(Updated at 3:10 p.m. on 9/15/23) The long-anticipated Astro Beer Hall will open next week in Shirlington, serving decadent donuts by day and “astronomic” sandwiches and apps late into the night.
Ahead of the Tuesday opening, owners Elliot Spaisman and Peter Bayne are running around, making finishing touches on the 14,000-square-foot, galactic-themed space, while the team trains and awaits deliveries.
“We’ve got a lot going on over here,” Spaisman tells ARLnow.
The Village at Shirlington location is the second for the hall, which debuted in D.C. in 2019. The owners are bringing over some famed foods — including fried chicken sandwiches made with savory doughnuts — and debuting new bites. There will also be arcade games and, eventually, billiards.
The beer hall, with a sprawling 140-seat patio and adjacent coffee shop, took over the old Capitol City Brewing Co. space at 4001 Campbell Avenue, which closed five years ago. The Tuesday opening caps off two years of work in the midst of Covid and supply chain and permitting issues, the co-owners say.
The owners say they’re more than ready to open their doors.
“There’s a million pounds off my shoulders. It’s been such a whirlwind and a beast to get this thing open,” Bayne said. “It was so frustrating along the way, so to get to this moment where we can have a beautiful spot we can open up, feels so good.”
He and Spaisman opened the first Astro Beer Hall location all of four months before Covid lockdowns. While the location is faring well now, Bayne said the downtown D.C. scene is still stifled post-pandemic and he is excited to come to Arlington, which he says is “where it’s at.”
“This is nice because it’s a dense residential area in Shirlington with commercial and offices, a nightlife strip, and a ton of great options around us,” Bayne said. “It’s a hub people want to go to on a Friday or Saturday. It’s a little bit of something for everyone.”
That seems to be the plan with Astro Beer Hall, too.
There will be a coffee shop open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., serving baked goods, compliments of a doughnut-frying robot, and Compass Coffee beverages.
Over in the beer hall, patrons can watch sports from what Spaisman says is “a massive amount of TVs.” They can play classic arcade games such as skee ball and Ms. Pacman and, in the coming months, billiards in the basement.
Once it is beer o’clock — as early as 11 a.m. on the weekends but 4 p.m. on Mondays — the hall will start serving snacks, sandwiches and salads for lunch, happy hour and dinner.
(Updated on 7/25/23) A tricycle serving Turkish coffee has started serving in Ballston.
The three-wheeled coffee contraption is from long-time restaurant veteran and local author Isa Seyran, who told ARLnow late last year he was working on a new concept that would come after leaving his server job at The Salt Line.
This mobile, custom-designed red tricycle offering Turkish coffee and baklava is that new business. It has been parking along the 4000 block of Wilson Blvd after opening earlier this month.
Seyran named the small coffee stand “Ballstonian,” in homage to the neighborhood in which he has lived for over two decades.
The coffee tricycle is currently open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or until supplies last) seven days a week.
“I was a waiter for 23 years and worked with some of the greatest chefs in our region. Some of the food I served, like [at] Rasika and Zaytinya, was simply divine, but it was never my thing,” Seyran told ARLnow about why he decided to open a Turkish coffee spot in Ballston.
“So I decided to sing my own song at my own humble stage and wanted to bring a piece of Anatolia, Medietterrenea and Mesopotamia, a cradle of civilization where I spent the first half of my life, to Ballston, where I spent the second half of my life.”
Besides coffee and baklava, Ballstonian also serves cheese pastries and masala chai from a recipe Seyran learned while working at D.C.’s famed Indian restaurant Rasika.
The Ballston resident worked at some of the region’s most popular and renowned restaurants, including Zaytinya, Bombay Club, and Fiola Mare in D.C., before ending his tenure at The Salt Line in Ballston.
Beyond those jobs, Seyran is also an author, playwright, and filmmaker often producing art based on his experiences as a waiter in the D.C.-area. And, now, he’s added entrepreneur to that list.
He told ARLnow that the first few days have gone well so far and he’s been “humbled by the overwhelming support and love Ballstonian received from my fellow Ballstonians.”
But Seyran is not particularly surprised by the reception, noting that no other Ballston business is selling Turkish coffee.
“At The Salt Line… I got to know my client base, their spending habits, who they are and what they want,” Seyran said. “Having done my market research, I knew people were hungry for something different.”
His ambitions go beyond a coffee stand. The hope is one day to set up an “urban oasis” in Ballston with a tent, cushions, coffee, and books where “members of the community could take a breather from the bustling urban landscape around them.”
He also would love to do coffee ground fortune tellings, like he did while working at Zaytinya, and introduce “Bark-lava,” which would be “a bone-shaped, dog-friendly baklava.”
But, for now, all of that will have to wait, including the coffee ground fortune telling.
“That requires time and space to seat people so that I could serve the coffee in a ceramic cup as opposed to a paper cup,” Seyran said. “[A] food truck parked on the side of the road is not suitable for that ancient tradition but I hope to do that in the near future.”
There’s now a new spot to get a Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino in Ballston.
The new Starbucks at 4000 Wilson Blvd held its grand opening this morning (Monday). It’s located in the ground floor retail space of the View Apartments, in the former home of Lebanese Taverna’s quick-service concept LebTav, which closed earlier this year.
ARLnow first reported in late February that a Starbucks was set to move into that location.
Starbucks store No. 71315 has some indoor seating and an outdoor patio. Seating, in general, appears to be rather limited, however.
This morning, employees were outside the store shouting “happy opening day” and providing free samples to passers-by.
The new location gives the densest census tract in Virginia and the entire D.C. region its own adjacent Starbucks.
There are at least four other Starbucks stores within walking distance, however. Among them: next to the Virginia Square Metro station, at the bottom of the Marymount University building at the intersection of N. Glebe Road and Fairfax Drive, inside of the Westin Hotel on N. Glebe Road, and adjacent to the Ballston Metro station.
There are also several other non-Starbucks coffee options nearby, including Compass Coffee, Dunkin’, and Slipstream, which opened in March.
A co-owner of the former Caffe Aficionado in Rosslyn and two accomplices have been sentenced in connection with a multi-year credit card fraud scheme.
On March 15, co-owner Adiam Berhane, 50, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for her role in a conspiracy to commit bank fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said in a press release yesterday (Wednesday). Berhane faced a minimum of two and a maximum of 196 years in prison, per federal sentencing guidelines.
Two people she recruited in the scheme, Tiffany Younger, 51, and Keith Lemons, 56, received less severe penalties. Younger, of D.C., was sentenced Wednesday to 2 years of probation while Lemons, of Clinton, Maryland, was sentenced to time served and six months of home confinement on March 15.
Berhane conspired to carry out a scheme involving stolen credit card information, federal prosecutors said. The fraud lasted until Oct. 2016, when the well-regarded cafe was shut down following a police raid.
Berhane created fraudulent credit cards using stolen identities of D.C. area residents. She recruited Younger and Lemons to purchase gift cards, expensive luxury goods, and other items from local retail stores using these fake credit cards.
“The fraud caused over hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses to area retailers and financial institutions,” according to a press release from the Dept. of Justice.
This included four banks and a handful of stores, such as REI and TJ Maxx, according to information the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney provided to ARLnow six years ago.
“As part of the scheme, items purchased with victims’ credit card information would sometimes be returned for refunds to bank accounts that Berhane controlled,” federal prosecutors said.
Berhane used the fraudulent cards to buy gift cards that she redeemed at Caffe Aficionado.
“More than a third of Caffe Aficionado’s income from June 2013 to July 2016 came from a pattern of highly unusual redemptions of American Express gift cards, with the pattern beginning several months before Caffe Aficionado opened in approximately October 2013,” per the press release.
In December, Berhane was convicted on a litany of charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, trafficking in unauthorized access devices, aggravated identity theft, unlawful possession of 15 or more access devices and possession of access device-making equipment with intent to defraud.
Berhane was initially charged in Arlington County. Her case dragged on for a few years and the charges were ultimately dropped amid accusations that defense attorneys had to process thousands of pages of documents by hand — a rule set by then-Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos. Federal prosecutors subsequently took up the case.
Berhane was previously convicted of a credit card fraud scheme in New York City in the early 2000s.
Her business partner, Clark Donat, was not charged in the federal case. He pleaded guilty to multiple financial crimes in 2017, including credit card fraud, money laundering and racketeering. Court records show he received a 25 year prison sentence with 11 years suspended.
Federal prosecutors, FBI officials and Arlington County Police Chief Andy Penn made yesterday’s announcement after U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga sentenced the final defendant.
The case was prosecuted with help from the Montgomery County Police Department, the FBI Cyber Task Force, the U.S. Postal Office of the Inspector General, the Secret Service and Capitol Police, per the press release.
Ballston’s newest coffee shop is looking to start pouring next month.
The D.C.-based Slipstream is looking to open on the ground floor of the Ballston Point building, at 4300 Wilson Blvd, within the first two weeks of March, co-owner Ryan Fleming told ARLnow. It will be near the intersection with N. Glebe Road, next to World of Beer, and across the street from the new Silver Diner.
When ARLnow stopped by there earlier this week, construction on the cafe appeared to be closer to being finished, with “now hiring” signs in the window.
The coffee shop is known for its single-origin coffee, breakfast sandwiches, and loose-leaf teas.
While Slipstream currently has three D.C. locations, the Ballston cafe will be its first outside of the District.
In August, when ARLnow first reported Slipstream was coming to Ballston, Fleming said it would be similar to other locations but “adapted slightly to fit the unique neighborhood.”
He also said the company choose the neighborhood because Ballston is growing and has a healthy mix of business and residential buildings.
Slipstream will have to compete with a number of existing coffee shops in Ballston. Those include Starbucks (with an under-construction location at 4000 Wilson Blvd), Compass Coffee and Good Company, but not Philz — which closed back in December.
(Updated at 2:00 p.m.) The Nespresso store is closing at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City.
The international coffee brand announced it will be closing its Pentagon City mall location early next month with its final day on Sunday, February 5. The reason, per a company spokesperson, is “shopping trends.”
“Nespresso evaluates the marketplace and shopping trends regularly to determine how we can deliver superior customer service and a high-quality coffee experience,” the spokesperson wrote ARLnow via email. “Following our latest evaluation, we have decided to close the Pentagon City boutique.”
The decision to close this location is part of “our long-term business strategy and reflects evolving consumer trends,” said the spokesperson.
They also noted that all employees affected by the closure and are “in good standing” will be given the option of taking another role at Nespresso or a severance package. The Nespresso stores at Tysons and in Bethesda will both remain open, so presumably, employees at the Pentagon City location could be moved to those locations.
“While we are confident this is the right step for our overall business operations, this is a decision that affects real people and their families, and we know it causes challenges and uncertainties for our employees,” the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, a new Korean corn dog eatery is coming to the mall.
Kong Dog is expected to open within the next two months, per a company spokesperson, though it’s unclear exactly where and when. The mall’s website initially said February 15, but that specific date has since been removed from the site.
Kong Dog serves up Korean-style corn dogs with toppings like cheese, fried potato, and ramen. With U.S. locations mostly centered in Illinois and New Jersey, the Pentagon City eatery appears to be the first coming to this area, though a new Georgetown location is also “coming soon” per the company’s website.
A new D.C.-based coffee shop is opening a second location in Arlington Forest.
La Coop Coffee is moving into the Arlington Forest Shopping Center on 1st Street N., just off Arlington Blvd. The announcement was first made on the coffee shop’s social media channels earlier this month.
The hope is to open in the first week of February, co-owner Juan Luis Salazar Cano told ARLnow.
It’s filling a space that’s already been built out for a coffee shop by moving into the former home of Sense of Place Cafe, which closed this past summer because of the owner’s health. It’s next to Brick’s Pizza.
La Coop opened its first location in D.C. in July 2020 and has since started selling at regional farmers’ markets, including the Lubber Run Farmers Market. They got such a following, Cano said, that when a space opened at the nearby Arlington Forest Shopping Center, neighbors started messaging La Coop’s owners about the availability.
The owners have considered Arlington locations in the past, including in Rosslyn, but never made the move. But Arlington Forest offers a “community and supportive neighbors” said Cano, leading the coffee shop to open its first store outside of the District.
Cano owns the coffee shop with his wife, Stefanie Fabrico. La Coop is noted for providing “ethically-sourced” coffee from Guatemala that pays growers and framers up to 40% above the market rate.
What makes La Coop different, explained Cano, is that they are part of the process from “plant to cup.” His father in Guatemala is part of the cooperative and is also one of the farmers they work with.
“We are part of a family of farmers,” Cano said. “We are very conscious of the struggles that farmers have all over the world.”
La Coop had some issues with its D.C. landlord in 2020, but those have since been resolved. They are “definitely thinking” about opening more locations in Arlington and across the region but, at the moment, remain focused on opening its newest shop in Arlington Forest, said Cano.
“We are always looking for community,” he said. “[Arlington] has that.”
Image via Instagram/La Coop Coffee
Despite the new offerings, “the coffee program is still a really good program,” says owner Jad Bouchebel, who remains a partner in the business. Sweet Science continues to operate under the original brand in D.C.’s NoMA neighborhood.
The acclaimed Sweet Science Coffee opened the outpost at 2507 N. Franklin Road, near Courthouse, about two years ago, advertising some “all-day” offerings to differentiate the Arlington offshoot.
But Bouchebel says it took until last spring, with help from his associate Roberto “Tito” Peña, to get more lunch items on the menu and to put to use its ABC license for beer and wine. Last fall, the duo decided to rebrand, redecorate the coffee shop’s spartan interior and expand the menu and hours.
“We wanted to make it more of an all-day concept. That’s the reason we changed the name — to separate from the D.C. location,” said Bouchebel, an Alexandria resident who named the cafe after his daughter. “We don’t want to confuse people. We offer totally different offerings.”
Bouchebel, still a partner at Sweet Science as well as Clarendon nightlife spot Wilson Hardware, says the cafe never really closed, but SIMONA Café had a soft opening in late December and its grand opening on Friday, Jan. 20.
Now, Peña says, the café’s interior gives people “a cool place to hang out in the afternoon,” and enjoy lunch and dinner options, charcuterie and cheese boards, beer, wine and weekend mimosas.
Like the coffee menu, Peña says the wine list is one that “people can delve into without much knowledge.”
The food menu, meanwhile, keeps the kitchen staff at SIMONA busy.
“We bake our own bread for our breakfast sandwiches,” Bouchebel said. “Everything we do in house: from salsa, to toppings, to bread and to our pastries — we bake them every morning here.”
Peña says the coffee comes from Rare Bird Coffee Roasters in Falls Church, and his baristas aim “to provide really nice coffee that’s approachable.”
“We can get nerdy if people want, but the goal is to meet customers where they’re coming in,” he said.
For Peña and Bouchebel, the expanded hours and menu pay homage to the coffee shop’s history. The space used to be home to Java Shack, a community hub at one point owned by Commonwealth Joe, which closed the location in 2019.
“We still get a lot of clients who’d been coming for 20 years,” Bouchebel said. “Java Shack was a staple — a neighborhood cafe — so instead of just offering half-day hours, we kept it going whole-day for people looking for [that experience].”
Peña says he remembers going to Java Shack in the ’90s as a high school student.
“It was my first favorite coffee shop,” he said. “It’s kind of cool: the original owner, Dale, is now a regular for us. I talk to him every week… We have some regulars who’ve been coming for 20 years.”
Items from Rāko Coffee in Courthouse were put up for public auction by Arlington County tax authorities.
Several readers had reached out to ARLnow asking if the closure was, in fact, permanent due to how long the sign had been up. A couple of days later, green seizure tags were seen placed on equipment and furniture at the shop, suggesting the coffee shop owed the county money.
A sign outside of Courthouse coffee shop Rāko says the espresso machine is out of order, but a reader sent these photos suggesting that the business owes money to Arlington County https://t.co/jCIbBpmTMX pic.twitter.com/1OJrhNKFFw
— Arlington Now (@ARLnowDOTcom) November 19, 2022
Now those items are being sold. The Arlington County Treasurer’s Office announced yesterday a public online auction for equipment and supplies left at the cafe.
“By order of Arlington County Treasurer all equipment, furniture, and fixtures will be liquidated from this location,” reads the auction page. The sale will go towards paying the business’s tax bill to the county.
Items like an espresso machine, food dehydrator, commercial refrigerator, patio tables, and five-pound bags of coffee were on the block. The auction ended this morning, providing would-be commercial fridge owners less than 24 hours to get bids in.
The cafe’s La Marzocco espresso machine sold for $17,350, according to the auction page, which raises the question of whether it was ever actually broken.
Meanwhile, Rāko Coffee’s opening of a planned location at Amazon HQ2 is in doubt. Just over a year ago, Amazon trumpeted that Rāko Coffee and several other local businesses had signed leases to move into the retail space at its second headquarters in Pentagon City.
ARLnow has reached out to Rāko Coffee representatives via email and phone but has yet to hear back as of publication. Amazon also has not responded to several inquiries about what this could mean for Rāko’s planned location.
Rāko Coffee, which started as a Lorton-based coffee roaster, opened the Courthouse cafe — its first brick-and-mortar shop — in August 2021.
Philz Coffee in Ballston is closing at the end of the week.
The San Francisco-based coffee shop located in the Ballston Exchange development is set to shutter on Friday, a note on the door confirms.
“We have loved serving this community over the last 4 years,” reads the note. “While this Philz location has permanently closed as of December 16, 2022, you can find other locations and shop our blends online at: philzcoffee.com.”
Philz is known for its pour-over coffee and specialty iced coffees.
The location along Wilson Blvd in Ballston first opened in early 2019, as part of the coffee chain’s expansion in the D.C. area. At one point, there were five Philz locations in the region.
Ballston still has a number of coffee options, including Compass Coffee, Good Company Doughnuts and Cafe and multiple Starbucks locations. Just down the street from the soon-to-be-closed Philz, D.C.-based Slipstream is currently expected to open early next year.
It’s not immediately clear why Philz is closing, with a manager saying they were “not authorized” to share the reason.
We reached out to the Philz marketing department but have yet to hear back as of publication. On multiple recent visits, ARLnow observed few open tables inside the coffee shop but a relatively lower volume of customers compared to Compass Coffee or nearby Starbucks locations.
The former owner of a coffee shop in Rosslyn has been convicted of an extensive credit card fraud scheme.
Adiam Berhane, 50, was the co-owner of Caffe Aficionado in Rosslyn, which was open from 2013 until 2016, when the cafe was shut down following a police raid. Federal prosecutors said Berhane used the cafe to process fraudulent payments after obtaining stolen credit card information from the internet — and last week a federal jury in Alexandria agreed.
“A federal jury convicted a Washington, D.C. woman today on multiple charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, trafficking in unauthorized access devices, aggravated identity theft, unlawful possession of 15 or more access devices, and possession of access device-making equipment with intent to defraud,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said in a press release Friday.
According to prosecutors, Berhane used the stolen credit card info to create fake cards, which were then used in the cafe and to purchase gift cards as well as luxury goods from several local stores. While Caffe Aficionado might have been a front for illegal activity, it was also well regarded for its coffee, garnering 4.5 stars on Yelp and some critical acclaim.
“Caffe Aficionado sits all alone, atop Rosslyn,” one local critic wrote in December 2013. “Even if this ranking is temporary, hopefully it will draw attention to what is one of the finest coffee shops in the area. I love this place, and you will, too.”
Arlington County police were initially tipped off about the crime when someone from out of town, with no connection to Arlington, reported fraudulent attempted credit card charges at the cafe. Most of the fraud involving the coffee shop, however, involved redemption of gift cards purchased with cloned credit cards, according to federal prosecutors.
“More than a third of Caffe Aficionado’s income from June 2013 to July 2016 came from a pattern of highly unusual redemptions of American Express gift cards, with the pattern beginning several months before Caffe Aficionado actually opened in approximately October 2013,” said the press release.
Berhane’s business partner, Clark Donat, pleaded guilty to multiple financial crimes in 2017, including credit card fraud, money laundering and racketeering. Court records show he received a 25 year prison sentence with 11 years suspended. He was not charged in the federal case.
Berhane was initially charged in Arlington County, but a couple of years of legal wrangling — including accusations that defense attorneys had to process thousands of pages of documents by hand under rules set by then-prosecutor Theo Stamos — ultimately resulted in the local charges being dropped in 2019. Federal prosecutors then took up the case.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, Berhane will face between 2 and 196 years in prison.
Berhane was previously convicted of a credit card fraud scheme in New York City in the early 2000s. She told ARLnow in early 2014 that what set Caffe Aficionado apart was the service.
“I think it’s all about service. Follow the Golden Rule, it’s not that hard,” she said.
The press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office is below.