With plenty of turbulence in the Clarendon restaurant scene this summer — opening, closings, rumors — it’s worth noting that some long-time establishments are doing just fine, thank you very much.
Clarendon Grill, which has been in business since 1996, is still among the local winners. The cover band, trivia night and happy hour destination, at 1101 N. Highland Street, just extended its lease.
Owner Peter Pflug says Clarendon Grill is continuing to do well enough that he decided to extend its lease by five years, through March 2022.
Pflug, who has been dubbed the “one of the godfathers of Clarendon nightlife,” chalks the recent turmoil up to an “oversupply of restaurants” in the area.
He said normal supply-and-demand dynamics aren’t working in Clarendon because once there’s an oversupply of restaurants it’s hard to get back to an equilibrium.
“Once a retail space becomes restaurant space, it usually stays that way,” he said. “It’s expensive to put in ADA bathrooms, kitchens, etc.”
Additionally, with the bricks-and-mortar retail industry on the decline thanks to competition from online retail, non-restaurant retailers are not rushing to fill empty space. Who is filling empty space? In some cases it’s savvy restaurant operators who execute well and are effective at carving out their local niche; in other cases it’s owners who are new to the Clarendon market and “may not be the best at doing their homework.”
Yes, rents are high, but that’s not the most important factor at play.
“I don’t think rental rates are nearly as important as oversupply,” Pflug said.
Clarendon Grill, which was renovated in 2010, continues to have a full slate of live entertainment on tap, including the aforementioned cover bands, “hilarious” Wednesday trivia nights, karaoke nights and salsa dancing nights.
Now is your chance to own a piece of the former Hard Times Cafe in Clarendon.
The restaurant closed last month after many years in business directly across from the Clarendon Metro station.
Hundreds of items from the restaurant are now being auctioned off online — just about everything you can imagine, including signs, tables, chairs, beer taps and kitchen equipment.
Most items currently have bids under $10.
O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub (3207 Washington Blvd) is set to host a 10th anniversary party on Sunday, Aug. 28 starting at 3 p.m. The event will feature a free buffet with chicken wings, mashed potatoes, roast beef and other pub fare from 3-6 p.m., said David Morrin, the eatery’s regional manager.
“It’s nice to have a milestone event,” Morrin said. “A lot of restaurants don’t make it very far. We’re excited to be reaching the double digits.”
The party will also have live music from three bands, $5 Guinness and the presentation of two annual awards: Customer of the Year and Employee of the Year.
“We’re going to use this as a thank you for the last 10 years,” Morrin said. “It’s our way to say thanks for keeping us here for 10 years and hopefully into the future.”
Image courtesy O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub
After interning for the past three months at ARLnow, we all had different experiences working in and learning about the area.
The three of us came in from different backgrounds: One of us is an Arlington native (Jackie Friedman), another is a New Yorker who moved last year to the D.C. area (Adrian Cruz) and the other (Omar DeBrew) commutes from Maryland.
As a result, we all had different experiences and opinions to share about our summer covering news in Arlington.
While I had lived in Arlington for most of the past year, there were still a lot of places and areas I had no idea existed. Because I lived in Lyon Park, I tended to stick around the Orange Line corridor, wandering into Pentagon City and Columbia Pike once in a blue moon. Throughout the summer, my work has sent me to all corners of the county, allowing me to explore and learn about neighborhoods I had never even known existed. Now, I can say with confidence that I know my way around the county and that names such as Cherrydale, Buckingham and Fairlington aren’t just stereotypical names for small English towns.
Arlingtonians as a people are an interesting bunch. The county is extremely diverse with people from all walks of life and one never knows what to expect. Just in my time working here, I have encountered people ranging from a lawyer who’s a finalist on “American Ninja Warrior” to a grumpy British man. Also, by reading our comments section, I’ve also learned they’re an opinionated and sarcastic bunch, with lots to say.
As a place to live in, Arlington is what I’d like to call Washington’s Disneyland. What I mean by that is that it’s cleaner, safer, quieter than anywhere I’ve ever lived in, almost as if it was designed by Walt Disney himself. Coming from New York City, I’m used to a dirty, gritty city with lots of crime and weird stuff going on. In contrast, the weirdest things that happen in Arlington are weekends in Clarendon. I currently live in Buckingham, an area that many call “Arlington’s ghetto.” I come from the South Bronx. Buckingham is no ghetto. What it does have is a thriving Latin American community with many amazing restaurants. The only drawback about living in Arlington is that it’s expensive! Finding a decent meal under $10 in Clarendon is close to impossible, and as my fellow interns will attest to, finding cheap parking is just as difficult. Nonetheless, this is definitely somewhere I could see myself living in the future.
While I have lived in Arlington my whole life, I wasn’t really aware of everything that goes on in the area. It’s amazing how someone can live in the same place their whole life, but have no clue about the people living around them. Your next door neighbor could be a craftsman like Jeff Spugnardi or the person working out next to you at the gym could have starred on “America Ninja Warrior” or even be 100 years old. Interning this summer at ARLnow allowed me to meet different people living in my community and learn about their interesting stories and lives. Everyone has an interesting story, especially in Arlington, so I encourage you to get to know the people around you. Maybe if you strike up a conversation with a stranger about how sad you are about Minh’s closing (I’m still mourning the loss), you could find out that the person you are talking to happens to be an Olympic gold medalist. But beware that person could go on and complain to you about the Clarendon stores that keep their doors open during the heat or how their child’s swimming instructor has man boobs.
Covering Arlington as a videographer is easy with all the history and new development taking place. Any issue big or small has some meaning to the community, such as a restaurant closing, a new 7-Eleven, or a fire station about to be demolished. The coverage helps Arlingtonians form opinions and decide for themselves. My only advice to those driving in Arlington is to take Metro when possible, and if you have to drive, find 24-hour parking areas near parks. Some spots are free; with others, you’ll have to pay. But that parking is cheaper than city areas.
Back in the 1970s, Clarendon was known as Little Saigon, a hotbed of Vietnamese businesses. Now, only a few holdovers remain.
Reminders of Clarendon’s Little Saigon past continues to fade. Minh’s Vietnamese Restaurant, a favorite of some foodies, closed last month. While newer Vietnamese restaurants have opened recently — Four Sisters Grill in Clarendon, Pho Deluxe in Courthouse — there’s no denying that the character of Clarendon has changed significantly over the past decade.
The original reason for the disappearance of most of the original Vietnamese businesses in Clarendon was the construction of Metro’s Orange Line up Wilson Blvd. After the Clarendon station opened in 1979, the neighborhood started to be redeveloped and rent prices skyrocketed. Before the Metro expansion, real estate rental costs were as low as $1.50-$5.00 per square foot. After its opening, prices rose as high as $25-$30 per square foot in some buildings.
The construction of Metro was another contributor. Many businesses fled Clarendon because they thought the construction would deter potential customers. By the 1990s, much of the Vietnamese community had left Clarendon en masse for Falls Church and the Eden Center.
Out of the dozens of Vietnamese businesses that once existed in Clarendon, one restaurant has remained over the past few decades: Nam-Viet. The restaurant has been family owned and operated since 1986 and it continues to attract loyal customers to its slightly off-the-beaten path location on N. Hudson Street, not far from the CVS Pharmacy and Don Tito.
The restaurant has hosted well-known public figures like Bill Clinton and for years, it hosted an annual Tet dinner honoring American prisoners of war from the Vietnam War.
The restaurant’s new manager, Richard Nguyen, has witnessed a lot of changes after growing up in the area helping to run the Nam-Viet with his parents.
“Clarendon has gone through many metamorphoses,” he said. “It used to be a general collection of small businesses to newer commercial shops opening. I remember growing up there was a flea market where Northside Social is. It’s gotten younger, but at the same time the residents have gotten older and aged with us. Regardless of the change they’ve embraced Arlington as home especially the natives of Arlington.”
Richard remains optimistic for the future Vietnamese restaurants.
“I think Vietnamese restaurants are here to stay they just have to stick to traditions and keep to culture as much as they can,” he said.
Video by Omar DeBrew. Some photos in the video were sourced from Arlington’s Echoes of Little Saigon Project.
Arlington County Police Department officers gave out free ice cream and helped save some locals from a tent that tried to fly away in Clarendon this afternoon.
The “Cones with a Cop” event at Goody’s (3125 Wilson Boulevard) gave officers and Arlington residents the opportunity to get to know each other over frozen treats.
During the gathering, locals had the chance to sit in the driver’s seat of a police car and see the cops in action.
Officers saved some people from being buried underneath an outdoor tent that was about to fly away due to the wind.
No injuries were reported, just smiles.
ACPD officers will set up shop outside of Goody’s (3125 Wilson Blvd) next Wednesday from noon-1 p.m. for a community outreach event called “Cones With a Cop,” according to an event flyer.
During the free event, attendees will be able to “get to know the officers and neighbors in your District while enjoying a refreshing treat,” the flyer says.
Image courtesy ACPD
Amid a turbulent period for restaurants in Clarendon, there are rumors circulating about two other prominent neighborhood eateries.
Multiple sources have told ARLnow.com that Pete’s New Haven Apizza (3017 Clarendon Blvd), which opened in 2011, has been looking for another business to take over its space. One source said a deal is in the works which would bring a new Chipotle location to the current Pete’s space.
“That’s news to me,” Pete’s co-founder Joel Mehr said, when asked about it in June. He declined further comment.
There have also been persistent rumblings that Fuego Cocina y Tequileria (2800 Clarendon Blvd), which opened in 2012, may be closing by the end of the year. A spokeswoman said the Mexican restaurant is doing well and reports about a potential closure are false.
“Those rumors are not correct,” said Simone Rathle, on behalf of Fuego owner Passion Food Restaurant Group. She said the rumors may have started after Fuego stopped serving lunch on weekdays.
Over the span of a month this summer, three prominent Clarendon restaurants — Hard Times Cafe, Boulevard Woodgrill and American Tap Room — closed their doors. Brixx Pizza in Clarendon closed earlier this year after just six months in business.
While there are more new restaurants and bars on the way — Ambar, Pamplona, Opera — some insiders question whether there might be more restaurants in Clarendon than the market can handle. That would explain why even generally well-liked spots, such as Boulevard Woodgrill, have been closing.
Insiders say middle-of-the-road restaurant concepts that branch out as small chains after finding success in the suburbs — American Tap Room would be one example — are particularly vulnerable. Drawn to Clarendon by allure of the area’s young, affluent potential customers, they find that consumers have tastes more in line with D.C. than Fairfax County.
“I think the mini-chains don’t realize this clientele is so used to D.C. and big city ideas,” said one industry insider. “In a town far out it would probably do well, but people here want something different.”
There’s also the issue of quickly-changing consumer habits — the reason why the once-hot frozen yogurt and cupcake shops have been whittled down to one survivor apiece in Clarendon.
Still, neither explanation would apply to Pete’s, which originated in D.C., or Fuego, which was launched in Clarendon by savvy, successful D.C. area restaurateurs. In the end, it might come down to supply and demand: too many restaurants in one place, not enough potential customers.
Indoor rowing gym RowVigor has opened its first location, a “pop-up” studio in Clarendon.
The studio, located inside the Saffron Dance studio at 3260 Wilson Blvd, will offer free trials and promotional packages through the end of the summer.
One of the company’s three founders, Kevin Allen, was a contestant on the second season of Donald Trump’s The Apprentice reality show. He suggested that indoor rowing could be the next big trend in the fitness industry.
“Rowing as fitness has been in the dark for too long and our vision is to bring it to the light starting first with those communities that have known the benefits for years,” said Allen. “Cities like Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Cleveland have strong on-water rowing communities and are starving for an organized indoor experience that can connect them with rowing fitness enthusiast around the world. We are excited to be the entity to fill this need.”
The studio will have eight Concept 2 rowing machines and it offers a variety of different classes during the early mornings and late afternoons.
The company’s press release is below.
Washington DC, Virginia and Maryland will have an opportunity to experience the area’s first indoor-rowing fitness studio at the ROWViGOR™ “Pop Up” located in Arlington, Virginia. Starting today and through the end of summer they will be offering free trials and promotional packages.
ROWViGOR™ is building a presence in the DC / Virginia metro area to support the growing need for a fitness experience that builds community through technology and rowing. Top fitness experiences like CrossFit™ already use indoor rowing as an essential part of their mix but ROWViGOR™ believes it deserves it’s own environment. The “Pop Up” will open August 1, just three blocks from the Clarendon metro station inside Saffron Studio at 3260 Wilson Blvd. Open to all skill levels, individuals can choose to row for fitness as an individual or as a team.
Technology and data collection will help drive goal setting and camaraderie. With a small group training philosophy, the studio will have eight Concept 2 Rowers. Coaches are hand selected and trained through an exclusive program developed by rowing and fitness professionals specifically for ROWViGOR™. The experience will include dynamic music, innovative interval training and most important, great fun. The low-impact high efficient cardiovascular workouts strengthen and tone upper and lower body while packing an intense fat burn.
“Rowing as fitness has been in the dark for too long and our vision is to bring it to the light starting first with those communities that have known the benefits for years. Cities like Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Cleveland have strong on-water rowing communities and are starving for an organized indoor experience that can connect them with rowing fitness enthusiast around the world. We are excited to be the entity to fill this need.” – Kevin Allen ROWViGOR™ Managing Partner
Founded in 2016 by Kevin Allen (Donald Trump’s Season 2 The Apprentice), Fola Awosika and Moses McCall, The partners realized the fitness benefits of rowing and how data based technology would lead and enhance our fitness choices. With strong support from notable rowing expert Libby Peters, (Founder of Philadelphia CityRowing, University Penn Assistant Rowing Coach and 2nd Coach to the US 2016 Olympic Rowing Team) they plan to break the boundaries of rowing and open it up to new generations and new communities. #RespectYourVigor
Photo courtesy of RowVigor
A new independent coffee shop is slated to open at some point in the near future in the Clarendon area.
The shop, called Blumen Cafe, is coming to the space that formerly held CD Cellar at 2607 Wilson Blvd, which is about halfway between the Courthouse and Clarendon Metro stations. Signs for the forthcoming cafe state that the business is “coming soon.”
Though we were unable to contact the proprietor behind the cafe, Andira Jabbari, for comment, real estate agent Kenneth Matzkin — who helped lease the property to Jabbari — was able to provide some insight.
The cafe will bring “high-end teas and coffee” and snacks to the space as early as some time this month, Matzkin said.
“They’re putting in a boatload of money to make it look nice,” Matzkin said. “They’re also going to open it up in the front so you could walk directly to the sidewalk from the space.”
But Matzkin cautioned that the end result is still subject to change.
The planned events are held as part of National Night Out, a “community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie,” according to a flyer distributed by the police department.
National Night Out celebrations are a chance for police and members of the community to come together, usually over free food and activities.
National Night Out events will be held at the following locations:
- Arlington Forest (200 block of N. Galveston Street) at 7:30 p.m.
- Nauck Town Square (24th Road S. and S. Shirlington Road) from 6:00-8:00 p.m.
- Barcroft Community House (800 S. Buchanan Street) from 6:00-7:30 p.m.
- Farlington Villages Pool 2 (3045 S. Buchanan Street) from 5:00-7:00 p.m.
- Park Glen Condo Associations: (800 block of S. Arlington Mill Road) from 7:00-8:00 p.m.
- Whitefield Commons: (106 N. Thomas Street) from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Image via ACPD National Night Out Flyer
Our sources were correct — American Tap Room in Clarendon closed over the weekend.
The struggling restaurant served customers Saturday, then was closed on Sunday. A sign posted on the door encouraged customers for “visit one of our other locations” and encouraged employees to “stop by Monday or Tuesday for information on other locations and pay checks.”
While its parent company didn’t return our phone calls, a manager at American Tap Room told us early last week that it was not closing. During a second call to the restaurant, on Friday, an employee said it was “hurtful” for us to suggest that the restaurant might be closing.
ARLnow.com has heard from multiple sources that a mobile phone retailer — likely a Verizon store — will be taking over at least part of the now-former American Tap Room space.
A beloved Clarendon restaurant will be closing its doors next weekend.
Boulevard Woodgrill (2901 Wilson Blvd) will close its doors at 9 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7. It’s expected to be replaced by a new location of the well-regarded Capitol Hill eatery Ambar.
In a statement posted on Facebook, the restaurant thanked customers for their patronage over the past decade and a half.
“After nearly 15 wonderful years of business in the heart of Clarendon, we have decided to sell our business and will be closing The Boulevard,” the restaurant said. “We have thoroughly enjoyed serving you over the years (nearly 2 million meals!) and will be forever grateful both for your support as well as the amazing efforts of our employees, both current and past. We hope you will stop in and see us a time or two before we say goodbye and perhaps down the road we’ll be able to see each other again!”
“It’s a sad day for us, but we are so happy to have had the chance to be a part of a truly wonderful community!” the restaurant added. “Onward!”
Ambar, a Balkan restaurant with locations on Capitol Hill and in Belgrade, is apparently planning to open in Clarendon.
A liquor license application indicates that Ambar will be located at 2901 Wilson Blvd — the current location of Boulevard Woodgrill.
A representative for Boulevard Woodgrill said today that the owner could not be reached for comment. Earlier this month the restaurant announced that it was opening a new “speakeasy” bar in the back of the restaurant.
There was no answer at a phone number associated with the liquor license application and Ambar. The restaurant, originally founded as a partnership between celebrity chef Richard Sandoval and Ivan Iricanin, is also planning to open a new location in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood.
Ambar’s Capitol Hill location, at 523 8th Street SE on Barracks Row, has received rave reviews on Yelp and other online review sites.
Minh Vietnamese Restaurant, located at 2500 Wilson Blvd, has closed citing lease issues and other business concerns.
There is a sign posted by the owners that reads “Dear Customers, We are very sorry to inform you that due to business concerns including our lease on this space, Minh has ceased operation effective immediately. We appreciate your patronage over the years we have been here, and we are sad to be leaving.”
The restaurant has been at that location for over 10 years and it was one of the few remaining Vietnamese restaurants in the Clarendon area, a hotbed of Vietnamese businesses before the construction of the Orange Line. It was said to be “one of the original Vietnamese restaurants that put Clarendon on the map.”
There is no word yet on whether those behind the restaurant plan on reopening in another location.