A new restaurant on Lee Highway is looking to serve customers a hug, in the shape of a bowl of ramen.
Gaijin Ramen Shop (3800 Lee Highway) opened its doors last week on Tuesday for its soft opening and already the restaurant has had repeat customers, said co-owner Nicole Mazkour. On Friday, three days after opening, the restaurant had a waitlist of 65 people hoping to try its various ramen recipes.
The restaurant’s success so far is a bit surprising because it is summer and ramen is a hot soup, Mazkour said. It is also shocking because the Mazkour and co-owner Tuvan Pham have no prior restaurant experience.
“We’ve been best friends, and something we’ve dreamed of independently is owning our own restaurant,” Mazkour said.
The two pulled together their savings to build their restaurant, despite many people telling them they wouldn’t be successful. They originally looked to open in Georgetown but the landlord pulled out at the last minute. When they got the space in Cherrydale, four different construction companies refused the project, Pham said.
“This is our shot. This is our dream,” Mazkour said. “It is literally our skin, bones, sweat and tears. We’re positive that God has helped us.”
The two set out to bring an authentic, friendly ramen experience to Arlington. They traveled to Japan to learn how to make ramen and South Korea to learn the art of making kimchi.
“If you could describe us in one word, it’s passion,” Mazkour said. “That’s all it takes.”
Everything is made fresh at the restaurant, the owners say, and the ramen soup can take eight to 10 hours to make. The owners and their staff hand shuck the corn and peel the fuji apples that go into the ramen broth, and Mazkour said the amount of organic waste they produce from the fresh vegetables and meat is “unbelievable.”
A bowl of ramen costs between $10 and $11, which does not include extra toppings that one can add. Mazkour and Pham said that the soup is a bit expensive, but it’s the best price they could set in order to afford the fresh ingredients and preparation.
The restaurant offers traditional ramen like a miso ramen or spicy miso ramen, but also more creative ones like BBQ chicken ramen. Mazkour said that she hopes to get more even creative and is playing with the idea of a lobster ramen or a kobe beef ramen.
In addition to the ten types of ramen currently served, customers can also purchase chicken, pork or beef “buns.” Buns are similar to sliders, but the buns are a white, thick and doughy instead of a traditional bread. The restaurant is a family business, with Mazkour’s son making the buns.
Without a financial backer, Mazkour and Pham have been somewhat limited in their operation. They both have full time jobs outside of the restaurant, and can only open from 4-10 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. They want to expand the hours, either in the afternoon or late night Friday and Saturday, but they are seeking customer feedback to help them make their decision.
During the restaurant’s soft opening, the two owners want to hear customer feedback. They did a soft opening because they are currently training the staff to make the ramen and they are still hammering out other details.
When hiring, the two owners kept all the staff from the Kite Runner Cafe, which was previously in the spot. The two paid the employees for two months while the restaurant was being built because they knew the staff relied on the paychecks, Pham said.
“We’re not about business,” she said. “We’re about heart.”
They are also still working to accept credit cards and get their liquor license, but they expect to have both in the next few weeks.
The restaurant can seat 44 people and there will be about 17 seats outside as well. Mazkour and Pham want to give the restaurant the kind of friendly feel that they found in Japan, instead of the hip and exclusive feel that some other trendy ramen places have, Mazkour said.
Their light attitude is reflected in the restaurant name. Gaijin in Japanese means foreigner, and neither Mazkour nor Pham are Japanese, but they respect the culture and the food, so the name is a bit of a light-hearted joke.
“[Japanese people] love it,” Pham said.
Community Pushes Back on Fire Station Plan — Arlington County Board members are hearing an earful from residents who live around Fire Station 8 on Lee Highway. The county is considering relocating the station to improve fire response times in far northern neighborhoods. However, residents say the fire station is historic because it was the first in Virginia to be staffed mostly by professional black firefighters, in the 1950s, and should not be moved. [InsideNova, WTOP]
Kojo and Kaine in Crystal City — WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi will host a “Kojo in the Community” discussion with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) tonight. “The discussion will focus on the ways in which the military and defense industry shape our region, ranging from jobs and the economy to infrastructure and traffic,” organizers say. The talk will take place at Synetic Theater in Crystal City. [ARLnow Events]
New Restaurant at DCA — Former “Top Chef” finalist Carla Hall has opened a new 110-seat restaurant in Reagan National Airport’s Terminal A. The menu features contemporary American cuisine with a Southern flair. [Eater, Washington Business Journal]
Now Showing: Shrek, the Musical — Arlington’s Encore Stage and Studio is currently performing Shrek, the Musical at Thomas Jefferson Community Theater. The family-friendly show runs through Sunday. [DC Metro Theater Arts]
Bunnies Galore Near Clarendon — There sure are a lot of bunnies around Clarendon these days, at least according to some concerned bunny spotters who have contacted us about it. Now, there’s some photographic proof. [Twitter]
Mezeh, an assembly-line-style Mediterranean lunch and dinner joint, has opened a restaurant in Crystal City at 2450 Crystal Drive.
Mezeh replaces a similar restaurant in the space: Black Lime, which closed last year.
The restaurant officially opened for business on June 29, and is now in its fourth week. Director of Marketing Patrick Mika said that lines were out the door on opening day, and in the three weeks since then “business has been really good.”
Mika believes Mezeh distinguishes itself from similar businesses like Roti and Cava because of its emphasis on offering a wide variety of Mediterranean cuisine and its use of fresh, local produce.
“We really feel that if a customer comes in one time, they’ll taste the difference and keep coming back,” said Mika.
The restaurant has had locations in Annapolis and Wheaton for the past two years, but both are located in mall food courts. The Crystal City Mezeh is the first stand-alone restaurant, and can seat about 60 people.
Mezeh is open daily from 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Pepita, chef Mike Isabella’s new Mexican cantina in Ballston, has announced that it will open Thursday, July 30.
Pepita, located at 4000 Wilson Blvd, will have a “small menu of casual Mexican favorites.”
“About 15 dishes will be featured, including ceviche, Mexican-style corn on the cob, house-made salsas and guacamole, a salad of watermelon, jicama and cucumber, and a Caesar salad dressed with cotija cheese, pepitas and avocado,” according to a press release. “Mexican classics, including a trio of tacos, a torta, enchiladas and a mushroom quesadilla anchor the menu. Dessert items include a Mexican tres leches and frozen, boozy push-pops.”
Despite Isabella’s culinary chops, the cantina’s menu will give a stronger focus to its beverage selection, created by Taha Ismail, Mike Isabella’s beverage director. The 35-item cocktail menu will be a blend of classic Mexican and American cocktails, plus more contemporary creations.
“Tequila and mezcal are two of the main stars, but they share the spotlight with an extensive list of fruit juices that are squeezed in-house daily,” said the press release. “The list includes five margaritas, one of which is frozen, and many classics given a Mexican twist, think old-fashioneds and negronis, plus more contemporary cocktails by Ismail’s bartender friends from around the country.”
One of the restaurant’s distinguishing features is its all-day happy hour, which has drinks and food specials that will rotate in blocks during the day, as opposed to during a set time each evening.
The space, meanwhile, is intended to be reminiscent of something you might find in a Mexican beach town.
“The design is inspired by Mexican coastal cantinas and highlights light wood furniture with a motif of yellow, light green and marigold tiled patterns adding colorful accents to a charcoal and white design,” according to the press release. “A concrete bar will serve tacos and drinks to the 32-seat dining room. The partially-covered patio will be fenced-in and decorated with greenery.”
Starting July 30, Pepita will be open Sunday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Isabella, who has appeared on the TV shows Top Chef and Top Chef All-Star, is the chef and owner of three restaurants in the District and Kapnos Taverna in Arlington, which is next door to Pepita. He’s also planning an opening for a noodle shop called Yona in the same building.
More on Texas Jack’s BBQ — Texas Jack’s Barbecue, which is replacing the former Tallula and EatBar in Lyon Park, will be helmed by a pair of Hill Country BBQ vets. The 145-seat restaurant will also have a 26-seat patio. It will serve meats that are smoked on site and plans to remain open until 2 a.m. seven days a week. [Washingtonian]
CEO’s $3.7 Million Rosslyn Condo — Gracia Martore, the former CEO of Gannett and current CEO of the newspaper company’s broadcast and digital spinoff, Tegna, has purchased a condo in Rosslyn for $3.65 million. The 4,447 square foot condo in Turnberry Tower (1881 N. Nash Street) features a 900 square foot outdoor balcony with sweeping views of D.C. [Washington Business Journal]
Police Chief Prioritizes Community Engagement — New Arlington Police Chief Jay Farr says he will make community engagement one of his top priorities. Farr plans to “realign how we do business a little bit,” adding more interaction with residents, he told the local Kiwanis Club. [InsideNova]
Arlington Arts Center Director Departs — Stefanie Fedor, executive director of the Arlington Arts Center, is leaving her position next month to head the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. AAC’s Director of Exhibitions will take over as Acting Executive Director while the organization’s board searches for Fedor’s permanent replacement. [Patch]
Rosslyn Employer Leaving for D.C. — The American Psychiatric Association, currently based at 1000 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, has signed a lease at The Wharf project on the Southwest D.C. waterfront. The association has about 250 employees. It is expected to move in 2017. [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by David Giambarresi
The pizza store applied for a permit to operate a delivery business from a new store to the Camden apartments at 3535 S. Ball St. The spot was previously occupied by a Jerry’s Subs and Pizza.
County staff is recommending the County Board approve the permit at its meeting on Saturday.
The store would be open from 10 a.m. to midnight on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. on weekends, according to the permit application. The store also asked to be able to deliver within a 1.5 mile radius.
At this time it is unknown when the new store, which will have 11 seats inside for dine-in customers, will open.
While the location is currently empty, there is still equipment and decorations leftover from when Jerry’s was in the space.
The Village at Shirlington announced late last month that DAK Chicken would be opening in the former Bonsai space on Campbell Avenue.
“DAK Chicken, a modern Korean fusion restaurant will offer Korean style soy garlic, spicy, or honey glazed chicken, as well as a variety of Korean style fusion food and unique Korean drinks,” the shopping center said via Facebook.
The concept is similar to Bonchon, a Korean-style chicken restaurant that opened on N. Pershing Drive in Lyon Park in 2013.
Chester’s Billiards Bar & Grill will be located at 2620 S. Shirlington Road, which has been without a restaurant tenant since Lucy’s closed in December 2013.
Co-owner Derrick Fulghum, Sr. told ARLnow.com today that he’s hoping to open by mid-August, should all go well with his permits and licenses.
Chester’s will largely pick up where Lucy’s left off. No interior construction of note is planned — the pool tables and bar will be in about the same place. Two things that are changing: more of a focus on live entertainment and on families.
Fulghum said he will be applying for a live entertainment permit, to allow him to offer performances by standup comics, bands and DJs.
As for his customer base, Fulghum said he hopes to attract families and local residents around the Shirlington area. That’s a bit of a contrast from Lucy’s, which proudly displayed the motto “Shrews. Brews. Cues.”
“I have a family and I’m planning on bring them here,” he said. “It will be very inviting, a fun atmosphere. We look forward to giving back… and becoming part of the Shirlington community.”
Chester’s will serve American cuisine — “good food,” Fulghum promises. He said local residents he’s talked to have been positive about the concept. Plus, he’ll benefit from reduced competition: The Bungalow Sports Grill in Shirlington, which had billiards tables, closed last month.
This will be Fulghum’s second South Arlington and third D.C. area establishment. He and his business partner own Andalusia Tea Room, a hookah bar in Crystal City, as well as a bar and grill in Rockville, he said.
Photo via Google Maps
Columbia Pike’s first Chipotle Mexican Grill may open in September.
The Chipotle is planned to go into the new 3400 Pike apartment building, at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Glebe Road.
“Coming soon” signs are now up in the windows. While interior construction has not started, Chipotle’s contract for the space says it will open in September, said Brian Jeter, the marketing specialist at 3400 Pike.
“It’s pretty tentative right now, but from what we understand with the contract, it should be open in September,” he said.
The restaurant will be Chipotle’s sixth in Arlington, with existing locations in Rosslyn, Ballston, Crystal City, the Pentagon City mall and along Lee Highway.
Fourth of July revelers will have another option for dining out this holiday weekend: Vietnamese eatery Pho Deluxe plans to open at 2300 Clarendon Blvd on Sunday, in the space previously vacated by Toscana Grill.
Owners Dan and Hue Nguyen announced plans to open the Courthouse location earlier this year, and now that plan is coming to fruition.
Hostess Michelle Nguyen said that the space required minor renovations, but the bulk of Pho Deluxe’s time and energy was spent redecorating. The restaurant should be ready for business as soon as it passes the fire marshall’s inspection.
Pho Deluxe currently has a sign in the window advertising positions for busboys and waiters. Nguyen says that they are in the midst of conducting interviews right now, and estimates that the new location’s staff is about 80 percent hired.
The Courthouse branch will be the third Pho Deluxe in Virginia; the restaurant also has locations in Tysons Corner and Fairfax. According to Nguyen, there are no current plans for an grand opening celebration.
The Kona Grill, a sushi restaurant that combines American and Hawaiian flavors, opened its doors in Rosslyn on Monday.
The new restaurant, located at 1776 Wilson Blvd, is one of the company’s more than 30 restaurants in 19 states. But the Arlington location gave Kona Grill the ideal demographics it was looking for, said Joesph Ortega, the general manager for the Arlington location.
“It’s a growing area, young and upcoming,” he said. “If you visit our restaurant, it’s a very hip or retro feeling.”
The restaurant has an inside and outside bar, a large dining room set to seat about 250 guests and a patio. It also offers two happy hours — one from 2-7 p.m. and a reverse happy hour during the last two hours of business, where food prices are reduced.
Although the restaurant opened its doors yesterday, Ortega said it had already attracted a crowd. As of 12:30 p.m. today, there were about 20 people eating lunch.
The restaurant brings a different style of dining to Arlington, he said. The restaurant is two in one, with a full lunch and dinner menu in addition to the sushi bar.
“A lot of the other restaurants [in Arlington] are just sushi bars or one type of sushi bar,” Ortega said.
Ortega’s favorites on the menu are the pork tenderloin, which is almond crusted and served with mashed potatoes, and the picasso roll, a spicy yellowtail with avocado, a jalapeño cilantro relish and sriracha. But he also recommends that people try a little bit of everything.
“I don’t think anyone’s seen or tasted what we offer,” he said.
The restaurant plans to get involved with the Arlington community by participating in local events.
“Our goal is to be everyone’s favorite place to eat and relax with friends,” Ortega said.
County Touts Smart Growth 2.0 — In Mary Hynes’ recent State of the County speech, and now in a press release, Arlington officials are suggesting that the era of big economic gains from smart growth is over, and a new path forward is necessary. “This is a moment unlike many… it maybe will be comparable in some ways to what happened on September 11 (2001), in terms of being a fundamental questioning of ourselves and a stepping into the space,” Hynes said in the speech. [Arlington County]
Arlington Startup Raises $4.7 Million — Brazen, an Arlington-based startup formerly known as Brazen Careerist, has raised $4.7 million in new venture funding. The company offers an “enterprise-focused chat platform” that “combines event hosting with speed dating.” [Washington Business Journal]
Cinnabon Coming to Pentagon City Mall — A Cinnabon location is coming to the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City this fall. The cinnamon roll seller will be located on the third level of the mall, near Macy’s. On Thursday the Fashion Centre also announced that restaurants Charley’s Grilled Subs and Which Wich will be coming to its food court later this summer.
Hynes Hoping to Strike Hospital Land Deal — Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes said she hopes to strike a deal to trade or sell county land to Virginia Hospital Center by the end of the year. The hospital is interested in acquiring soon-to-be-unused county land next to its campus, in exchange for cash or for hospital-owned land elsewhere. [InsideNova]
Chef Mike Isabella is preparing to open his latest Arlington restaurant later this summer.
Pepita Cantina — located at 4000 Wilson Blvd in Ballston, next to Isabella’s Kapnos Taverna, which opened in January — is holding an “open call” for job seekers today (Tuesday) and tomorrow. Interviews will be conducted at the under-construction restaurant between noon and 6:00 p.m. on both days, according to a Craigslist post.
Servers, bartenders, bussers and barbacks are being sought.
“Pepita Cantina is set to open this summer in Ballston, right by the already open Kapnos Taverna,” the job post notes. “This establishment will be a tequila, mezcal craft cocktail bar along with traditional Mexican food with a twist!”
So far, no official opening date has been set.
“We hope to announce an opening date in the coming weeks,” a PR rep told ARLnow.com “Stay tuned!”
Isabella’s company, Mike Isabella Concepts, is also planning on opening a “full-service, Japanese noodle bar and small plates restaurant” called Yona at 4000 Wilson Blvd, under the leadership of chef Jonah Kim. The ramen-centric eatery is currently under construction and is expected to open in “early fall,” we’re told.
Photos via Twitter
Which Wich Superior Sandwiches is planning to open its second Arlington location in the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City this summer.
The eatery is noted for its selection — it offers over 50 sandwich varieties and more than 60 toppings.
Dallas-based Which Wich has an existing location in Arlington, adjacent to Ballston Common Mall at 4300 Wilson Blvd, and seven other locations in Virginia.
The new sandwich shop within the Pentagon City mall will be owned by a team of two brothers who are gunning to make it the company’s highest-grossing location in the U.S.
“Franchise owners and brothers Faisal and Irfaan Lalani are particularly excited about the expansion opportunity in Pentagon City because with the high traffic in the mall with tourists and commuters, it has the opportunity to be the highest grossing Which Wich location in the country,” said a PR rep. “The brothers have prior business experience, owning over 53 Little Caesar’s locations across the country and employing nearly 1,000 people.”
The restaurant will be located in the mall’s food court and is expected to open in August, we’re told.
Greenbrier Learning Center Gets New Home — Facing the loss of its lease at the Greenbrier Baptist Church, the Greenbrier Learning Center has found a new home. The center, which provides after school enrichment to children, will be based at the Arlington Mill Community Center, after the Arlington County Board on Saturday approved a partnership with GLC. [Arlington County]
State, County Incentives Lured Lidl — German discount grocery chain Lidl is setting up its U.S. headquarters in Arlington, near Potomac Yard, and creating 500 jobs in the county. The decision was made after Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe offered $7 million in economic development grants and Arlington County offered $7.5 million in infrastructure improvements and tax breaks, including half off Lidl’s Business, Professional and Occupational License tax. [Washington Business Journal]
Australian Restaurant Eyes August Opening — Oz, a new restaurant coming to the former La Tagliatella and Restaurant 3 space in Clarendon, is expected to open by the end of August, according to a help wanted ad on Craigslist. [Patch]
Rescue on GW Parkway — Arlington County’s technical rescue team helped to rescue a person who fell down a steep embankment along the GW Parkway’s second overlook Sunday night. The victim was loaded on to a fire boat and then transported via an Arlington ambulance to a local hospital for treatment. [Twitter]
Drew Students Make Music Video — A group of 10 Drew Elementary students are getting some local media recognition for a music video they made. As part of an extracurricular project on self-image, beauty and bullying, the group made a video set to Selena Gomez song “Who Says.” [WUSA 9]
Tree Down After Storms — A large tree fell in Towers Park during yesterday’s storms. [Twitter]