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Morning Notes

Fedorchaks on Why They Love Arlington — Mark and Stephen Fedorchak — the brothers behind Northside Social, Lyon Hall and Liberty Tavern — reveal in a Q&A why they built their lives and restaurant empire in Arlington, and whether they’ll stay. [Washingtonian]

Hula Girl Makes Best Restaurants List — Shirlington’s Hawaiian-influenced restaurant, Hula Girl, made the list of the 30 best restaurants in America, according to Yelp reviewers. The restaurant, whose owner competed on the cooking show “Chopped” last year, came in at #27. [The Daily Meal]

Fire Recruit Graduation — The Arlington County Fire Department will hold a graduation ceremony tonight for more than two dozen fire and EMS recruits. Class members will receive their badges and helmets after being sworn in. The ceremony takes place from 6-8 p.m. at the Founders Hall Auditorium (3351 Fairfax Drive) on the George Mason University campus in Virginia Square.

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Doorways Partners With Local Restaurants For Sexual Assault Awareness

Five Arlington restaurants are partnering with local nonprofit Doorways for Women and Families to raise awareness of sexual assault and help available for victims.

Starting tonight, Liberty Tavern, Lyon Hall, Northside Social and O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub in Clarendon and the Crystal City Sports Pub in Crystal City will provide customers with coasters that feature Doorways’ 24-Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline (703-237-0881) and the message, “Sexual assault impacts everyone.”

The weekend campaign coincides with the end of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“Our goal with this outreach is twofold,” said Doorways president and CEO Caroline Jones in a statement. “First and foremost, we want to show survivors that they’re not alone. Secondly, we want to ensure that everyone is aware of the resources here in Arlington, namely our 24-Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline — help is available in our community.”

Last year, 187 adults and 40 children were served by Doorways’ hotline response as a direct result of sexual assault.

According to RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds, and 54 percent of sexual assault victims are between the ages of 18 and 34.

Other services offered by Doorways include hospital accompaniment, counseling and court advocacy, which provides education about the legal system, companionship during the petition and court hearing processes and extensive safety planning for anyone impacted by family violence.

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Northside Social, Lyon Hall Celebrate Five Years in Clarendon

Northside Social in Clarendon(Updated at 2:20 p.m.) Three years after the Fedorchak brothers, Stephen and Mark, opened The Liberty Tavern in Clarendon, they were working to open two new businesses within, they hoped, “six months to a year of one another.”

But, as is common in the restaurant industry, the opening dates changed, and the timetables of the coffee shop and brasserie the Fedorchaks were trying to open kept lining up more and more.

“I remember when it happened, it was like a freight train coming down the tracks,” Stephen Fedorchak told ARLnow.com last week. “We thought ‘these things are going to open within days of each other.’ We’re proud that we pulled it off, but we wouldn’t necessarily try to do it like that again.”

Five years ago this month, Northside Social, the coffee house and wine bar, and Lyon Hall, the brasserie, opened seven days apart. Combined with Liberty, they give the Fedorchaks and their partner, Brian Normile, a trifecta of staples in the Clarendon restaurant scene.

“They really are anchors in the Clarendon community,” Matt Hussmann, the executive director of Clarendon Alliance, said. “The three restaurants they have, each are distinctive, they fit in really well with the community.”

That’s not a surprise, since the owners of three of Clarendon’s most celebrated restaurants all live in the neighborhood. They’ve seen it grow, seen it change, and they have had hands in both.

Before Northside Social Coffee and Wine opened, the distinctive red building at the intersection of Washington, Wilson and Clarendon Boulevards was home to Murky Coffee, where Fedorchak said his team “must have met 100 times” when discussing their burgeoning business. When Murky was closing and the space opened up, they felt they had to jump on it.

“It has a legacy of not only a coffee shop but a community gathering place, and the building itself has been a community gathering place for 100 years,” he said. “We wanted to offer a place where you could visit every day if you wanted to. We liked the idea of something versatile, open a lot of hours, and the idea of an old-fashioned coffee house vibe with a cultural center feel to it.”

To ensure business from sunrise to sunset, they installed a wine bar on the second floor, and the idea clicked. “The business has been busy since day one,” Fedorchak said. They also expanded the outdoor patio, which rarely has an empty seat on sunny days, and the food menu, a tricky feat considering the building’s historic status precludes the owners from installing some industrial kitchen equipment.

The building is part of the secret sauce that makes Northside unique. Fedorchak said people ask him all the time if a second Northside Social is in the works somewhere.

“I tell them, ‘when we can find a space we like as much as this one,'” he said. “Between the two floors and the outside capacity, it’s awesome. The visibility is unparalleled, there’s great sunshine, the upstairs during the day is quieter; it allows us to have a variety of ambiences.”

Lyon HallWhile the Northside Social opportunity opened up, Lyon Hall (3100 Washington Blvd) was the product of the ownership team seeking out a new venture.

“We thought it would provide some diversity to what’s out there,” Fedorchak said. The French-style brasserie — with some German influences — serves dishes like a Bohemian sausage platter. It provided variety to a Clarendon restaurant scene which at the time was experiencing an influx of frozen yogurt and pizza restaurants.

“Lyon Hall has been a lot of fun for us because the business continues to improve every year,” Fedorchak said. “It’s kind of worked for us, because it is perceived as distinctive. People wouldn’t normally go to a German restaurant, but we tried to offer a fun bar, we have happy hour there seven days a week, we really love the patio. It worked out great.”

While the Fedorchaks and Normile love their own restaurants, they also make a point to visit their neighbors and competitors.

“I love going to O’Sullivan’s, the guys at Green Pig Bistro do a great job, we hang out at Ray’s the Steaks all the time,” Fedorchak said. “I hear people talk about the fact that Clarendon’s changing fast, some people think it’s changing for the better or worse. I lived in North Arlington for the first time in 1992, going to places like Whitey’s and Strange Ways. And I’ve got places I love to go to now. I think it’s always been a neighborhood that’s evolved relatively steadily over the years.”

The three businesses have also evolved steadily, adding Executive Chef Matt Hill last year to oversee all three restaurants. Fedorchak also sang the praises of Sean Lowder, who has been the general manager at The Liberty Tavern since it opened, and Alison Christ, the GM who opened Northside Social, now opening up a wine bar in Hong Kong.

But, above all, Fedorchak said his primary goal has been growing the community around the restaurants. They hold fundraisers for the Clarendon Alliance, Virginia Hospital Center and Doorways for Women and Families. They participate in Clarendon Day every year, and the heart of each restaurant is a bar that the owners want people to feel comfortable congregating in.

“We’re big believer that restaurants not only physically nourish but emotionally nourish, where people can put their cares aside, put the cell phones away and relax for a while,” Fedorchak said. “We’ve been fortunate to feel largely supported by the community since day one.”

That mindset has kept the business successful — “we’d feel different if we were struggling to get to five years,” Fedorchak said — and kept them in Clarendon.

“We are hoping to grow those businesses for a long time,” Fedorchak said. “Liberty Tavern is turning 10 in a couple of years, and that’s a big milestone. We’re going to be looking forward to the next 10 years.”

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Liberty Tavern Group Hires New Executive Chef

Liberty Tavern, Lyon Hall executive chef Matt HillLiberty Tavern, Lyon Hall and Northside Social have a new executive chef.

The restaurant group announced today it has hired Matt Hill, former executive chef at Charlie Palmer Steak and, most recently, the chef de cuisine at Range. Hill replaces former executive chef Liam LaCivita, with whom the group “amicably” parted ways earlier this week.

Along with whatever changes Hill brings to the three Clarendon eateries, Liberty Tavern has been planning an American Heritage menu, according to Eater DC. The menu would feature different culinary traditions with American roots, like Polish, Irish and Greek foods popularized in immigrant communities around the country.

Liberty Tavern sous-chef Miljohn Dimaano has been promoted to Chef de Cuisine to serve under Hill. Owners Mark and Stephen Fedorchak announced that the change in the kitchen at all three restaurants is effective immediately.

“[Hill] looks forward to blending his culinary talent experience, and passion in leading these three restaurants to ongoing success,” Mark Fedorchak wrote in a press release.

Photo courtesy Mark Fedorchak

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Anniversary Celebration for Liberty, Lyon and Northside

Liberty Tavern, Lyon Hall and Northside Social will be each be celebrating their anniversary tomorrow.

The sister establishments will be holding a joint anniversary event at Liberty Tavern (3195 Wilson Blvd) tomorrow night (Thursday, April 12). From 4:00 p.m. until close, the restaurant will be offering two specialty cocktails from its opening menu — the “Pursuit of Happiness” and the “Industrial” — for $5. Starting at 9:00 p.m., at the bar and lounge, Liberty Tavern will also be offering complimentary Liberty pizza, Lyon Hall frankfurters and Northside Social confections.

There’s no cover charge for the event. All three eateries first opened their doors in April — Liberty Tavern in 2007 and Lyon Hall and Northside Social both in 2010.

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Morning Notes

Bill Would Open Classrooms to Parents — Del. Patrick Hope (D) has proposed a bill that would require local school boards to “ensure that the parent or legal guardian of a student or prospective student enrolled in the school division may, subject to reasonable notice and with minimized disruption, act as an observer in the child’s classroom.” The bill is in response to a Washington Post column about a couple whose request to observe a class at Arlington Traditional School was denied by school officials. [Washington Post]

Lyon Hall Named ‘Best Beer Bar’ — Lyon Hall (3100 N Washington Blvd) has been named one of America’s 100 Best Beer Bars by Draft Magazine. “Its bartenders have a passion for of-the-moment beer, and no one will care if you drink your 21st Amendment Back in Black straight from the can,” the publication said. [Draft Magazine]

Board Wants Speedier Farmers Market Permit Process — The County Board asked Arlington County staff to speed up the permit approval process for the planned Westover Farmers Market. Organizers — who would like to open the market in May — have said that the permitting process has been proceeding at a slower-than-hoped-for pace. [Sun Gazette]

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Morning Notes

Businesses Compete for Green Games — More than 120 property owners and office tenants have signed up for Arlington County’s inaugural Green Games competition. The Games challenge local businesses to cut energy and water consumption over the course of a year for a shot at awards and recognition. [Arlington Green Games]

Lyon Hall Beer Dinner Reviewed — Lyon Hall in Clarendon held its first beer dinner last week. The French-inspired brasserie paired Belgian-style brews with artfully-prepared small plates for a group of lucky beer enthusiasts. Another beer dinner is planned for April 8. [We Love DC]

Spa Replaces Book Store in Shirlington — A spa is coming to the space formerly occupied by Books-A-Million in Shirlington Village. [Shirlington Village Blog]

Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA

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Lyon Hall Answers the Call When a Customer Pops the Question

Local Realtor Laura Rubinchuk and her now-fiance Mitch Schwartz went to Lyon Hall on their second date. When Mitch popped the question over the weekend, the popular Clarendon eatery came to them.

“I came up with the idea because Lyon Hall has great significance in our relationship and I wanted it to be a part of our proposal,” said Schwartz, who teaches high school English for Loudoun County Public Schools. “Lyon Hall… was where I fell in love with her.”

While proposing at the restaurant itself may have seemed like a natural choice, Mitch had bigger plans. He wanted more privacy, more intimacy for the big moment. He wanted to spread flower pedals around the room, light candles, put on their favorite song and surprise Laura without two dozen people gawking at them. But he still wanted Lyon Hall to be a part of it. So he talked to manager Mark Fedorchak.

“I went in to Lyon Hall and spoke with Mark and asked if he would be open to doing a dinner in our condo which is next door” to the restaurant, Schwartz said. “He loved the idea and asked if he could have some freedom in planning it.”

“Thursday night I sat down with Mark and he had drawn up a menu for me to look over and it was an amazing five course meal with all of our favorites on there,” he said. “We discussed wine options and agreed that I would come back on Friday… to give him a key and let them set up.”

When the big night arrived, Fedorchak, a waiter and another manager delivered silverware, place settings and ice buckets, which Schwartz hid just before Laura arrived home. After she got dressed for what Mitch said was going to be a date night to celebrate a recent anniversary, he gave her a series of envelopes with clues that sent her around Arlington to places with special meaning to their whirlwind, five-month romance.

In the meantime, Schwartz went about setting up the room. With the condo now looking like their own private restaurant, Laura returned and Mitch greeted her at the door.

“I asked her to dance and immediately asked her a question I always ask: ‘What would you say if I asked you (to marry me) tomorrow?’ She responded with her usual response of ‘Why don’t you ask and find out’.  I said ‘okay’ and got down on my knee.  She, thankfully, said yes.”

Then, with a phone call, the meal started.

“Every 30-40 minutes they would politely knock on the door, bring in the next course, fill our water, wine and champagne glasses then quietly take the dishes from the previous course and leave,” Schwartz said. “The meal was outstanding as everything was hot and cooked perfectly for us.”

“While this was not free, it was way above and beyond” the call of duty, Schwartz said. Lyon Hall told them they had never done anything like it before.

“Clearly they were happy to be able to make that memorable night even more memorable,” he raved. “Their excitement level included letting the whole staff know and telling customers that night about what they were doing for us.”

Rubinchuk, who met Schwartz on Match.com in April, said she wants everyone to know the extent to which Lyon Hall went out of their way to make their night special.

“I just really want to do something great for them since they went so far above and beyond for us,” she said.

The evening’s menu, according to Schwartz:

First course- mussels frites in this insanely good broth (pernod, garlic and parsley) and fresh bread

Second course- Pork belly with an amazing apple/rutabage puree, classic kraut and cider jus

Third course- Poached lobster in a brandy and tomato cream sauce

Fourth course- Filet with a shallot marmalade, potato-parsnip puree, caramelized endive, watercress salad and fried salsify

Dessert- Fromage Blanc Pumpkin -Persimmon, Squash, Pumpkin, Pecans, Brown Butter Crème Anglaise, Candied Sage and another plate of 5 different homemade chocolates

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Morning Notes

It’s National Donut Day — Head out to your local Dunkin’ Donuts today to get a free donut — with a drink purchase — in celebration of National Donut Day. Or, if you care to venture outside of Arlington, Krispy Kreme is giving out free donuts with no purchase necessary. Don’t know where your local donut store is? TBD’s Mandy Jenkins created this handy Google map just for you.

Arlington Restaurateur Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement — Roberto Donna, who owned the now-defunct Bebo Trattoria restaurant in Crystal City, pled guilty yesterday to felony embezzlement, Washington City Paper’s Tim Carman reports. Donna must repay Arlington County the more than $150,000 he owes in unpaid meal taxes. Donna isn’t the only one who owes the county big bucks. According to the City Paper, Arlington Catering Company, owners of the recently-shuttered Restaurant Vero, owes $78,297 in delinquent meal taxes.

Lyon Hall’s Outdoor Patio Open for Business — You can now have a prime outdoor seat to go with your Silly Saison and Hungarian lamb sausage mussels. Lyon Hall has rolled out the folding white umbrellas and steel tables and is now helping to bring some street life to Washington Boulevard. Perfect DC Bites has more.

Zimmerman Fires Back At HOT Lanes Letter — “Nonsense” is how County Board Vice Chairman Chris Zimmerman described some of the arguments made by local business leaders — including Arlington Chamber of Commerce President Richard Doud — in a letter asking the county to drop its lawsuit against High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-395. More from the Sun Gazette.

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Now That’s Impact Journalism

Two days ago, we posted our review of Lyon Hall. After salivating over the beer and wine lists, we listed three points of criticism, including: “Hooks for purses under the bar would be appreciated.”

In the comments, you concurred: “I completely agree about the purse/coat hooks!” and “hooks for purses at the bar would be nice” and “could not agree more about coat and purse hooks. By 7pm I had to put my purse on my lap–which makes for an awkward dining experience (it was a large bag).”

This morning, @LyonHall said via Twitter: “Rumor has it that purse hooks will be installed by this weekend. ;)”

I think they give out Pulitzers for this sort of thing.

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What To Try At Lyon Hall Tonight

So you got lunch at The Burger Joint and you’re planning to go to P. Brennan’s for happy hour — now all you need to do to complete today’s “official opening” trifecta is dinner at Lyon Hall in Clarendon.

We stopped by the hotly-anticipated European brasserie over the weekend for one of the “soft opening” events and, despite the high expectations, left thoroughly impressed.

The first thing we tried was the mussels. Lyon Hall has two distinct mussel varieties: spring garlic/English peas/fontina/mustard and Hungarian lamb sausage/celeriac-apple-beer broth. We went with the Hungarian lamb and were not disappointed. You’d be hard-pressed to find a tastier plate of mussels anywhere in the D.C. area. And the $14 “large” option was more than enough for two people.

Since it was a late night, we skipped the entrees and went straight for dessert. The chocolate praline cake was uber chocolate-y, with some subtle hazelnut and praline crunch action. It was good, as was the chocolate stout ice cream that came with it. But the best part was the shot of sweet chocolate goodness . We’re not sure what exactly was in it, but “nectar of the gods” seems to be a good description.

We also tried a few selections from Lyon Hall’s sizable but well-curated wine and beer menus. The Hoffbrau Malbock was a bold but accessible brew, and it sold for just $5 on draft. At $9 the Gouldan Cardus Tripel was more expensive but it packed a punch. The favorite beer of the night was the Silly Saison, a Belgian beer that was darker, slightly sweet, and a steal at $6.

We tried one red wine from the menu, a 2008 Domaine De la  Guicharde from Cotes du Rhone, France, which came recommended by the bartender and by the gentleman sitting next to us, who happened to be its local distributor. It was sharp and spicy, and left a bit of sediment in the bottom of the glass. One member of the party loved it, the other was not a fan.

We didn’t order any items from the other menu categories — salads, raw bar, cheeses, sausages, charcuterie, spaetzle — but we’re definitely looking forward to trying more.

Three points of criticism, which the team behind Lyon Hall is probably already working on:

  • The bread could have been better. It was bland and definitely not on par with the rest of the experience.
  • We’re hoping for more entree options. As it were, there are more varieties of cheeses than main course selections.
  • Hooks for purses under the bar would be appreciated.

In all, Lyon Hall is a very, very welcome addition to Arlington’s increasingly vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene. It’s not yet on par with Brasserie Beck, arguably the best Euro-style brasserie D.C. has to offer, but it’s considerably cheaper, has some stuff Beck doesn’t and will likely only get better from here.

One last note: be sure to check out the bathroom. No, seriously. There is no mirror or wall above the sinks, only a wide-open portal into the adjacent bathroom, allowing you to chat awkwardly with members of the opposite sex as you wash your hands. Don’t worry, the toilet area is not visible.

Update on 4/22 — Purse hooks are being installed.

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Lyon Hall Set To Open on Tuesday

Update at 2:15 p.m. — Management is hinting that the public may be able to stop by “soft-opening” events this weekend. One such event is taking place tonight — they’re advising people to stop by after 10:00 p.m.

The ink still damp on the ABC permit that arrived this morning, management at Lyon Hall (3100 Washington Boulevard) is hard at work preparing to open to the public on Tuesday. A small armada of beer and wine vendors will start delivering their wares today.

It’s the most highly-anticipated restaurant opening in recent memory in Arlington. This site alone has received more than 1,100 hits from people who searched for “Lyon Hall” on Google.

Opening in a historic property in Clarendon that most recently housed Dan Kain Trophies (there are trophies used as decorative items throughout the restaurant), Lyon Hall is a Euro-style brasserie with a heavy emphasis on beer, wine and charcuterie.

See more photos, including a glimpse at the menus and beer taps, after the jump.

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Afternoon Notes: Lyon Hall Opening by Mid-April?

Lyon Hall Opening by Mid-AprilLyon Hall manager Andrew Limberg tells the Washington Post that they’ve passed their inspections and expect to open within two weeks. Writes WaPo’s Julia Beizer: “Let’s give it up for Arlington, right? Crazy stuff happening over there.” More from today’s Going Out Gurus chat (near the bottom).

Pentagon Security Heightened — The Pentagon police agency will step up its screening of visitors and will conduct more random checks of employees, according to the Associated Press. The Pentagon Force Protection Agency will also improve communication protocols at its command center. The new security measures follow last month’s shooting outside the Pentagon Metro station.

Arlington Volunteer Blog Launched — The Community Volunteer Network has launched a new blog. CVN is a social network that brings 20- and 30-somethings together through community service in Arlington.

Bike Show Planned for April 8 — Not-for-profit bike shop Phoenix Bikes is holding a bike show one week from today in Ballston. The third-annual show will feature an art show, a silent auction, a raffle for free bikes donated by local shops, food, and speeches by local movers and shakers in the bike world. More from People-Powered Arlington.

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Lyon Hall Erects Sign, Launches Social Media Presence

Note: See our latest news on Lyon Hall here.

Lyon Hall is announcing its presence to the world. The French-style brasserie, located a block from the Clarendon Metro, just erected some retro-themed outside signage. It has also launched a presence on Facebook and Twitter.

The owners, who first made their mark in Clarendon with Liberty Tavern, hope to open Lyon Hall by the end of the month. Their other Clarendon development, Northside Social, is expected to open around the same time.

Perhaps trying to distance itself from similar but pricey DC establishments like Brasserie Beck, Lyon Hall is promoting itself as a “casual and affordable” neighborhood restaurant.

Lyon Hall will feature seating for 231, including an outdoor patio and a private dining room. Food will be of the “French brasserie fare” variety, with a heavy German influence. The menu will include burgers, steaks, schnitzel, a variety of sausages and a raw bar.

The drink menu will feature 20 wines by the glass, 40 wines by the bottle, 20 beers on tap and a “wide variety” of bottled beers from France, Belgium, Germany and the Czech Republic.

The restaurant is named after Frank Lyon, who developed the 1940s Streamline Moderne building in which Lyon Hall is housed.

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