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Valentine’s Day reservations (Photo by Rene Ranisch/Unsplash)

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, which naturally leads many to consider where to take their significant other out on a date.

If you live in Arlington, there’s a natural gravitational pull to stay closer to home when possible. After all, you’re presumably paying the higher rent or mortgage payments associated with living here because you like being close to stuff.

One significant challenge to taking your beloved out in Arlington has been a dearth of properly impressive options. D.C. has far more hip and high-end restaurants to choose from, for instance. Of Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants list from Feb. 2020, most are located in the District and only one currently operating restaurant — Ser in Ballston — is from Arlington.

But the picture seems to be changing, at least by some measures.

We now have some new, well-regarded homegrown spots (like Ruthie’s All-Day and Cafe Colline), local outposts of popular city eateries (Salt Line and Sfoglina) and an entire neighborhood (Pentagon City) that seems intent on transforming into a drinking and dining destination with plenty of interesting new restaurants, many apparently banking on business from those working at Amazon’s under-construction HQ2.

Entertainment options in Arlington remain limited, however, with options for going to big shows pretty much confined to Signature Theater and, when a national name is on the marquee, the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse. The Rosslyn-Ballston corridor is still screaming out for a decent concert venue or comedy club.

Given all that, five days before V-Day, we’re asking: on balance, do you think Arlington has improved as a date destination over the past few years?

Photo by Rene Ranisch/Unsplash

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

An Arlington couple is looking to change the dating game in the D.C. area with a new service, Quench, set to launch in July.

Co-founder Leslie Bozoian said Quench — which aims to match people through curated group meetups — responds to flaws she and her husband Eric identified in popular dating apps.

“Many of our friends who used dating apps would complain about going on a first date and arguing about things like politics, not knowing their date wasn’t aligned with them. Our desire is to put people in a room with potential partners who do align with their background and values,” she said.

Most of Quench’s events will take place in Arlington, and people across the D.C. area are welcome to participate. The service plans to host happy hour events at Clarendon watering holes O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub, Don Tito, Bar Bao and The Pinemoor.

The Bozoians have hosted several events connecting members of the community like this tubing event (courtesy of Leslie Bozoian)

The couple developed the idea while running a nonprofit called Free Association, which helped people make friends and build communities in the D.C. area. They soon noticed relationships were starting to form during these meetups.

Bozoian says several couples who met through Free Association are now married, inspiring them to try their hand at local matchmaking.

“Eric and I felt like we had found our calling: to offer people a unique and engaging way to meet and find their match,” she said.

The Bozoians, with the help of a psychologist, developed a simple four-step process to setting up singles. It starts with a ten-minute questionnaire about the person and what they are looking for in a partner.

“We ask members some background questions such as religious and political affiliation, education level as well as a handful of personality questions,” she said.

People will then be categorized into groups of 20 based on their answers and receive an Eventbrite invitation for a meetup. These gatherings have a host — who Bozoian said will keep the conversations flowing — and cost $20, not including food or drinks. After the hangout, participants can share their experiences in a survey.

For $1 a month, people can keep receiving invitations to social events.

Bozoian said this summer is the perfect time to start a service like this and help people find romantic connections.

“As Arlington heals from a year of isolation, we hope to offer single people a way to connect again, not through apps or screens but face-to-face social interaction, community and fun,” she said.

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If you’re dating but on a budget, Arlington is a good place to be.

That’s according to a new-for-2021 set of rankings from the website SmartAsset, which examined cities and places from around the U.S., comparing to cost of things like coffee and wine, in addition to access to parks and employment.

“One small upside is that dates during COVID-19 may be cheaper than usual,” SmartAsset wrote about the study. “Many COVID-friendly dates such as picnics and takeout are less expensive than typical activities, so wooers won’t have to dig as deep into their savings accounts to make Cupid strike.”

The couple seen above, Justin and Alexis, proved that thesis on Valentine’s Day this past Sunday. They headed to the View of DC observation deck at the top of 1201 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn — which is free for Arlington residents — and danced to a record player amid the breathtaking vistas.

Arlington ranked No. 2 on SmartAsset’s budget-friendly list, between Madison, Wisconsin (No. 1) and St. Petersburg, Florida (No. 3).

From the website:

Arlington, Virginia ranks at the top of our study for economic favorability, which means that your date in this D.C. a suburb is likely employed and has a decent disposable income. In November 2020, the unemployment rate was 3.8%, the fourth-lowest in our study, and on average, residents pay only 26.14% of their income on housing costs, the second-lowest for this metric. Those looking to share a special meal with a significant other also have a vast variety of options: Arlington ranks 15th for the greatest density of restaurants, with almost 230 for every 100,000 residents in the city.

The rankings compared metrics like “date affordability (cost of two cappuccinos, cost of takeout and a bottle of wine, average monthly internet cost), date access (coffee and snack shop density, restaurant density, percentage of households with internet access, percentage of city made up of parkland) and economic favorability (housing costs and unemployment rate).”

Jay Westcott contributed to this report. Image (bottom) courtesy SmartAsset.

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A pandemic is raging, the country is sharply divided, and many people and businesses are struggling.

Despite the gloom and doom, however, every once in awhile a glimmer of hope, joy and humanity manages to shine through. Such was the case on Friday, when a couple enjoyed a white tablecloth dinner, complete with wine and flowers, outdoors… at Gravelly Point.

The plane-watching and picnic destination just north of Reagan National Airport became the couple’s date spot, as captured by a Twitter user who posted a photo (below) on Sunday.

“At Gravelly Point day after Thanksgiving. Was it the first in-person date? Guy was waiting for a long time. I think he’s a keeper,” the user wrote.

“Planes on a first date? Definitely a keeper!” the Twitter account for the airport responded.

Know the couple? Please contact us, we’d love to tell their story.

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(Updated at 11:15 a.m.) Dating can be awkward, but Northside Social in Clarendon seems to ease anxiety when it comes to the search for love.

While the Arlington eatery doesn’t go out of its way to promote the location as an ideal date spot, it may be the epicenter of local dating activity.

From coffee to wine to food like vegan pastries and gluten-free scones, the spot has a wide range of offerings throughout the day to suit various needs, preferences or cravings. That makes it a pretty safe bet for a first or second date.

Northside offers an “easy, approachable and comfortable” environment, Northside Social’s Wine Director Karin Logan told ARLnow. “None of the staff are particularly overbearing, which can I know can be difficult with a first, second or even third date atmosphere.”

“I don’t think I have a single friend who hasn’t been to at least one of our restaurants on a date,” said Logan, referencing Northside’s sister restaurants of Liberty Tavern and Lyon Hall in Clarendon. She said she sees plenty of first dates and can often recognize first-time meetups driven by apps like Tinder or Bumble.

Apart from app-driven dates, there are also some honest-to-goodness meet cutes happening at Northside. Logan can recall instances where people have ended up meeting potential partners there.

“All of the regulars I know have at least met one or two people there because of its a welcoming place and all of my regulars are friends with one another,” Logan said. “It’s conducive to meeting people.”

Over the two years that Logan has held her position, she said she’s also witnessed at least five or six engagement photoshoots at Northside, which is more than any other restaurant she has worked for during her 18 years in the restaurant industry.

“And those just happened to be the days I was working,” she added.

There have been actual engagements as well. Arlington resident Kayla Laubach was at a Friday happy hour at Don Tito in July of 2017 when she received a text from her boyfriend Nick, asking her to stop by Northside Social, a block away.

Confused, she agreed and walked up the stairs into the wine bar to find Nick with candles scattered throughout the room and a bottle of champagne on a single stand-up table.

“It was really cute,” she said. “I was so focused going up the stairs I didn’t even notice they had a little chalkboard sign that said ‘Congrats Kayla and Nick.'”

Shortly after, all of the couple’s family and friends gathered in the space to celebrate their engagement with an after-party. The venue was chosen because Northside was where Kayla and Nick would meet while she was living in Arlington and he was living in Maryland, earlier in their relationship.

Kayla, a regular, says she chose it because she knew Nick would love the sausage and poached egg breakfast sandwich.

“When we were in Arlington we would go there every Saturday and Sunday. It was crazy how often we went there,” she said. “It was the place we fell in love.”

Northside Social has plenty of competition among newer Clarendon area coffee shops like East West Coffee and Wine and This Is Fine Coffee. But Logan doesn’t seem concerned for the future of the hangout. It’s hard to duplicate the community that has formed around a place like Northside — and special features like the dog-friendly outdoor patio and charcuterie boards done just so don’t hurt either.

As for people looking for a place with fewer first dates, there’s always the newer Northside Social in Falls Church, which opened in 2018.

Photos courtesy Kayla Laubach

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Morning Notes

Home Sale Prices Near HQ2 Drop — “Home prices in the neighborhoods where Amazon.com Inc. is setting up its second headquarters dipped to below pre-HQ2 prices for the first time since the company made the announcement just over a year ago. The median sale price for [the 22202 ZIP code] was $507,500 — a 12% drop from median prices in November 2018.” [Washington Business Journal, Twitter]

HQ2 May Help Balance Local Dating Scene — “For every 100 single, college-educated individuals in the Washington area, women outnumber men 53-47. And single women with college degrees are coming here at a faster clip than men in the same demographic, census data show… could Amazon’s expansion into Arlington import enough men to give some local women a statistically better shot at love?” [WAMU]

Big Emergency Response in Pentagon City — From Arlington County Police, regarding a large emergency response outside the Pentagon City mall around 8 p.m. last night: “Police responded to the report of a fight. One victim suffered minor injuries.” [Twitter, Twitter]

New Art Installation on ART Buses — “The latest Art on the ART Bus exhibit is up! The exhibit features seven letter-pressed placards that honor Arlington’s 60th anniversary of the seven lunch counter sit-ins from June 9 to June 22, 1960. The sit-ins were peaceful protests to challenge widespread segregation policies.” [Arlington Transit]

Nearby: Alexandria Also Ends Glass Recycling — “Alexandria will no longer collect glass curbside for recycling… Starting Jan. 15, if you’re hoping to get your glass recycled rather than just tossed out with the trash, you’ll have to take it down to the purple bins at one of four facilities in southern Alexandria.” [ALXnow]

Photo courtesy Dave Statter

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Morning Notes

Dorsey Declares Bankruptcy — “Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey, who was penalized Thursday for failing to disclose a campaign contribution to the Metro board in a timely manner, filed for bankruptcy last month after falling behind on his mortgage and accruing tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt… he attributed his personal financial troubles to a drop in income since he was elected to the five-member Arlington board four years ago.” [Washington Post]

Metro Delays During AM Rush — “Blue/Yellow Line Delay: Single tracking btwn Braddock Rd & National Airport due to a signal problem outside Braddock Rd.” [Twitter]

Arlington Among Best Cities for Frugal Dating — Arlington is No. 17 on a new list of “the best cities in the country for budget-friendly dating.” [SmartAsset]

County Aiming for More Budget Feedback — “This week marks the beginning of the FY 2021 budget season, Arlington County’s process to decide how it will spend County dollars. From now through July 2020, you will have multiple opportunities to provide input and inform decisions about the County’s operating budget and capital budget.” [Arlington County]

County Football Teams May All Make Playoffs — “Depending on the outcome of final regular-season games on Nov. 8, there is a possibility that the Wakefield Warriors, Washington-Liberty Generals and Yorktown Patriots could all end up as district football champions. Wakefield (5-4, 4-0) and Yorktown (8-1, 4-0) are in sole possession of first place currently in the National and Liberty districts, respectively, and are guaranteed at least co-championships if they lose Nov. 8.” [InsideNova]

Yorktown Field Hockey in State Tourney — “It took a while, but when the stakes became the highest, that’s when the Yorktown Patriots started playing their best field hockey of the 2019 campaign, in what has become an historic season for the girls team… By reaching the region final for the first time in program history, Yorktown also earned a Virginia High School League Class 6 state-tournament berth, also for the first time.” [InsideNova]

DJO Runners Win State Title — “After not winning the state championship the past two seasons, the Bishop O’Connell Knights have returned to that throne this fall. The girls high-school cross country team won the 2019 Division I state private-school crown Nov. 7 in Mechanicsville by dominating the field with 46 points.” [InsideNova]

Nearby: Potomac Yard Plan Takes Shape — “Just a few days after submitting plans for the Virginia Tech site near the North Potomac Yard Metro station, JBG Smith has submitted early concept designs for the development that will replace Target and the other Potomac Yard stores.” [ALXnow, Washington Business Journal]

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Arlington has placed near the top of a new list ranking “the best cities for singles” in 2019.

Arlington County is No. 6 out of the 130 places in the U.S. ranked by online rental marketplace Apartment List. The county received high marks for date affordability and dating satisfaction.

Also making the list locally were the District (No. 3) and Alexandria (No. 10). Atlanta placed No. 1, followed by Madison, Wisconsin. Stockton, California was dead last.

The top 10:

  1. Atlanta, GA
  2. Madison, WI
  3. Washington, DC
  4. Bloomington, IN
  5. New Orleans, LA
  6. Arlington, VA
  7. Minneapolis, MN
  8. Boston, MA
  9. Pittsburgh, PA
  10. Alexandria, VA

“Cities were ranked by a weighted score based on the following metrics: satisfaction with local dating opportunities, percentage of singles in the area, date affordability, satisfaction with social life,” a spokeswoman noted. “Overall, men tend to view their dating experiences more positively than women: on average, 36% of men rated themselves satisfied, compared to 25% percent of women.”

Image (below) courtesy Apartment List

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Despite only being a few miles apart as the crow flies, some residents of Arlington and D.C. are reticent to date people who live in the other jurisdiction.

For some, it’s the perceived differences among people who live on opposite banks of the Potomac. For others, it’s more practical concerns: the distance makes Metro travel slow and Uber travel pricey.

Yet, cross-Potomac romances do happen, as sometimes a river is not enough to deter two people who feel a real connection.

How do you feel it?

Photo via Flickr/John Sonderman

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(Updated at 5 p.m.) For some, dating across the river is apparently a bridge too far.

It’s a familiar refrain for some Arlingtonians: boy meets D.C. girl, girl learns he lives across the river, girl ghosts. In the words of one man, the river is less a body of water and more a “Great Potomac Divide.” But after I joked about the phenomenon last week, hundreds shared stories on social media of how they’ve been left adrift — or shamelessly drop dates themselves.

D.C. resident Tim tweeted that “everything was perfect” between him a girl after going on a dates at a D.C. bar, the Wharf, and Union Market. So far what happened to rip these love birds apart?

“She strongly encouraged our 4th date be in […] Ballston,” he wrote. “We never had a 4th date.”

When asked why he’d been ghosted about half a dozen times, Sean from Arlington (who asked us not to use his last name) said he wasn’t sure.

“To me, it’s just a couple extra stops on the Metro line,” he said. “But the Potomac seems to be a psychological barrier.”

In an age of dating apps with location filters — and Metro summer shutdowns — we reached out to professional matchmakers to ask just how common this geo-phobia was. Is there any hope for those looking for love in the retrocession of District of Columbia?

https://twitter.com/howisthatlegal/status/1150436866010898432?s=20

“Yes it happens but I don’t see it a ton,” said professional matchmaker Kate O’Connor, with D.C. office of It’s Just Lunch. “Everyone I work with is serious about relationships and are willing to go the extra mile. Literally.” 

Michelle Jacoby, who runs local firm DC Matchmatching and herself grew up in Montgomery County, agreed extreme location preferences aren’t common but do happen. Two weeks ago, one of her male clients from Virginia said he didn’t want to visit a woman in D.C. for their first date.

“He was insisting that she come to Virginia,” she said. “Just insisting.”

Jacoby said this can be off-putting for women who do not feel safe traveling to a place they’re unfamiliar with to meet a stranger on a first date, and it’s a gesture of courtesy to meet her at a place she’s more comfortable with.

“You want to get the girl?” Jacoby said. “Drive a little further.”

Both said they’ve mostly experienced strict location parameters with D.C.-based clients, however, and the problem can sometimes be caused by them not owning a car.

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Morning Notes

Police Operation in Ballston — Arlington County Police say they arrested a wanted individual in Ballston Wednesday evening, in front of the DARPA building on N. Randolph Street. Officers used a “diversionary device” — witnesses described it as a flashbang grenade — during the operation, a police spokeswoman told ARLnow. “One suspect was taken into custody without incident,” ACPD spokeswoman Kirby Clark said. Additional details were not immediately available. [Twitter]

‘Perfect Friday Night Date in Rosslyn’ — “A round of miniature golf is one of summer’s pleasures, whether putt-putting past pirate statues at a course by the beach or playing in a regional park closer to home. It works equally well as part of a date night or a group outing with friends. And it’s definitely not the kind of thing you’d expect to find popping up in the plaza outside a Rosslyn office building.” [Washington Post]

Beer Hall Nears Opening in Ballston — The opening of Bronson Bier Hall in Ballston, the successor to A-Town Bar and Grill, is about a month away. Most of the major interior construction appears to have been completed. [Instagram]

Amazon Hosts LGBT Reception — “A special reception [was] hosted by Amazon at a location in the heart of its massive planned expansion was held at Freddie’s Beach [Bar in Crystal City] to greet the area’s LGBT community.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Subsidies for Late Night Commuters — “The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has kicked off an effort to support late-night workers who travel when transit service is not available. Since July 1, qualified workers – such as those in the hospitality or health-care industries – have been eligible to receive a $3 subsidy toward travel on Lyft for trips taken between their home and workplace between midnight and 4 a.m.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Community Foundation Awards Scholarships — “The Arlington Community Foundation awarded new college scholarships totaling more than $540,000 to 72 students who will attend college next year. An additional 105 scholarships totaling $281,000 were renewed for returning college students, for a total of 177 recipients.” [Press Release]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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