Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.
These days, founder Eman Pahlevani is as likely to answer the company’s main phone line as anyone else in the 30-person office. If everyone else is busy, Pahlevani says sometimes he’ll even get up and go run a delivery.
But the small feeling belies some remarkable successes over the last two years. Last summer, the company announced plans to expand into Philadelphia. Riding high on that growth, Pahlevani said the company is planning on expanding into five new cities in 2019.
“The first two will be Atlanta and Boston,” said Pahlevani. “The last three are still in the works, but these are your big east coast locations.”
The core concept of Hungry is simple: office lunches can be a hassle for everyone involved. Office managers have a limited set of dining choices and face repetition, while restaurants struggle with orders they’re not built to manage.
“Nobody in this industry was looking at how to solve the buyer’s needs,” said Pahlevani. “These people are buying food daily or weekly for their teams, but today they’re being serviced by restaurants not optimized to handle catering. If I go to Panera, I can get those sandwiches once or twice a month, but not every day.”
With Hungry, office managers pay no more than what they would for the average office meal. Pahlevani estimated lunches range from $9 to $12 per person. But the manager has access to a wide variety of chefs hand-picked by Hungry so a client could order lunch every day for a month and never get the same food twice.
“There’s just so much variety,” said Pahlevani. “We solve those problems with a distributed network of chefs.”
It’s an idea that seems to have caught on. Pahlevani said the company saw 500 percent growth in 2018. Its fleet of delivery drivers has grown to between 70-75 employees.
“We’ve been hiring in Arlington weekly now,” said Pahlevani.
The infrastructure of the company is built on a network of commercial chefs and delivery drivers. The chefs audition at the company’s headquarters and Pahlevani says Hungry doesn’t put anything on their menu that doesn’t pass the staff’s food test.
Once they are chosen, the chefs work out of commercial kitchens that Pahlevani said cropped up across urban areas, after legislation required food trucks to be tied to a commercial kitchen.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is how many talented chefs there are in any given region,” said Pahlevani. “I mean these are really good, authentic chefs, but most of them work in a restaurant and work on someone else’s menu in the back of a kitchen. It’s a lot of hidden talent. So we let chefs cook their own menu, set their own prices, and we highlight them at every catering.”
Pahlevanis said most of the chefs start as part-time workers, but within a month go in full time. Some chefs make between $20,000 to $30,000 dollars per month.
But the other big component Pahlevani credits for Hungry’s success is delivery drivers — or ‘delivery captains’ as he calls them. Drivers can often struggle with getting into loading docks or finding the right rooms in office buildings, or when they do arrive they just drop off the bags of food.
“We train all of our deliverers to get inside loading docks, get clean, set up and clean up,” said Pahlevani. “You’re trying to optimize and train people to solve these people’s problems.”
Pahlevani says the company has seen so much demand recently that it’s still hiring new delivery drivers, just to keep pace. The company is also hiring staff for sales and engineers or developers for the technology side of the company.
Photo via Facebook
Arlington’s local food bank is urging furloughed federal workers to swing by for free groceries, should times be getting tough as the government shutdown drags on.
The Arlington Food Assistance Center is reminding all Arlingtonians that anyone having trouble making ends meet is eligible to pick up a bag of groceries from the food bank on a one-time basis.
All you have to do is provide a government-issued photo ID and proof of your address (either on an ID or a bill mailed to your home). AFAC stresses that it has “does not impose income limits — ever,” making one-time assistance available to any furloughed fed missing out on paychecks these days.
“If your bills are high, your paychecks are withheld, or you just need something to get you through the week, AFAC is available to you,” the food bank wrote on its website.
Anyone looking for some more extensive help can also apply for three months of food, with a referral from the county’s Department of Human Services or an Arlington Public Schools social worker.
The food bank works to provide families, at a minimum, with staples like milk, fruit, vegetables, cereal, canned goods and other dry goods. AFAC operates three food distribution centers around the county, at the following places and times:
AFAC Nelson: 2708 S. Nelson Street, Arlington 22206
Monday to Friday: 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Tuesday and Thursday evenings: 7:00 – 8:00 PM
Saturday morning: 9:00 – 11:00 AM
Gunston Community Center: 2700 S. Lang Street, Arlington 22206
Thursday evening: 7:00 – 8:00 PM
Clarendon United Methodist Church: 606 N. Irving Street, lower level, Arlington 22201
Saturday morning: 9:30 – 10:30 AM
Arlington’s also planned a variety of hiring events and financial management workshops for federal workers.
Mediterranean-themed restaurant Caspi is replacing the Moroccan eatery and hookah bar, Mazagan Restaurant, next to the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse.
Located at 2901 Columbia Pike location, Mazagan Restaurant was purchased last week and will be replaced with a restaurant featuring a menu of Mediterranean and European cuisine, one of the owners told ARLnow. He added that the restaurant is aiming for a soft opening this coming weekend, followed by a grand opening in late November.
A peek inside the windows reveals a torn apart inside with construction tools and signs of major renovation. A Virginia liquor license application from Huseynov and Sam LLC is posted in the window facing Columbia Pike.
Democrat Matt de Ferranti wants to end child hunger in Arlington if he wins a spot on the County Board next week, and he says he can achieve that goal in the next four years.
In debates, campaign mailers, and his official platform, de Ferranti has pledged to ensure that no child in the county goes hungry by the time his first term on the Board would be up in 2022.
It’s a target that some observers think Arlington can meet, but gives others pause. And, crucially, it’s a key area of difference between de Ferranti and the man he’s hoping to unseat: independent John Vihstadt, the first non-Democrat to sit on the Board since 1999.
Both of the contenders for the lone Board seat on the ballot this fall want to reduce hunger in the county, of course. Yet the pair differs on how to achieve that goal, and how much the Board should prioritize it in the first place, providing a clear contrast between candidates who otherwise broadly agree on many of the pressing issues facing the county.
“The differences between me and my opponent are not always in votes, they’re often in agenda and focus,” de Ferranti told ARLnow. “I think we have to call Arlingtonians to be committed to this equity and be a caring, compassionate community on hunger in ways that we haven’t been called to until this point.”
Vihstadt and de Ferranti agree that the county could use more data on hunger and food insecurity in Arlington, and say they’d support a new study of the matter. The Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) teamed up with Virginia Tech to release a paper on the matter back in 2012, and both Board contenders are eager for an update to that document.
Yet the incumbent admits to being a bit puzzled that de Ferranti is bringing up the issue so frequently in the first place, and would much rather wait for more information before acting.
“He is the only one who’s talking about critical gaps in child hunger,” Vihstadt said. “I haven’t heard an explanation of why we’re doing this by 2022 and why we’re only talking about child hunger versus senior hunger. He’s raised a good issue, but I would want to see more analysis on this.”
De Ferranti says he’s so focused on child hunger, specifically, because research links food insecurity to stunted development among children, and suggests that kids learn less if they come to school hungry. But he’s also relying on data from AFAC, the most prominent Arlington nonprofit focusing on hunger, claiming the numbers demand urgent attention to child hunger.
Charlie Meng, the executive director of AFAC, says de Ferranti is right to do so, and notes that he’s raised the issue with the County Board. In data Meng provided to ARLnow, AFAC has indeed seen a steady increase in the number of people requesting meals through the center, and an increase in the number of children served, specifically.
The numbers show that, in fiscal year 2014, AFAC served meals to 3,034 children. That number crept slowly upward over the years, and AFAC served 4,349 children in fiscal year 2018, an increase of about 43.3 percent over those four years.
“The question to the county is always: what’re your priorities?” Meng said. “It’s not always the government’s responsibility, but better support and coordination would go a long way to solving this issue.”
Meng believes that de Ferranti is absolutely correct that the county could effectively cut the number of hungry kids to zero within the next few years, “especially if the coordination and the desire to is there.
On that front, Meng thinks a good place to start would be sending AFAC more money each year.
The county currently allocates about $478,000 annually to help the nonprofit stay afloat, but Meng says AFAC largely depends on private donors to afford its roughly $7.5 million yearly operating budget. For the last two years, the county tacked on an extra $50,000 in one-time funds to send to the center, but the Board declined to do so this year amid a tight budget crunch.
Meng says he hasn’t needed to cut back on any of his programs after losing out on that money, but he has had to work a bit harder to fundraise to make up the difference. He believes that restoring that money, and even sending AFAC a bit more, would make a huge difference in helping the nonprofit identify hungry kids and reach them.
“They give me $478,000, and I give them $7 million in services,” Meng said. “The deal I give these guys is crazy. If you take money away, I can make it up, but it never makes anything easy.”
De Ferranti says he strongly disagreed with the Board’s decision not to send AFAC the additional funding. Even in a challenging budget environment, he argues “we should not be cutting back when the need in terms of the number of families per month has not decreased.”
Vihstadt is sympathetic to Meng’s case, but points out that AFAC already receives more county financial support than most nonprofits in Arlington. Similarly, he said the Board decided not to tack on any more funding in this year’s budget because members trusted in Meng’s fundraising prowess.
“There are nonprofits who are struggling and who do great work: AFAC is not one of them,” Vihstadt said. “I know he used that $50,000 reduction as an opportunity to raise money. I would love to know how much he raised as a result.”
Others working on the issue of child hunger across the state wonder if a focus on services in county schools might be the surer way for Arlington to reach de Ferranti’s goal.
Claire Mansfield, the director of No Kid Hungry Virginia, says her organization largely focuses on making sure schools offer “healthy, nutritious” meals for breakfast and lunch, as that’s generally the easiest way to reach kids who might not know where their next meal is coming from at home.
She’s particularly interested in making sure that schools not only serve a healthy breakfast, but do so as part of the regular school day, which can “remove the stigma” around students looking for a free or reduced price meal.
Mansfield points out that some, but not all of Arlington’s schools offer breakfast in the classroom — Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia says Randolph Elementary, Oakridge and Hoffman-Boston all do so, though Randolph only offers it to preschoolers and kindergarteners.
Mansfield says expanding such programs can have a huge impact, and that Oakridge has already seen a difference since starting breakfast in the classroom. According to her data, only 24 percent of students at the school eligible for free and reduced lunch ate breakfast in the 2014-15 school year; by last year, that number was up to 85 percent.
She added that schools can be key destinations for hungry kids looking to receive meals over the summer. Bellavia said the school system set up nine such “summer meal sites” this year, and Mansfield believes such options are a key way to fill in “gaps” in reaching families in need.
However, she’s a bit more hesitant than Meng to declare that simply following her prescriptions could definitively end child hunger in the county.
“I’m not one to put a timeline on that per se; if I could do it tomorrow I would do it tomorrow,” Mansfield said. “It’s just a case of making a commitment and saying, ‘We know how to solve this and we’re going to do what it takes.'”
Meng says he’s more than willing to do more work with county schools — in fact, one of his priorities is to expand AFAC’s “summer backpack program,” partnering with schools to reach hungry kids when class isn’t in session.
But to do so, he needs more money, and he says that’s where the County Board’s leadership matters on this question.
“We hear all the time, ‘Where are these people who need food?'” Meng said. “All you have to do is look around. Where do you think these people come from who are washing your dishes, doing your laundry, getting paid $7.25 an hour? We have them in this community. But we may not very long.”
Photo via @NottinghamSCA
David Guas, Arlington’s resident celebrity chef and TV personality, will return as a judge on “Chopped” tomorrow (Tuesday).
The owner of Courthouse’s Bayou Bakery is set to appear on the Food Network show once more Tuesday at 9 p.m., per a spokeswoman.
The New Orleans native will be judging an episode with competitions centered around Cuban food, dubbed “Under The Cuban Sun.” Guas’ father was born and raised in the country.
Guas has also hosted the Travel Channel show “American Grilled,” written two cookbooks and is a frequent guest on NBC’s “Today Show.”
There are 17,000 Arlingtonians living without access to affordable, nutritious food, but the planners behind the “Master Food Volunteer” program are hoping you can help change that.
The Master Food Volunteer (MFV) program is run through the Virginia Cooperative Extension. The program offers 30 hours in training on nutrition, meal planning, cooking techniques, food safety and working with a diverse audience. In turn, the volunteers are expected to perform 30 hours of community service using their training to help underserved populations become more familiar with affordable healthy eating practices.
The training takes place on four Fridays throughout October. There is a $120 fee for the program that covers the cost of lunches, training materials, an apron, tote bag, and supplies. Applications are available at the Master Food Volunteer website. Applications are due by Aug. 27.
“We do a lot of work with organizations like the Arlington Food Assistance Center to provide food demonstrations at their food distribution site using ingredients many people are not familiar with,” said Jennifer Abel, senior extension agent for Arlington and Alexandria. “That way people can take the recipes and learn how to use vegetables they might not be familiar with, like summer squash and eggplant.”
Many MFV activities are aimed at helping Arlington’s senior citizens who may have limited access to grocery stores. The MFV program is also active in Arlington’s farmers’ markets, like the Aug. 25 market at Courthouse and the Sept. 8 farmers’ market at Arlington Mill.
“In general, vegetable consumption among Americans is lower than it should be, while sugar consumption is much higher,” said Abel. “We’re doing pretty well on fruits, because they’re nice and sweet, but it’s tougher a lot of times to get people to eat a zucchini.”
Photo via Virginia Cooperative Extension
Georgetown Condo Development Could Further Stymie Gondola Push — Work seems to be moving ahead on an effort to redevelop a former Exxon station in Georgetown into 21 condos, which planners have long eyed as a key property in the development of a Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola. The development could further imperil a project already broadly viewed as a non-starter among Arlington’s leaders. [Urban Turf]
Rosslyn “Pop Up” Store Opens for Business — “The Alcove,” backed by the Rosslyn BID and a variety of other community partners, held a grand opening yesterday (Wednesday). Located at the corner of 19th Street N. and N. Moore Street in Rosslyn’s Central Place Plaza, the store will be open through end of September. [Twitter]
Arlington Food Assistance Center Looking for Fresh Produce Donations — The center is asking local gardeners and farmers for some help this summer, and will accept donations at three locations around the county. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo via Tom Mockler
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Located on the fourth floor of Le Meridien Arlington (1121 19th Street N.) is a new rooftop restaurant aiming to be a “food truck on steroids,” in the words of general manager Calvin Ware.
The Yard celebrated its grand opening Friday (July 13) with a DJ and Washington Redskins cornerback Greg Stroman. The venue is open to both hotel guests and members of the public.
Weekly specials include Margarita Mondays ($6 margaritas) and Taco Tuesdays (buy one, get one tacos). This Tuesday (July 24), they’ll celebrate National Tequila Day with $5 “Yardaritas” from 4-6 p.m. Menu offerings include sliders, tacos and frosé (frozen rosé), and games like cornhole are set up for patrons.
Ware envisions eventually adding artificial grass to make the venue feel more like a backyard.
For now, they “definitely want to be the place to be in Rosslyn,” Ware said. The Yard is open Monday through Friday from 4-1o p.m.
Louisiana flavor is coming to Arlington tomorrow (June 16) with Rustico Ballston‘s (4075 Wilson Boulevard) second annual Bluegrass & Crawfish Boil.
The event will run from 12-7 p.m. and feature craft beers from four Virginia breweries, live music, games like table tennis and corn hole and plenty of fresh Louisiana crawfish for $15 per pound.
Saturday’s festivities will also include the launch of Rustico’s new beer garden, General Manager Ryan Cline wrote in an email to ARLnow. The lounge area will include 124 additional seats and provide a venue for live music on Fridays and Saturdays in the future, Cline added.
Rustico isn’t the only local restaurant commemorating crawfish season — Bayou Bakery (1515 N. Courthouse Road) has held two crawfish boils this spring and plans to host another on Saturday, June 30.
Jaleo Crystal City (2250 Crystal Drive) will join the cohort of restaurants organizing summer food festivals on Monday (June 18) from 5-8:30 p.m. with a kickoff party for its 16th annual Paella Festival.
Spanish chef Quim Márquez will join Jaleo’s team to prepare five rice dishes for all patrons who purchase a $35 ticket. Márquez will remain with Jaleo for the duration of Paella Festival, which runs through July 1.
The 31st Annual Taste of Arlington presented by Courthaus Social, the signature event of BallstonGives, returns to Ballston on Sunday May 20. Come eat, drink and support local charities and nonprofits from 12-6 p.m.
This year’s festival features 60 local restaurants and food trucks, beer and wine gardens, live music on two stages, a dedicated KidZone and a pop-up dog park. For the first time in Taste of Arlington history, the festival will feature spirits from award-winning regional and internationally renowned distilleries in the main beer and wine garden and in the VIP lounge.
Beverage tickets will be sold at both festival entrances off Wilson Boulevard at N. Monroe Street and N. Randolph Street, as well as in the main concert stage beer and wine garden. One beverage ticket gets you an 8 ounce pour of beer, wine or cocktail.
Each year BallstonGives donates a portion of event proceeds to local non-profits. This year’s donations will benefit the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Arlington Food Assistance Center, Arlington Arts Center, Arlington Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Center for Excellence, Volunteer Arlington and Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network.
Thirsty yet? Head over to www.tasteofarlington.com to get your tickets today.
An organic Korean-Vietnamese food truck is opening up a brick-and-mortar location in Arlington Ridge.
Kovi Kitchen will be opening a location at 2921 S. Glebe Road, near the Arlington-Alexandria border. The restaurant teased the news on Twitter and Facebook over the weekend, but did not announce an estimated grand opening weekend.
The food truck, which has parked in Rosslyn for the lunch rush, serves $3 tacos, rice bowls and bahn mi.
The restaurant will be run by Vi Nguyen, who, according to the truck’s website, has at least 29 years of hospitality industry experience.
A voice mail left at the food truck’s listed number was not immediately returned.
Photo via Kovi Kitchen
The truck will begin selling food to locals in late May or early June, said Bootheel Catering owner David Newton.
Newton is from Southeast Missouri, a location described as the “boot heel” of the state, which inspired the catering company’s name.
Newton said he wanted to open a food truck to make catering more convenient by having a mobile kitchen on hand for events.
“It makes our lives easier. It makes the food fresher,” he said. “I just want to get more of our stuff out to people, because people really like it.”
The food truck’s menu will include barbecue, brisket, pulled chicken, jambalaya, gumbo, grits, fried chicken and more. Prices will from $8 to $12, Newton said.
The truck will be traveling throughout Clarendon, Rosslyn, Crystal City and possibly Ballston. Newton said the truck may even go out to the Tyson’s Corner area.
Photo via Facebook/Bootheel Catering
Courthouse’s Bayou Bakery (1515 N. Courthouse Road) will host its annual crawfish boil on Saturday (April 28) from 4-6 p.m.
The crawfish boil coincides with the beginning of New Orleans’ Jazz Fest and will feature live music along with traditional Louisiana nibbles. New Orleans native and Bayou Bakery owner and chef David Guas will host the event.
Customers will be able to buy a bundle of food that includes Louisiana crawfish with sweet corn on the cob, new potatoes, coleslaw, “muff-a-lottas,” and cornbread.
Bayou Bakery will offer drink specials, and second plates may be filled if there is additional food available.
Photo courtesy of Bayou Bakery
Barley Mac will be holding its second annual oyster festival on Saturday (April 21) from 1-5 p.m. on its patio, weather permitting.
Festival attendees can dig into unlimited oysters alongside a cigar rolling station, an oyster shucking instructional station, an oyster eating contest, and a live musical performance.
Tickets, ranging in price from $49 online to $59 at the door, will also include two drink tickets and a stemless wine glass.
Barley Mac will be serving raw oysters, oysters Rockefeller, grilled oysters, fried po-boys, oyster stew, fried buffalo batter oysters and oyster ceviche.
The oyster and wine festival will be open for all ages, though those 21 and older will receive a wristband to drink.
Photo courtesy Barley Mac