Press Club

A new cafe and lounge is hoping to open in Crystal City within the next couple of months, the owner tells ARLnow.

Crush Cafe at 546 23rd Street S. comes from Yoseph Abegaz, who owns Flirt Lounge next door. It’s filling a space that was once occupied by a dry cleaners and shoe repair shop. The location was first rented last June and a building permit to alter the interior was first applied for in September.

The new cafe is set to serve coffee, Abegaz tells ARLnow, as well as beer, wine, and mixed alcoholic beverages.

Abegaz described the new cafe as essentially an “expansion” of Flirt Lounge, a hookah bar and lounge that opened in 2016. He declined to give an exact timeframe about when his newest venture may open, only that they are still in the midst of licensing and permits.

It will be at least a “couple of months” before Crush Cafe can open, Abegaz said.

That strip of 23rd Street S. is known as “restaurant row.” With Amazon HQ2 moving in down the road and extensive development happening in the neighborhood, there remains some questions of the aging, low-slung retail strip’s long term viability.

Nonetheless, much like Crush Cafe, new eateries continue to set their sights there.

Beauty Champagne & Sugar Boutique just started serving bubbly earlier this month at the corner of 23rd Street S. and Fern Street. A halal restaurant franchise is hoping to open a new concept by the end of the year on S. Eads Street, just around the corner from Crush Cafe’s new home. A half block down, a Korean rice dog eatery was planning for an early 2022 opening but that appears to be delayed, with the restaurant’s website still not accepting orders.

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With construction nearly complete, Bar Ivy in Clarendon is aiming to open later this month.

Tables and chairs are already out at the large outdoor cafe at 3033 Wilson Blvd, located a block from the Clarendon Metro station. Workers appeared to be putting the finishing touches on the coffee kiosk as much of the signage has also gone up.

The hope is to open Bar Ivy sometime in the second half of May, a spokesperson tells ARLnow.

The mostly outdoor bar and restaurant was first proposed to the County Board in October 2020. Construction began last summer.

Bar Ivy is aiming for a “cool, relaxed vibe of the West Coast with a Mid-Atlantic approach to ingredients,” said an April press release. It’s set to have a large 125-seat patio that will be shaded by mature crepe myrtles. There will also be a 20-seat interior bar plus several booths.

“Guests can expect an elegant but laid-back atmosphere with subtle influences from the opposite coast, with attractive garden dining, an open, airy bungalow-style interior,” the release says.

Bar Ivy is from D.C.-based Blagden Hospitality Group, which owns several popular bars and restaurants in the District as well as Hei Hei Tiger in Tysons. This is the restaurant group’s first foray into Arlington, though Bar Ivy chef/owner Nathan Beauchamp and Executive Chef Jonathan Till previously worked at Restaurant Eve and Evening Star Cafe, respectively, in Alexandria.

The name, according to Arlington Magazine, is a nod to the ivy at D.C.’s Calico and the famed Los Angeles restaurant often frequented by celebrities.

Bar Ivy will initially be open for dinner with a small kiosk serving coffee and pastries all day. The plan is to eventually serve lunch and brunch as well.

The menu will be “heavily influenced by seafood and vegetable-forward dishes,” according to the press release.

The beverage program will be “seasonal herb and produce-forward” along with house-made fortified wines, vermouth, and amari utilizing “self-foraged ingredients.” There will also be a separate menu dedicated to low/no-alcohol drinks.

The menu and exact hours are expected to be announced in the coming weeks. The restaurant group is already planning to open a second Bar Ivy in Bethesda.

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A one-stop-shop for a workout and a post-workout meal is gearing up to open in the former Ray’s the Steaks location in Courthouse.

The forthcoming gym-café, FitDistrict, will have a little bit of everything: studios for hot yoga, cycling and interval training classes, and a diverse menu ranging from wheatgrass shots to healthified comfort classics, like shepherd’s pie.

“This has been a dream in the making for a long time,” says owner and founder Catherine Ford, who is also an Arlington resident.

Construction began about two weeks ago on the approximately 7,500-square foot space in the Navy League building at 2300 Wilson Blvd. It housed the iconic, no-frills steakhouse until that closed in 2019.

She expects to open the gym and restaurant at the same time in July.

“We’re all so busy and we are all are craving belonging and community — now more than ever — so it’s going to be fitness and food, but it’s about belonging and community,” she said. “Our tagline is ‘feel good here,’ because that’s what it’s about.”

After finishing a workout, gym members can head over to the café, which will have indoor and outdoor seating, or pick up a to-go order they placed before their workout. Ford designed the menu, which has vegan, vegetarian and paleo-friendly options.

“The whole idea came out of something I wanted in my own life and my personal struggles of fitting it all in,” she said.

The FitDistrict logo (courtesy photo)

As a financial planner, Ford had difficulty finding time for her two passions: attending group fitness classes and cooking healthy food. As someone who enjoyed a variety of workouts, she maintained multiple memberships to different boutique gyms.

The idea for one spot housing multiple studios and a restaurant came to her 10 years ago, when she was hungry after a barre class she had squeezed in before a meeting. She mulled the concept for years before deciding to act on it.

“I am grateful I found the courage a couple of years ago to go after it,” she said. “This has been a journey of a lifetime already.”

Ford incorporated FitDistrict in 2017 and found a bank to work with her in 2018. It took her a few years to find the right location, but she eventually signed a lease on the space a little more than a year ago. Now, she’s focused on construction and hiring for multiple positions.

She still works as a financial planner by day, but her hope is to go full time and, eventually, add locations.

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The two nightlife venues replacing Whitlow’s on Wilson are gearing up to open over the next few months.

Taking over the long-time local watering hole, which closed in June after more than 25 years in Clarendon, are B Live and Coco B’s.

The two concepts, both to be located at at 2854 Wilson Blvd, are the latest ventures from Michael Bramson, who’s behind The Lot beer garden and the Clarendon Pop-Up Bar.

“We are thrilled to open B Live early spring, and Coco B’s late summer,” Bramson tells ARLnow. “We do not have anticipated opening dates yet, but construction and design are well underway for both concepts.”

Additional details will come soon, he said.

Building permits indicate B Live will occupy the first floor and possibly the basement of the space and Coco B’s will be the name of the old rooftop tiki bar at Whitlow’s. (The name Coco B’s could be a nod to the tiki bar theme, or to the noted local TikTok personality whose spats with two Arlington bars attracted considerable attention last summer.)

Bramson’s updates come after last Tuesday’s County Board approval of use permits for live entertainment and dancing at the two spots, as well as for a 48-seat outdoor café at B Live. The approvals came despite opposition from some neighbors over noise concerns.

The County Board approved the following operating hours: 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight on Sundays, which a county report says are similar to those of neighboring bars.

Proposed hours for Coco B’s/B Live compared to neighboring businesses (via Arlington County)

The Lyon Village Civic Association proposed earlier cut-off times of 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, the report said.

Board members instead approved a recommendation from county staff to review these permits this November and evaluate how successful the bars are at mitigating sounds.

Bramson says the spots will have sound panels and dampening curtains and speakers will be strategically placed to lessen noise levels.

“We are a neighborhood spot and want the community to be comfortable whether they are within the spaces or living nearby,” he said. “We hope our proactive response and action have served to allay any residential apprehension and show that we are taking their concerns very seriously.”

Noise from Whitlow’s was a source of consternation for neighbors that resulted in operating hours being curtailed from 2 a.m. to midnight, plus a requirement to install sound dampening panels and curtains, county planner Cedric Southerland told the County Board last Tuesday.

“That came after years and years trying to work with them to remedy their sound impacts on the neighborhood,” Southerland said. “Additionally, that issue is what preceded the formation of the Clarendon Live Entertainment Group (CLEG), along with other bars and restaurants coming online at that time.”

Established in 2002, the CLEG brings together county staff, restaurant owners and neighbors to address concerns and coordinate code enforcement. Southerland says recently, the CLEG has been meeting fewer times per year, which he takes to be a sign that the group is addressing the concerns that led to its creation two decades ago.

But not all neighbors say mechanisms like the CLEG actually help residents enjoy their homes. Julissa Marenco told the County Board on Tuesday that staff are not sufficiently enforcing noise violations and these organizations do not actually go to bat for neighbors.

“We are all in support of music, we are all in support of living in an urban dwelling, we understand the considerations that come with living in these neighborhoods,” she said. “But it’s now at a point on Wilson Blvd, in Clarendon, that it’s having a tremendous impact on individuals.”

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Pink Star Cafe owner Mohamed Jalloh in front of his coffee-serving food truck (staff photo)

A new vegan food and beverage truck is serving up coffee with a cause on Wilson Blvd in Ballston.

Pink Star Cafe opened its truck window Sunday, Oct. 3. and plans to remain parked in the area until it raises enough money to open a brick-and-mortar storefront.

But selling treats and cafe drinks is not owner Mohamed Jalloh’s top priority. His mission is to use the profits to fund a health clinic in his family’s home country of Sierra Leone.

“We’re going to give general checkups, menstrual products and necessities for those who don’t have access to them,” said Jalloh, a first-generation American who grew up in the D.C. area.

Jalloh plans to set up the clinic in early January in Freetown, the nation’s capital and the city where his mother lived before emigrating to the U.S. The three-day clinic will be run by some Sierra Leonean medical professionals who are the first in their families to become medical professionals.

How much money he dedicates to the cause will depend on what his profit margins look like by January, he says.

“As we grow, the plan is eventually to create bigger and better health clinics yearly, build more water wells and get people access to food,” said Jalloh.

Here in Ballston, Pink Star Cafe serves up classic, creative and seasonal espresso drinks, from lattes to purple hot chocolate to caramel apple tea lattes. It also offers vegan pastries, including glazed doughnuts, confetti cupcakes and seasonal treats, such as pumpkin cookies.

Jalloh said vegan treats are an integral part of ensuring the cafe is “socially and economically conscious.” He gets the vegan baked goods from a husband-and-wife duo in Austin, Texas.

“I wanted to work with a company that’s just as small as I am,” said Jalloh. “I just love supporting other small businesses. ‘I’m small, you’re small, let’s get big together or let’s just stay small.'”

The entrepreneur says he has spent much of his life working in the food service industry, learning from his mother how to sell food in crowded areas and give back to his community. Opening a food truck was a natural next step.

“My mom didn’t have an education, so when she first came from Sierra Leone, she had a hot dog stand outside of RFK Stadium where the Redskins — now Washington Football Team — used to play,” he said. “Every summer, when I wasn’t in school, I would work with her. She’d give me a cooler and I would sell water and Gatorade. Eventually, she went from a hot dog stand to a food truck. She’d drive around and feed construction workers while they were building up D.C.”

The Howard University alumnus first set up shop in Los Angeles in mid-2020. The locale and clientele inspired the name, he says, since “everybody in LA wants to be a star, so Pink Star is the place where everyone gets to be treated like a star.”

But he soon felt the pull to move back to the D.C. area.

“Los Angeles is a cool place but I just love it here,” he said. “I’m also a fall person, fall is my favorite season of the year. Fall and winter, it don’t get no better than that.”

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Clarendon is getting a new café and bar with an emphasis on outdoor drinking and dining.

Construction permits were approved earlier this summer for a new restaurant at 3303 Wilson Blvd, with expansive outdoor seating and a 120 square foot outdoor kiosk. The new establishment will be called “Bar Ivy” and will also feature a nearly 3,000 square foot indoor space on the ground floor, permit applications suggest.

Last October the County Board considered a request from the owner of the office building to allow an outdoor café and kiosk in an existing, sparsely-used plaza area along Wilson Blvd, near the intersection with N. Highland Street and catty-corner from the Clarendon Metro station.

From our reporting at the time:

The proposed café would have 125 seats outside and 59 seats inside, according to a county staff report.

“The outdoor café will occupy the majority of the existing plaza and be enclosed by moveable planters,” the staff report notes. “Although all existing trees will be maintained, the existing raised planter walls will be redesigned to accommodate the outdoor seating.”

The kiosk will serve “grab-and-go beverages” to both passersby as well as those dining at the outdoor café. It’s being considered by the County Board separately from the café.

“The kiosk will operate the same hours as the restaurant and outdoor café and will be located on private property at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and North Highland Street,” the staff report says.

According to a county staff report, the approval was granted on the condition that it applies to just one restaurant operator: a company called Meowlington LLC.

The LLC was formed in March 2020 by Greg Algie, records show. Algie was a business partner in the former Fado Irish Pub in D.C.’s Chinatown neighborhood and is the founder of Blagden Hospitality Group, the company behind a number of trendy D.C. restaurants including Tiger Fork, Calico, The Fainting Goat and Primrose.

Construction permits for the new restaurant were issued to Hospitality Construction Services, which counts Tiger Fork among its former projects. The company’s past projects also include the Ballston Quarter food hall and The Italian Store.

Outside 3033 Wilson Blvd today, fencing was up around the plaza and some excavation activity could be seen. Adjacent to the plaza, doors to an  under-construction ground floor space were propped open.

There’s no word on when how long construction might take nor when the new restaurant may open, though such projects usually take a few months at a minimum.

A PR rep for Blagden Hospitality Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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(Updated 4:05 p.m.) Arlington restaurants can now apply to increase the number of diners they are permitted to serve indoors and outdoors, according to Arlington Economic Development.

The county is allowing restaurants to temporarily up their maximum capacity so that the eateries can keep using — and possibly expand — their pandemic-era temporary outdoor seating areas (TOSAs), even as indoor capacity restrictions have lifted, the AED newsletter to local businesses said.

Kate Bates, President and CEO of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, praised the decision.

“The Chamber of Commerce applauds the county for moving forward to extend TOSAs in way that works for restaurants and the community,”  Bates said. “We shared this with our member restaurants, and they are very pleased. Some made big investment in TOSA areas and they’re able to use that to draw in more customers.”

When restaurants prepared to reopen last summer, they needed outdoor dining to make up for the space they lost inside to social distancing requirements. Additionally, the format had a lower risk of transmission than indoor dining.

So in May 2o2o, the Arlington County Board approved a process through which restaurants could obtain a permit to set up these seating areas, provided that they met fire and safety codes. In December, the board granted restaurant and bar owners the ability to set up in common areas, such as plazas.

One year later, capacity restrictions governing Virginia restaurants have lifted. In Arlington, that means restaurants still using their TOSAs could technically exceed their permitted occupancy maximums. So the county is allowing restaurants to request a temporary certificate of occupancy (TCO) for their TOSAs, which will allow them to operate these seating areas while also operating at full capacity indoors.

The TCOs will expire with the TOSAs, which will remain in operation at least through 2021. The seating areas are permitted by the county’s Continuity of Government Ordinance, which will run for six months beyond the declared end of the pandemic.

“We really can’t emphasize enough that, even though TOSAs were helpful, restaurants still faced incredible losses and decimation,” Bates said. “In 2021, restaurants still need support from the losses over the last 16 months.”

But restaurant owners can’t run out and set up more outdoor seating just yet. Inspections, permits and amendments will be required to make these changes, according to AED.

Those interested in getting a temporary occupancy permit should schedule a free code consultation with the county, the economic development agency said.

“To ensure the safety of all restaurant staff and patrons, the Virginia Building and Fire Prevention Code regulates capacity limitations,” said AED. “For this reason, the ability to obtain a TCO for a TOSA will depend on a restaurant’s individual circumstances and existing indoor and/or outdoor capacity.”

Those interested in expanding their TOSAs must also submit an amendment to the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority, which regulates liquor sales in these seating areas, the newsletter said. TOSAs approved for liquor sales will be able to serve drinks at least for through the end of 2021.

But the processes put in place last year did not work for all restaurants. The owner of Summers Restaurant said delays in TOSA permitting are one reason why the establishment closed last year.

And Medium Rare owner Mark Bucher said application troubles and fire codes made it impossible to seat his Arlington guests outside and keep them warm — without breaking the law.

Going forward, Bates said the Chamber wants to see the county “make it work” for restaurants facing extra hurdles, rather than coming up reasons for barring them from participating. The process needs to be a streamlined “not just on paper but in practice,” she said.

Eventually, the Chamber would like to see these outdoor seating areas become permanent parts of local codes, she said.

“This is community-building,” Bates said. “Outdoor dining makes Arlington vibrant and promotes other community interactions.”

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A new eatery called Mumu Cafe is set to open in August in the space underneath MOM’s Organic Market near Courthouse.

The forthcoming eatery is located at 1924 N. Uhle Street in the Verde Pointe development along Lee Highway, which is within walking distance to the Courthouse Metro station. Owner Jermaine Williams said the soft opening for is set for Aug. 2.

“The cafe promotes a fast-casual themed service where customers can come and get something made-to-order or grab something quickly from our grab-to-go station,” he said.

In the morning, Mumu Cafe will serve freshly made doughnuts, pastries, bagels and breakfast sandwiches, as well as smoothies, açaí bowls, drip coffee, cold brew and espresso drinks. After 11 a.m., the cafe will offer lunch and dinner options, such as hot sandwiches and flatbreads.

Mumu Cafe will take over the spot that was vacant since Naked Lunch, an organic vegetarian and vegan eatery closed almost exactly two years ago. It opened on Lee Highway with MOM’s Organic Market in 2015

The addition is right in Williams’s backyard, as he lives in the apartment building connected to the café. When he saw the “for lease” sign go up last year, he got in touch with MOM’s, which leases the space and agreed to let him set up shop there.

Williams brings to his venture years of experience in the hotel business, managing food service.

“I’ve been in hospitality for over 10 years,” Williams said. “The last five years, I have been in a hotel as a banquet manager in Rosslyn, which was cut short last year because of the pandemic.”

Mumu Cafe’s hours are currently set for 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

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Buzz Bakeshop has closed in Ballston and a new cafe from some familiar local names will be replacing it.

Poppyseed Rye, which describes itself as “a craft sandwich and fresh flower café,” plans to open this fall at 818 N. Quincy Street, a block from Ballston Quarter mall.

“We’ll make tasty sandwiches, salads, toasts, and charcuterie… and serve beer, wine, seltzer, and champagne,” said Scott Parker, a partner in the shop who also co-owns a variety of Ballston businesses, including Bearded Goat Barber, BASH Boxing, and Bronson Bierhall, as well as Don Tito in Clarendon.

Also helming the shop is Alex Buc, who formerly ran Jetties sandwich shops in D.C., and Akeda Maerdan, who owns Farida Floral in Fairfax.

“At our shop Akeda will sell bouquets, vases, candles, and other household goods,” Parker said.

The cafe will be open from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily and will focus on lunch and dinner. The sandwich-focused menu will be offered all day. A weekend brunch is possible down the road, according to Parker, who notes that there will be a small patio area outside.

The space was formerly occupied by Buzz Bakery, which opened in 2011 and offered coffee, baked goods and other treats. Now known as Buzz Bakeshop, the cafe has a location on Slaters Lane in Alexandria that remains open. The Ballston location is listed on the Buzz website as “temporarily closed.”

The ownership group behind Poppyseed Rye includes Parker, Lee Smith, Jon Rennich, and Gary Koh, who co-owns Bronson Bierhall with Parker. The group is also working with chef Johnny Spero and Aslin Beer Company on the forthcoming Pentagon City brewpub Nighthawk Pizza.

More collaborations with notable chefs, artisans and producers may be on the way from the group, Parker hinted. But for now, he’s focused on getting the new venture off the ground.

“As Ballston continues to grow and become more vibrant, we’re excited to bring our unique new sandwich and flower shop to Wilson Boulevard,” said Parker.

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A proposal for a large outdoor café in Clarendon is set to be considered by the Arlington County Board this weekend.

The owner of the Clarendon Square office building at 3033 Wilson Blvd is requesting permits to operate an outdoor café and kiosk in an open area of the property, catty-corner from the Clarendon Metro station.

The proposed café would have 125 seats outside and 59 seats inside, according to a county staff report.

“The outdoor café will occupy the majority of the existing plaza and be enclosed by moveable planters,” the staff report notes. “Although all existing trees will be maintained, the existing raised planter walls will be redesigned to accommodate the outdoor seating.”

The kiosk will serve “grab-and-go beverages” to both passersby as well as those dining at the outdoor café. It’s being considered by the County Board separately from the café.

“The kiosk will operate the same hours as the restaurant and outdoor café and will be located on private property at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and North Highland Street,” the staff report says.

The County Manager recommends approving both the outdoor seating and the kiosk, with a County Board review in one year.

Clarendon Square is a 7-story office building constructed in 1987 and managed by Carr Properties, a real estate investment trust with two properties in Clarendon and one in Courthouse. The agenda item was deferred one month because when it came up in September, county staffers were still working with Carr on café furnishings, design and sidewalk width concerns.

The building contains ground-floor retail including a bank, a UPS Store, and a café called Waterhouse Coffee & Juice Bar. The existing plaza is publicly accessible and has raised planter beds with trees, shrubs and flowers.

The proposed café will serve restaurant-goers late into the night, according to the county documents. The building owner is asking for permission to pipe music in until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. Music will end at 10 p.m. on weeknights.

In August, the Lyon Village Citizens Association asked that the building owner keep noise to a minimum after midnight, manage crowds and have overnight security of the outdoor seating area. The Clarendon-Courthouse Civic Association voted to support the proposal during its August meeting, provided that the 8-foot clear walkway is maintained on Wilson Blvd.

The café proposal comes amid a shift towards outdoor dining during the pandemic, and a spate of redevelopment in parts of Clarendon.

The County Board will meet virtually this Saturday, Oct. 17, starting at 8:30 a.m.

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The former Sugar Shack Donuts along Columbia Pike will not be reopening, after the restaurant’s owner filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The Washington Business Journal reports that former state lawmaker Rob Krupicka — a Sugar Shack franchisee who was in the process of rebranding his locations as an independent, plant-based cafe called Elizabeth’s Counter when the pandemic struck and forced them to close — has declared bankruptcy and shuttered the 1014 S. Glebe Road location in Arlington for good.

The store originally opened in 2016.

Krupicka’s D.C. location is also closed permanently, but he hopes to keep the now-rebranded Elizabeth’s Counter location at 804 N. Henry Street in Alexandria open with an expanded outdoor dining area, the Business Journal reports.

The nearest donut shop to the former Arlington Sugar Shack is a Dunkin Donuts inside a gas station at 3100 Columbia Pike.

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