What’s old is new again: a vacant restaurant space near Clarendon that was formerly a Dunkin’ Donuts is soon going to be home to a “next generation” Dunkin’ store.

Exterior modifications are currently underway on the standalone restaurant space at 3300 Wilson Blvd, about halfway between the Virginia Square and Clarendon Metro stations.

The space — which has parking and a drive-through — was once a Dunkin’ Donuts, before it closed and was succeeded by a procession of other eateries including Peruvian chicken restaurant Pio Pio, Indian-Pakistani-Bangladeshi restaurant Naan Kabob, and (very briefly) Red Hook Lobster Pound. It has been vacant for at least a year.

A PR rep for Dunkin’ confirmed to ARLnow that the Massachusetts-based chain is making a triumphant return.

“The store is slated to open toward the end of summer,” the rep said, adding that it will be one of Dunkin’s “next generation” store concepts.

Next generation Dunkin’ stores typically feature front-facing bakery cases, tap-based iced coffee and tea pours, and mobile order pickup areas.

There is no shortage of coffee shops in the area. Among others, local favorite Northside Social is two blocks away, and a pair of existing Dunkin’ locations — one in Clarendon and another in Virginia Square — are each about six blocks away.

Hat tip to G. Evan Pritchard. Photos (2, 3, 5) courtesy of Dunkin’.

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Lorton-based and women-owned Rāko Coffee is opening in the Courthouse area later this spring or summer.

This is the coffee roaster’s first official bricks-and-mortar location, according to the Washington Business Journal, after focusing on wholesale roasting operations since opening in Lorton in 2019.

The plan, initially, was to open a retail location in 2020, but that was delayed to the pandemic and they shifted their business online.

The coffee roaster currently operates a pop-up during the day at plant-centric restaurant Oyster Oyster near the Mount Vernon neighborhood in D.C.

The new cafe is set to be located in the Courthouse neighborhood at 2016 Wilson Blvd, the former location of The Olive Oil Boom, according to a recently filed permit application. The shop is also looking to serve beer and wine as well, the application suggests.

Rāko’s Instagram account also recently touted an opening “in less than a couple of months” as well as recently becoming a member of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. ARLnow was unable to reach the owners via phone or email for additional information.

Rāko is owned by sisters Lisa and Melissa Gerben and specializes in sustainability sourced single origin coffee.

The name comes from a trip to Ethiopia to source coffee, when the sisters took notice of a mountain called “Rāko.” This translates in English to “challenge.”

Their Arlington cafe will be 1,360 square feet and feature “high-quality, unique coffee beverages” like baklava latte and lion’s mane mushroom chai iced tea, the Business Journal reported.

It will also have locally-sourced food and will serve wine, cocktails, and beer in the evening.

Rāko is reportedly looking to open other locations in the area in the coming year as well, potentially including a shop in Logan Circle in D.C. The company is also “actively looking” for space in Georgetown, Dupont Circle, Alexandria and Bethesda for more outposts, notes the Washington Business Journal.

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(Updated at 11 a.m.) A long-delayed redevelopment at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Barton Street finally appears poised to become a reality.

A new mixed-use building at 2400 Columbia Pike, featuring 120 residential units and ground-floor retail space, will be replacing the current, low-slung 1950s buildings, one of which holds independent cafe Rappahannock Coffee. The County Board approved a modification to the development plan, including adding 15 residential units to the originally-proposed 105, at its meeting last weekend.

Part of the approved proposal included maintaining the current building facades on the ground floor to maintain part of the character of Columbia Pike.

“The façade preservation treatment for the two historic buildings will retain Columbia Pike’s unique setting and scale,” a county staff report said, “while allowing for a more cohesive development to occur, providing for a defined street wall and better efficiencies around underground parking, floor plates, and common areas.”

According to a County press release, the current businesses — Rappahannock Coffee and Cabinets ERA — will be able to stay in place in the new building.

“The proposed development will not only preserve the existing building facades but will also retain space for current retailers and offer transportation improvements contributing to a cohesive and user-friendly network,” the County said.

We tried to reach both businesses to ask about their plans. A person who answered the phone at Rappahannock Coffee hung up on an ARLnow reporter, and a Cabinets ERA employee said the manager did not want to discuss it.

The new development will also come with some improvements to the streetscape and the sidewalk. Six feet of the sidewalk will be designated for pedestrian space, while another six feet could be used for benches, trees, and other amenities.

Provisions are also included for a future transit station on the eastern part of the project. Despite hopes for transit ridership on the Pike, the proposal includes 140 parking spaces in a below-grade garage and 36 spaces in a newly-approved surface parking lot behind the building.

The County Board unanimously approved the project at its meeting on Saturday.

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A little over one year after signs went up for The Freshman (2011 Crystal Drive), the coffee shop, restaurant and gathering spot in Crystal City is finally preparing to open its doors.

A PR firm representing the cafe said it will have both dine-in and takeout options when it opens next month.

“We can confirm [a] mid-April timeline… we will offer takeout, delivery and dine-in,” a representative said. “The Freshman will be an all-day spot — coffee-to-cocktails — and feature dishes inspired by local, seasonal ingredients.”

The restaurant is the latest project from Nick Freshman, who also operates Spider Kelly’s in Clarendon.

The Freshman built anticipation in 2019 with a small but popular pop-up in Crystal City Shops, but the pandemic left grand opening plans up in the air. While the restaurant was on hold over the last year, relief program Hook Hall Helps used The Freshman’s empty space as a hub for distributing care kits and family meals to hospitality workers in need.

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Morning Notes

Alleged Carjacking Crew Busted in Arlington — “The audacious spree, police officials said Thursday, accounted for five of 21 armed robberies and armed carjackings in the D.C. region linked to the same four-person crew in January and February… Two were arrested Feb. 5 and Feb. 19. The other two were apprehended a week later after a SWAT team converged on them in a hotel in Arlington.” [Washington Post]

Va. Expands Eligibility for Retail Vaccinations — “The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced today that Federal Retail Pharmacy partners will expand within Phase 1b to offer vaccines to individuals who are 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions, as well as frontline essential workers.” [Virginia Dept. of Health]

Still a Thing: Homes with Septic Tanks — From Chris Slatt on Twitter: “I was today years old when I learned that there are 38 residences in Arlington County with septic tanks.” [Twitter, Arlington County]

Maintenance Worker Exposes Himself — “5300 block of N. Carlin Springs Road. On March 16, police received a message on the Telephone Reporting Unit phone line regarding an indecent exposure. The victim stated that at approximately 3:30 p.m. on March 15, while having maintenance completed inside her residence, the suspect exposed his genitals to her.” [ACPD]

Rosslyn-Based Rosetta Stone Acquired — “IXL Learning, developer of personalized learning products used by more than 12 million students, announced that it has acquired Rosetta Stone, the leader in technology-based language education.” [PRNewswire]

Origin Coffee Lab Profiled — “For the coffee, Mekonnen relies on a 5-kilo-capacity Probat P5-2 roaster to turn out fresh roasts. The machine also serves as an industrial centerpiece and natural focal point, one the company plans to highlight more through educational events and tastings as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.” [Daily Coffee News]

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Planned coffee shop and restaurant The Freshman, at 2011 Crystal Drive in Crystal City, could open in a few months after being in the works for a little over two years.

Owner Nick Freshman told ARLnow that he’s looking at opening The Freshman sometime in April or May, though no date is set in stone yet.

A limited version of the restaurant had opened as a pop-up in Crystal City Shops in 2019 and all the signs of an impending opening were in place last year, but a plan to ride out the pandemic has been less feasible as the virus’s impacts continue to drag on. Freshman, who also owns Clarendon bar Spider Kelly’s, said he remains optimistic about a turn-around ahead.

“We are facing the same challenges to opening as so many others in the business, but we have been fortunate to be able to wait this out,” Freshman said. “I am optimistic that things are starting to turn a corner, but we are still a long ways away from a return to normalcy as far as dining out. I am hopeful that vaccinations will continue to increase in pace, and that along with Spring will make people feel safer about dining out.”

Vaccination numbers are on the rise in Arlington, but Freshman said the success of The Freshman is also partially contingent on a return of office workers to buildings around Crystal City, which may lag vaccinations by months.

“It sounds like it will be well into the Summer or even Fall before most people return to their offices, and that is a big part of our business model here in National Landing, but our style and product will appeal to the many residents who live here, and we hope to be able to serve them this Spring,” Freshman said. “In the meantime, it has been great to be able to serve a part of our community through our partnership with Hook Hall Helps.”

Hook Hall Helps is a relief program that has used The Freshman’s empty space as a hub for distributing care kits and family meals to hospitality workers in need.

“It was certainly not how I planned to open the doors to the restaurant, but we are a community-focused business, and there are people right here in the National Landing and Arlington community that are hurting,” Freshman said. “I feel very fortunate to be able to use the space to help in some way while we wait to serve the entire community.”

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A new boutique coffee shop and roaster is now open at Westpost, formerly known as Pentagon Row.

Origin Coffee Lab and Kitchen served up its first morning cup of joe last month after initially announcing their arrival early last year. It’s located at 1101 S. Joyce Street, in the former Starbucks space between Basic Burger and Lebanese Taverna.

The coffee shop has a variety of options, including five different origins of coffee to choose from plus six methods of brewing.

Besides coffee, it also serves all-day breakfast like pancakes and benedicts as well as a “noon to night” menu with schnitzel and sliders.

Owner Andy Mekonnen tells ARLnow he opened the first iteration of this concept in Dubai in 2015. But he moved to the D.C.-area nearly five years ago and quickly realized Arlington could be a perfect place for another Origin.

“Arlington is vibrant… I thought the concept would be well-received here,” he says.

The shop was initially supposed to open in 2019, but COVID-19 related delays pushed it to 2021.

While recognizing that there are a number of boutique coffee shops in the county, Mekonnen says that what sets Origins apart is attempting to do it all in-house.

“The focus is not only on the coffee, but the food and pastries,” he says. “We are not out-sourcing anything, but trying to do everything in-house.”

That includes roasting. The shop has a glass-enclosed roastery inside that fully displays the roasting process to customers.

Mekonnen is also working on setting up roasting workshops, trainings, and coffee cupping sessions for customers.

“[Cupping sessions] is very similar to wine tastings,” he says. “Coffee isn’t just coffee. Coffee from different origins actually tastes very different.”

While opening up a small business in the midst of a pandemic comes with challenges, Mekonnen says a coffee shop like his has a natural advantage since most of his menu items can easily be offered as take-out.

“[We] have it sorta easier than other industries… because people have adapted to take-away,” he says. “People have learned to live with COVID.”

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After 10 months of delays, D.C. coffee favorite Sweet Science Coffee opened its doors on Monday inside the former Java Shack building in Courthouse.

The soft opening this week will culminate in an open house on Saturday, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., with coffee and pastry samples. The shop is open from 8 a.m.-p.m. this week, and this coming Monday will transition to its regular hours of 7 a.m.-4 p.m.

Sweet Science founder Sandra Wolter told ARLnow on Tuesday that she is ready to kindle in her customers a love of great coffee. Her philosophy can be taste-tested at 2507 Franklin Road, where she said the unpretentious space will make high-quality coffee feel approachable.

“We are doing the best we can to show a good variety of complex flavors while being open and welcoming,” she said.

In November 2019, Wolter announced her plans to move in after the community hub, owned by Commonwealth Joe, said it would close by Thanksgiving. But the road to opening was bumpier than Wolter anticipated.

The acclaimed coffee shop closed its basement location in Adams Morgan and moved to D.C.’s NoMa district in January 2020. Wolter planned to open in the Lyon Village neighborhood last March or April, but renovations and the coronavirus delayed the opening for 10 months.

First, the building needed new plumbing and electricity. By the time the unanticipated construction ended, summer was over, cases and restrictions were mounting and her NoMa location was struggling. She once more pushed off the opening.

“But hey, now we’re here,” she said.

Once Wolter receives her outdoor seating permit and a wine and beer license, she will extend her weekend hours so people can visit for coffee and a pastry, before slowly transitioning to a glass of wine and a snack — a nod to her European roots.

“I grew up like that,” said the Berlin native. “Over there, it’s so normal.”

The shop offers house drip coffee and espresso drinks as well as seasonal roasts. The beans are sustainably sourced, sometimes directly from farmers. A chef makes the pastries in-house and from scratch.

Still, Wolter is careful to avoid intimidating people into uncomfortably ordering “just a cup of coffee.”

“I don’t want people to walk in and feel like they need a code word to order,” she said. “If [a coffee] piques your interest, we’re more than happy to talk about it.”

She only wishes she can devote less time to surviving and more time to sharing flavors and menus with others.

“That would be really nice,” she said.

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Local graphic designer and artist Hermes Marticio was only searching for a cup of coffee, but found an art studio instead.

It wasn’t Marticio’s first time walking into East West Coffee Wine in Clarendon (3101 Wilson Blvd) when he strolled inside in mid-November. Every time he noticed the art on the walls.

“It’s not curated. It’s just like they put it up there,” says Marticio.

So, he approached the owner, Mehmet Coskun, and asked if he could use a corner of the shop to create a pop-up art studio for his works. Coskun readily agreed and the two made a deal.

“I’ve always wanted my own studio,” says Marticio.

Marticio grew up in the Philippines, immigrated to California, and moved to Arlington about a decade ago for a job and to be closer to his mother. He is a father of one: a 19-year-old daughter.

Marticio says that this area provides good opportunities and schooling, which was also a big reason why his mom came to the United States.

“My mom grew up on a farm in the Philippines,” he says. “Something clicked in her head that wasn’t how [her] family was supposed to live.”

He says it was her “third eye” that guided her, a concept of having an invisible, perceptive eye — often in the middle of the forehead — that’s knowledgeable beyond normal sight.

His mother’s third eye is also inspiration for his art. Marticio designs illustrative portraits of pop icons, from Jay-Z to Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Muhammad Ali , many of which are depicted with a third eye.

“I feel like those icons have seen something that a regular person hasn’t seen,” says Marticio. “That’s why they became so successful.”

Like many folks, Marticio has had his job prospects fluctuate during the pandemic. When he lost his job earlier this year, he focused his energy and attention on creating art. He did get another full-time graphic designer job in July, but by then, he had created a whole lot.

“All of my time, I really poured into [my art]. You know, what else am I going to do?,” he says. “It was also for my piece of mind.”

Marticio has also embedded his art with augmented reality. Each work has a QR code, which if scanned with a phone using Artivie mobile app, reveals animation and other features.

“A lot of artwork can be static,” says Marticio. “But this adds elements to it.”

This augmented reality component is another variation on the “third eye,” adding a perspective not seen by the naked eye.

Coskun says he’s thrilled to have Marticio’s art in his Clarendon coffee shop.

“I like to support local businesses just because I’m a local business myself,” he says. It’s a win-win, a local artist gets to have an art gallery and a local business doesn’t have to spend money on generic decor.

“I’d rather have [Marticio’s] paintings and help him make some money, then [for me] go to IKEA to buy some paintings,” says Coskun. In fact, he’s got a few more inquiries from other local artists as well about putting their work on his shop’s walls.

“If there’s a space available, then why not?,” Coskun says, “It makes the walls look ten times better.”

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Don’t worry, bumble coffee — that concoction of orange juice, caramel and espresso over ice — is still on the menu at the cafe formerly known as This is Fine Coffee in Clarendon.

Kino Coffee has the same menu, but its offerings now include independent movies.

In May, owners Jason Blevins and Anna Tsybko converted a back room of their shop at 2607 Wilson Blvd into a small pop-up cinema. They painted the walls black and installed a large screen for indie films and documentaries.

Blevins and Tsybko opened This is Fine Coffee in January, taking over the space previously occupied for three years by Blümen Cafe.

“Nothing was wrong with [the old name],” Blevins told ARLnow. “There’s a bit of humor with ‘This Is Fine,’ but 2020 killed some of the humor with it. When we started to incorporate a pop-up cinema to the business model, we found it harder to convey that in the name. So, we chose ‘Kino’, which means movie theater in Russian and German and a bunch of languages.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the theater can only hold nine people, and tickets will be $8. The first movies will start premiering next month, and the theater has partnered with Magnolia Pictures to showcase new films, including “Stray” in March.

“We just opened seating inside two weeks ago,” Blevins said. “Until then, we actually hadn’t had anyone in the whole entire space longer than it took for them to pick up their coffee and leave.”

Blevins studied film at New York University, and said that old cartoons and silent movies from the Soviet Union will play in the theater on most days.

“We have movies going on in the back room and Eastern European-inspired drinks and pastry options,” he said.

Among Kino’s offerings is one sure to keep you awake during the slow scenes: the Atomic Bumble, an eye-opening mix of ghost pepper, espresso, orange juice and tonic water over ice.

“We just hope that people appreciate a different experience in terms of cinema and supporting independent businesses,” said Blevins.

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(Updated at 9:50 a.m.) The following may ruin an important part of your holiday experience by revealing that a long-held belief held by many is, in fact, fiction.

But here’s the truth: the festive red paper cup containing your peppermint mocha is not recyclable, at least not in Arlington.

That’s the message from the county’s Dept. of Environmental Services, which posted the reminder on social media Monday morning.

“Festive? Definitely. Recyclable? Nope,” DES wrote. “The slick lining in single-use take-out coffee cups means they need to go in the trash. Alas, the tops too because of their mixed plastic.”

To be clear, this is not just an Arlington issue. Most recycling systems reject paper Starbucks cups due to the difficulty in separating the paper from the lining.

Disposable coffee cups, meanwhile, are not the only seemingly recyclable thing — complete with recycling logos — that is actually not recyclable in Arlington’s single-stream residential recycling collection.

Other things you can’t recycle in the blue bins include plastic bags — garbage bags, grocery bags, etc. — plus disposable Solo cups, shredded paper, paper plates and boxes soiled by food or grease, and styrofoam containers. Oh, and also glass, though that can be dropped off at purple bins around the county.

Arlington lists items that can be recycled on its website. The recycling “MVP” that is in high demand, according to the county, is aluminum products like cans, foil and trays.

Arlington’s residential recycling collection mostly serves single-family homes in the county. Those in condos and apartments are served by private haulers who may have different rules about what can and cannot be recycled.

Photo by Jasmin Schuler on Unsplash

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