Arlington, VA

Today, 85 years after opening its first location in Connecticut, Colony Grill (2800 Clarendon Blvd) began serving Arlingtonians its famed thin-crust bar pie, sizzling with hot oil and topped with peppers known as “stingers.”

The location, three years in the making, is the first outside southern Connecticut and Port Chester, New York. Construction on the two-story establishment at Market Common Clarendon began in February and only lost a week or two to delays related to the pandemic, said co-owner Ken Martin.

He and his fellow co-owners, Paul Coniglio, Chris Drury and Cody Lee, began looking outside their home state because real estate there is limited. The childhood friends from Trumbull, Connecticut fell in love with the D.C. area “almost overnight,” he said.

“Arlington resembles Fairfield County on steroids,” Martin said, noting that it has the same energy: a dense population of smart, eclectic people who are especially social.

If the Clarendon outpost does well, more D.C. area locations may follow, according to Martin.

“We hope to open more down here once we establish ourselves and are doing well,” Martin said, mentioning Bethesda and the District as possible destinations.

Irish immigrants opened Colony Grill in Stamford, Connecticut in 1935, two years after the end of the Great Depression and the Prohibition era. The owners served many dishes, but the Italian and Eastern European chefs devised the “bar pie” to be smaller and thinner than a traditional pizza, and fit on the bar top.

Today, the chain only serves this pizza, although the name and the Irish decor pay homage to the kitchen’s original menu and the restaurant’s origins.

After World War II, the owners began collecting framed pictures of those who fought to honor Connecticut’s contributions to the war effort. Today, locals to each new location are invited to bring pictures of their friends or family members in the service to be hung on the brick walls.

Arlington patrons can submit 8×10 inch photos of friends, family members or themselves, in their branch of the military uniform, to the restaurant’s collection.

Local antique pieces will join the familiar faces in sepia tones and in color, including three prominent astronauts with roots in the area, to make patrons feel at home.

Colony Grill’s designer visited flea markets, tag sales, and frequented libraries and historical societies to get a feel for Arlington’s neighborhoods. Folks will recognize some of the antiques on display, Martin said.

“We want to give people the feel that we understand the neighborhood as they come in,” he said.

Pizzas cost up to $13, and customers can choose standard toppings or the chain’s original offerings, including the salad pie and the breakfast pie.

Colony Grill also has 12 beers on top and wine bottles by the glass or bottle.

In response to the coronavirus, the company has spent nearly $100,000 at each location on glass partitions and a streamlined check platform for employees, according to the co-owners. The restaurant has also invested in an online app for contact-less ordering and payment.

Colony Grill is open daily from 11:30 a.m. until late closing, at the corner of Clarendon Blvd and N. Fillmore Street, for up to 170 people.

Photos courtesy Rey Lopez, as marked

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Delhi Club (1135 N. Highland Street) is under new management, and will soon take on a new name: Spice Kraft Indian Bistro.

For now, the change is unofficial and the restaurant continues to do business as Delhi Club, said general manager and co-owner Anthony Shankar. Delhi Club’s doors will reopen as Spice Kraft Indian Bistro by the end of the month, he said.

The restaurant in Clarendon will be the second location for Spice Kraft, which first opened in August 2019 in Alexandra’s Del Ray neighborhood, but had its grand opening this January. Like its approach to Delhi Club, Spice Kraft opened in the former Bombay Curry Company space.

Shankar said the owners of Spice Kraft and Delhi Club have a business relationship. When the Delhi Club owners decided it was time to close their restaurant, they approached Spice Kraft to see if they were interested in the spot, he said.

“They saw Spice Kraft has potential in Arlington,” Shankar said.

Shankar and fellow co-owners Helen Sanjjav and Prem Durairaj were planning to open the space before the pandemic started, but COVID-19 delayed the project from March through August.

Once regulations started easing up, the three got to work.

“We didn’t want to wait too long,” said Shankar, who managed Taaza, a popular Indian restaurant in Roanoke, for seven years before relocating to Alexandria to open Spice Kraft.

The owners have aspirations of Spice Kraft becoming a local chain, and intend to open two to three more locations in Northern Virginia after expanding to Clarendon.

Another nearby Indian restaurant, Delhi Dhaba, operates a few blocks down in Courthouse, but Spice Kraft will not be in direct competition with it, Shankar said.

“We see ourselves as classical and contemporary,” he said.

The menu is mostly the same across the two locations, but about one-quarter of the options are new, including some of the lunch fare, fusion dishes and rice bowls, Shankar said.

For example, Spice Kraft is serving up burgers with proteins such as chicken tikka, and the pre-plated rice bowls come with a protein, side, bread and salad for about $10.

Delhi Club opened in the early 2000s, but closed briefly during the summer of 2011 after a fire broke out.

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The newly-built Lubber Run Community Center remains shuttered, but the new playground and athletic courts outside of it quietly opened over the weekend.

“After five years of planning and development, the new amenities at Lubber Run Park are open,” Arlington County Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish confirmed to ARLnow.

“There are multi-purpose lighted courts for pickleball, volleyball and basketball along with a playground featuring a large net climber, sand box and group swings,” Kalish said. “And check out the hill slides, first ever in Arlington! The park also offers a large, open manicured lawn for you to picnic on, toss a frisbee or read a book, great spaces to connect with the neighbors. And the boardwalk brings the community center into the Lubber Run Park forest.”

No ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for the park, as a result of the pandemic, according to Kalish.

The community center and park at 200 N. Columbus Street is across the street from Barrett Elementary and is walkable from Ballston. For those who want to check it out from a distance, parking is available.

“On-site parking is available in the new garage free-of-charge from 8 a.m.-10:15 p.m. through the fall,” Kalish said.

Due to budget cuts, the opening of the new community center building has been delayed to “sometime after July 2021, which is the start of the County’s next fiscal year.”

Photos by Jay Westcott and courtesy of Hannah S. Hat tip to Hannah S.

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After years of planning and some delays, Bowlero (320 23rd Street S.) in Crystal City is ready to rock and bowl.

The combination bowling alley and restaurant has hit a few snags, not the least of which was the most recent global pandemic, and staff said that’s also impacted the business’s opening.

Alan Morrison, district manager for Bowlero, said that after yesterday’s ribbon-cutting around 25 customers came in the early afternoon to bowl, drink, or play in the arcade. In other circumstances that might have seemed low, but Morrison said the bowling alley — like other new businesses — is having to adapt to different expectations.

“The pandemic has affected us,” Morrison said. “People aren’t coming out and rightfully so. We’re adhering to guidelines and seeing less traffic than normal, but I’m confident once it’s passed they will.”

Morrison said the bowling alley has a “three-tier” approach to trying to combat the spread of a virus in sport that’s inherently very hands-on.

Every fifteen minutes staff sweep through the facility and clean all of the balls and equipment. There are supplies at the lanes to help facilitate cleaning equipment between use, and there are sanitation stations throughout the facility with disinfectants.

All employees and guests at the facility are required to wear face masks, Morrison said, and the seating is set up at every other lane.

“Folks are nice and spaced out,” Morrison said. “It’s a huge venue so we can seat people pretty far apart. We have directional arrows to stop people from getting close to each other, and that’s worked pretty well so far.”

Still, like many in Arlington, Morrison is hoping sometime soon people will be able to gather and roll at Bowlero without concerns about spreading COVID-19.

“We’re looking forward to folks in the neighborhood being able to check us out,” Morrison said. “And if you’re in the mood to just come in and have a drink we have an awesome bar.”

Photos courtesy Bowlero

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This past Saturday was a heck of a time to open a new gym.

Despite a globe-spanning pandemic keeping Arlingtonians at home, despite delays in the construction, VIDA Fitness has opened at 4040 Wilson Blvd in Ballston.

General Manager Richie Poe didn’t shy away from saying COVID-19 and other factors made opening the location — the first non-D.C. location for the high-end local fitness chain — a challenge. But he said the gym’s budding community has been supportive.

“The opening was originally challenging,” Poe said. “This is the third VIDA location I’ve opened, but this is much different. Opening the gym was challenging. We have a lot of construction delays and COVID-19. But once we were able to finally get the doors open, the members have been happy and positive.”

Part of that opening process has been regular health inspections to ensure that the gym’s equipment is properly spaced and mechanisms are in place for frequent cleaning.

“We had to have a health inspection specifically for what we’re doing in response to COVID-19,” Poe said. “We were prepared for that and had everything in place. We’re following the mask policy for indoor use, social distancing orders by putting equipment out of service. Every day we switch the out of service equipment to make sure people are 10 feet apart and we have hand sanitizer stations around the club.”

Poe said the gym follows protocols above and beyond the state requirements, like using a machine that creates a sort of disinfectant fog that cleans the dumbbells between uses. So far, Poe said that’s paid off with support from gym members.

“A member just emailed me and said she felt safe and comfortable,” Poe said. “It was really nice to hear. She commented on all the protocols in place and that she felt comfortable. Members I’ve talked to feel safe and comfortable here.”

Poe noted that VIDA Fitness offers a delay in membership to people who don’t feel coming to gyms yet but don’t want to cancel their services.

“It does affect our revenue, but because this club is brand new, we were able to modify the budget to accommodate those things,” Poe said. “We’re not making money, but hoping to continue to build the trust in the community. We want to make sure people are safe.”

Another challenge Poe said he’s facing is signage, noting with a laugh that it seemed to be one of those specific regulations Arlington County seemed very intent on enforcing. There’s very little signage outside the building directing patrons around the side to where the gym entrance is, but Poe said he’s looking into putting up sandwich boards or some other form of wayfinding reminders.

Further east, a new VIDA Rosslyn at the Highlands development is still in the works. Poe said the plan was to launch the gym later this year, but with everything that’s going on, it would not be a surprise if the Rosslyn opening date gets pushed back to 2021.

Photo via VIDA Fitness/Facebook

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Mezeh will open at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City later this year, ARLnow has learned.

The fast-casual Mediterranean grill, which just opened a new location at Ballston Quarter mall, is planning to open at the Pentagon City mall in late summer or early fall, according to Renaud Consulting leasing agent John Marigliano.

The restaurant is set to open on the same level as the food court, Marigliano said. It is not yet clear as to which space it will occupy.

The company’s first stand-alone restaurant opened in Crystal City, at 2450 Crystal Drive, in 2015.

Photo courtesy Mezeh

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Compass Coffee’s new Ballston location will be opening in mid-February, a company rep tells ARLnow.

Work is nearly complete on the interior of the space at the corner of Wilson Blvd and N. Randolph Street, on the ground floor of the Origin apartment building that was built as part of the recent renovations to what is now Ballston Quarter mall.

The new cafe will offer the same drink selection as other Compass Coffee locations — including the Rosslyn location at 1201 Wilson Blvd that opened in 2018 — but its food menu will vary slightly depending on the needs of the Ballston neighborhood, Stephanie Junkin, the manager of the new location, said. Customer favorites such as cold brew coffee and croissants will be offered in Ballston.

The cafe will host a “Free Coffee Day” on or soon after the day of its opening. Customers will be able to receive a drink of their choice at no charge on this day, Junkin said.

Compass is currently in the process of hiring baristas for the Ballston location.

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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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Sloppy Mama’s Barbeque is now open at 5731 Lee Highway.

The location is the first full bricks-and-mortar restaurant for the popular D.C. food truck. The barbecue joint does have an outlet in the Ballston Quarter Market food hall, but co-owner Joe Neuman told ARLnow the Lee Highway restaurant handles much of the cooking for the Ballston Quarter location.

The Lee Highway restaurant also offers a wider array of barbecue options not available in the Ballston Quarter location or the food truck due to size constraints. So if you’re interested in a full slab of cooked meat, the North Arlington eatery is the Sloppy Mama’s to go to.

The restaurant is open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. today (Friday) and Saturday, and from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday, then will be closed on Monday to review the first few days and make some final tweaks, Neuman said. The restaurant was also open on the Fourth of July, and said via Facebook that it was “crushed” by crowds of customers.

Come for the bbq stay for the Mrs Pac-Man…. In case you didn’t hear we opened the door at 5731 Lee Hwy yesterday and…

Posted by Sloppy Mama's BBQ on Friday, July 5, 2019

“Thanks to all the friends, family and loyal Sloppy Mama’s BBQ lovers out there that have helped us get here we hope to see you sometime soon for some proper BBQ,” the company said in a press release.

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Two new Ballston eateries are reportedly opening over the next two weeks.

Sidekick — a new bakery and “confectionary concept” — is scheduled to open on Monday, June 10 at Ballston Quarter (4238 Wilson Blvd), according to a press release.

A spokeswoman described the bakery as the “hybrid intersection of the whimsical and playful with the familiar,” like offering cereal or candy flavors for standard bakery items.

The restaurant is also planned to offer frozen drinks, like milkshakes.

Sidekick owner Salis Holdings is also opening a new location of its Ted’s Bulletin restaurant chain next door. While both restaurants are separate concepts, they do share a head pastry chef.

Ted’s Bulletin, known for its nostalgic desserts, was one of the restaurants that won approval for patio dining last year from the Arlington County Board.

Staff at another Ted’s Bulletin location said the Ballston location is planning to open late next week.

The press release about Sidekick is below, after the jump.

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One month after it served its last beer in D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood, Meridian Pint is planning to open its new location in the Dominion Hills shopping plaza tomorrow.

For owner John Andrade, the move brings his new bar — at 6035 Wilson Blvd — a little closer to home. Andrade is from the neighborhood and many of the wait staff are hired from the nearby neighborhoods.

“I live a quarter-mile away and my daughter goes to Ashlawn,” Andrade said. “I know the neighborhood, and I’ve gotten to understand the void for folks here for craft beer.”

Andrade said oversaturation and competition with a new wave of breweries having their own bars forced Meridian Pint out of D.C., but added that the move is also an opportunity to rebuild the small community bar scene.

“There is a focus on D.C. or even Clarendon or Ballston for beers, but the neighborhoods are neglected,” Andrade said.

A sign at the front says the restaurant will be called Dominion Pint, but Andrade said there was a legal challenge to the name so the bar is sticking with Meridian Pint. The restaurant has been holding a series of soft openings for neighbors and other invitees this week, but the official public opening is Thursday.

It will be the sixth restaurant Andrade has opened, including those no longer operating. Andrade also runs three other D.C. restaurants: Brookland PintRosario’s Tacos & Tequila in Adams Morgan, and Smoke & Barrel in Adams Morgan.

Andrade said the focus of Meridian Pint will be on American grilled food and craft beer — both local and national brands. In addition to beers, Andrade said he’s focusing on the restaurant’s homemade ice cream.

Jace Gonnerman, the beer program director for Meridian Pint, said his goal is to maintain a careful balance of obscure and approachable beers.

In addition to the obscure and higher-end craft beers, Gonnerman said he’s happy to have two more affordable brews for the opening: Narragansett Lager and Genesee Cream Ale.

“We want to have a beer for everyone,” Gonnerman said. “We want something for the community, but also the latest and greatest for aficionados.”

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