Arlington, VA

Arlington may be the landing spot for Amazon’s HQ2, but it was selected for an even tastier honor today: the unveiling of a new Blueberry McGriddles breakfast sandwich from McDonald’s.

Corporate officials, including the company’s national Culinary Innovation Spokesperson, were on hand to debut what is basically an egg sandwich with a pair of blueberry pancakes as buns.

Offered with sausage or bacon, along with egg and cheese, the new McGriddles sandwich is being tested in the D.C. area market, including at the Rosslyn McDonald’s (1800 N. Lynn Street) where the event was held this morning.

Carol Martino, the Chicago-based culinary innovation spokeswoman, donned a black McDonald’s chef jacket as she described the process of creating the sandwich, a variation on the existing McGriddles sandwich.

Martino said her team was seeking to create a “cravable, indulgent” breakfast sandwich with a “sweet-savory balance.” The sweetness, she said, will likely mean that it’s more of a treat “for certain days of the week.”

The company’s chefs whittled down 30 recipes before selecting the one featured today, which has not only a distinct blueberry-and-maple-syrup flavor — “reminiscent of mom’s blueberry pancakes,” Martino said — but actual, embedded blueberries visible in the blue-tinted buns.

Currently, the sandwiches are only being offered as part of a test in the D.C. area before being, potentially, rolled out nationally. Part of the process of creating the new McGriddles, Martino said, was obtaining a national-scale supply of blueberries should the sandwich prove popular.

Currently, the Blueberry McGriddles are available only at certain McDonald’s locations in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. In Arlington, those locations are:

  • 1800 N. Lynn Street (Rosslyn)
  • 4834 Lee Highway
  • 3013 Columbia Pike
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Ballston restaurant SER is hoping a GoFundMe campaign will keep the business afloat after Monday’s devastating floods damaged the locally-owned eatery.

“The water apparently came through faulty drains in the building’s third floor balcony, spread through the third and second floors, and then seeped into every corner at SER,” owner Javier Candon wrote on the GoFundMe page. “We are at a loss about the physical and emotional toll this has taken on us and our entire SER family.”

The Spanish restaurant has so far raised more than $2,500 after launching the campaign Thursday. The current fundraising goal: $65,000.

Candon noted that this is the fourth time SER has flooded since opening in 2015.  Last July the restaurant had to temporarily close when the it partially flooded after the roof collapsed.

Candon told ARLnow he was “weighing his options” on how best to move forward.

“We are all devastated,” he said via email. “We have been closed all week impacting not only our guests and the parties we’ve had to cancel, but our hard working staff. Everything was damaged in the restaurant as water seeped in everywhere… the furniture, our bar, our ceiling tiles, equipment, etc.”

“We want to remain in the building as this feels like home to us and to all our loyal guests,” he said of the numerous issues the restaurant has faced. “We are hoping to continue to work closely with the landlord to resolve the water issues in the building… The safety of our staff and our guests is paramount to us and we are hoping the landlord will resolve the water issues in the building once and for all.”

Candon said he is filing insurance claims but there’s uncertainty about what will be paid and when. In the meantime, SER is facing mounting costs and will use the GoFundMe proceeds to “to get the restaurant open ASAP.”

“Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury to wait for the claims to begin reconstruction,” he said.

Two and a half days after Monday’s storm dumped over three inches of rain across the region in an hour, Arlington County declared a state of emergency. Since then, at least 200 affected residents and 15 business owners have filed claims for aid with the county, reported ABC 7.

The county’s emergency declaration opens up the possibility of state and federal aid, but the declaration still needs to be finalized by the Arlington County Board — and even if approved by state and federal authorities it’s not clear what would would qualify for aid and how much.

SER isn’t the only business raising money online for post-storm recovery.

A resident raising money for flooded Westover stores blew past a $25,000 fundraising goal in less than a day, stretching the goal to $100,000 to help cover the damage caused and merchandise lost when flood waters filled basements and knocked out power.

As of 11 a.m. this morning, the Westover GoFundMe campaign raised about $55,000 to support the damaged shops.

Video via GoFundMe

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The Freshman is, both figuratively and literally, a little underground.

The restaurant comes from Nick Freshman, who’s also behind Spider Kelly’s in Clarendon. The Freshman is not planned to fully launch in its permanent home at 2011 Crystal Drive until 2020, but in the meantime the eatery has had a quiet “soft launch” across the street in Crystal City Shops.

The pop-up officially opened this morning (Thursday), at the north end of the shops at 2102 Crystal Plaza, in the former Au Bon Pain space

“We’re in plans and permitting across the street,” said Freshman, “but that process… it takes a long time, even opening in a place that used to be a restaurant. You plan and design and it could take a year.”

The plans to open The Freshman got pushed further back as the building underwent both interior and exterior renovations. Freshman said he had the equipment and a team ready to go but nowhere to set them up.

Their main location and the former Au Bon Pain are both owned by JBG Smith, so when Freshman approached the company about the idea of opening a pop-up in the empty space, the property owner was on board.

The pop-up does not offer The Freshman’s full menu. Freshman estimated it was about 40 percent of what’s to come, with dinner and cocktails planned for the main site, but the pop-up currently serves up coffee and breakfast and lunch options that Freshman said the area seemed in desperate need of.

“There’s no point in doing it if we don’t do it well,” Freshman said. “The challenge is worth it because the community is dying for a viable alternative to [existing] breakfast and lunch options.”

The breakfast and lunch offerings include a tofu scramble with vegan cheese, plus sandwiches or salads for lunch. Prices range from $6 for an egg and cheese sandwich to $14 for a Reuben sandwich.

An unofficial “soft opening ” for the restaurant started on Monday, the same day that Arlington was hit with heavy storms from which the county is still struggling to recover.

“We’re underground, so for a while it looked like we might be underwater, but we stayed totally dry,” Freshman said. “We saw more of a surge [of customers] than expected. But even in dry weather, people use this corridor. If you don’t work or live here, you don’t know about it, but if you do it’s a critical part of your movement.”

Currently, Freshman says the pop-up is planned to stay open through the end of the year, but the stay is largely dependent on how fast or slow progress is across the street.

“Right now, we’re meeting people and listening,” Freshman said. “Every night, we’ve been making tweaks to the menu, but that’s normal opening stuff.”

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(Updated on 07/12/19) Officials are considering making it easier for food trucks to serve up grub around the county.

The Arlington County Board is set to consider a request for a public hearing on loosening some food truck regulations during its meeting this Saturday, July 13.

Ultimately if the Board approves the changes, the county would lower the required sidewalk width in areas designated for food trucks from 10 feet wide to 6 feet. The proposed code changes would also add language stating that the County Manager’s office can allow food trucks to operate outside standard business hours (7 a.m.-8 p.m.)

The suggested changes came after a county study concluded there were seven areas in Courthouse that could be designed for street vending, according to a staff report to the Board. However, staff found that a 10-foot sidewalk requirement got in the way of some sites:

The location on 15th Street North is proximate to the established street vending zone on Clarendon Boulevard, could accommodate approximately five food trucks and could create an ideal concentration of vending options. This potential zone is adjacent to a 7.6′ wide sidewalk — less than the required 10 feet. The narrower sidewalk, however, is located adjacent to a public park that could accommodate queueing lines and allow for through passage of pedestrians.

If the members approve the public hearing, Arlingtonians will be able to weigh in on the issue during the Board’s meeting on September 21.

Currently the vote on whether or not to hold a public hearing on the proposed changes is a part of the County Board’s consent agenda for this weekend’s meeting. The consent agenda is typically reserved for items expected to pass without debate.

Previously, food truck owners have battled the county and police over parking time limits and parking locations.

Image 2 via Arlington County 

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Morning Notes

Talento Selected as School Board Chair — “The Arlington School Board held its annual organizational meeting for the 2019-20 school year and elected Tannia Talento as Chair and Monique O’Grady as Vice Chair. The terms for the new Chair and Vice Chair begin immediately and will continue until June 30, 2020.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Which Amazon Units Are Coming to HQ2 — “We’re still a pretty long way from knowing what the estimated 25,000 workers at Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters will do, but a top company executive has named three units that will be represented in Arlington: Alexa, Amazon Web Services and Amazon’s consumer division.” [Washington Business Journal]

Private Sector Job Growth in Arlington — Arlington County’s private employment grew by nearly 20,000 jobs, or about 17%, between 2010 and 2018, according to the D.C. Policy Center. [Twitter]

Arlington Winners at the RAMMYs — Ambar in Clarendon captured the Service Program of the Year award at the 2019 RAMMYs over the weekend. The distinction of Chef of the Year at the D.C. area restaurant industry award show, meanwhile, went to Kyle Bailey of The Salt Line, which is opening a location in Ballston. [Washington Business Journal]

APS Testing New Visitor System — “Summertime will bring a security pilot program to a number of Arlington’s public schools, with a full roll-out of the initiative slated throughout the system in the fall. The new visitor-management system to be tested at five sites during the summer will require visitors, volunteers and contractors to provide specific photo identification, and their identities will then be checked against state and federal sex-offender registries.” [InsideNova]

ACFD Holds ‘Camp Heat’ — “Camp Heat, put on by the Arlington County Fire Department, concluded Friday night. During this week-long immersion into firefighting, campers learned everything from running hoses to breaking down doors to working on water rescue techniques. All the campers are young women, 15 to 18 years old.” [WJLA]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Naked Lunch, an organic vegetarian and vegan eatery attached to the MOM’s Organic Market at 1901 N. Veitch Street, has closed.

According to staff at the grocery store, the location — along car-oriented Lee Highway, a long walk from Courthouse — meant that Naked Lunch never got the kind of traffic it needed and the restaurant closed last Monday, June 24.

The signs on the storefront have been taken down and through the window, the last of the kitchen supplies can be seen being packed into boxes.

Naked Lunch opened on Lee Highway with MOM’s Organic Market in 2015. The restaurant served salads, soup bowls, sandwiches and more, along with organic juices.

The next closest Naked Lunch locations are at 3831 Mount Vernon Avenue in Alexandria’s Arlandria neighborhood or 8298 Glass Alley in Fairfax’s Mosaic District.

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Morning Notes

District Taco Considering Franchising — “All stores are corporate-owned, but Hoil is exploring the possibility of expanding District Taco’s growth strategy to include franchise units, too. The key is to find partners who will be just as invested in and energetic about the concept as he is.” [QSR Magazine]

New Car Seat Law in Va. — “Starting July 1… a new Virginia law will require parents to keep their precious infants and toddlers in rear-facing car seats until the child turns two, or reaches the minimum weight limit for a forward-facing child restraint seat, as prescribed by its manufacturer.” [Press Release]

Ray’s Hell Burger Closes in D.C. — Following the closure of Ray’s the Steaks in Courthouse, Ray’s Hell Burger has closed in the District. [PoPville]

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Oz restaurant, owned by “Real Housewives of Potomac” stars Ashley and Michael Darby, is closing after this weekend.

The Clarendon restaurant, which specializes in Australian cuisine and boozy brunches, first opened at 2950 Clarendon Blvd in 2015. Despite some televised internal turmoil, Michael Darby told ARLnow in 2017 that the couple turned things around with the hiring of a new chef, Northern Virginia native Brad Feickert.

In a statement today, Ashley and Michael said the imminent arrival of their first child (Michael has two adult children from a previous marriage) prompted the restaurant’s closure.

Michael and Ashley Darby announce, with regret, that they have decided to close Oz Restaurant and Bar. As you all know, both Michael and Ashley are involved in multiple businesses and are expecting a baby boy in the very near future.  They have decided that there was just not enough time to dedicate the right amount of time to raising their son and continuing to run the restaurant.

‘It has been four years since the restaurant opened and we have had the best employees anyone could ask for and we have made so many new friends who have patronized Oz.’ said Ashley.

‘I’m sad to see my little slice of Australia disappear but I have so many good memories of people enjoying the Australian experience at Oz. We are replacing one Aussie baby with a new one-half Aussie baby.’ said Michael.

Oz will serve its last meal this Sunday with an extended brunch. Please come in this weekend to say goodbye.

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(Updated at 1:35 p.m.) Two-and-a-half years after the initial permits were filed, Stone Hot Pizza finally opened in Clarendon earlier this year.

Staff at the restaurant said they started cooking up the first pizzas in March, though a “now open” sign still adorns the front entrance.

The pizzeria advertises a lunch special of $7.99 for a one-topping pizza with an option to add a soda for 99 cents. It also offers paninis and other sandwiches for around $8.

Located at 3217 Washington Blvd, just off Clarendon’s main drag and next to Spirits of ’76, Stone Hot Pizza is open from 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, and 10:30 a.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

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Four people, all in their 20s, were arrested after a wild incident early Sunday morning at Bob and Edith’s Diner on Columbia Pike.

According to Arlington County Police, police were called to the business around 3:30 a.m. and found one of the diners “yelling verbal profanities and acting aggressively towards staff.” While escorting the suspect out of the business, three of his dining companions allegedly attempted to interfere with the responding officer and a scuffle ensued, ending in backup arriving and helping to arrest the group.

All four suspects are charged with Drunk in Public, while two are also facing other charges.

The ACPD crime report (below) says the incident happened on the 2300 block of Columbia Pike; the only business on that block that open at the time would have been Bob and Edith’s.

ASSAULT ON LAW ENFORCEMENT, 2019-06230071, 2300 block of Columbia Pike. At approximately 3:38 a.m. on June 23, police were dispatched to the report of a disorderly subject inside of a business. Upon arrival, officers located the suspect yelling verbal profanities and acting aggressively towards staff. As an officer attempted to escort the suspect out of the business, three additional suspects began following behind, while yelling verbal profanities at the officer. While exiting, the Suspect One allegedly stopped in the doorway and ignored lawful commands, refusing to exit. He became combative and swung at the officer. Suspect Two allegedly attempted to interfere with the officer’s interaction with Suspect One, at which point, the first suspect pushed the officer. Suspect Three then allegedly grabbed the officer’s outer carrier vest and became verbally irate and physically aggressive towards the officer. Suspect Four allegedly attempted to physically obstruct the officer’s efforts to control Suspect Three. The officer was then able to move the four suspects out of the staircase area and to the exterior of the business. While the officer attempted to place Suspect One in handcuffs, he actively resisted and then grabbed the officer’s arm. With the assistance of additional units arriving on scene, Suspect One was taken into custody, however, Suspects Two, Three and Four continued to act disorderly, ignoring lawful commands from officers to disperse and were subsequently taken into custody. The officer suffered minor injuries that did not require medical treatment during the incident. Rudy Barrera, 25, of Sterling, Va., was arrested and charged with Assault & Battery on Law Enforcement, Disorderly Conduct and Drunk in Public. He was held on no bond. Gabriel Gonzalez, 25, of Arlington, Va., was arrested and charged with Disorderly Conduct and Drunk in Public. Yancy Aguilar, 22, of Fairfax, Va., was arrested and charged with Drunk in Public. Cinthia Escobar-Gomez, 24, of Sterling, Va., was arrested and charged with Drunk in Public.

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Today is the summer solstice — pools are open, schools are out, the Fourth of July is around the corner — but the planned 22,000 square foot beer garden outside Clarendon is still shuttered.

“The Lot,” owned by local restaurant scene veteran Mike Bramson, was originally supposed to open in the summer of 2017. Then that got pushed back to the summer of 2018. Then spring of 2019. After some additional construction, Bramson told Eater he was anticipating an opening earlier this month.

Located at 3217 10th Street N., at the busy corner of 10th Street N. and Wilson Blvd, The Lot looks mostly complete from the outside. There are new trees, a fence, picnic bench seating, string lighting, a pergola and a pair of large signs. What there is not, yet, is any sign of life.

Bramson did not respond to requests for comment from ARLnow, but a review of Arlington County permitting activity shows that his efforts to get county permitting and zoning officials to allow him to build new bathrooms and a food prep area, and to open the beer garden, have all been rejected.

The issue seems to be existential for Bramson’s would-be business. In short, there does not appear to be a legal mechanism to allow a standalone, permanent beer garden in Arlington County.

The reason for the rejection of The Lot’s zoning applications to open as an outdoor cafe, county officials say and permitting records indicate, is that under Arlington County code an outdoor cafe must be an accessory use to a physical, indoor restaurant. Furthermore, an outdoor cafe can’t have more seating than the indoor restaurant.

The Lot has no indoor seating and was planning to serve food from food trucks.

“The building permit under review is for interior alterations to the existing building; to create restrooms (required by Inspections Services Division) and a food prep area (required by the Public Health Division) in order to use the outdoor café area and beverage trucks,” Gina Wimpey, spokeswoman for Arlington’s Dept. of Community Planning, Housing & Development, told ARLnow via email.

“Since they included the outdoor café space in the permit, Zoning cannot approve the café space in the absence of a restaurant with indoor seating (required by the Zoning Ordinance),” Wimpey added.

Luckily for The Lot, there does appear to be a possible workaround. It could figuratively latch itself to a nearby restaurant — Bramson’s Social Restaurant Group owns Pamplona and Bar Bao in Clarendon — and operate on a temporary basis.

“They can open the outdoor café as a short-term use associated with other restaurants within 2,000 feet, but it must have more indoor seats than the proposed outdoor café,” Wimpey said. “This has been discussed with the applicant and they’re working towards a solution. Until the Certificate of Occupancy for the short-term use is issued, the building permit cannot be issued.”

So why can The Stand, a Social Restaurant Group-owned food kiosk in Crystal City, continue serving without indoor seating? Because it technically isn’t considered an outdoor cafe under county code.

“1601 Crystal Drive [The Stand] currently has a Certificate of Occupancy for a food service kiosk and has had one in this location since at least the late-1990s,” Wimpey said.

Beer gardens have been blossoming around the D.C. area over the past few years — including in Arlington, next to bricks-and-mortar restaurants — and are a popular warm weather destination. But Wimpey said there is no movement in Arlington County’s policy-setting ranks to allow stand-alone beer gardens.

“There isn’t anything planned in the proposed 2019-2020 work program,” she said,.

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