Arlington, VA

For some diners, Ballston ends at Glebe Road, and a handful of restaurant owners at the western end of the neighborhood are feeling left out.

As numerous businesses have sprung up in the central part of Ballston, the western edge has suffered a series of high-profile closures.

The epicenter of the new restaurant openings is the newly-redeveloped Ballston Quarter mall and the ground floor of Ballston Exchange, just across Wilson Blvd from the mall — both in the central portion of the neighborhood, where several new residential and office buildings are also under construction.

“The gathering place is on the other side of Glebe Road,” said Brian McBride, one of the owners of Mussel Bar and Grille (800 N. Glebe Road). He listed off a number of places near his restaurant that have closed.

Cheesetique, which closed in June, is the most recent example. The storefront is still vacant, with lingering signs advertising long-gone desserts. Applebee’s and Il Forno along the same stretch of Glebe Road have both also closed over the last few years.

Manny Tangle, owner of Filipino restaurant Bistro 1521 (900 N. Glebe Road), said the improvements and changes taking place across Glebe Road have had no discernible effect on his businesses — for better or worse.

Restaurateurs along the west side of Glebe Road almost unanimously agreed that the biggest challenges for local businesses all stem from traffic issues. McBride and Tangle both agreed it can be difficult for visitors to find the right places to park. The parking for Mussel Bar and Grille, for instance, is only available by making a somewhat complex set of turns behind the building.

For Bistro 1521, the big frustration is being stuck between the “No U-Turn” signs at Fairfax Drive and Wilson Blvd, so if someone misses their turn to get to the restaurant, it’s several more blocks before they can turn around and make another pass.

Even at Good Company Doughnuts and Cafe (672 N. Glebe Road), which had a stronger than expected first few months, co-owner Kate Murphy said most of their customers came from the residential areas west of Glebe Road. The sparse number of crosswalks and perpetual construction meant the eatery didn’t see as much foot traffic from people visiting the Ballston Quarter area across the street, according to Murphy.

But it’s not all gloom and doom for these restaurants. Mary Marchetti, owner of Stageplate Bistro (900 N. Glebe Road), said the challenges of the west side of Glebe Road also come with some unique opportunities.

“Our side of Glebe Road tends to be more affordable to the independent restaurateur,” Marchetti said. “SER, us, Mussel, Bistro… would any of us have been able to afford Ballston Quarter? No, the rents are too high and we don’t have that kind of clout. So here we are, on our little independent strip of restaurants.”

If anything, Marchetti said the biggest challenge for the archipelago of independent restaurants is overcoming the reputation that west-of-Glebe is where eateries go to die.

“Ending that stigma will help drive businesses here,” Marchetti said. “The dining scene in Ballston has so much to offer. Ballston should be a dining mecca.”

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(Updated at 10:15 a.m.) The N. Glebe Road bridge over Pimmit Run has been serving drivers, cyclists and pedestrians since 1973 but is due for some major maintenance.

At a public meeting tonight (Tuesday) at Williamsburg Middle School (3600 N. Harrison Street), the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is scheduled to unveil new plans for the bridge. The improvements are aimed at improving safety and extending the overall life of the bridge.

According to a press release, improvements will include:

  • Repairing and resurfacing the bridge deck
  • Repairing, waterproofing and providing corrosion protection to abutments and piers
  •  Repairing, cleaning and painting beams
  •  Replacing railings along bicycle and pedestrian connection to trails
  • Upgrading guardrails and drainage

The bridge feeds into nearby Chain Bridge and sees an average of 12,000 vehicles each day.

The press release says the event will be an open house running from 6:30-8:30 p.m., with displays and information about the project’s design. A presentation will be made at 7 p.m.

The project is estimated to cost $7.5 million and will be financed by the State of Good Repair fund, a state and federal program used to address repairs on bridges considered structurally deficient on the National Bridge Inventory, according to the press release.

Construction is expected to start in fall 2020.

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An under-construction home caught fire this morning, prompting an emergency response that closed part of N. Glebe Road during the morning rush hour.

Video from the scene shows smoke coming from the top of the home, at the intersection of Glebe and 33rd Street N., just north of Washington Golf and Country Club.

The fire, which was first reported just before 7 a.m., has since been extinguished. No visible signs of fire damage can be seen on the front of the home.

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A cement truck flipped on its side on the ramp from northbound I-395 to S. Glebe Road.

No injuries have been reported and the occupants of the truck were able to get out before emergency responders arrived on scene, according to scanner traffic. The circumstances surrounding the crash, which happened shortly before 1:30 p.m., are unclear.

The ramp is blocked as the crash cleanup gets underway.

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Morning Notes

‘Mabel’s Restaurant’ Coming to Arlington Heights — The restaurant coming to the grounds of the Dominion Apartments, at the former Sherwin Williams paint store (3411 5th Street S.), is called “Mabel’s Restaurant.” An outdoor seating area is planned for the restaurant, according to permit filings. [Arlington Economic Development]

Northam Visits Amazon — “In June, we were excited to open our first temporary office space for our Arlington headquarters in Crystal City. Today, we welcomed @GovernorVA to tour our new work space and meet with Amazonians from the Commonwealth.” [Twitter]

Crystal City Conducting Survey — “The area encompassing Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard – Arlington is a dynamic mixed-use urban center and Virginia’s largest walkable downtown… we are embarking on a place branding effort to uncover our neighborhood story and create a striking visual identity.” [Crystal City BID]

History of Heidelberg Bakery — “Heidelberg Bakery is a local landmark in Arlington… In this oral history clip, Carla and Wolfgang Buchler, owners of the Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe, discuss the lack of diversity in breads that Wolfgang found in America when he first came to the U.S. in the 1970’s–and how tastes have changed, partly due to Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe’s delicious treats.” [Arlington Public Library]

Glebe Road Bridge Project — “The Virginia Department of Transportation on Tuesday, Aug. 13 will hold a community forum on its plans to rehabilitate the Route 120 (North Glebe Road) bridge over Pimmit Run to improve safety and extend the bridge’s overall lifespan. The event will be held on from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Williamsburg Middle School, 3600 North Harrison St. in Arlington.” [InsideNova]

‘Drunkard’ Ruling Won’t Be Appealed — “Virginia’s attorney general on Friday said he will not appeal a ruling that struck down a state law allowing police to arrest and jail people designated as ‘habitual drunkards.'” [Associated Press]

Oil in Sink Causes ‘Fatbergs’ — “If you pour used cooking grease down the kitchen sink, you’re not alone — according to a new survey, 44 percent of respondents in the D.C. region pour cooking oil, fat, or grease down the sink at least occasionally. In doing so — rather than dumping it in the trash–you may be contributing to the creation of something truly horrifying — a fatberg.” [DCist]

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(Updated 11:20 a.m.) Bad traffic on Glebe Road is partially to blame for the success of a new donut shop.

The veteran-owned Good Company Doughnuts & Cafe (672 N. Glebe Road) is celebrating a better-than-expected first few months after opening in April.

“We beat our expectations for the first 90 days,” said Kate Murphy, one of the owners of Good Company. “We’re at about 20 percent higher sales than we’d expected.”

“We sell about 400 doughnuts a day and 600 on weekends,” Murphy elaborated. “So that’s about 3,000-4,000 per week, not including orders.”

Murphy said the eatery has also seen higher levels of catering and wholesale accounts than they had anticipated. Plus, Good Company is getting good reviews: ranking 4.5 stars out of 5 on Yelp with 66 reviews.

It all adds up to a promising start for the business, despite being across the street from a big food-centric mall on the less-trodden side of N. Glebe Road, where other restaurants have struggled.

Many of the store customers are neighbors. Restaurants that rely heavily on workers as the customer base can tend to see declines on weekends, but Murphy said having neighbors as a reliable source of customers has given them boosted weekend sales.

Murphy once ran a donut shop in New Hampshire before she moved to Arlington. She said Sunday was the store’s least busy day, but at Good Company it’s the busiest.

The embrace from the nearby residential communities is partially because Good Company is one of the few new, independent restaurants in the area on the western side of Glebe Road.

“The neighborhood is really anxious to have something on this side of Glebe Road so they don’t have to play frogger with traffic,” Murphy said.

There are other Ballston-area donut and pastry shops like Dunkin Donuts and the new Sidekick and District Doughnuts in Ballston Quarter. Murphy said her store has had to adapt and incorporate some unique flavors and offerings, but for the most part the shop is the kind of classic donut-and-coffee shop the clientele grew up visiting.

“We’re more traditional,” Murphy said. “People still come for the classics… We roll the dough out and hand-cut each of them.”

Honey Dip — fancy talk for “glazed” — is the restaurant’s most popular item, followed by chocolate frosted with sprinkles. The latter is a particular hit with children.

But Murphy isn’t a donut-luddite. Maple bacon donuts are now a staple of the store, and while Murphy said her old shop had maple donuts, they wouldn’t have thought to add bacon.

One of the biggest challenges the restaurant faced early on was building a quality staff, which Murphy attributed to the low unemployment rate in the area. But now, Murphy said she has assembled a team that lives up to the store’s name and is more comfortable handing the reins over to catch a break during the day — critical given that the baking starts at midnight or earlier for the following day.

The company is currently getting ready for some of its first community events, with plans to set up coffee and donut stands at the Arlington County Fair, the Marine Corp Marathon, and the Arlington Turkey Trot 5K.

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Morning Notes

Developer May Build Second Metro Entrance — “A plan submitted by developer JBG Smith to Arlington County could see the company put in charge of building the second Crystal City Metro station entrance, a long-sought-after project that would increase access to the station. If approved, the new entrance would be built along Crystal Drive near 18th Street.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Glebe Road Crash Yesterday Morning — “Police say the crash was caused by a driver attempting to merge onto southbound Glebe from 16th Street S. striking another vehicle heading southbound. No significant injuries were reported.” [Twitter]

Company Opens New HQ in Ballston — “Armor Express, a leading manufacturer and distributor of high-performance protective solutions for the Domestic and Federal Law Enforcement markets, Department of Defense and First Responders, today announced the grand opening of its new corporate headquarters in Arlington, VA.” [Globe Newswire]

Video: Olli on Fort Myer — New videos show the Olli autonomous shuttle driving around Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. [Twitter]

New Funding for 9/11 Victim Fund — “U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today applauded the passage of a bill to continue providing financial support to those who suffered physical harm or families of those who were killed as a result of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks or ensuing debris removal efforts.” [Press Release, NBC News]

Nearby: Boy Dies at McLean Construction Site — A boy died after a ditch collapsed at a large excavation site in McLean, near the Arlington border and Jamestown Elementary. The boy was reportedly working to build a sewage line at a new residential development. [Tysons Reporter, NBC 4]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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A crash has closed lanes of busy S. Glebe Road during the morning rush hour.

At least two vehicles were involved in the crash. One lane in each direction was blocked at 2nd Street S. as of around 9 a.m., according to the Arlington County Fire Department.

Drivers should expect minor delays in the area while crews work to clean up the crash scene and tow away the vehicles.

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(Updated at 1:20 p.m.) Arlington County Police will close the busy intersection of S. Glebe Road and Columbia Pike for two hours over the weekend as part of a crash investigation.

The closure is scheduled from about 6-8 a.m. Saturday, ACPD said in a statement today. Detectives will be conducting “follow-up investigation pertaining to a critical multiple vehicle crash,” which happened last Friday afternoon.

One person was seriously injured and trapped in their vehicle as a result of the crash, according to scanner traffic at the time.

“One victim was transported to an area hospital with critical, but non-life threatening injuries,” said ACPD spokeswoman Kirby Clark. “No other significant injuries were reported.”

More from ACPD:

The Arlington County Police Department’s Critical Accident Team will close the intersection of South Glebe Road and Columbia Pike on Saturday, June 22 in order to conduct a follow-up investigation pertaining to a critical multiple vehicle crash that occurred at approximately 3:14 p.m. on June 14.

The following road closures will be conducted in order to restrict access to the intersection from 6:00 a.m. until approximately 8:00 a.m.:

  • South Glebe Road, northbound at South Monroe Street and southbound at 9th Street South
  • Columbia Pike, eastbound at South Monroe Street and westbound at South Highland Street

Access to businesses within the area will not be impacted, but vehicular traffic and pedestrian traffic in some areas will be restricted.

Motorists are advised to avoid the area during the specified time and seek alternate routes. To access points north and south, motorists may use South George Mason Drive and South Walter Reed Drive. To access points east and west, motorists may use Route 50 and South Four Mile Run Drive.

The investigation into the circumstances of this crash remain ongoing and anyone with additional information related to this incident is asked to contact Detective B. Ames at [email protected] or 703-228-7073. To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 866.411.TIPS (8477).

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The driver of a car ran off the side of N. Glebe Road, struck a tree, and then allegedly tried to drive off when police arrived.

The incident happened around 10:30 a.m. on the 3400 block of N. Glebe Road, near the Country Club Hills neighborhood. It’s unclear how the single-vehicle crash happened, nor is it clear whether the driver was heading northbound or southbound at the time of the crash, but it damaged a tree and bushes in the front yard of a home along Glebe Road.

The vehicle suffered front-end damage on the driver’s side, but the driver allegedly started to drive off when police arrived, according to scanner traffic. Muddy tire tracks could be seen in the roadway.

The driver stopped a short distance away and was transported to Virginia Hospital Center for unspecified injuries.

Police could be seen examining an open plastic bottle near the vehicle shortly after the ambulance departed the scene.

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(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) Police and firefighters are on scene of a major crash at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Glebe Road.

The westbound lanes of Columbia Pike and at least one northbound lane of Glebe are blocked by the crash and the emergency activity. Drivers should expect significant evening rush hour traffic impacts in the area.

Initial reports suggest three vehicles were involved and at least two people were injured, one of whom suffered serious injuries and was rushed to a local trauma center.

Photos (1, 2) courtesy @LAGATAF1NA/Twitter

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