Arlington, VA

The former Linda’s Cafe along Lee Highway has been given the figurative People’s Elbow.

Already down for the count and set to be replaced by a new Bob and Edith’s Diner location, the building that housed Linda’s is now no more. Gone is the one-time home of “excellent burgers” and an extra-spicy Twitter account.

Demolition of the building has been underway since at least Monday, after workers fenced off the lot in preparation for the project, according to tipsters.

As of this article’s publication time, a rep for Bob and Edith’s Diner did not respond to a request for an update on the new location, the anticipated opening of which has been delayed for months.

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A new indoor swimming school is coming soon to Lee Highway in Arlington.

SwimBox offers one-on-one lessons to swimmers of all ages, from beginners to athletes. All lessons take place in the shallow, warm-water “Endless Pool,” with instant video feedback to customize swimming technique.

“We are anxious to work with the masters swimmers, competitive age group swimmers, triathletes, and adults learning to swim that live in/close to that area,” said owner Lissa Latella. “We find that the adult community is often overlooked in terms of learning to swim, so it will be great to provide that service to this new area as well.”

The space is slated to open in December, according to Latella, underneath Caribbean Grill at 5183 Lee Highway.

“The move to Arlington has been something we’ve been wanting to do for the past few years, but finding a good space that allows for our pool was a bit hard in an area where most buildings have underground parking garages,” said Latella. “Can’t put a pool above something like that!”

SwimBox applied for a construction permit in August, per county records, in which it was labeled as an “above ground modular spa.”

Photo courtesy SwimBox

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Morning Notes

Sietsema’s Dining Guide Includes Arlington Spots — Out of 77 restaurants on Washington Post food critic’s prestigious  annual Fall Dining Guide, four are Arlington-based or have Arlington outposts: Thai Square on Columbia Pike, Sfoglina in Rosslyn, Jaleo in Crystal City, and Buena Vida in Clarendon. [Washington Post]

Dance Flash Mob in Ballston — “Flash Mob in #Ballston! Volunteers and @BMDCdance treated @marymountu’s Ballston Center students to an impromptu performance at the Fall Wellness Fair! #LifeisFull” [Twitter]

Man Arrested for Sexual Abuse of Child on Metro — “Patel was stopped by MTPD officers shortly before 6 p.m. after a juvenile male victim reported that the suspect sat next to him and then groped him aboard a Yellow Line train traveling between Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations. The train was in the District of Columbia at the time of the offense.” [WMATA]

ACPD Encouraging ‘See Something, Say Something’ — “While the overall crime rate is down regionwide, in 2019 there’s an increase in the number of people calling police in Arlington, Virginia; and the police chief thinks it is because people are becoming engaged with law enforcement. And that’s a good thing.” [WTOP]

‘Trail Rage’ Incident in Arlington — “At approximately 4:50 p.m., the victim and a friend were riding their bikes along the Custis Trail when they had a brief exchange with the suspect who was traveling by bicycle in the opposite direction. The suspect later caught up to the victim on the trail, became aggressive and struck the victim’s bike with his tire, before the victim was able to ride away. The suspect again caught up to the victim, attempted to grab his personal belongings, before the victim kicked the suspects’ bicycle and rode away.” [Arlington County]

Lee Highway Planning Meeting Today — “From 12-3:30pm: Lee Highway-area residents, business owners, community members and other stakeholders are encouraged to attend the Plan Lee Highway: Open Design Studio.” [Twitter, Arlington County]

Nearby: Rabid Raccoon in Falls Church — “On October 4, a sick raccoon was euthanized by City of Falls Church Police in the area of Lea Court and S. Spring Street. On October 9, the Fairfax County Health Department confirmed that the raccoon was suffering from rabies. In this case, there was no human exposure to the animal, however, the community should be cognizant of the rabies threat at all times.” [City of Falls Church]

Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak

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(Updated at 6:35 p.m.) When Cowboy Cafe’s beloved regular Jerome Williams passed away earlier this year, he didn’t have any immediate family to mourn him — but he had his friends at “the Cowboy,” and the bar’s memorial service was packed out the door.

“Working at the Cowboy, the customers aren’t just customers,” said current general manager Amanda Wellborn. “They’re family, and I mean it. I’ve never experienced anything else like it.”

There aren’t many dive bars left in Arlington — Cowboy Cafe (4792 Lee Highway) and the Forest Inn in Westover are two notable exceptions. As time goes on there’s concern for what’s left: Cowboy Cafe, for instance, once made a Preservation Arlington “endangered places” list.

But the current owners are confident it’s not going anywhere, and actively want its customers to call it a dive. (Nearby, the shuttered greasy spoon Linda’s Cafe is still waiting to reopen as a new Bob and Edith’s Diner.)

“Yeah, we’ve made improvements, but we make an effort to not change a lot and keep it the way it is,” said owner Mike Barnes, who bought the place in 2011 with his brother James and two of their friends from Yorktown High School. They also own several Lost Dog Café franchises together.

Before the bar was founded, it was a smokey, old-school American restaurant called Clam House, built in 1948.

In 1991, Cowboy Cafe founder Charlie Campbell took over Clam House and transformed it into the rough-and-out, Southwestern biker bar. Mementos from the mid-90s still remain, such as a Native American statue and a wall lined with various license plates — plus the much-adored, half-priced burger specials.

Then in 2007, it was purchased by Zac and Matt Culbertson, who also work with the Lost Dog franchise.

“When I heard the Culbertsons were thinking about selling [in 2011], I immediately offered,” said Barnes.

Barnes and his team got right to work on giving the place some much needed TLC, including remodeling the “scary” bathroom, installing a 14-tap beer system, and promoting its family-friendly brunch.

But aside from those improvements, they’ve kept it largely the same — including keeping the mural on the back wall that depicts Campbell, the Culbertsons, and Williams, a testament to its rich history and the customers who’ve kept it going.

Regulars say it’s still the Cowboy Cafe they know and love, complete with quirks and a convivial sense of community.

“I love the nachos, the authenticity, the wait staff that gets to know you, and the fact that almost nothing inside has changed in 20 years,” said Jeremy Flantzer, a long-time Arlington resident and effusive Cowboy Cafe fan.

Like many others who frequent the restaurant, he has a particular Cowboy Cafe story that helps cement its local legend.

“I once saw someone eat The Barnyard” — a $15 burger consisting of two half-pound beef patties, barbeque pork, two slices of cheddar, a fried egg and bacon — “after a full order of wings,” he said, still in amazement.

“It’s my ‘Cheers’ bar,” said another longtime regular, who asked ARLnow not to include her name. “I’ve seen it all here — once a man came in without wearing pants. And it’s no secret that the parking is tight, everyone’s [had a fender-bender] at least once.”

But, she continued, when it happened to her, there was a note on the windshield and everything was taken care of.

“People who go to the Cowboy — they care — they know to leave a note,” she said. “Not quite sure if I could say that about everyone else in Arlington.”

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Last night, an art shop along Lee Highway debuted a brand new mural from a Spanish artist.

“I think it’s going to be a nice ‘talk of the town,'” said Jimmy Hakimi, who owns the business, KH Art & Framing. “It’s a nice art for the area. We are an art gallery so it makes sense.”

The shop is located at the busy intersection of Lee Highway and N. Glebe Road, which made the building ideal for local officials looking to find a home for the public art that the Spanish Embassy was hoping to commission locally. The painter behind the new mural is Spanish artist David de la Mano.

“Hopefully it will bring some customers, but that wasn’t the main use,” said Hakimi, who has run the businesses for 33 years.

De la Mano is known for his monochromatic murals depicting groups of people fighting forces and fears, often intertwined with elements of nature like branches or animals.

His Arlington mural depicts ragtag groups of people marching forward with spindly flags upwards in an overgrown forest — inside of a person’s skull.

“He was a really fun artist to work with,” said Ginger Brown, vice president of the Lee Highway Alliance, which helped coordinate the project.

The Spanish embassy in D.C. had originally commissioned de la Mano for its own annual, mural project inside the embassy before looking for public art opportunities the artist could take advantage while in the area.

“It seems like it was a wonderful opportunity to have David’s work in Arlington,” said Ernesto Coro, a cultural affairs officer with the embassy who added the country liked to see “have the imprint of Spain” on the street.

The county has long sought to redevelop the area along Lee Highway, a mostly car-oriented stretch of parking lots and businesses between the East Falls Church Metro station and the Lyon Village neighborhood near Rosslyn. In 2016, the county-appointed Lee Highway Alliance released plans to study ways of transforming the region an “attractive, prosperous, safe, healthy, and livable main street community.”

“We’ve always wanted to incorporate public art into the corridor,” said Brown. “That includes temporary and permanent public art.”

Altogether she said the project cost around $7,000 — $6,000 of that went to de la Mano and another $1,000 went to buy the paint. Arlington developer BCN Homes covered the cost of the paint while the Spanish embassy and developer JBG Smith split the artist fees. Real estate firm Long & Foster sponsored Monday night’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

 The mural itself is titled “Changes Begins Within,” a title Brown said fits the corridor.

“It goes along with Lee Highway. It’s changing,” she said. “Our organization is a grassroots organization so we’re within. Change from within.”

Hakimi said the wall of his business at 4745 Lee Highway is usually repainted every five years, which means de la Mano’s mural may be only temporary.

“It’s possible that we keep it going,” he said. “As long as people like, we keep it.”

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Morning Notes

Bezos Talks HQ2 — “[Amazon CEO Jeff] Bezos was pressed on why Amazon would seek to build its headquarters in a dense area like Arlington, given the potential disruptive impacts of the company’s army of new workers moving into the area. But he reiterated that he’s ‘glad it’s not in the suburbs,’ arguing that the new HQ’s location demonstrates Amazon’s commitment to environmental sustainability.” [Washington Business Journal]

No Plan to Change Lee Highway Name — “Speculation that the currently active Lee Highway Alliance has a name change as part of its planning for re-imagining that major road is unfounded, according to its vice president, Sandra Chesrown.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Pedestrian Tunnel to DCA? — “Plans are slowly coming together for a pedestrian connection linking Reagan National Airport to Crystal City, one of the crucial transportation improvements Arlington pitched when luring Amazon to the area… A crucial decision the county will need to make: whether the pedestrian connection will be a bridge or a tunnel.” [Washington Business Journal]

Solo Commuters on the Decline — “Compared with 2004, the number of [D.C. area] commuters driving alone is down; transit use is up. 58% drive alone — down 13 percentage points.” [WTOP]

Arlington Company Moving to Tysons — Woman-owned consulting firm eGlobalTech moved its headquarters to Tysons after outgrowing its Arlington office. [Tysons Reporter]

Reminder: PARK(ing) Day Today — PARK(ing) Day will transform 13 parking spaces around the county into pop-up parks today. [ARLnow]

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Arlington officials have proposed two preliminary designs for the replacement of Fire Station 8 on Lee Highway.

The designs will be discussed tonight at a 7 p.m. public community meeting in the Langston-Brown Community Center (2121 N. Culpepper Street).

In July, the county asked residents in an online survey which outdoor features they’d like to see at the new station. There were 164 responses, with a “historic map” as the top request.

All of the outdoor features in question — a historic map, seating wall, exterior skin, beacon of light, and virtue monuments — are distributed between two design proposals.

The design process was conducted with the fire station’s history in mind. For decades, Fire Station 8 was the only station in Arlington staffed by African-Americans — members of the Hall’s Hill Volunteer Fire Department.

Designed by the architecture firm Lemay Erickson Wilcox, the firm aims to “pay homage to the past while providing an updated and modern facility for this 21st-century fire department and the community it serves.”

One of the proposed designs, “Plaza Concept A” would feature a salvaged stone wall made from the Hicks family house, memorializing the importance of the Hicks family, which owned businesses along Lee Highway and in 1934 provided the land — at the intersection with N. Culpeper Street — on which the fire station now sits.

Additional “Plaza Concept A” features include the requested historic map, designed as a stone outline of the Station 8 coverage area, plus landmarks of the Hall’s Hill neighborhood.

Alternatively, “Plaza Concept B” would feature a large perforated metal screen on the outside of the station, depicting a historical image of the station to be seen by cars which drive by.

A seating wall wrapped around the edge of the “Plaza Concept B” would provide seating areas for the public and firefighters, with historical dates written throughout.

The county is still a ways away from breaking ground. The $21 million reconstruction project for the 100-year-old station is expected to officially kick off next fall, with full completion slated for fall 2022.

Photos via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

Thousands Expected at Today’s Amazon Event — “Thousands of job-seekers are expected to swarm the site of Amazon’s future headquarters at a ‘career day‘ in Crystal City on Tuesday, as the online retail giant begins to accelerate its hiring and presence in Northern Virginia.” The opening time has been pushed up to 8 a.m. [Washington Post, Twitter]

Suspect Chomps on Cop Along Lee Highway — “The officer initiated a traffic stop on the vehicle and made contact with Suspect One, when he observed Suspect Two attempt to flee on foot. With the assistance of additional officers arriving on scene, Suspect Two was stopped. While officers attempted to remove Suspect One from the vehicle and detain him, he actively resisted and bit an officer.” [Arlington County]

Race No Longer Required on Marriage LicensesUpdated at 8:45 a.m. — “Virginia will no longer require couples to identify by race on their marriage licenses, the state’s attorney general announced this week. Under a new policy — which Attorney General Mark Herring detailed in emails to court clerks and members of the media late Friday — people getting married will be able to select ‘Declined to Answer’ in a box asking about race.” [Washington Post]

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The widened stretch of the Custis Trail through Rosslyn finally opened to pedestrian and cyclist traffic late yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon.

The new improvements widen the Custis Trail along westbound Lee Highway from N. Lynn and N. Oak streets, a popular stretch of the trail that connects the Metro corridor to the Key Bridge and the Mount Vernon Trail.

After months of passing each other in the narrow confines of the slimmed-down path along Lee Highway, cyclists and pedestrians both immediately took to the new trail. The former travel lane has now been blocked off with orange barriers.

Even with the widening wrapped up, the project website said work will still continue on installing permanent signs along the trail, but with a minimal impact on trail traffic.

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After weeks of remodeling, the Wendy’s at 5066 Lee Highway is back open for business, with a “free food for a year” giveaway this weekend.

The fast food restaurant quietly opened earlier this week, but the grand opening celebration is scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday) from 9-11 a.m. The first 100 customers in line by 10 a.m. will have a chance to win free food for a year, according to a press release.

Two of the biggest non-decorative upgrades for the new Wendy’s are a new Coca-Cola Freestyle beverage dispenser — a soda machine with a lot of choices — and free Wi-Fi internet service.

“This restaurant has bold curb appeal and features a compelling design — inside and out,” said Arif Islam, Wendy’s region manager, in the press release. “It’s very different from what our customers in Arlington are used to, but we think they’ll really like the fresh look and feel of the new Wendy’s.”

The press release boasts that the new Wendy’s boasts improvements like “large windows” and “multiple seating options,” which in practice means the fast-food restaurant has been brought up to par with other renovated spots like the Taco Bell down the street and fellow renovated Wendy’s locations on Columbia Pike and King Street.

Next door, however, the former Linda’s Diner location remains virtually untouched one year after it was “soon to be replaced” by a Bob and Edith’s Diner.

Diners seemed to be excited to finally have their neighborhood Wendy’s back. Lines for the drive-thru stretched back to Lee Highway during lunch hours yesterday.

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(Updated at 6:15 p.m.) Numerous traffic lights are reported to be dark in Arlington` amid severe storms in the area.

Traffic signals along N. Glebe Road, from just north of Ballston to the Old Dominion Drive intersection, were dark as of 5:45 p.m. In addition to the busy intersection of Lee Highway and N. Glebe Road, the signal at Lee Highway and N. George Mason Drive was also dark, prompting backups on westbound Lee (Route 29) from Cherrydale to the the Lee-Harrison Shopping Center.

Around the time of the lights going dark, firefighters were dispatched to the intersection of Lee Highway and N. Dinwiddie Street — near the KFC and Taco Bell — for a report of a blown electrical transformer.

As of 6:15 p.m., Dominion’s website reported 2,429 customers in Arlington without power, with the outages centered along Lee Highway

The National Weather Service has let the previous Severe Thunderstorm Warnings for Arlington expire as of 6 p.m., though thunderstorms and rain are still affecting the area.

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