage rolls and cottage pies wholesale and at farmers markets.

Wendy Salt says they think Ballston is the perfect location for their business because of the neighborhood’s “international demographic” made up of many who are familiar with British food from their time traveling or studying abroad. Plus, the family previously lived in nearby Falls Church for 17 years.

“We are bringing British food to the people who perhaps don’t have time to cook good wholesome food for themselves and their family,” Salt says. “We think people in this area will appreciate that.”

The menu will consist of traditional English fare, like meat pies, sausage rolls, and soups. Salt says the two most popular items at markets are the beef and mushroom pies and Wiltshire plaits (pork, apple, and cheddar cheese wrapped in a flaky pastry).

There will also be a number of vegetarian and, even, vegan options, like a vegetarian curried pasty (curried vegetables wrapped in a vegan flaky crust) and roasted cauliflower and turmeric soup.

Salt says she’s hoping to expand the menu once they get settled into the space to include other traditional British bites like bangers and mash.

Rogi owner Ed Hardy closed down his Quarter Market stand, situated near the escalator to and from the mall above, in February. At the time, he had hoped to replace it with “a series of collaborations and pop-ups from other regional restaurateurs.”

Those exact plans never materialized, but Salt Pot Kitchen was one of the potential pop-ups that was initially proposed.

0 Comments

Concerns are emerging about a proposed residential redevelopment that would replace the Macy’s in Ballston.

Insight Property Group proposes to demolish the longtime department store and vacant office building at 685 N. Glebe Road and replace it with a 16-story, 555-unit apartment complex atop a grocery store. In response to online engagement, it is adding a second, 1,400-square-foot retail space on the ground floor.

The units would be spread across two 14-story towers joined at the penthouse level. Residents would have 250 underground parking spaces while grocery store patrons would have 148 spots on the building’s second story.

Insight is considering how to celebrate the building’s history as part of the D.C. area’s first indoor regional shopping center, built in 1950, possibly by preserving some tiling and stairwells.

But during the first Site Plan Review Committee meeting last week, the proposal elicited apprehension from community members about density, from Planning Commissioners about community benefits, and county planners about cohesion with the rest of the mall.

Insight proposes to use two mechanisms to earn the right to build 275 additional units on top of the base density allowed for the site of 280 units. First, by using a novel zoning tool called a Transfer of Development Rights, it can tack on another 236 units.

The TDR rewards developers who commit to preserving affordable housing, open spaces, historic sites and community facilities on Columbia Pike. In exchange for this commitment, they can either build double the number of preserved units elsewhere in the county, or build triple the units preserved elsewhere on the Pike.

Insight proposes preserving 118 units of garden apartments on Columbia Pike as affordable for 30 years so it can tack on 236 extra units to its Ballston Macy’s project. Some civic association leaders oppose this, however.

“This is a dangerous precedent and should never be done,” said Bernie Berne, representing the Buckingham Community Civic Association, which voted to oppose this aspect of the project. “Keep it to Columbia Pike — find a place to transfer the units in Columbia Pike. There’s no reason to put it in Ballston.”

Representing the Arlington Mill Civic Association, Cate Harrington said the group also opposes the TDR.

“It commits that entire area to being the same for 30 years, which we object to, we would like our area to grow and change organically,” she said.

Insight intends to build an extra 39 units by achieving LEED Gold certification for the building. The developer proposes powering the building almost exclusively with electricity, save for gas-powered kitchens within the grocery store, installing solar panels on the penthouses and dedicating 10% of parking spaces for electric vehicles.

Read More

0 Comments

An “immersive group gaming” experience called Electric Gamebox is officially open in Ballston Quarter mall.

Electric Gamebox opened its Arlington outpost on Thursday, and we’re told the opening weekend went smoothly and business was steady. The entertainment facility is located in Suite 2233 of Ballston Quarter (4238 Wilson Blvd), in a 2,217 square-foot space, the entrance to which is on the second floor of the outdoor portion of the mall.

“We chose Arlington because of its reputation as a young, vibrant, family friendly community,” said Will Dean, Co-founder and CEO of Electric Gamebox, in a statement. “Visitors to the Ballston Quarter location can enjoy a range of games, including our recently launched Shaun the Sheep game, and they can feel assured that they are doing so in a Covid-safe and family-friendly environment.”

The debut follows openings in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, Texas, as well as Salt Lake City and Chicago — all part of the London-based company’s foray into the U.S. that began in December 2020.

Dean and his co-founder David Spindler founded the popular obstacle race Tough Mudder and Tough Mudder Bootcamp, respectively.

Inside Electric Gamebox, visitors will find a series of rooms called “gameboxes,” which can host two to six players for games that last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour.

Users don visors with motion tracking that allow them to use their entire body to play games that are projected onto the four walls of their “gamebox.”

New games, to be released monthly, “can only be successfully completed through collaboration,” according to a press release.

Electric Gamebox says its games are suitable for all ages. Ticket prices range from $20 to $35 and can be purchased both online and in-store.

The location is open 12-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 12-10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.

0 Comments

Ballston Quarterfest Crawl is coming back in May.

The now-annual free event put on by the Ballston Business Improvement District is set for Saturday, May 21 this year.

It’s expected to follow a similar format as last year, with neighborhood restaurants offering food and drink specials throughout the day. In 2021, organizers emphasized that the event would be spread out and more “free-flowing,” as opposed to 2019 when it was more concentrated in one location.

This year, as in past years, there will be live entertainment, local art, and music. Maps, a list of artists, a schedule and additional details are forthcoming, organizers noted in an announcement.

After three decades, the “Taste of Arlington” — a popular annual event that drew massive crowds to sample dishes from restaurants throughout Arlington, arranged in booths along Wilson Blvd — was replaced in 2019 by “Quarterfest” as Ballston’s annual springtime event. The event was canceled the following year due to the pandemic and was restructured as more of a “crawl” of Ballston area restaurants in 2021.

0 Comments

(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) A large fire department response is on scene at the Ballston Quarter mall for a fire on the third floor of the building.

Initial reports suggest that the fire was in a sauna inside the men’s locker room of the Onelife Fitness gym. Light smoke could be seen coming from the roof of the gym near the Ballston pedestrian bridge.

A larger response was dispatched to the mall after the first firefighters on scene confirmed a “working fire” inside the sauna. The flames have since been brought under control, according to scanner traffic.

So far no injuries have been reported. Wilson Blvd is currently blocked in front of the mall.

The gym was evacuated due to the fire. Patrons in their exercise gear could be seen standing around in other parts of the mall.

Firefighters are now starting to set up fans to remove the thick smoke that has filled the gym.

0 Comments
Union Kitchen in Ballston (staff photo)

(Updated, 5:00 p.m.) Employees at Union Kitchen in Ballston are looking to unionize, joining colleagues at other area locations.

The employees cite pay cuts, lack of sick leave, and staffing shortages among the reasons for organizing.

In late January, employees at three Union Kitchen stores in D.C. filed union petitions, as DCist reported. Within days, workers at the Ballston location joined those efforts, Union Kitchen union organizing committee member and Ballston employee Mckenna Willis tells ARLnow.

Now, employees at all five open locations have signaled their intent to unionize. That includes eight eligible employees in Ballston.

A mail-in election is set for Tuesday, March 8 with a count planned for March 28. Workers are holding a “pre-election rally” in D.C. this Saturday.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 400 would be the collective bargaining agent for the store’s employees if the vote passes.

Union Kitchen started as a food accelerator, helping food and beverage startups by providing business and technical expertise, and has since grown into a retail shop and restaurant. The Ballston location opened at 4238 Wilson Blvd in August 2020, offering a mix of packaged food, beverage and convenience items for sale as well as a takeout menu of breakfast items, sandwiches, salads, melts and pizzas.

Many of the reasons for organizing are common across all of the locations, but Willis explains that a number of these grievances are acutely felt at the Ballston location.

Earlier this year, management stopped providing customers the option to tip on their payments. This has effectively cut employees’ pay by three or four dollars an hour, according to Willis.

In February, management sent a notice, which was provided to ARLnow by Union Kitchen CEO Cullen Gilchrist, to workers that they were “increasing compensation by almost 20% on average across all positions.”

Willis says that increase does not come close to making up for the lost wages from losing tips. She explains that the Ballston location has more “established” employees — those with families, mortgages, and long-term relationships — than the other locations and can not afford what is effectively a pay cut.

Union Kitchen management, which has said it won’t voluntarily recognize the union, wrote that employees’ compensation is “industry leading pay.”

“We pay a minimum wage of $18/hr with an average compensation in our Ballston store of $28.5/hr,” Gilchrist wrote to ARLnow in an email. “We are very proud of our ability to pay so well.”

As for why tips were cut, Gilchrist said this is what customers wanted.

“The vast majority of customers don’t tip, and many of those who did felt pressure to do so,” he told DCist. “We’re trying to make our customers comfortable.”

Sick leave is also an employee concern, with Willis calling Union Kitchen’s Covid policy “horrible.” During the pandemic, Willis says employees wanted to take sick leave as a precaution but didn’t want to risk not getting paid.

Willis says she lives with her father and when he contracted Covid, she told work she wasn’t coming in because “it was the right thing to do.” She was told it would be unpaid leave.

Additionally, “severe” staffing shortages have hit the Wilson Blvd location of Union Kitchen hard. While Willis acknowledges that this is an issue across the industry at large, she says management is not handling it appropriately.

Read More

0 Comments

The Ballston pedestrian bridge is shining blue and yellow tonight in support of Ukraine.

The two-year-old pedestrian bridge that stretches over Wilson Blvd, connecting with Ballston Quarter mall, will be running “blue and yellow lights 24/7 for the time being,” a county spokesperson tells ARLnow. It is a show of solidarity with the country that remains under attack by Russia.

Officials worked quickly with Arlington public arts staff to make this happen, after ARLnow was previously told that something of this nature was not in the works.

This comes as other neighboring localities, like D.C. and Alexandria, have enacted similar symbolic gestures in recent days.

On Monday night, the County Board issued a resolution condemning Russia’s “unprovoked attack” on Arlington’s sister city Ivano-Frankivsk in southwestern Ukraine.

“The Arlington County Board… stands in support and solidarity with the people of Ivano-Frankivsk and all of Ukraine in their defense of sovereignty and democracy,” said the resolution.

0 Comments

Pierogi stand Rogi at Ballston Quarter’s food hall has closed, chef and owner Ed Hardy tells ARLnow.

The pierogi stand’s last official day was Super Bowl — Sunday, February 13. There were several reasons behind the decision to close the eatery after only a little over a year of operations, Hardy says.

One is that the brand is focusing on getting its USDA certification in order to be able sell its filled pastry products in stores. Additionally, the last two months — during the Omicron wave — were particularly hard on the business even compared to the last two pandemic years, a sentiment echoed by a lot of local eateries.

“We took some moon shots and took a risk,” Hardy said of his effort to make a pierogi stand work in the competitive Ballston market.

While Hardy is from Richmond and spent a large portion of his career in New York, he’s no stranger to Arlington — and he’s hoping to remain active here.

Prior to Rogi, he was teaching classes at the Ballston location of Cookology Culinary School. Shortly after the pandemic shut down in-person classes, Hardy shifted from teaching to cooking and opened a “ghost kitchen” inside of Cookology serving up pierogies calling it “Zofia’s Kitchen.”

A short time later, space at nearby Ballston Quarter opened up and Hardy moved all operations there, officially becoming “Rogi.”

With Rogi’s closure, Hardy had planned to replace his pierogi concept with a series of collaborations and pop-ups from other regional restaurateurs, but those plans are currently in flux while details are being worked out with Ballston Quarter. He remains hopeful that this pop-up plan will bear fruit soon, though its future is unclear.

Should he get the go-ahead, among the first up would be an international meatball-centric concept called “Chef Ed’s Flyballs,” followed by empanada, crepe and other pop-ups centered around specific foods.

0 Comments
Ballston Quarter in the snow (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 3:55 p.m.) Grace Community Church has its sights set on a new home: Ballston Quarter.

The church would occupy about 23,280 square feet of space on the second floor of the mall. It will be across the atrium from WHINO, the art gallery, wine bar and restaurant, and next to the Macy’s.

Next month, the Arlington County Board is set to hear the church’s request to operate in the mall. If approved, Grace Community Church Pastor John Slye says construction on the indoor mall space will begin shortly after and the congregation could move in between July 1 and September of this year.

Ballston Quarter would be a big change from Grace Community Church’s current meeting place — the Thomas Jefferson Middle School auditorium at 125 S. Old Glebe Road. For most of its 20-year history, the church has held worship services at Key Elementary School and later TJ, which Slye attended as a kid. (For office space, Grace Community Church did for a time use a church at 11th Street N. and N. Vermont Street — being redeveloped as apartments.)

“We’ve really enjoyed our time and our partnership [at TJ]. They have been absolutely fantastic,” Slye said. “We’ll be sad to go.”

But a permanent, dedicated home has always been the goal, one the church has started pursuing seriously in the last four years, Slye says. It chose the Ballston Quarter location in 2020, signed a lease and assembled a construction team shortly after that.

The future location of Grace Community Church in Ballston Quarter (via Ballston Quarter, with circle added by ARLnow)

While the space will seat 200 fewer people than TJ’s auditorium, the trade-off is that the church will have a space customized to its needs for the first time.

“Our name is Grace Community Church, so we’re really into community, and we do a lot of stuff around food and fun,” Slye said. “We’ll do some concerts — not just Christian — but partnerships with the community, conferences, all kinds of fun things that, we believe, will be a help in some way, shape or fashion in the community.”

An architectural drawing of the new Grace Community Church, planned for Ballston Quarter Mall (via Arlington County)

The church will have two Sunday services, one at 9:30 and another at 11 a.m., with each bringing in about 480 worshippers, as well as a Thursday service at 7 p.m., according to an application filed with Arlington County. The conferences and concerts will take place on Friday evenings and during the day and evening on Saturday.

Nick Cumings, a land use lawyer representing the church, writes in the church’s application to the county that the regional shopping center “can easily accommodate the expected number of worshippers” as well as their cars in the Ballston Quarter garage.

Religious uses are allowed under the zoning code for the mall, but the church is required to get a site plan amendment approved by the County Board to operate, per the application.

Ballston Quarter’s amenities, its centrality and proximity to the Ballston Metro station will increase the church’s profile, Slye says. That will allow the church to amplify its partnerships with local organizations, such as Arlington Food Assistance Center.

It will also introduce more people to what he says is the “vaccine” to modern malaises such as anxiety, loneliness and purposelessness: the Biblical mandate to love the stranger through community organizing and volunteering.

“We’ve got anxiety running wild, frustration, meaningless, purposelessness,” he said. “We have a vaccine for that: loving-kindness… We need these principles introduced to make a difference to our lives and to the world — and they just work.”

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list