Many drivers have circled around blocks in Arlington, looking for a quick parking spot to slide into and pick up a mobile food order.
Or they may have skirted around a car double parked in a bike or vehicle travel lane, hazards flashing, rather than waiting for a spot to appear.
During the pandemic, the county created temporary “pick-up, drop-off spots.” Coming out of the emergency, most of these spots were converted to short-term parking spaces, with input from business improvement districts and neighborhood stakeholders, Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien tells ARLnow.
Still, food deliveries and contactless ordering options are likely here to stay. Some businesses that are now more reliant on takeout and delivery are concerned they’ll soon lose revenue as curbside parking spots are repurposed for, among other uses, protected bike lanes.
The county says one solution could be adjusting parking times, armed with data that will be collected through new parking pilot program.
Brooklyn Bagel Bakery in Courthouse (2055 Wilson Blvd), for instance, says it has lost four spots to a bike lane that developer Greystar agreed to install during construction for the “Landmark” block redevelopment project across the street.
(There is also a small private parking lot behind the retail strip.)
Speaking on behalf of Brooklyn Bagel — as well as neighboring businesses Courthouse Kabob, California Tortilla and TNR Cafe — Dawn Houdaigui asked the Board on Jan. 21 for a compromise.
“We believe in the protected bike lanes that have already gone in, that are blocking our spaces now, but we need to understand how we can share the space in front of us and how things can be reconsidered,” she said during the public comment period. “This is super important to the businesses who changed our business model after Covid. We have a lot of deliveries, we have people who come run in out front.”
She asked for more notice of proposed changes as well as notice when spots will be lost.
“A letter went out — supposedly it was hand-delivered by someone having lunch at our bagel store — and supposedly an email went out the same day,” she said. “We missed the meeting. Only one person from the businesses were there.”
County Board Chair Christian Dorsey and County Manager Mark Schwartz referred her to the county’s ombudsman and constituent services.
In general, the county is looking into the twin issues of temporary parking and combatting double-parking both systematically and on a case-by-case basis, O’Brien said.
As for specific cases, like Brooklyn Bagel’s, the county follows a six-step public engagement process for projects that impact neighbors, businesses and property owners.
ARLnow has been hearing for some time that readers are interested in reviews of local restaurants.
Just one problem: we’re far from being food critics. And we don’t have the time and funds to try multiple dishes at numerous new restaurants each year.
Reader-submitted restaurant reviews were previously considered, but it seemed like a lot of effort to coordinate — effort that was better kept focused on simply reporting on factual stories like restaurant openings, closing and renovations.
However, thanks to new automation capabilities, there appears to be an opportunity to launch reader restaurant reviews without distracting too much from our main work.
Here’s how the ARLnow Dining Club would work:
- Interested readers sign up to join the club
- A number of club members will be selected at random to review a new restaurant a couple of months after it opens
- Those selected will get an email and will be able to accept or decline the assignment
- The reviews, entered into an online form, will be compiled by AI and an overall review summary will be posted along with each individual review (reviewers may go by their name or a pseudonym)
- Other readers will also be able to weigh in after publication, via the comments
There would be no cost to join the club, but we’re also not going to be paying for reviews or comping meals. Reviewers will be asked to not reveal that they’re reviewing the restaurant nor ask for free food or drink. If you sign up, you’re doing so for the love of food and restaurants and the fun of being a secret reviewer for the day.
So that’s the plan, as currently envisioned. What do you think — good idea or bad idea?
After nearly four decades, Rincome Thai is set to serve its last pad thai this month.
The Columbia Pike mainstay is closing up shop in the coming weeks, co-owner Mihee Pansiri confirmed to ARLnow.
“We’ve been here since 1985. Since the pandemic, we’ve lost some customers and some staff,” she said, who owns the restaurant with her sister Miok An. “It’s just too much for us to go on. It’s time for both of us to retire.”
It remains a bit unclear exactly when Rincome Thai’s last day might be at 3030 Columbia Pike, occupying a corner space inside of the Days Inn. Pansiri said they are talking with the landlord about getting out of the lease, but she expects they’ll stop serving some time in mid to late February.
While secure in the decision they’ve made, it’s still tough for the owners and locals alike.
“My customers are really sad. They want us to be here forever, but that’s not possible,” Pansiri said. “I just really appreciate them, they always came out even during the pandemic and even did a GoFundMe to [help me] keep my staff.”
As a thank you, she is giving out her recipes to regulars and is considering putting on a workshop in the coming weeks to teach those who are interested how to prepare some of Rincome’s most popular dishes.
“Some chefs don’t like to give out their recipes, but my customers are like family,” she said. “Some have been coming here since they were dating and now they are grandparents. Their kids are bringing their kids. I don’t mind giving away my recipes.”
Pansiri and her sister opened the restaurant in 1985 with Pansiri’s husband, who has since died. She explains they did it with just “a few dollars” and a generous loan from her parents. The sisters are Korean-American, but Pansiri’s husband was Thai. So, they created a restaurant that eventually infused both cultures onto its menu.
“We offer kimchi fried rice. It’s delicious,” Pansiri said. “It’s mom’s recipe. I don’t buy it from the store.”
The hot sauces, too, have Korean influences, she said. Pansiri can still be seen in the kitchen, working alongside a cook that’s been with her for 35 years.
To this day, Pansiri and An both live a three-minute walk from Rincome. It’s these walks to work, she said, that made her realize it was time to finally close.
“My sister and I can still walk and enjoy going on vacation,” Pansiri said. “I don’t want to quit when I can’t walk. Then, I wouldn’t be able to do anything.”
She’s also clear that Rincome closing doesn’t have much to do with all the development going on around Columbia Pike in recent years. Pansiri said it’s generally been a good thing for business, getting new customers and having “younger couples” discover her small Thai restaurant, even if she doesn’t have the heart to tell them they’ll be closing soon.
While sad that Rincome is in its final weeks, Pansiri knows it’s time to finally hang up the apron.
“I love what I’m doing,” she said. “It’s really sad and I wish I could go, but… it’s time.”
Nearly six months after a rideshare vehicle plowed into Ireland’s Four Courts, seriously injuring several patrons and sparking a devastating fire, work is starting on its eventual reopening.
Following roof repairs last week, a weeklong interior demolition process is getting underway today, Four Courts managing partner Dave Cahill tells ARLnow.
“Today’s a great day, we’re excited,” said Cahill. “It’s great to have the sound of a hammer inside the restaurant again.”
After the demolition, the owners of the long-time Courthouse pub will evaluate the damage and determine a timeline for construction and reopening. The hope is to be open by late summer.
Asked whether the owners ever considered simply reopening elsewhere, Cahill suggested that the community’s response following the crash put that idea to rest.
“There have been lot of challenging days, but the support for the community has been overwhelming,” he said. “It would be very difficult to walk away. After 27 years, there’s a lot of history and memories in this space.”
Cahill added that Arlington County, sometimes noted for its difficult-to-navigate permitting processes, “is being very helpful,” guiding the owners through the various regulatory hurdles.
Police announced in October that the Uber driver who slammed into Four Courts after suffering an apparent medical emergency would not face criminal charges. All three pub-goers who suffered serious, potentially life-threatening injuries in the August crash were released from the hospital by the next month.
(Updated at 5:20 p.m.) Two local chefs have been named semifinalists for a prestigious James Beard award.
Rahman “Rock” Harper of Queen Mother’s Fried Chicken on Columbia Pike and Kevin Tien, owner of Hot Lola’s in Rosslyn and Ballston, were both recognized as semifinalists for “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic” in this year’s James Beard awards. The nominations were announced last week.
Named after the famed American chef, the national award recognizes “exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality, media, and broader food system.”
The Alexandria native Harper is the owner and head chef at Queen Mother’s Fried Chicken, located inside the local incubator Kitchen of Purpose at 918 S. Lincoln Street, just off of Columbia Pike, in the Alcova Heights neighborhood.
Harper is also an author and winner of the third season of the cooking reality show “Hell’s Kitchen.” He told ARLnow that being named a James Beard semifinalist was a “pleasant surprise” and that the response from critics and diners alike has been “surreal.”
“They remind me that while pursuing my passion for telling Black stories through food, we will be rewarded with positive feedback along the journey,” Harper said via email. “Columbia Pike and Arlington have been incredibly supportive and welcoming to Queen Mother’s and I look forward to being here for many years! I hope this can serve as an example to customers, restaurateurs, elected officials, and developers that the future of Arlington and Northern Virginia dining is pretty bright.”
While Tien was actually nominated for his cooking at D.C.’s Moon Rabbit, he’s also known for Hot Lola’s and its two Arlington locations. The fast-casual restaurant also serves fried chicken sandwiches, but Tien’s blends Sichuan spices with the traditional Nashville recipe, creating his own brand of hot chicken.
The first Hot Lola’s location opened in the Ballston Quarter food hall in 2019, while the Rosslyn restaurant opened this past summer. Another location is coming to Fairfax County’s Lincolnia neighborhood.
Tien told ARLnow that being nominated for a James Beard award is an “amazing accomplishment” and represents “more than just good food and service.“
“It represents the commitment we make to our team, our community, our purveyors that we are cooking with purpose and for a cause,” he said via email. “To have a restaurant in Virginia with two other amazing Virginia chefs, Rock Harper and Joy Crump whom I love so much is incredible. The Arlington and NoVa dining scene is amazing and I am happy to be a small part of it.”
It’s been a big month for local restaurant recognition. Four Arlington eateries were included in Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants list for 2023 last week, while Charga Grill on Langston Blvd was named the area’s best casual restaurant by Washington Post food critic Tim Carman earlier in January.
(Updated at 11:30 a.m.) Four Arlington eateries were included in Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants list this year.
Cafe Colline, CHIKO, Ruthie’s All-Day, and SER all received a coveted spot on the list, which was published by the regional magazine for the first time since February 2020. That year, only two Arlington restaurants made the list.
SER in Ballston made the list this year as well as in 2020. The Spanish tapas restaurant on N. Glebe Road first opened in 2015 and has since faced a number of obstacles including flooding and pandemic-related challenges.
“My wife, Christiana, and I are extremely grateful to the entire SER family – both our amazing team and our incredible guests who have supported us along the way. They have truly made our vision of making SER a warm and inviting neighborhood spot a reality,” co-owner Javier Candon told ARLnow in a statement. “We’ve lived in Arlington for more than 20 years and know that Arlington has always had exceptional restaurants. However, seeing the restaurant scene grow and evolve has been truly extraordinary. Arlington is a vibrant, fun foodie community that embraces different cuisines and experiences.”
The other three restaurants are all newer additions to the Arlington dining scene.
Cafe Colline on Langston Blvd in the Lee Heights Shopping Center opened in June 2020, in the midst of the pandemic. The “neighborhood French bistro” is owned by local sibling restaurateurs Eric and Ian Hilton. The brothers also run El Rey taqueria in Ballston as well as several well-regarded D.C. eateries.
“It means a lot that our little neighborhood bistro in Arlington is on this list! It is wonderful to see the hard work of our amazing staff and Chef Brendan L’Etoile recognized among Washingtonian’s very best restaurants,” a restaurant spokesperson said about the honor. “We hope that this brings more guests to venture across the bridge to experience the many lovely restaurants Arlington has to offer. We can’t wait to bring more great food and warm service to Arlington for years to come.”
Ruthie’s All-Day has been racking up recognition ever since it first opened just over two years ago in Arlington Heights. Run by chef Matt Hill, it was named one of the area’s best barbecue joints in 2020 as well as an Arlies award winner last year. This past year, the restaurant won a RAMMY for”Casual Restaurant of the Year” and Hill himself was a James Beard semi-finalist in 2022.
“We are so honored to be included in this year’s Washingtonian List of Top 100 restaurants. Our team at Ruthie’s works hard every day to provide great food and hospitality, and the recognition goes a long way to show support for us,” Hill told ARLnow. “The restaurant scene in Arlington is vibrant and growing, with many talented restaurants and chefs, and we’re proud to be part of the community.”
CHIKO in Shirlington is another eatery that’s been on top of a number of lists in recent years. The popular D.C.-based Chinese-Korean restaurant opened its fifth location on Campbell Avenue in late 2021, expanding out to Virginia for the first time. Its owners Scott Drewno and Danny Lee, known as “The Fried Rice Collective,” were named the D.C. region’s restaurateurs of the year at the RAMMY awards in July.
“We are thrilled to be listed as one of Washingtonian’s top 100 restaurants this year, especially as we now have a location in Northern Virginia,” a CHIKO spokesperson told ARLnow via email. “We are happy to be listed amongst such great restaurants, many of which are in Arlington County.”
A number of other nearby restaurants were on the top 100 list as well, including La Tingeria. The former Arlington-based food truck known for its birria tacos moved to Falls Church in late 2021 and was nearly forced to shut down by the city due to a parking situation.
A property between Rosslyn and Courthouse that is home to an office building and two long-time restaurants has been sold to a developer with plans to build apartments and retail.
D.C.-based The Fortis Cos. bought the property at the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Rhodes Street for $14 million.
The site includes a four-story, 48,000-square-foot office building (1840 Wilson Blvd) and the restaurants Il Radicchio and Rhodeside Grill. The office building was the headquarters for the property’s previous owner, the nonprofit National Science Teaching Association (NSTA).
“This is a very familiar and highly visible property within the County and along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, and FORTIS is excited work on a new vision for the site, which will likely be mixed-use multifamily residential over ground floor retail,” Fortis Vice President Matt Bunch tells ARLnow.
In a press release announcing the sale, real estate company CBRE — which represented the nonprofit in the transaction — called the property “one of the last commercial development sites in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor in Arlington.”
Its development potential and quarter-mile distance from the Courthouse Metro Station generated “a high level of interest from prospective buyers,” CBRE Senior Vice President Dean Stiles said in a statement. “We are confident that it will be a valuable asset for Fortis.”
Arlington County has identified this site for mixed-use redevelopment, and Fortis intends to build a seven-story, 85-foot-tall apartment building.
Bunch says that plans for the site are still tentative and there’s no timeline to share — yet.
“We are in the very early stages of exploring design alternatives for the property, but we look forward to working with the County and community this year as we pursue new redevelopment ideas for the block,” Bunch said. “As of the moment, we don’t have a timeline to share but we do intend to seek an extension of the prior site plan this year.”
Last year, Fortis submitted a conceptual site plan outlining its intentions and seeking county feedback on how high it can build. The application laid out plans to file an amendment in the first quarter of 2023 seeking an extension of the site plan until 2026.
This July, an existing site plan that is nearly 20 years old and has been extended several times will expire.
In November of 2005, the Arlington County Board originally approved a site plan that would have retained the NSTA building, demolished the restaurants and replaced them with a new, six-story office building with nearly 62,000 square feet of office space and 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and restaurant space.
In 2008, it granted an extension until 2011 and it was automatically extended until July 2020 by a state statute enacted in the wake of the Great Recession. The County Board subsequently granted extension until July 1, 2023.
This would be the second current project in Arlington for Fortis, which has also reprised long-dormant plans to turn a single-family detached home off of Route 50 near Courthouse into an apartment building.
“[It] is consistent with our strategy to create well-located and walkable transit-oriented redevelopments,” Bunch said. “It is also a testament to what we believe are strong economic fundamentals and demand drivers in the County that will continue for the foreseeable future.”
NSTA said via press release that it was time to let go of its physical presence in D.C. because the pandemic proved the organization could function well remotely.
“The organization was able to continue to function at a high level throughout the pandemic, while staff worked remotely and NSTA members were able to take part in many excellent virtual meetings and professional programs,” said NSTA Executive Director Erika Shugart, Ph.D. “After a long and thorough process and careful consideration, our board of directors decided to sell the property.”
The Panera Bread location in the Pentagon City mall food court is shuttered, but the closure may only be temporary.
The eatery was closed as of last week. ARLnow is told that the closure is “temporary at this point,” though a reopening date was not given.
The location has been removed from the list on Panera’s website. It first opened in 2013, as did a Rosslyn location at 1700 N. Moore Street that remains open — the only currently open Panera Bread in Arlington.
But it was just the recipient of a very uncommon honor.
Washington Post food critic Tim Carman last week ranked Charga Grill as No. 1 on his list of the D.C. area’s 10 best casual restaurants of 2022.
He wrote of Charga’s eclectic menu and marquee dish:
Charga specializes in street food from around the world, with an emphasis on plates of chicken. Peruvian pollo a la brasa. South African peri-peri. And two specimens from Pakistan, Chaudry’s homeland: brined-and-smoked sajji chicken, and skinless charga chicken, which is steamed and flash-fried. The latter two birds alone are worth a trip to Charga. But Chaudry, along with his uncle Iqbal Chaudry, doesn’t stop at chicken. They also serve kebabs, curries, quesadillas and more. Their free-form approach might confound those who prefer tidy categories for their restaurants. But as with the customers who enter their establishment, Iqbal and Asad commit themselves to each and every dish on the menu.
Carman expounded upon Charga’s origins in a glowing January 2022 review.
Asad Chaudry still remembers the first time he tried charga. He had flown to Pakistan for his brother’s wedding in 2012, and as part of the trip, Chaudry’s mom took him to her former neighborhood in Lahore, where they waited, and waited, in line at one of the city’s famous street vendors for a chance to bite into its singular chicken.
Chaudry knew enough about the dish, sometimes spelled chargha, to know how to eat it: He used a piece of naan to tear off a generous hunk of meat from the bird. He garnished the combination with masala onions and then dunked the bite in mint chutney. “When I tried it, I was like, ‘Man, this is amazing,'” he tells me one afternoon over the phone. “I was like, ‘I got to learn how to make it.'”
Chaudry tried to learn as much as he could on the ground in Lahore, but he admits his grasp of Pakistan’s mother tongues is shaky. But he established one important fact during his brief educational tour nearly a decade ago: The chicken is typically steamed and flash-fried, not cooked on a rotisserie as he had initially guessed. From there, Chaudry and his uncle, Iqbal Chaudry, researched and tested recipes until they had exactly what they wanted: their own take on one of Lahore’s signature dishes.
Charga is also highly rated among diners on Yelp, with a 4.5 star review average between today and the first review in 2017.
Carman’s 2022 casual restaurant list included another Arlington-connected restaurant: La Tingeria — which got its start as an Arlington food truck and was nearly shut down by the City of Falls Church after setting up its brick-and-mortar location at 626 S. Washington Street — ranked No. 4.
Rosslyn’s Barley Mac has changed ownership and diners can expect some changes.
An ownership group that included local dining and nightlife entrepreneurs Scott Parker and Mike Cordero has sold the Rosslyn restaurant to restaurateur Fitzgerald Lewis and his partners, both groups confirmed to ARLnow.
Parker’s restaurants include Don Tito’s in Clarendon and Nighthawk Pizza in Pentagon City, as well as Bearded Goat barbershop and doggy daycare Playful Pack. Additionally, he’s working on converting the old Forest Inn into a new taco eatery in Westover.
Parker told ARLnow via email the reason the decision was made to sell the six-year-old restaurant was so that the “partners could focus on other projects.”
Lewis took over Barley Mac last month and has already completed minor alterations, including painting, cleaning, and adding more televisions to the bar area.
The plan is to do a larger renovation within the next three months, said Lewis, focused on making the restaurant more “lively,” including updating and adding televisions to the exterior patio. Lewis hopes to attract a sports-watching crowd, showing NFL games every Sunday and mixed martial arts matches.
There will also be more craft beers, pub-style food, and maybe even a wine club.
“That’s where the need is,” Lewis said.
One thing that won’t change is that Mike Cordero is sticking around, per Lewis. He will still be the head chef creator of the restaurant’s recipes. Cordero also runs nearby Taco Rock and is working on opening an “old school” Italian restaurant in Virginia Square later this year.
Barley Mac first opened in 2016 along Wilson Blvd as a bourbon bar serving “American tavern cuisine with an Italian twist.” In 2018, the restaurant received some regional attention when a server saved a diner from choking on cauliflower.
The former owner of Atilla’s on Columbia Pike has combined forces with his brother for a new restaurant.
Back in May, the well-loved Turkish restaurant Atilla’s and its next-door grocery store closed on Columbia Pike after nearly five decades of operation due to the building’s impending demolition. At the time, Atilla’s management told ARLnow that they were looking for another close-by space where they could open a new business that would focus on carry-out and retail.
But those plans appear to have changed somewhat.
Instead, Atilla’s owner Zulkuf Gezgic is now working with his brother at a relatively new restaurant on S. Glebe Road called Akivva Grill.
That restaurant opened at 2921 S. Glebe Road in the fall of 2021, but it was about two months ago when Gezgic “combined” his business with his brother’s.
Akivva, located about two miles away from Atilla’s former home, is a “different concept” than his previous eatery, Gezgic told ARLnow, but the Turkish and Mediterranean cuisine is similar to Atilla’s.
At the moment, he’s “unsure” if he’ll open another Atilla’s. Gezgic said he decided to not open an altogether new restaurant but, rather, work with his brother on an already existing one because Akivva was already an “established brand.”
The former location of Atilla’s is still standing, though it’s expected to be torn down soon to make way for a new residential development. Currently, there’s a sign on the door directing people to the new location.
The restaurant’s original owner, Atilla Kan, opened the restaurant on Columbia Pike in the mid-1970s.
In 1998, he sold it to Gezgic but Kan stayed on making bread, hummus, and other items for the majority of the next two decades. Because of that, the menu didn’t change that much from when it first opened nearly 50 years ago.
But what did change was the neighborhood, with impending development up and down Columbia Pike prompting several other businesses like Atilla’s to close. Next door, The Salsa Room moved to Tysons in 2020. Last year, both the Columbia Pike Partnership and the Black Heritage Museum closed and relocated down the street.
In May, the Atilla’s long-time manager Sarah Engi told ARLnow that it felt like many of Arlington’s older, small businesses were being pushed out.
“I’m sad. We are losing family,” Engi said. “Big companies are moving in and smaller businesses are leaving. Things are changing. It’s really sad.”