The proprietor of a food truck that would park near the now-closed Food Star grocery store is set to take over the former Green Room next to the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse.
The truck, Tortas Y Tacos La Chiquita, sold Mexican food like tacos, quesadillas and tortas from the parking lot at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. George Mason Drive.
Owner David Villalobos said on the eatery’s official Facebook page that their new digs at 2911 Columbia Pike will be open in the first or second week of June. He also said that customers can expect “new cakes and tacos” after the grand opening.
The restaurant replaces “The Green Room,” which hosted stand-up comedy and other events adjacent to the main theater. It closed earlier this year as owner Greg Godbout looked for a new tenant.
The West Columbia Pike Food Truck Party takes place tomorrow (April 15) at the intersection of Columbia Pike and Four Mile Run Drive. Vendors will serve food from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
The Columbia Forest Civic Association is hosting the food truck event, which is the first of four planned for this year.
The Hello Kitty Cafe truck will stop by Pentagon Row this Saturday as part of its tour of the Mid-Atlantic.
The truck will park near the Designer Shoe Warehouse at 1301 S. Joyce Street from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on April 8.
It will offer candy and Hello Kitty-branded promotional items like mugs, t-shirts and headbands and water bottles with bows on.
The truck appeared in Bethesda last Saturday, and will move north into Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey after visiting Arlington. A tour is also underway on the West Coast.
The cafe truck debuted in 2014 at Hello Kitty Con in Los Angeles.
A Clarendon bar veteran is raising money to launch a new food truck in Arlington.
Michael Terrence O’Connor says on the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe that he’s hoping to raise $15,000. The money will help with various startup costs for a food truck he’s planning to launch called CociNana.
The truck will focus on serving tamales, but will also offer other comfort food, says the fundraising website. The name is intended to honor the women who taught O’Connor how to cook.
“CociNana is an endearment to the many years of my youth I spent in the kitchens of my Grandmas, Tias, Aunties and other Nanas,” he wrote.
O’Connor, who has worked at Iota Club and Sehkraft Brewing, we’re told, says he’s already put a deposit down on a truck and has the necessary Arlington permits for it.
“Iota Mike,” as one reader said he’s known as, has so far raised just over $7,000. He says he’ll use the money to reduce his monthly payment on the truck, to get branding and merchandise for the truck, to secure kitchen and depot services, and to “meet regulatory hurdles, fines and procedures.”
Incentives for donating include gift cards, free tamales or even having your name inscribed on the truck.
“I am eternally grateful for all your support and look forward to seeing you out the window,” O’Connor wrote.
Court Judgment Against Fmr. Johnny Rockets Owner — The owner of the former Johnny Rockets diner in Pentagon City mall has been ordered to pay more than a half million dollars in back wages and damages to 55 servers. The servers worked at Johnny Rockets locations in Pentagon City and Union Station in D.C.; a Dept. of Labor lawsuit alleged they had to share tips with non-tipped employees and did not receive overtime for working more than 40 hours per week. [Patch]
Arlington GOP Still Supports Trump — In an email this week, the chair of the Arlington County Republican Committee said that the party continues “to strongly support Donald Trump for president,” despite joining with GOP leaders in denouncing Trump’s recorded 2005 remarks about women. [Blue Virginia]
Delta to Fly from DCA to LAX — Delta Air Lines has announced plans to start flying from Reagan National Airport to Los Angeles International Airport, starting April 24. Currently, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines fly the direct DCA to LAX route. [Patch]
Food Truck Party on the Pike — On Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Columbia Pike residents have organized a “food truck party” in the recycling center lot at the intersection of the Pike and Four Mile Run Drive. [Columbia Forest]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Woman Attacked, Robbed in Pentagon City — A 24-year-old woman was punched in the face and robbed of her phone last Friday. The crime happened in broad daylight on S. Joyce Street, near Pentagon Row and the Riverhouse apartments. [WJLA]
No Easy Answers for Biking Along the Pike — Columbia Pike remains perhaps the least bike-friendly commercial corridor in Arlington, but there are few realistic ideas for substantially improving its bike-ability. [Greater Greater Washington]
Baptism Makes History at Local Church — For the first time in its nearly 150 year history, Mount Salvation Baptist Church, in the Halls Hill neighborhood along Lee Highway, conducted baptism ceremonies in which a female minister took part. [InsideNova]
Woopie Pie Truck in Ballston — A food truck specializing in whoopie pies plans to be in Ballston today. The Little Miss Whoopie truck will serve hungry Ballstonites around lunchtime. [Patch]
Photo courtesy Sandra Plaza
Man Arrested for Upskirt Photos — Updated at 10:35 a.m. — Arlington County Police yesterday arrested a man who allegedly took photos up a woman’s skirt as she was on the Courthouse Metro station escalator. The man smashed his phone after he was confronted by the woman and some passersby surrounded him to stop him from leaving. [NBC Washington]
Virginia on Best States for Business Ranking — Virginia is losing ground on CNBC’s Best States for Business rankings, placing No. 13 this year after being No. 5 in 2013. Some blame economic conditions caused by military and federal budget cuts. CNBC said high costs and “weak infrastructure” hurt the Commonwealth’s standing. Virginia did, however, rank No. 2 on a cumulative Best States for Business list from over the past 10 years. [Richmond Times-Dispatch, CNBC]
Lots of $1 Million Home Sales — There were 53 properties in Arlington that sold for more than $1 million in June. All but four of those properties were single family homes. [InsideNova]
Pokemon Lure at Food Truck Event — The Crystal City Business Improvement District is getting in on the Pokemon Go craze. The BID says it’s placing a Pokemon “lure” at its Food Truck Thursday event today. [Twitter]
Coming Soon: ARLBBQ — Later this month ARLnow will be hosting our first “ARLBBQ,” featuring free beer, food and games for all in attendance. The event is taking place outside on the 16th floor loft of The Bartlett in Pentagon City. Want an invite to this RSVP-only event? You’ll need to subscribe to our email newsletter.
Photo by Jackie Friedman. Crystal City BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser.
The Rosslyn BID is planning a special Cinco de Mayo celebration tomorrow afternoon.
Weather permitting, the “fiesta” will be held from 4-8 p.m. on the plaza at the corner of 19th and N. Moore streets, a block from the Metro station.
The event will feature seasonal beers and wine available for purchase from a “mobile event bar,” a live music from Cecilia Esquivel and a photo station.
Also scheduled: a rare appearance from the famous El Chilango food truck, which does not often stray far from its home base of 14th Street N. in the Courthouse area. In 2014 Yelp named the truck one of the top 100 places to eat in the entire country.
Admission is free but revelers must be 21 or over. In the event of rain the event will be moved to the Continental.
On Tuesday, April 5, the Crystal City FRESHFARM Market will open for the season. The farmers market is held from 3-7 p.m. every Tuesday, along Crystal Drive between 18th and 20th Streets S.
“Shop from nearly 20 local farmers and producers with seasonal fruits and vegetables, fresh-cut flowers, container plants and herbs, farm-raised eggs, all-natural meats, artisan baked goods, specialty foods and much more,” organizer Crystal City BID said in a press release. “Stop by early and pick-up a free Crystal City banner bag from the market’s information table (while supplies last).”
Two days later, the BID will hold its first Food Truck Thursday of the season. The lunchtime event is held on Thursdays from 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and features a flotilla of food trucks in two locations: the corner of 18th Street and Crystal Drive and at 12th Street and Long Bridge Drive.
Also coming soon to Crystal City: the first 5K Friday race of April, this coming Friday (April 1), and the neighborhood’s weekly Mobile Bike Repair Station will open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, April 7, at the corner of 18th and Crystal.
Crystal City isn’t the only local community with seasonal events and amenities that have opened or are opening soon. Among the others:
- Ballston: FRESHFARM farmers market returns on Thursdays starting in May; Taste of Arlington 2016 scheduled for May 15
- Clarendon: Farmers market near the Metro station is typically held on Wednesdays starting in April
- Fairlington: Farmers market returns Sunday, May 1
- Rosslyn: The Rosslyn sandbox has already reopened; a Cinco de Mayo Beer Garden is scheduled for May 5
A number of other farmers markets around Arlington are held year-round.
Tacos El Chilango parks at the corner of 14th Street N. and N. Quinn Street nearly every day. From the truck, people can see drivers whiz by on Route 50. Before customers get a $2.50 taco (or five), they might stand in a line that goes down the block. The menu is limited to only six kinds of meat tacos and a small selection of drinks. But no one is complaining.
Making Yelp’s Top 100 List in 2014 was no easy feat. Engineers from Yelp took into account number of reviews and star ratings to reveal the most popular spots in the country, over the past 10 years that Yelp had been up and running. Tacos El Chilango made number 58.
Jesus and Juan Antonio Santacruz opened the truck together in Arlington in 2007. Juan Antonio now runs El Chilango’s D.C. location (1119 V. Street NW), which opened in 2012. It has a somewhat larger menu including veggie options and indoor and outdoor seating space.
When the two first opened shop, they were inspired by their parents, who moved from Central Mexico to Mexico City in the 1950s and opened their first taco business.
“My parents had the house, and in the front they had the business, so we practically lived there. We are eight siblings and we all have taco shops,” Juan Antonio said.
Five taco stores are in Mexico, and three are in the U.S.– the two El Chilango locations, and Tacos El Papi, another truck, owned by their eldest brother, is parked on Columbia Pike in Arlington.
Juan Antonio and Jesus established their space because Jesus lives nearby, and one winter they got snowed into the spot. People started noticing the truck because there aren’t really other businesses around. And so they stayed.
What makes these tacos special? People could look to the 349 Yelp reviews (only five of which are under three stars) or ask someone who took to the street at lunchtime today.
Maurice Dayton calls himself a “religious patron” of El Chilango. He said he comes to get his lunch at the truck at least twice a week. He’s not the only super fan — 55 Yelp reviews used the word “love” to describe their feelings for the fresh tacos.
“I’m not lying, I’m from Texas and I know a thing about tacos, this is the closest I’ve come to being back home with tacos, and I have to say, it’s even better,” Dayton said.
Jesus says the secret to the tacos is never changing the recipe — and keeping ingredients fresh every day.
“A lot of people ask for sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes and we say ‘no.’ We like to keep them authentic, the way we grew up with them, the way we make them in Mexico. We make everything pretty much every day,” Santacruz said.
Dayton lives in Maryland but works in a nearby State Department office, where he says everyone makes the walk down to the truck. He mentioned a few other spots he said had good tacos, but they didn’t compare.
“I just absolutely love coming here. You have to try the El Mixto. They’re some of the absolute best tacos anywhere. I wish I could franchise this place,” Dayton said, laughing.
Matt Evans is a longtime patron of the truck who just moved in Arlington, just blocks away from El Chilango’s parking spot — a move he’s very excited about.
“I have a lot of coworkers who are super into District Taco, and hands-down this is way better than District Taco. It’s that authentic, it’s like California tacos,” Evans said.
It makes sense that they would be authentic, as “Chilango” is a Mexican slang word meaning the people who live in or come from Mexico City. And Juan Antonio says even though there is the most business on Fridays and Saturdays, the truck is busy year-round.
“Even when it’s so hot or so cold, people want tacos,” he said.
Woman Takes Stage to Find Bathroom — An apparently intoxicated woman climbed on stage during a recent Signature Theatre production in Shirlington, made her way backstage and asked a cast member for directions to the bathroom. [Playbill]
Spout Run Closure — The eastbound lanes of the Spout Run Parkway will be completely closed from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. today for road paving. No detours will be in place and “alternative routes should be used,” according to the National Park Service.
Arlington Murder to Be Featured on TV Show — This coming Sunday, at 10 p.m., the show “Deadline: Crime with Tamron Hall” on Investigation Discovery will feature the 2012 homicide of Mack L. Woods Sr. in Arlington. [Patch]
Charleys Now Open in Pentagon City — A Charleys Philly Steaks restaurant is now open in the food court of the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall food court. “Charleys brings a unique experience to the food court with its grilled-fresh-in-front-of-you flavor,” the company said in a press release.
Food Truck Stops Taking Cash — The Lemongrass food truck, which frequents Arlington, has decided to stop accepting cash. The truck now only takes credit and debit cards. [Washington Post]
Why Arlington Went to Paper Ballots — Arlington reintroduced paper ballots this year after dumping its electronic voting machines. Why did it get rid of the more modern tech? The WINVote system was found to be grossly insecure and the touchscreen devices were dubbed the “worst voting machines” in America. [Wired]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Food truck owners say they saw shorter lines on the first day of Rosslyn’s new zoning pilot program.
The new program, spearheaded by Arlington Economic Development, laid out four dedicated areas for food trucks to park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — 19th Street below N. Lynn Street, Wilson Blvd above Kent Street, N. Pierce Street and Wilson Blvd and N. Nash Street and Wilson Blvd. The new locations didn’t stop Arlington workers and residents from stopping at the food trucks, but owners said they weren’t as busy as usual.
“I know the city tried to make the best,” Arepazone food truck co-owner Ali Arellano said. “They have music, a table and there are a lot of flyers, but at the end of the days, this place is not good for business.”
The music, tents and tables around the food truck zones were provided by the Rosslyn Business Improvement District, which is also supporting the zoning effort.
Arellano parked on Wilson Blvd by the Artisphere’s old location and said he noticed that he had fewer customers than when he parked on N. Lynn Street, the main drag for most food trucks. At 12:45 p.m., he had about five customers in line.
“It is better to go to D.C.,” he said. “There are more people, more businesses.”
The four zones do not include any spots on N. Lynn Street and had the effect of spreading the trucks out rather than concentrating them in one location. Arellano said he believes this will hurt business.
“I think it’s not fair for the food trucks to park in other places,” he said. “The trucks should all park in the same row.”
Food trucks are still allowed to park in other spots in Rosslyn, but they will be limited to the time on the parking meters, usually two hours, instead of the extended four hours offered by the program.
When the trucks are together, they act like a food court, where customers have multiple options, including restaurants that also line N. Lynn Street, Arellano said. With the new zones, customers have to walk further to get the same options.
Moving the trucks off N. Lynn Street did have some bonuses, and not just for the businesses.
N. Lynn Street was a bit calmer and less crowded without the line of trucks, said Arlington resident Stephan Guy, who eats at a food truck daily. When the food trucks were all on N. Lynn Street, he said it was chaotic.
“I do know Lynn Street got absolutely crazy with food trucks,” Guy said. He said he understands the reasoning for the zoning plan, but also observed that some lines were shorter than usual.
Habib Seraj, the chef at food truck Fusion Confusion Inc., also saw shorter lines today. The truck was parked on 19th Street in an area with less foot traffic than N. Lynn Street or the Wilson Blvd and Kent Street zone.
However, Seraj was more optimistic and said he thought customers were starting to figure out where they could find the trucks. His only problems with the new zoning program was that cars were parked in some of the zone’s reserved spaces and the meters only ran for two hours.
“As long as they take care of the meters and everything, I’ll be fine,” he said.
Rosslyn’s Gateway Park will turn into a beer garden this September with the arrival of Arlington’s latest beer festival.
The Backyard Beer Festival will feature more than 60 craft brews and live music during the event on Sept. 19.
The festival, which is sponsored by Uber, Drink the World and Project DC Events, will also have backyard games with plenty of prizes for guests. Attendees will be able to purchase food from food trucks and other food vendors.
The festival has two sessions, one from 1-4 p.m. and the other from 7-10 p.m. General admission tickets are $25 per session, and VIP tickets cost $35. With a general admission ticket, participants will get three hours of unlimited beer tasting and a souvenir glass. VIP ticket holders will get an extra hour for beer tasting and access to VIP bathrooms.
More than 30 breweries are expected to participate, including Flying Dog from Frederick, Maryland, Old Ox Brewery from Ashburn and D.C. breweries Atlas Brew Works and DC Brau. For those with gluten allergies, the festival will have ciders and gluten-free beers.
The event is for ages 21 and up, and will happen rain or shine. All participants will need to bring an ID with their tickets.
Logo via Backyard Beer Festival
The six-month pilot program may prove to be an answer to the ongoing conflict between food trucks and restaurants about where the trucks choose to park.
Restaurant owners in the county’s Metro corridors have claimed that the food trucks’ practice of parking in front of their restaurants has seriously impacted their business, and a group of restaurant owners in Courthouse recently even formed a coalition to lobby for food truck parking restrictions.
The Arlington Economic Development office spearheaded the project in consultation with the Rosslyn Business Improvement District, local restaurants, food trucks, residents and other stakeholders. For now, the pilot will be limited to Rosslyn, with the possibility of extending the project to other areas of the county once its success has been evaluated.
The pilot will set aside 19 parking spaces in Rosslyn for food trucks, for four hours during the day. Between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m on weekdays, only food trucks will be allowed to park in these spaces. Currently, food trucks are not permitted to stay in a parking space for more than two hours, and some have said that they struggle to set up and do business within that time frame, especially given the competition for such prime parking.
The reserved parking spaces are spread among four zones in Rosslyn, which were decided by AED: on 19th Street below Lynn Street, along Wilson Blvd above N. Kent Street, at the intersection of N. Nash Street and Wilson Blvd and on N. Pierce Street along Wilson Blvd. Notably, there is no reserved food truck parking on N. Lynn Street, Rosslyn’s main drag, which is where most food trucks currently park.
BID President Mary-Claire Burick says she hopes these reserved parking zones with extended time limits will give the trucks increased flexibility, but emphasized that trucks will still be free to park in other spaces.
“This is not a limiting project,” said Burick.”This is to expand and make it easier for them to be successful in these other areas.”
At the County Board meeting on Saturday, July 18, AED’s Jill Griffin told the Board that the success of the project would be evaluated over time, but the outcome is likely to be clear within three months of the pilot’s launch.
“We think we’ll be seeing if it works or doesn’t work very quickly,” said Griffin.
The BID will also be involved in evaluating the pilot. Burick said they were very interested in incorporating feedback, and while reports from the food trucks would be their “first barometer” as to the project’s success, BID members also planned to reach out and hear feedback from consumers.
“We’ll be out and we’ll be listening, and we’ll be incorporating that feedback with the County,” said Burick.
Burick said the BID has plans in the works for a week of kick-off celebrations once the pilot launches, including musical performances, contests and other promotions.
Photo courtesy Rosslyn BID
A minor parking mishap attracted a crowd of restaurant owners in Courthouse yesterday.
Just before lunchtime, the “KBBQ Taco Box 2” food truck accidentally struck the front bumper of a parked car on the 2000 block of Wilson Blvd, as the truck was trying to squeeze into a tight parallel parking space. There was no damage evident — but police were called and a citation issued, as a small crowd of restaurant owners and mangers gathered.
As it turns out, the car belonged to a delivery driver for the Afghan Kabob House across the street, and this was the latest skirmish in an ongoing battle between brick-and-mortar restaurants and food trucks in Courthouse.
The war started last month with the emergence of an unlikely leader on the restaurant side. Bar Concepts, a restaurant consulting company, had been brought in to operate the back bar area of the recently reopened Summers Restaurant. Though Summers is not exactly known as a haven for Courthouse office dwellers seeking a quick grab-and-go bite to eat, Alan Beal, COO of Bar Concepts, zeroed in on food trucks — at least those that parked along Wilson and Clarendon Blvds — as the enemy of local restaurants.
Beal swiftly organized a coalition of about a dozen Courthouse area restaurants who say that the trucks “are running amok” and having “a serious impact on these brick and mortar restaurants” by parking directly in front of their establishments. The collective effort was on display Thursday as owners took turns complaining about parking enforcement to police.
Food trucks, they said, were reserving precious street parking spots in front of restaurants by having workers park cars on the street as early as 6:00 a.m. Some weren’t even feeding the meter, they said.
There’s nothing illegal about reserving street parking spaces in such a manner, the cops said, though they did encourage the owners to call when they did spot a violation like an expired meter. There is also a two hour limit on parking, which is enforced, but there’s a loophole: trucks can simply pull into into another open space after two hours, provided it’s at least 25 feet away from their existing parking space.
With little recourse other than calling in the meter maids, the owners seemed to agree to double down on an unofficial group tactic: encouraging employees to park on the street, thus taking away available parking spaces from the trucks. One owner could be heard telling several employees to be sure to park on the street during their shifts. Another ran across the busy four-lane road when a spot opened up, driving his Mercedes from a small private lot behind his restaurant, making a U-turn and pulling into the open spot, thus boxing out the food truck hoard.
Beal — who was in D.C. during the fender bender fracas — insists that he doesn’t oppose food trucks, only their parking choices. He said trucks park directly in front of businesses, billowing smoke, creating crowds that block the sidewalk and taking away customers. He has been documenting the woes on a YouTube channel.
“No one opposes food trucks, they’re good for consumers and good for the economy,” he said via phone. “The problem is where they’re parked.”
Purposely blocking parking spots, for hours on end, only hurts restaurants by keeping the spots from potential customers, according to Beal. “It is kind of unethical,” he said of food trucks, or anyone else for that matter, reserving street parking spots for commercial gain.
Beal said he has been having constructive conversations with the county about solutions that could work for both restaurants and food trucks. That potential solution — which had until then not been revealed to the media — is creating and enforcing specific areas for food trucks to park in a given area.
Cara O’Donnell, spokeswoman for Arlington Economic Development, said the county is hoping to implement a “street vending zone” pilot program in Rosslyn within a few weeks.