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.
HUNGRY still has an appetite for growth.
The Ballston-based food tech startup acquired its third company in as many years.
HUNGRY offers an online catering marketplace connecting companies with local chefs. Last week, it announced the acquisition of California-based healthy snacks company NatureBox, which delivers its products to homes and offices, and has its own private-label bulk snacks.
“NatureBox’s healthy snacks will be an outstanding complement to HUNGRY’s business-catering solutions, creating a game-changing combination of exceptional quality and service,” HUNGRY co-founder and CEO Jeff Grass said in a statement. “Companies right now are looking for one partner to handle all of their in-office food, snacking, and beverage needs, and now more than ever, HUNGRY is that complete partner for them.”
NatureBox, which has served over 3.5 million consumers and thousands of corporate clients, previously raised nearly $60 million in funding, a press release said.
“We’re proud to join forces with HUNGRY, and we’re excited that now even more people will be able to enjoy our amazing, healthy snacks all over the country,” NatureBox CEO John Occhipinti said in a statement. “We’re grateful to Jeff and the whole HUNGRY team for believing in what we’ve built and taking it to the next level.”
The acquisition furthers HUNGRY’s national reach and increases its healthy options.
Outside of the D.C. area, HUNGRY is available in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Boston, New York City, Austin, Dallas, Los Angeles, Nashville and San Francisco.
During the pandemic, it brought Nationals Park fan favorites to customers’ doors when the stadium was closed. It has since ended that partnership as fans are able to return to cheer the baseball team on in person.
HUNGRY has grown quickly over the last two years, earning a spot on the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 and debuting at No. 434 on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies in 2021. It also was named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies and Best Workplaces for Innovators.
Last year, it raised $21 million in a star-studded funding round, bringing on board actress Issa Rae, “America’s Got Talent” host Terry Crews, NFL player DeAndre Hopkins, NBA player Lonzo Ball and boxer Deontay Wilder.
Previous HUNGRY investors include Jay-Z’s Marcy Venture Partners, Kevin Hart, Usher, Todd Gurley, Bobby Wagner, Ndamukong Suh, and celebrity chefs Tom Colicchio and Ming Tsai.
UnCommon Luncheonette in Clarendon is hoping to open next week, bringing a concept that owners say is missing from the neighborhood.
The new diner-esque eatery on the corner of N. Garfield Street and 11th Street N. is set to be exclusively a breakfast, brunch, and lunch spot, co-owner Joon Yang tells ARLnow, with a menu, decor, and hours to match.
The location, a block from the Metro and in the midst of apartment buildings, is a perfect fit for this concept, he says.
“We fashion ourselves as a typical New York-style diner,” Yang says, who owns the restaurant along with head chef Jon Mathieson. “We’re going to open at 7 in the morning and people walking by are going to see this bright light glowing from a corner.”
The focus on the day’s earlier meals is what makes the restaurant, well, uncommon in Clarendon, according to him.
Earlier this week, ARLnow got an exclusive peek at the restaurant’s food, menu, and interior.
The space is classic and cozy, with only about half a dozen tables plus bar seating for about 15. There will be an additional 40 or so seats outside, bringing the total to about 80 seats.
The bar is marble with blue-tinged lights overhead and bright blue stools. The checked floor tile matches the diner image. The walls are mostly bare, but Yang says that the intention is to add to the decor in the coming months.
Both the breakfast and lunch menus have some traditional items, like egg sandwiches, waffles, and fried chicken, but there’s some unexpected dishes inspired by Yang’s other meat-centric restaurants.
There are five different kinds of poutine, a Canadian favorite of french fries, cheese, and gravy, on the menu including a vegetarian option and a breakfast version topped with sausage gravy and fried eggs.
Also available is a smoked steak frites and a rib sandwich that Yang says was directly influenced by dishes at his Epic Smokehouse in Pentagon City.
For those looking for lighter fare, there’s a selection of handmade soups.
“One of my favorites is a good cream of mushroom soup,” Yang says. “I feel like people under-appreciated what a good soup is.”
UnCommon also has an ice cream machine with plans to incorporate milkshakes and other ice cream-centric choices into the menu as spring turns into summer.
The restaurant does have a liquor license, but that isn’t the main focus, particularly since the plan is set to close in the afternoon. That’s another thing that separates UnCommon from other establishments in the neighborhood.
“I know a lot of owners of bars and restaurants in the area and they question… ‘Are you going to do this without nightlife?’ That’s where they all make the money,” Yang says. “I understand that. But this is a different concept.”
ARLnow first reported in July 2021 that UnCommon Luncheonette was coming to the space formerly occupied by Riverside Hot Pot and Bowl’d. By December, construction was coming along with Yang telling ARLnow that the restaurant’s concept would be one that “no has done before in Clarendon or, even, Arlington.”
He admits there have been some challenges opening a restaurant in Clarendon at this time, including hiring full-time staff, the neighborhood’s saturation of restaurants, and the apprehension of some customers to return to in-person dining.
But he’s optimistic that UnCommon Luncheonette will work here and now.
“I’m old school. When people come in here, I want to shake everyone’s hand and say hello. I want to know everyone’s name,” Yang says. “I still think people want that.”
An estimated 7.8% of Arlington households experienced food insecurity in 2019, according to a new report.
The report, completed by Urban Institute in partnership with Arlington County Food Security Task Force, provides a snapshot of the financial and food challenges for Arlington households, including in otherwise pricey parts of town like Crystal City and Pentagon City.
“Despite the area’s reputation as wealthy and well-resourced, more than 6,700 of the county’s 108,604 households were referred to the Arlington Food Assistance Center in 2021, signaling that this abundance is not shared by all residents,” the report says.
The report made many recommendations to the county, including to incentivize affordable grocers, offer gas cards, subsidize public transportation, expand SNAP outreach, provide grocery gift cards, subsidize or waive grocery delivery fees for SNAP participants, and open more free food distribution sites in higher need areas.
The study, conducted last year and released this month, indicated food insecurity rates were higher particularly in the Glencarlyn, Buckingham, Ashton Heights, Pentagon City, Crystal City, Forest Glen, Arlington Mill neighborhoods.
“We surveyed residents living in four neighborhoods with the highest food insecurity rates (from 13.3 to 14.6 percent) in the county and found that residents were more likely to rent their homes and have low incomes, and 17 percent were Social Security beneficiaries, which suggests they are living on a fixed income,” the report says.
For residents experiencing food insecurity, budgets for food were often the first to be cut in order to pay bills like rent and utilities. Some of the factors affecting the ability to buy food included the local food environment, labor market, transportation, housing, child care and debt.
The study considered grocery store or other non-convenience retail food locations accessible if they were within 40 minutes of roundtrip travel. Such stores were accessible to most residents, even those that lived in neighborhoods with high estimated food insecurity rates.
But residents that were surveyed prioritized groceries’ cost when determining where to shop, making it more challenging to afford healthy food.
“Residents reported some challenges in paying for groceries, especially meat, as the cost of food increased 6.3 percent (and 14.8 percent for meat) between December 2020 and December 2021,” the report said.
Those who were food insecure were more likely to walk, get a ride or use Metro to get groceries than those who were food secure and likely own a car. About half of the residents experiencing food insecurity during the survey used free groceries or meals, according to the report, and most of those residents said they accessed those resources one to three times each month.
While the Crystal City and Pentagon City areas had relatively high estimated food insecurity rates compared with the rest of the county, they had low access to existing charitable food resources.
Food insecurity disproportionately affects Black, Hispanic, and Asian households in Arlington, according to the report. Asian households with low incomes, of which there was a concentration in the Crystal City area, had to travel farther to access charitable food sites, compared with Black and Hispanic households.
Arlington County says it’s reviewing the report.
“The Food Security Task Force is reviewing findings and recommendations from the study, and will consider investments where Arlington County could build on its strengths and address residents’ concerns and barriers,” a newsletter from Arlington Department of Human Services said.
(Updated, 1:50 p.m) A new indoor vertical organic farm has put down roots in Green Valley, looking to deliver Arlington-grown farm to table produce.
Inside of a nondescript warehouse on S. Oxford Street near the Shirlington Dog Park, Area 2 Farms is growing — both produce and as a company. Racks of green-leafed, brightly-lit veggies are stacked on top of each other. Water pipes twist between the planters. The smell of soil permeates the space.
Some of what is being grown is familiar to the average supermarket-goer, like carrots, arugula, and tomatoes. Others not so much.
Co-founder Tyler Baras hands over a green leaf with a warning. It’s fish mint, he says, and tastes exactly what it sounds like it would. He’s right.
The aim of this community-supported indoor urban farm in Arlington isn’t just to deliver freshly-picked produce to customers within a ten mile radius — Arlington, Alexandria, parts of Fairfax County, and D.C. — on a weekly basis. It’s also about fostering a relationship between the community and the farmer.
“People want to know where they are getting their food from,” Baras tells ARLnow. “People can come get a tour of the farm, meet me, and have a relationship.”
Baras and his co-founders aren’t the only ones that think a local indoor vertical organic farm is a good idea. Today, Arlington County and the state announced a pair of $40,000 grants that will provide Area 2 Farms with for a total of $80,000 in public funding.
“It is always exciting when successful entrepreneurs like those behind Area 2 Farms bring their ideas and technologies to help grow Virginia’s largest and oldest industry, agriculture,” said Va’s Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry at the press conference this morning revealing the grant. “This project adds to the region’s growing cluster of innovative, indoor urban agricultural operations and shows us how the Commonwealth’s oldest industry will remain a vital and growing part of the Virginia economy going forward.”
Baras has spent his career being an indoor vertical farmer and has written a number of books about it. His methods are a combination of hydroponics and traditional farming, including using soil, worms, and compost.
It was about a year ago that he moved to Clarendon and realized that Arlington could be a perfect fit to set up an indoor urban farm.
“[Arlingtonians] love their food. So, everyone’s been so supportive,” he says. “I’ve seen vertical farms do really well when they act like traditional farms — when they do farm stands and build relationships with customers.”
The plan is to start slow and let the farm take root in the neighborhood. Area 2 Farms only moved into the warehouse on S. Oxford Street in October, so it’s still growing.
Next week is Area 2 Farms’ first big harvest. It will begin sending out boxes of their produce to the few dozen customers that have signed up so far later that week. At this point, that’s mostly friends and family, but new customers are welcome to sign up for boxes through the company’s website.
A number of Arlington restaurants were served good news yesterday when the finalists for 2022 RAMMY Awards were announced.
Northside Social, Queen Mother’s, Bayou Bakery, and Ruthie’s All-Day were among the finalists for various awards celebrating the D.C. region’s restaurants over the last year. Stellina Pizzeria and the restaurateurs behind CHIKO, both with Shirlington outposts, as well as Mark Bucher of Medium Rare (which has a Virginia Square location) were also named award finalists.
The RAMMY Awards are handed out by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, the region’s restaurant industry trade association. It’s intended to honor restaurants for its work over the last year (from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2021). An in-person gala is set to be held in July, when the winners will be announced.
In total, seven finalists this year have Arlington ties, which is pretty much on par with other recent years. It’s a far cry from more than a decade ago when local restaurants were routinely given few accolades, further proof how far the reputation of Arlington’s food scene has come.
Last year’s awards were, understandably, altered, with more of a spotlight on how local restaurants adapted to pandemic conditions. For example, David Guas of Bayou Bakery was recognized with a “Good Neighbor Award” for his Chefs Feeding Families initiative. That category is no longer part of the ceremony this year.
This 2022 edition is, more or less, back to what it was in 2019, though “Hottest Sandwich Spot,” “Splendid Holidays at Home,” and “Outstanding Pop-up Concept” were new categories from 2021 that are being held over.
Four Arlington-based restaurants are finalists this year for an award.
Bayou Bakery in Courthouse is being recognized in the “Splendid Holidays at Home” category.
“Restaurants have a way of making special occasions feel extra special, and this year they continued to meet customers at their comfort level as Covid (and other interruptions during the year) uprooted holidays for many,” says the award description.”This nominee went all out to create celebratory menus with all the bells and whistles to help guests have memorable holidays at home.”
Chef David Guas, who’s back from Poland where he was helping to feed Ukrainian refugees, tells ARLnow that it is an honor that Bayou Bakery’s efforts in making Mardi Gras special despite challenges are being recognized.
“It was a nice surprise to be honored and a warm welcome home upon returning from an intense and rigorous two weeks in Poland assisting with World Central Kitchen. This nomination is the result of something our team created during the pandemic to help keep us afloat,” he says. “The cliche — ‘It’s a team effort’ really holds true in this scenario. I value my team everyday, and especially during the pandemic, which was such a peculiar time for us all. It was fun and rewarding to find new ideas to bring people together — that’s the New Orleans way!”
Clarendon’s Northside Social, which now has a satellite location in Falls Church, is a finalist for its wine program.
Ruthie’s All Day, which opened in October 2020 in the Arlington Heights neighborhood, is up for “casual restaurant of the year.”
Queen Mother’s, located in the restaurant incubator Cafe by La Cocina alongColumbia Pike, is honored in the “Hottest Sandwich Spot” category. Chef Rahman “Rock” Harper and the eatery are known for their fried chicken sandwiches.
Giant Spiders May Drop In — “An invasive species of spider the size of a child’s hand is expected to ‘colonize’ the entire East Coast this spring by parachuting down from the sky, researchers at the University of Georgia announced last week… Andy Davis, author of the study and a researcher at Georgia’s Odum School of Ecology, tells Axios that it isn’t certain how far north the spiders will travel, but they may make it as far north as D.C. or even Delaware.” [Axios, Fox 5, NPR]
Anti-Growth Group Decries Route 29 Planning — “On March 6, ASF wrote to the Arlington County Board expressing concerns that significant new land use and zoning plans will cause seismic shifts for the communities now lining Langston Blvd. We believe the process — which will soon produce a new Preliminary Concept Plan that likely will be fast-tracked like other county planning processes — will neglect or defer costs of critically-needed new infrastructure, will displace those earning 60% or less than the Area Median Income, and will make it difficult for local entrepreneurs to stay in business.” [Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future]
Polish Pike Pierogi Purveyor Praised — “‘Oh my god, it smells so good it’s driving me crazy!’ my husband reported after picking up a pierogi order from chef Ewa Fraszczyk, who shares kitchen space with La Cocina VA, selling her pan-fried Polish dumplings from the nonprofit’s Columbia Pike café every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Arlington chef’s pierogi, all delicate and delicious, come six to an order ($10-$12) in four varieties.” [Arlington Magazine]
Apartment Child Care Bill Advances — “House members voted unanimously on March 8 in support of a measure by state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington-Fairfax-Loudoun) to amend the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act and permit child-care facilities in apartment units. That followed earlier, also unanimous, support in the state Senate.” [Sun Gazette]
Teen Stabbed in Va. Square Area — “At approximately 6:28 p.m. on March 8, police were dispatched to the report of a fight involving a group of approximately 6 – 10 juveniles. Upon arrival, the juveniles were no longer on scene and officers canvassed the area and located evidence of an injury in the 500 block of N. Quincy Street. At approximately 7:14 p.m., the juvenile male victim arrived at Virginia Hospital Center for treatment of stab wounds suffered during the fight. The victim’s injuries are considered serious but non-life threatening.” [ACPD]
Bus Driver Nearly Causes Wreck on I-395 — From public safety watchdog Dave Statter: “Watch: A ‘professional’ driver does no better trying to quickly get across 4 lanes of interstate highway. This one almost takes out a car–twice!! Must have been a fun bus ride.” [Twitter]
Takeout for a Cause at Four Courts — From Ireland’s Four Courts: “Stop in or order takeout on Thursday for dinner. We are donating 20 percent of our food sales to @PathForwardVA help #endhomelessness in Arlington.” [Twitter]
It’s Thursday — Overcast throughout the day. High of 52 and low of 35. Sunrise at 6:28 am and sunset at 6:12 pm. [Weather.gov]
A new guide will help anyone eat like an Arlington firefighter.
The Arlington County Fire Department recently released online a 103-page nutrition guide and cookbook detailing what local firefighters and emergency responders eat, cook, and have in their kitchens. Firehouses are famously home to some top tier amateur chefs, and the mix of culinary skill and practicality is on display in ACFD’s new publication.
Appropriate portion sizes (“a golf ball = 2 tablespoons”), pantry staples, and wholesome, filing dishes are all cataloged in the guide. Recipes like summer breakfast skillet and cauliflower alfredo are designed to be big enough to feed an entire family or an entire firehouse. There are separate sections for all shifts, including breakfast, lunch, snacks, sides, and dinner.
“The recipes do not follow a strict macro-nutrient profile or calorie count, as everyone’s needs are different in that regard,” reads the introduction. “Instead, they are focused on whole foods and minimally processed, nutrient-dense ingredients, in dishes that can be prepared on a budget and scaled for firehouse crews of different sizes.”
Arlington firefighter and nutrition specialist Clare Sabio helped assemble and verify the guide. She tells ARLnow that the reason behind releasing this large guide publicly is because they get questions all the time about how firefighters eat, train, and stay ready to respond to calls.
“We wanted to proactively share this with the public as a free resource for their health benefits as well as ours,” she says. “Citizen health and education is a big part of our job as Emergency Medical Service providers so it’s nice to be able to help our citizens stay healthy.”
The recipes and ingredient lists avoid “empty calories,” like refined sugars, Sabio notes, and highlight complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, proteins, and plant-based sources of vitamins.
The point is to keep folks full in between opportunities to eat, which can be an extended period of time due to constant calls. Plus, they must be delicious.
“Healthy food doesn’t work if it doesn’t taste great & make our folks want to eat it. That was also the reason for having every recipe in full color with a photograph,” she says.
The guide also is designed to help long-term, including to encourage longevity, muscle gain and recovery, and cancer prevention.
The project of finding, writing, compiling, and putting together the book took about three months, Sabio says. The guides are not just available for the public, but are being distributed to county firehouses as well.
The physical books are intended to be used in firehouse kitchens for the long haul. Pages are removable to take to the store and are lamented for an easy clean in case of a spill.
Sabio would love it if Arlingtonians reached out saying which recipes worked for them and which ones didn’t.
“We are all happy with how it turned out & hope the citizens of Arlington enjoy it,” says Sabio. “We would love to see pics of anyone who tries a recipe from the book & get their feedback on how they liked it!”
Locals looking for a good fish fry this Lenten season will have to cast their nets outside Arlington.
People won’t have to go far to indulge for Fat Tuesday — which is today — whether that’s with King Cake from Bayou Bakery or Cajun food at Ragtime. But getting to a fish fry may involve a drive into Falls Church or Fairfax County.
Catholics and some other Christian sects fast on Ash Wednesday (tomorrow) and certain days during Lent, the 40-day period leading up to Easter. Traditionally, that involves abstaining from flesh meats, such as chicken, beef or pork, on Fridays.
Over time, the fasting tradition turned into the church fish fry, often run by a local Knights of Columbus chapter to benefit charity or a parish to support their various ministries. The menu typically includes baked and fried fish, French fries, coleslaw, mac and cheese, other assorted sides and dessert.
“I found that fish fries are mostly up north, as I have a lot of family up that way,” says Myles McMorrow, who sits on the board of Arlington’s chapter of the Knights of Columbus on Little Falls Road. “[For] me, personally, I have never heard of a fish fry in the D.C. metro area and I grew up here.”
He says the local Knights observe Lent by dropping meaty meals from its council restaurant’s menu. Some local churches in the Diocese of Arlington host meatless soup suppers, including St. Agnes Catholic Church in Arlington.
Fish fries are mostly a Midwestern and Rust Belt phenomenon because European Catholic immigrants relied on the abundant fish of the Great Lakes to observe their religious fasts. Over time, the tradition may have blended with an African-American tradition of gathering together for fish fries, which began on plantations and continued after Emancipation as families moved North.
The closest for Arlingtonians is hosted by St. James Catholic Church in Falls Church. It was started in 2010 by a group of parishioners that included a homesick Ohio native.
Every year, hand-battered fish and scratch-made potatoes, hush puppies, coleslaw and carrot cake reel in pilgrims from D.C. to Fredericksburg. People can buy T-shirts emblazoned with the year’s slogan, which is always a fish pun. (This year’s is that the 13th annual fish fry “is trout of this world.”)
“I remember this couple who drove in from D.C.,” says parishioner Karen Bushaw-Newton. “They said, ‘We just heard there was a fish fry and we came to check it out.’ We know a lot of the parishioners who come — and we have a lot of regulars and families — [and] we have people like that couple who just wanted to see what a fish fry was like.”
When COVID-19 hit, the fish fry turned into a drive-thru that, on some Fridays, served more than 1,000 meals in three hours.
“I highly encourage anyone and everybody to come. We don’t ask your faith when you come in the door — it’s just a way to come celebrate,” Bushaw-Newton said.
For those who want to go farther afield, there are a number of other Northern Virginia fish fries, though each would require a longer drive in Friday rush hour traffic. Below are a few of the options.
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.
Very good boys (and girls) can now eat food that’s good for the planet, from a Clarendon-based company called Chippin.
It all started when founder Haley Russell gave her goldendoodle a cricket to eat, and her dog enjoyed it.
“That initiated the journey of looking at how might we be able to give all-natural alternative protein sources to nourish four-legged family members and meet this totally unaddressed need, which is for pet parents to be able to give them great nutrition while aligning purchases the way they buy other things” — that is, with a focus on environmental impact, she tells ARLnow.
The company sells dog treats and dog food made from crickets, an invasive species of fish and a CO2-sucking algae called spirulina. Russell says Chippin enjoyed a successful 2021: it launched new products and hit the shelves of big-box pet supply store Petco, which aims to have sustainable food companies comprise half of the food brands it offers by 2025.
And this year, she’s focused on increasing distribution and finding new retail and wholesale partnerships. While Russell couldn’t divulge any more details, she said Chippin is looking to respond to the tremendous demand for cat food products later in 2022.
U.S. pets are the fifth-largest global meat consumers, according to Russell, so how pet owners choose to feed their companion animals has a significant impact on the environment. Production of traditional protein sources such as chicken, beef and pork releases methane and CO2 emissions, leads to water overconsumption and degrades water and air quality, among other consequences, she noted.
But when Russell began looking for alternatives, she says she found “nothing on the market that was delivering on what I wanted: a high-quality, eco-friendly, tasty product.”
Her dog’s eager consumption of a cricket was not the only source of inspiration for Chippin. Russell, a graduate of Northwestern University, says she studied economics and global health and has always been interested in how food could be “an agent for change for health and the environment.”
Her years in the Great Lakes region prompted her to see if silver carp — an invasive species threatening the $7 billion Great Lakes fishing economy — could become another source of food for dogs. Her hunch was right.
“We created the first-of-its-kind dog food that solves for providing high-quality nutrition with a protein for dogs with allergies to beef and chicken and helps restore biodiversity in the Great Lakes while fishing for a fish we need to fish for,” she said.
Every product is vetted by veterinarians and researchers at the University of Illinois, who ensure these “planet-friendly proteins” are healthy and biologically appropriate for dogs, she said. They’re also more digestible than chicken.
The Maryland native says Clarendon, where she also lives, is the paw-fect fit for Chippin, which is “seeking to be agents for change in taking climate action in an industry that has totally been under-addressed.”
“It’s dog-friendly neighborhood and my team really enjoys engaging with the vibrant community of pet parents here,” she said.
Pierogi stand Rogi at Ballston Quarter’s food hall has closed, chef and owner Ed Hardy tells ARLnow.
The pierogi stand’s last official day was Super Bowl — Sunday, February 13. There were several reasons behind the decision to close the eatery after only a little over a year of operations, Hardy says.
One is that the brand is focusing on getting its USDA certification in order to be able sell its filled pastry products in stores. Additionally, the last two months — during the Omicron wave — were particularly hard on the business even compared to the last two pandemic years, a sentiment echoed by a lot of local eateries.
“We took some moon shots and took a risk,” Hardy said of his effort to make a pierogi stand work in the competitive Ballston market.
While Hardy is from Richmond and spent a large portion of his career in New York, he’s no stranger to Arlington — and he’s hoping to remain active here.
Prior to Rogi, he was teaching classes at the Ballston location of Cookology Culinary School. Shortly after the pandemic shut down in-person classes, Hardy shifted from teaching to cooking and opened a “ghost kitchen” inside of Cookology serving up pierogies calling it “Zofia’s Kitchen.”
A short time later, space at nearby Ballston Quarter opened up and Hardy moved all operations there, officially becoming “Rogi.”
With Rogi’s closure, Hardy had planned to replace his pierogi concept with a series of collaborations and pop-ups from other regional restaurateurs, but those plans are currently in flux while details are being worked out with Ballston Quarter. He remains hopeful that this pop-up plan will bear fruit soon, though its future is unclear.
Should he get the go-ahead, among the first up would be an international meatball-centric concept called “Chef Ed’s Flyballs,” followed by empanada, crepe and other pop-ups centered around specific foods.
Korean fast casual eatery SeoulSpice is opening a new location in Rosslyn next week and offering free food for its first customers.
The spot at 1735 N. Lynn Street, on the ground floor of the International Place building, will be SeoulSpice’s sixth location and first in Virginia. It is set to open its doors on Wednesday, Feb. 23, and will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
On opening day, each in-store customer can get a “complimentary entrée bowl” while supplies last. Customers must physically be in the restaurant to get the bowl.
The growing restaurant chain, which serves Korean comfort food including rice bowls and japchae noodle bowls, was founded by a world-class percussionist.
“Like all musicians, I’m a foodie,” owner Eric Shin tells ARLnow.
Shin became the principal percussionist with the National Symphony Orchestra about a decade ago. So, when friends came to visit, he would often play “tour guide” taking them to all the popular Korean restaurants in the area.
He soon realized there was a need in the D.C. area for fresh Korean flavors in a more simple, fast-casual format.
So, taking what he learned from his mom who opened a restaurant in Atlanta, he opened his own restaurant in 2016. SeoulSpice’s first location was in D.C. and has since expanded to Maryland.
Over the years, Shin says he’s learned a lot, particularly about how his careers intersect. He’s also a faculty member at the music school at the University of Maryland.
“Food, like music, is this pursuit of perfection,” he says. “There’s so many parallels in music and food, both being incredible ways to learn about culture.”
Food runs in Shin’s family. Many of the recipes come from family members, passed down over generations, with nearly all ingredients prepped and made in-house. The menu includes Korean-style burritos, bibimbap, japchae, bulgogi, kimchi, and sauces, which are all made from scratch.
In fact, Shin ran the entire menu by his grandmother, who approved it save for one item.
“[We] offer cilantro-lime ranch, which is one of my favorite sauces… I’m a ranch addict. But my grandma was so pissed off when we showed her this on the menu,” Shin laughs. “But the flavors really work. It took a lot of convincing… to win [her] over.”
SeoulSpice also ended up being gluten-free, not because Shin intended it to be but because he preferred the complexity of tamari as a soy sauce alternative, which is naturally free of gluten.
The lease was signed for the Rosslyn location prior to the pandemic, Shin says, so it has taken a while to open. Plus, it’s a bit of a challenging space, having operated as a dry cleaning business prior and being under a thousand square feet.
Shin is excited for the opening, though, since Arlington was the most requested location for a new restaurant.
“Practically every week, we got emails from someone in Northern Virginia saying, ‘please come out here!'” he says.
Shin believes that his work as a percussionist is in some ways his “secret sauce” for his success as a restaurateur.
“When you’re practicing in music,” Shin says. “You’re always finding interesting ways to do new things.”