D.C. Beer Week is less than two weeks away and one of its most popular events will take place in Arlington.
Local brewery DC Brau and Quarterdeck Restaurant (1200 Fort Myer Drive) are partnering to put on the “Fourth Annual D.C. Beer Week Crab Fest” on Monday, Aug. 10 from 5-10 p.m.
The fest is being billed as “the event of D.C. Beer Week,” and promises all-you-can-eat Mid-Atlantic crab, $1 DC Brau on draft and pitchers of DC Brau for $5.
Tickets cost $45, and are available online.
“$1 Drafts? $5 Pitchers? They must be insane!!!” says the festival web page. “Yes, they are! Insane with our craving for these colorful crustaceans!!! Eat til your [sic] full.”
Although the crab fest is the only event in Arlington, Beer Week has events planned for the D.C. Metro area from Aug. 9-16. The schedule kicks off with a beer tasting in Northeast on Sunday, Aug. 9. Next comes the crab fest in Arlington on Monday, followed by a beach party at the National Building Museum on Tuesday, Aug. 11.
Finally, the week-long celebration of beer rounds out with two weekend events in Dupont: a beer-tasting hosted by Devil’s Backbone Brewery on Saturday, Aug. 15 and a “beer scavenger hunt” on Sunday, Aug. 16.
Grant for New Bikeshare Stations OKed — Arlington County will receive nearly $300,000 from the federal government to install eight new Capital Bikeshare stations along the GW Parkway. Among the locations set for a new Bikeshare station are Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon, Gravelly Point Park and Reagan National Airport. [Arlington County]
Jefferson Davis Name Change Unlikely — The Virginia General Assembly is not likely to approve changing the name of Jefferson Davis Highway any time soon. “Jefferson Davis was an avid racist and segregationist… But there’s not a whole lot of people clamoring about it except coffee-shop liberals in Arlington,” Del. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) told the Sun Gazette. Plus, Arlington County already has numerous streets and schools named after slaveholders. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
APS Honored for Healthy Food Options — Arlington Public Schools has received the top award in the “Healthy School Meals” category of the 2015 Virginia School Boards Association Food for Thought Competition. [Arlington Public Schools]
Lighting Task Force Approved — The Arlington County Board on Tuesday approved the appointment of a citizen working group that will study the issue of athletic lighting in Arlington. After a public process, the group is expected to come back to the Board in 11 months with a recommendation as to whether all artificial turf fields in the county should have lighting, a controversial issue for many who live near such fields. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The Corner Tex-Mix, a new Latin fusion restaurant in Arlington’s Nauck neighborhood, has opened at at 1621 S. Walter Reed Drive.
The eatery brings the flavors of Salvadoran, Mexican, American and Mediterranean food to its tables. The restaurant is colorful, with a bright red and green walls and colorful lights hanging over the bar. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and has seating both inside and outside.
“What I can say is that we’re trying to do something new in the area for the residents of Arlington with good dishes and a lot of different flavors they can come over and try,” head chef Leo Medrano said.
The food is fresh, Medrano said, with sauces and salad dressings, such as the bleu cheese or chipotle barbecue ranch, made in the restaurant daily.
Medrano recommends new patrons try one of the four salad options, but his favorite is the bib lettuce salad. The bib lettuce salad has bib lettuce, tomato, red onion, bacon and blue cheese. His other favorite meal is the crab cake sandwich.
“We offer some healthy food and delicious and good quality,” Medrano said.
Medrano also has a different special plate every day, he said. His favorite dishes to create include Salmon or Mahi Mahi.
“You can mix it with fruit or vegetables,” Medrano said, “and it tastes delicious either way.”
In a press release, The Corner Tex-Mix said it will be a “a big change from the old establishment at the same location” and will bring chef-driven food to a Nauck community that “has been historically void of any good restaurants.”
Residents Getting Dominion Scam Calls, Again — Some Arlington residents are again reporting getting phony phone calls claiming to be from Dominion Power. Just in time for this week’s extremely cold weather, the scammer threatens to shut the power off unless the homeowner pays a supposedly overdue bill over the phone.
Child Sex Trafficking Case Had Arlington Connection — A Nevada man pleaded guilty in Alexandria federal court yesterday to charges of prostituting women and underage girls in various states including Virginia. Arlington is one of the Northern Virginia jurisdictions named as a place where the man, Lenny Haskins, plied his trade as a pimp. [Reston Now]
Rosslyn Red Hot and Blue Tchotchkes Moved to N.C. — Various equipment and memorabilia from the now-closed Red Hot and Blue restaurant in Rosslyn are being moved to a new Red Hot and Blue location in Cary, N.C. The Arlington location was the barbecue chain’s first. [Triangle Business Journal]
BBC Mentions Weenie Beenie — The BBC takes a look at the mysterious D.C. food phenomenon known as the half-smoke. The broadcaster points out that the Weenie Beenie in Shirlington, which opened in 1954, may have been the first in the area to start slinging half-smokes. [BBC Travel]
Arlington 13-Year-Old is a Web Cartoonist — Arlington student Cole Goco, 13, is the cartoonist behind a surrealist web comic about a boy, a talking ice pop and a pet turtle. [Washington City Paper]
Last week, Fair Share Education Fund released a report showing eligibility for free or reduced price school lunches is growing faster in suburbs like Arlington than in cities. Although the report focused on 2010-2011, an Arlington Food Assistance Center spokeswoman confirmed the organization still saw a huge increase in Arlington families using its services for the 2014 fiscal year, which ended on June 30.
AFAC served 1,400 families each week as of July 2013, and that bumped up to 2,000 families each week by this summer, which is a 40 percent increase. That equals about 5,000 individuals every week, of which 36 percent are children.
AFAC staff believes two factors contributing to the increase were last year’s government shutdown and the reduction in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
“Last year in November, the SNAP cuts went into effect and we immediately saw an increase in the number of families coming to us,” said AFAC Director of Development Joy Myers. “The average reduction per family was $36 per month. That may not seem like a lot, but when you’re scraping to get by and every penny counts and you’re $36 short, you’re going to try to find all your resources. When they get food from us, they can take that money and pay rent or gas and electric bills, or buy medicine.”
One way AFAC is trying to combat the growing food insecurity for Arlington’s children is by expanding its Backpack Buddies program, which began serving homeless children a few years ago. This year, the pilot program will open up to children in need at four elementary schools — Barcroft, Barrett, Randolph and Carlin Springs.
Kids enrolled in the program receive food on Fridays to take home and eat on Saturday and Sunday when they’re away from school. The kids can choose to take the pre-packaged goods home in their own backpacks, or borrow one and return it on Monday. The program is anonymous to prevent embarrassing children who are signed up. AFAC volunteers drop off the food and backpacks to school cafeteria workers and that’s where kids registered with the program can pick up their weekend supplies.
“We’re trying to de-stigmatize it as much as possible for kids to get the food that they need,” said Myers. “We’re also hoping because there are so many people struggling with food insecurity who aren’t speaking out, we hope this is a way for families to hear about our other services. We don’t want anybody in Arlington going hungry.”
Children at the four schools will take home an information packet when school starts, and their parents have to register through the Arlington Public Schools Office of Food and Nutrition Services.
Although AFAC always can use monetary and food donations, it especially could use help with Backpack Buddies because the pre-packaged, microwaveable kids’ meals are more expensive than other donated items. To donate, volunteer or set up a food drive, log on to the AFAC website for more information.
Att’y General to Consider Streetcar Referendum — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) will be asked by Del. Patrick Hope (D) to weigh in on whether Arlington County has the legal authority to hold an advisory referendum on the Columbia Pike streetcar project. County officials say they don’t have the authority, and without General Assembly approval can only use a referendum for a general obligation bond issue. [InsideNova]
County Fair Adds Pentagon City Shuttle — The Arlington County Fair this year is adding a new shuttle option. In addition to shuttles from the Arlington Career Center, Ballston Metro and the I-66 parking garage, a shuttle will now run every 30 minutes from the Pentagon City Metro station. The fair runs from Aug. 6-10. [Arlington County Fair]
Falls Church, Arlington Treasurers Are Friends — Carla de la Pava and Jody Acosta, the new interim treasurers of Arlington County and Falls Church, are lifelong friends who grew up together in Alexandria. [Falls Church News-Press]
Rand Paul Makes News at Arlington Event — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) made some headlines after speaking at the Young Americans for Liberty convention in Rosslyn last night. Paul told the libertarian group that he will no longer appear on MSNBC until the network apologizes for “lousy lies” about his position on the Civil Rights Act. [CNN]
Half-Priced Cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory — The Cheesecake Factory restaurant in Clarendon (and others around the country) are offering half-priced slices of cheesecake for the second day in a row today in honor of National Cheesecake Day. The restaurant chain this week got some unwelcome attention with several “Xtreme Eating awards” for its calorie-laden meals. One slice of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake alone has 1,500 calories. [Cheesecake Factory, Fox News]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) More than 40,000 attendees — a record — flooded the streets of Ballston Sunday afternoon for sunshine and lots of food and drink during Taste of Arlington, according to the event’s organizer.
Circa restaurant in Clarendon took home the day’s award for best appetizer with its Cobb lettuce wraps. The Green Spoon won the award for best entrée with its Kofte meatballs with tzatziki, spiced kale. and chickpeas. Kool Zone Ice & Treats took home the prize for best dessert.
The Ballston Business Improvement District, which organized the event, estimated that more than 25,000 ticket booklets were sold in advance. The tickets let attendees sample food from 46 restaurants, beer from a dozen breweries, and wine from Barefoot.
Festival-goers also got a chance to vote for the next restaurant that will be coming to Ballston as part of the Ballston Business Improvement District’s Restaurant Challenge. Eight chefs, competing for a year of free restaurant space in Ballston and a $275,000 interest-free loan, entered the competition as semifinalists.
Visitors voted for their favorite on their smartphones and Chef Victor Albisu and restaurateur Christina Campos were chosen as the winners. Albisu, who owns Del Campo in the District and Taco Bamba in Falls Church, served a variety of Mexican street-style food; Campos served Basque seafood stew. Albisu and Campos will compete head-to-head in June in a Top Chef-style cookoff to determine the winner of the Restaurant Challenge.
Disclosure: Ballston BID, Taste of Arlington’s organizer, is an ARLnow.com advertiser.
What better way to start 2014 than with another controversial topic? Kids, food trucks, tipping; you name it, and I will take it on. Well, probably not tipping ever again. That was brutal. Point is, it’s fun to explore some of the more talked about areas of what we do. So what’s first on the list for 2014? Food allergies.
Food allergies can present the most significant challenges to successful service in a restaurant. In some cases, we are told that the literal life of a guest is being placed in our hands for the duration of the meal. No pressure, Chef. It’s hard enough for us to cook a steak medium rare some nights. It’s hard for the guest as well. To constantly have to interrogate the staff about ingredients, to always need to alter the menu and to live in constant anxiety that the kitchen got it right must be terribly stressful.
Working with customers with mild to severe to fatal allergies is something that we do on a nightly basis. In fact, it was this past New Year’s Eve in the dining room at Eventide that the idea for this column came about. Faced with a limited choice tasting menu, a guest was unsure if she would even be able to stay and eat. She informed us that she had a fatal dairy allergy and was carrying an EpiPen in her purse in case she went into anaphylactic shock. She also had a gluten allergy that while not fatal was serious.
Her dining companion’s New Year’s Eve wish was to not have to stab her friend Pulp Fiction-style as the clock struck midnight.
My answer? Let’s look at the menu and figure out how to make it work. That was not easy. We use more than our fair share of butter and there is flour in many more dishes than one might imagine. Step by step we went through the menu, consulted with Chef and tried to figure out a way to make it work on the fly.
That was an example of the most challenging situation — the menu is in front of the guest, they are stuck, and we are learning of a severe allergy as they are trying to find something to eat. It is unavoidable at times to be sure, but it can make things really tough.
On an average weekend night, we have four to five tables in the dining room that have some type of allergy. Is that on the rise? I don’t know. It seems like it, but many allergies — gluten being the primary example — have been historically undiagnosed. Regardless, it is something we deal with on a regular basis, and a conversation with some helpful tips might be a good idea. Allergy sufferers usually know exactly what they need and what they want, and they are usually very good at presenting their needs early and explicitly. However, they are not always the ones making the reservations or booking the events, so this information could be helpful for non-sufferers making the plans as well.
- Plan ahead. The earlier the information can get to the restaurant the better. You can include it in the notes when you book on OpenTable, or you can mention it when you call in. Be as specific as you are able. Exactly what the allergy is and the severity is important. If the diner has preferred substitutions, that is helpful as well. This applies to dietary choices as well as allergies (vegan, vegetarian).
- Do your homework. Everyone has menus online now. Yes, it is true that restaurants are notorious for not being completely current, but you can at least get an idea what the venue offers and what might work as a substitute in advance.
- We love the cards. Many guests arrive and hand a small card to the server that lists the allergies. They are clear and concise, and they go right to the Chef. That eliminates the potentially dangerous opportunity that something might be lost in translation.
- Be clear about the severity. By all means be overcautious, but also be conscious that there is a very big difference between a fatal shellfish allergy and a mild intolerance to cilantro. Restaurants should take all allergies seriously and honor all requests that they can, but if you overstate the severity, you could limit what you can have. With a fatal allergy, we will often rule out serving you any dish or ingredient that has been in the vicinity or even the same floor as the potential offender. With a mild allergy, we might just have to remove a garnish.
- Be a little patient with the kitchens. If we hear in advance that you are coming, there is a better chance we can come up with something more interesting for you. If we hear about it the moment of, there is only so much the kitchen can do. Also, sometimes in order to cover ourselves, if there is the slightest chance of any contamination, and there is a fatal allergy, we might just say “sorry, we can’t do such and such.” It’s the last thing anyone in the hospitality business wants to do, but sometimes we might not be able to accommodate a request.
The first Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week of 2014 will be Jan. 13-19, and 12 Arlington restaurants have already signed up to participate.
The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington coordinates restaurant week, the last of which took place in August and featured 17 local restaurants.
This year, lunch menus will cost $20.14 and dinner menus will cost $35.14, in honor of the new year. There are two restaurants on the list — Cityhouse in Rosslyn and Zaika in Clarendon — that didn’t participate in August.
You can view the lunch and dinner menus and make reservations on the RAMW website. Here’s the current list of participating restaurants in Arlington:
- Cityhouse, 1325 Wilson Blvd, 703-276-8999
- Epic Smokehouse, 1330 S. Fern Street, 571-319-4001
- Farrah Oliva, 2250 Crystal Drive, 571-431-7090
- Jaleo Crystal City, 2250A Crystal Drive, 703-413-8181
- La Tasca, 2900 Wilson Blvd, 703-812-9120
- Liberty Tavern, 3195 Wilson Blvd, 703-465-9360
- Lyon Hall, 3100 N. Washington Blvd, 703-741-7636
- Me Jana, 2300 Wilson Blvd, 703-465-4440
- Melting Pot, 1110 N. Glebe Road, 703-243-4490
- Tallula, 2761 Washington Blvd, 703-778-5051
- Willow Restaurant, 4301 N. Fairfax Drive, 703-465-8800
- Zaika, 2800 Clarendon Blvd, 703-248-8333
Lyon Park Bat Turns Out to Be Something Else — A Lyon Park resident called animal control officers late last month after a startling discovery: a bat inside his or her home. There was only one problem — the responding animal control officer found that the “bat” was actually a sweatband. It’s not the first time something like this has happened. Previously, a balloon had been mistaken for a bat, a ski hat lying on the road was mistaken for a dead cat, and a “mangy, emaciated cat” turned out to be stuffed animal. [DCist]
GOP Trying to Find Candidate for Special Election — The upcoming County Board special election to replace the retiring Chris Zimmerman could give Arlington Republicans their best chance of winning a seat on the Board since the late 1990s, the last time any non-Democrat served as a Board member. “We could really pull a surprise,” said Arlington County Republican Committee chairman Charles Hokanson. [Sun Gazette]
County Seeking Food Donations for AFAC — As part of County Board Chair Walter Tejada’s “Moving Forward Together” initiative, Arlington County is collecting food items to help stock the shelves at the Arlington Food Assistance Center for the winter. Drop-off points have been set up at Arlington community centers and libraries. [Arlington County]
Mary Bono Selling Arlington Condo — Former California congresswoman Mary Bono is selling her two-bedroom, two-bath condo in the Eclipse building, near Potomac Yard, for $569,000. [Washington Post]
Lustron Home for Sale — A “rare and historic” Lustron home in south Arlington is for sale. The prefabricated two-bedroom, one bathroom home is all steel and was considered a “[marvel] of modern efficiency and style” when it was built at the end of World War II. It’s listed at $499,000. [Preservation Arlington]
Flickr pool photo by J. Sonder
There are numerous opportunities for donating your time to a good cause around Arlington, including serving Thanksgiving meals.
In addition to those listed below, other volunteer opportunities throughout the county can be found on the Volunteer Arlington website.
- Thanksgiving Celebration Hosts — Helpers are needed from 11:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 26, for the Clarendon House Thanksgiving celebration. Volunteers will assist with tasks such as decorating, cleaning up and preparing or serving food. Clarendon House is a community-based rehabilitation program for adults diagnosed with serious mental illness. Volunteers must be at least 18 years of age and must show compassion and caring for, as well as comfort interacting with and learning from, adults with serious mental illness. Volunteers should have a positive attitude, be responsible, use good judgment and maintain strict client confidentiality. For more information or to sign up, contact Susan Stolpe via email or at 703-228-1760.
- Deliver and Serve Thanksgiving Dinners — The Knights of Columbus seeks people to help ensure all members of the community — particularly the needy, elderly and home-alone — can celebrate Thanksgiving with a hot meal. Volunteers are needed on Thursday, November 28, to serve and deliver meals for around 3,000 people. Volunteers should be flexible and willing to help out where needed. Those who volunteer as deliverers should have their own vehicle to transport meals. Contact Mary Jo Galvin by email or by calling 703-532-8498.
- Food Drive Hosts — The Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) seeks residents in condo and apartment buildings to host holiday food drives. The volunteers would coordinate with building management to host a food drive in November and/or December to benefit AFAC. Volunteers would be provided with food collection bins and fliers that can be posted around the building. Those interested in helping should contact Danielle Rampton at [email protected]
More than a hundred people swarmed the Z-Burger near Clarendon this afternoon (Tuesday), hoping to make the best of the first day of the federal government shutdown by scoring a free cheeseburger.
Z-Burger (3325 Wilson Blvd) is one of several restaurants in Arlington offering specials to workers with government IDs to try to ease the burden of workers forced to take a furlough after government shut down at midnight tonight. Z-Burger is offering free burgers to workers with government IDs from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Jaleo (2250 Crystal Drive) is offering free sandwiches to government workers with valid IDs from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. every day of the shutdown, owner/chef José Andrés tweeted last night. District Taco (5723 Lee Highway) also announced that their brick-and-mortar store at 5723 Lee Hwy would be offering a free taco to government employees on furlough.
The Washington Post has a full list of specials restaurants in the D.C. area are offering during the shutdown.
Many of those waiting in the line that snaked all the way around the shop said they had resigned themselves to the shutdown well before Monday’s deadline. When one Department of Defense worker, who declined to provide his name, was asked if he was frustrated, he shook his head.
“It happens so often that if you get frustrated every time, you’ll get an ulcer,” he said. Defense employees began their second furlough of the year Tuesday morning.
Another government worker said after all the deadlines Congress has waited until the 11th hour to avoid, the shutdown was almost a relief, he said.
“It’s about time they gave us a day off,” he said. “It does suck for people living paycheck to paycheck, but I don’t expect it to last more than a week.”
A National Science Foundation worker said multiple times that he wished that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) — a pivotal Senate Republican in the buildup to the shutdown — would “go back to Canada,” before lamenting the millions of dollars in grants in jeopardy at the NSF if the shutdown lasts an extended period of time.
“It’s so nice out, I want to use this time to go to the [National] Mall, some museums, maybe get my passport updated,” he said. “Oh wait, it’s all closed.”
Starting with lunch today, Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week has officially begun.
Seventeen Arlington restaurants are listed on the Restaurant Week website. Participating restaurants will offer customers prix fixe menus at $20.13 for lunch and $35.13 for dinner.
Since earlier this month, several additional restaurants have signed on to participate, including Mad Rose Tavern at 3100 Clarendon Blvd, which is only offering dinner specials, and Sushi Rock at 1900 Clarendon Blvd, offering both lunch and dinner.
The Restaurant Week website has links to menus and to OpenTable for reservations. The list of Arlington eateries offering lunch and/or dinner specials include:
- Epic Smokehouse, 1330 S. Fern Street, 571-319-4001.
- Farrah Oliva, 2250 Crystal Drive, 571-431-7090.
- Fuego Cocina y Tequileria, 2800 Clarendon Blvd, 202-216-5988.
- Fyve at The Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City, 1250 S. Hayes Street, 703-415-5000.
- Jaleo Crystal City, 2250A Crystal Drive, 703-413-8181.
- La Tagliatella, 2950 Clarendon Blvd, 571-257-4600.
- La Tasca, 2900 Wilson Blvd, 703-812-9120.
- Legal Sea Foods, 2301 Jefferson Davis Highway, 703-415-1200.
- Liberty Tavern, 3195 Wilson Blvd, 703-465-9360.
- Lyon Hall, 3100 N. Washington Blvd, 703-741-7636.
- Mad Rose Tavern, 3100 Clarendon Blvd, 703-600-0500.
- Me Jana, 2300 Wilson Blvd, 703-465-4440.
- Melting Pot, 1110 N. Glebe Road, 703-243-4490.
- Pinzimini, 801 N. Glebe Road, 703-537-4200.
- Sushi Rock, 1900 Clarendon Blvd, 571-312-8027.
- Tallula, 2761 Washington Blvd, 703-778-5051.
- Willow Restaurant, 4301 N. Fairfax Drive, 703-465-8800.
The 16th annual Clarendon Day festival, in September, will include a new addition: the official D.C. Chili Cookoff.
The cookoff is moving to Clarendon after its usual venue, the DC101 Chili Cookoff at RFK Stadium, apparently didn’t include an actual chili competition this past May. The event will now be sponsored by Hard Times Cafe.
“We wanted to carry on the D.C. Chili tradition since we’ve been involved with it for the past 33 years,” said Hard Times co-founder Jim Parker. “The cookoff is sanctioned by the International Chili Society (ICS) and we expect to host competition chili cooks from all over the East Coast.”
Parker said past chili cookoffs have consisted of about 30 cooking teams competing in three categories: red chili, chili verde and salsa. This year, however, a new category, called “homestyle,” will be added.
“This category is more like the chili your mother used to make,” Parker said.
The teams will set up on the morning of Clarendon Day and cook chili on site. A panel of judges will start tasting the chili around 1:00 p.m., and the winners will be announced around 5:00 p.m. The winners will be the final qualifiers for the World’s Championship Chili Cookoff in California in October.
“Once the chilies (and salsa) are turned in to the judges the general public may taste and vote for the chili or salsa they like the best — as long as it lasts,” said Parker.
Clarendon Day will take place from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28, in the area around the Clarendon Metro station. In addition to chili, the event will feature live music; food from local restaurants; beer, wine and other beverages; arts and crafts exhibitors; kids’ activities; and booths manned by local businesses and organizations.
Matt Hussmann, Executive Director of the Clarendon Alliance, which organizes Clarendon Day, says the chili cookoff will be a welcome addition to the day’s festivities.
“We’re very excited about having the D.C. Chili Cookoff,” said Matt Hussmann. “We’re hoping for a great event.”
Whereas the DC101 Chili Cookoff was a music-centric event, Hussmann said that cookoff organizers were looking for a new venue that will allow the chili to stand on its own.
“They really wanted to re-calibrate what they’re doing,” he said. “They wanted to focus on the chili and on family-friendly events. We’re pretty happy about it.”
Hussmann said other Clarendon Day details, like the live music lineup, are still being worked out. One notable subtraction this year: the Virginia Hospital Center Foundation “Family Fun Day” attractions that have been featured in previous years.
Ballston is getting a little more Belgian, thanks to the opening of Mussel Bar and Grille (800 N. Glebe Road) this week.
Today and tomorrow the restaurant is holding its soft opening for invited guests and will open to the public for dinner on Thursday. Friday will be the first day it will open for lunch.
This is the third Mussel Bar and Grille location, joining others in Bethesda and Atlantic City. Owner and chef Brian McBride hopes to expand to as many as 10 locations. He thought Arlington seemed perfect for the newest restaurant.
“This Arlington area seems to be booming,” McBride said. “This is going to be a fun spot. It’s designed to be a neighborhood gathering place. It’s not pretentious, it’s very casual.”
As the restaurant’s name implies, mussels are the house specialty. Mussel Bar and Grille has exclusive rights in the D.C. area to Penn Cove mussels. That variety comes from the oldest mussel farm in the United States, and McBride says they have plumper, sweeter meat.
“We pay a lot more for those mussels than the standard P.E.I.s [Prince Edward Island mussels],” said McBride, “Just so we can have the best mussels we can get.”
Other seafood dishes include Maryland crabcakes and lobster rolls. The restaurant also offers options for customers wishing to munch on something other than seafood, such as brick oven fired pizzas, steak frites and a lamb meatball sandwich.
Chefs at Mussel Bar and Grille concentrate on old fashioned food preparation techniques, according to McBride. He notes that although each dish will look modern, no shortcuts will be taken, unlike other chain restaurants.
Along with the mussels, the restaurant will focus on Belgian beers. The bar offers 18 beers on tap and more than 100 others in bottles. Bartenders will be able to suggest beer selections that complement each customer’s dish.
“The goal is to introduce as many different kinds of Belgian beer to Arlington as we possibly can,” said McBride.
Bar Manager Adam Jarvis pointed out that the restaurant also serves up specialty drinks highlighting the time when the Bob Peck Chevrolet dealership sat on the land. The drinks bear the names of Chevy models like El Camino, Bel Air and Camaro.
“This is a big thing, to keep the Arlington community, and the history of Arlington as well,” said Jarvis.
Mussel Bar and Grille will have happy hour specials every day of the week from 3:00-6:30 p.m.
“I think people should be happy on the weekend,” McBride said. “It shouldn’t just be a Monday through Friday thing.”
The goal is to accommodate everyone at the restaurant, from bar goers to business people to families. Customers can sit in the dining area, order at the bar or enjoy the outdoor seating.
“Customers rule,” said McBride. “We don’t set too many rules.”
One rule the restaurant does abide by, however, is limiting the number of customers allowed in at one time for the first few weeks. McBride said it gives staff a chance to acclimate to the new system and smooth out any issues. He expects to go “full blown” in September and will begin offering weekend brunch at that time. For now, the restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday, and will begin serving on Mondays after Labor Day.