Press Club

Morning Notes

Rosslyn at lunchtime (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

County Board’s APS Covid Concern — “Is the Arlington school system inadvertently encouraging parents to not report COVID-like symptoms among students? That’s the concern of a number of County Board members, who say the current testing requirements make it more likely parents will stay mum rather than go to the hassle of getting their children checked out.” [Sun Gazette]

Big Vehicle Fire Shuts Down Route 50 — From Dave Statter on Saturday night: “Some fuzzy traffic-cam video showing a vehicle fire that has all lanes of Route 50 eastbound shut prior to Pershing. @ArlingtonVaFD & @ArlingtonVaPD handling.” [Twitter]

Police Upping Seat Belt Enforcement — “The high-visibility national seat belt campaign, Click It or Ticket, which coincides with the Memorial Day holiday, runs from May 23 through June 6, 2022, and works towards reducing the number of fatalities that occur when drivers and passengers fail to buckle up.” [ACPD]

‘Salt Line’ Makes WaPo Dining Guide — “Well-shucked oysters, fluffy Parker House rolls, a comfortable room staged with nautical mementos: Just about everything that helps pack ’em in at the Salt Line in Navy Yard can be found at its young spinoff in Ballston. Really, the only ingredient missing from the original is a water view, although if you squint from a table inside, you can imagine boats and waves beyond the already-popular outdoor patio.” [Washington Post]

Worries About the Local Water Supply — “A train crash, a power plant discharge, an underwater pipeline rupture — or an act of terrorism — could cripple the drinking water supply of the nation’s capital. And there’s no Plan B. D.C. and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs are dependent on the Potomac River as the main — or sole — source of drinking water.” [WTOP]

Annual Street Sweeping Starting Soon — From Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: “Another round of Arlington street sweeping starts next month. Last year, 9,178 lane miles were cleaned for smoother rides and a healthier Chesapeake watershed.” [Twitter]

Beyer Banned from Russia — From Rep. Don Beyer: “A new Kremlin list of people banned from traveling to Russia just dropped; I am less interested than they might think in traveling to a country that is indiscriminately bombing Ukrainian civilians.” [Twitter]

APS Graduations at Constitution Hall — “Arlington Public Schools plans on having graduation ceremonies for its three main high schools back in their traditional spot – D.A.R. Constitution Hall – for the first time since 2019.” [Sun Gazette]

Lane Closures for Building Demolition — From the City of Falls Church: “From Sun 5/22 thru Thu 5/26, select lanes will be closed 9PM to 5:30AM while the building on the corner of Broad St. and Washington St. is demolished.” [Twitter]

It’s Monday — Partly sunny, with a high near 73 and a slight chance of showers later in the afternoon. [Weather.gov]

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(updated May 11 at 10:40 a.m.) An “immersive dining experience” that blindfolds its diners during a three-course mystery dinner kicked off earlier this month in Clarendon.

The “Dining in the Dark” events — which are being held on most Tuesdays through July 12 at Ambar (2901 Wilson Blvd) — were started based on a theory that the sense of taste and smell are heightened when you can’t see, according to an event page.

Fever, a “global live-entertainment discovery platform,” is organizing the event. The company has organized similar Dining in the Dark events in D.C. and other cities around the world.

The menu is a surprise, though diners have some say in the 90-minute meal, choosing either vegan, meat or seafood, as well as a wine or cocktail pairing. A sample “menu” from the event website is below.

Surprise your senses and test out your taste buds. Just choose your favourite colour, and we’ll take care of the rest…

Green (Vegan)
Starter: Beautifully united earthy tones; smooth & creamy with a familiar tanginess
Main: Surprising flavor with a hint of tart & a bit of tang
Dessert: Sensations of spice with sweet & sticky harvest to create a fusion of earthy flavors

Blue (Seafood)
Starter: Earthy & creamy textures that lean into a surprising firmness to prep your palate for its deep sea excursion
Main: A taste of the sea married with the land; taking the plunge together to unite flavorful & sweet with spice & earth
Dessert: Smooth & silky to merge into delicious serenity

Red (Meat)
Starter: Popping flavors perfectly pastured together to produce crunch
Main: Savory flavors that will make your mind spin
Dessert: Flavors you know and love presented in surprising textures

Tickets are $90 per person. Two nightly seatings are available.

Ambar has held similar events before its partnership with Fever, increasing their frequency to weekly because of their popularity, said Can Coskunkal, director of operations for Street Guys Hospitality, which owns the restaurant. Street Guys Hospitality, which also owns Buena Vida, Baba and TTT, is in talks with Fever about future events at its other restaurants too.

“We’ll continue to hold this event as long as people continue to attend,” Coskunkal said. “We’d love to continue this partnership for a while to come.”

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A grant program is providing cash to local businesses to help with expenses — and offering one day of discounts to those businesses this weekend.

The “Love Local” relief program is giving $100,000 to more than 30 Crystal City and Pentagon City retail shops, salons, and restaurants. The grants are to provide “financial and promotional support covering wages and operator-related expenses.”

The program is a partnership between the National Landing Business Improvement District and the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington.

Each business is receiving the same grant amount, a spokesperson said, which works out to about $3,000 apiece.

“As National Landing continues to recover from the impacts of COVID-19, Love Local grants will help our local businesses continue to support their employees while providing our neighbors with important services,” National Landing BID Executive Director Tracy Sayegh Gabriel said in a press release. “We are proud to be a part of this critical initiative and look forward to supporting our local businesses and seeing them thrive.”

The criteria for a business to be selected for the grant money included having a brick and mortar location within the BID’s borders and being open for at least a year.

Additionally, all grant recipients are being asked to participate in this weekend’s “Love Local Day.”

On Saturday, the businesses will be offering exclusive one-day discounts and promotions — from free engraving at Ship’s Hatch to 20% off high-end watches at Real Jewelers to 10-15% discounts at local restaurants like Saigon Saigon.

This is the second year of the grant program. In 2021, the program also handed out nearly $100,000 to 30 local businesses.

The list of the grant recipients is below.

  • Asia Bistro
  • Axis Rehab & Chiropractic
  • Bonsai Grill
  • Commonwealth Joe
  • Coqui Boutique
  • Crystal City Sports Pub
  • Crystal City Wine Shop
  • Enjera Restaurant
  • Extreme Pizza
  • Flowers with Love
  • Freddie’s Beach Bar
  • Frederico Ristorante Italiano
  • Gallery Underground
  • Garden Fantasy
  • Good Stuff Eatery, Crystal City
  • Highline RxR
  • La Bettola Italiano
  • Lily Bubble Tea & Smoothie
  • Mind Your Body Oasis
  • Nail Spa
  • Pentagon City Wine Merchant
  • Potomac Social Tavern
  • Portofino
  • Pure Barre Pentagon City
  • RASA
  • Real Jewelers
  • Saigon Saigon
  • Ship’s Hatch
  • Subway Crystal City Metro
  • Subway Crystal City
  • Synetic Theater
  • The Freshman
  • Urban Thai Restaurant
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Atilla’s Restaurant and its grocery store are both closing next month after nearly 50 years on Columbia Pike.

The well-known Turkish businesses are shutting the doors at 2705 Columbia Pike on May 29, long-time restaurant manager Sarah Engi confirmed to ARLnow.

The reason is redevelopment. The one-story retail strip that’s been Atilla’s home since the mid-1970s is set to be demolished in the coming months to make way for “The Elliott,” a six-story residential development that was approved by the Arlington County Board last month.

Engi said ownership is looking for a new space, hopefully as close as possible to the original Columbia Pike location. However, they are also looking in Fairfax County due to the cost of rent in Arlington being potentially prohibitive. The new business would focus on carry-out and retail.

The sit-down portion of Atilla’s Restaurant closed during the pandemic and never re-opened. There are no plans to revive that part of the business at the new location, Engi says.

In 1998, the original owner Atilla Kan sold the business to Zulkuf Gezgic. However, the restaurant’s namesake has stayed with the business ever since making bread, hummus, and other items.

Because of that, Atilla’s menu hasn’t changed all that much, Engi notes. It’s always been Turkish food with Greek influence, since Kan is originally from Greece but his family later moved to Turkey.

The new development is forcing a number of other businesses in that retail strip to relocate, including Legends Kicks, Columbia Pike Partnership, CVS, and the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington, with leases set to expire May 31.

“The Elliott” is set to have 247 market-rate apartments above a grocery store, the relocated CVS, and Burritos Bros, which is moving from a small stand in the parking lot adjacent to Penrose Square.

The grocery store is rumored to be an Amazon Fresh location. When the company was asked, a spokesperson told ARLnow in February that “Amazon doesn’t comment on rumors or speculation.”

With about a month left at the location that Atilla’s has called home for almost five decades, there’s plenty of emotion.

“I’m sad. We are losing family,” Engi says. “Big companies are moving in and smaller businesses are leaving. Things are changing. It’s really sad.”

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Has Farmbird flown the coop in Ballston, or will it rise from the ashes?

The chicken-centric restaurant, which first opened on the ground floor of the Ballston Exchange complex last summer, has been closed for the past few days. It was still closed this morning, when several men could be seen inside sitting and talking around a table.

Reached via email, restaurant co-founder Andrew Harris told ARLnow that Farmbird is working to reopen.

“Unfortunately, we sustained a minor fire on Saturday, 4/9/22 but are working to re-open ASAP,” he wrote this morning. The Ballston location is still listed on Farmbird’s website.

But a local restaurant equipment auction website tells a different story.

“This restaurant is closing and will make a complete liquidation of all late model equipment,” says an auction webpage that clearly shows the interior of Farmbird in Ballston.

D.C.-based Farmbird — which specializes in grilled chicken dishes served in a fast casual setting — opened the 4121 Wilson Blvd location, its first in Arlington, last June. It replaced Miami-based fast-casual health food restaurant Dirt, which closed in January 2020 after less than a year in business.

Farmbird won acclaim for its “gourmet” and health-conscious approach to fast casual dining, and was listed near the top of Yelp’s “Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S. for 2020” list, a month prior to the start of the pandemic.

As of publication time, Harris has not replied to an email seeking clarification about the restaurant’s status.

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Morning Notes

American flag seen in a yard near East Falls Church (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Revamped Clarendon Restaurant Reopens — “With a new menu that offers Mexican food for all, Buena Vida Gastro Lounge is reopening its newly renovated restaurant in Clarendon this week, serving lunch and dinner and brunch on weekends. Buena Vida, at 2900 Wilson Blvd., also has a new executive chef, Jaime Garciá Pelayo Bribiesca, and a new décor created by CORE architecture+design.” [Patch, Instagram]

Group Wants More from Amazon — “While Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future (ASF) welcomes a new Amazon presence at PenPlace, we urge county leaders to strike a fair deal in this site plan review. As structured now, Arlington would trade world record bonus density — more buildable space — for unequal community benefits from Amazon.” [Press Release]

Art Exhibit Opening at GMU in Va. Sq. — “A new exhibition of art commissioned by the British Council to interpret an academic and policy report by a professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government will be unveiled April 29 at Mason Square (formerly the Arlington Campus). The event is open to the public and features a keynote address from the ambassador from Tanzania and a panel discussion with representatives from international development, public diplomacy, and art agencies.” [George Mason University]

It’s 4/20 — Clear throughout the day. High of 60 and low of 39. Sunrise at 6:26 am and sunset at 7:51 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

A cherry blossom with a few raindrops (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Two Local Spots on Best Bagel List — Arlington’s homegrown Brooklyn Bagel has ranked No. 4 on a list of the D.C. area’s best bagels, while Bethesda Bagel, which has an outpost in Rosslyn, ranked No. 1. [Washingtonian]

Dems Set School Board Caucus Rules — “The 2022 Arlington County Democratic Committee School Board caucus will be an in-person-only affair with the controversial party-loyalty oath retained, based on rules adopted by the party’s rank-and-file on April 6. Democrats will select their School Board endorsee during four days of voting in June, using the instant-runoff format that has been a familiar feature of Democratic caucuses in recent years.” [Sun Gazette]

Ukrainian Ambassador Lauds Local Donation — From County Board Chair Katie Cristol: “It was profoundly moving to have Ambassador Markarova join us as we send off pallets of emergency protective equipment and kit to Ukraine. With these supplies, we also send our solidarity and commitment to help our sister city and the Ukrainian people however we can.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Preservationists Push Pols for Protection — “The trigger for the discussion was the possibility that the circa-1949 Joyce Motors building in Clarendon could be torn down to make way for new development, even though it was one of just 10 commercial buildings, and just 23 properties overall, that were designated ‘Essential’ (the top tier) in the 2011 HRI. That 2011 document was the culmination of a study of 394 properties – garden apartments, shopping centers and commercial buildings – completed in 2009.” [Sun Gazette]

Va. Senators on Supreme Court Confirmation — From Sen. Mark Warner: “Justice is served! I voted to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson as our next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court because she’s qualified, brilliant, and honest. And for the first time in two centuries, the court will contain the voice of a Black woman.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Arlington 9/11 5K Returns — “The Arlington Police, Fire, Sheriff and ECC 9/11 Memorial 5K is currently planning on having an in-person 20th Anniversary race on September 10, 2022. However, there is a possibility that some restrictions on runner capacity, social distancing measures and mask use may be in place in September due to COVID-19.” [Arlington 9/11 5K]

Fairlington 5K Returns — “After a 2 year pandemic hiatus, the 7th annual Fairlington 5K will take place on Saturday, May 7th. There is a new canine competitor entry this year! Here is the map route. The race will start at 8:30 AM.” [Twitter]

It’s Friday — A sunny morning, followed by a cloudy afternoon and possible rain later. High of 59 and low of 45. Sunrise at 6:43 am and sunset at 7:40 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A number of Arlington restaurants were served good news yesterday when the finalists for 2022 RAMMY Awards were announced.

Northside Social, Queen Mother’s, Bayou Bakery, and Ruthie’s All-Day were among the finalists for various awards celebrating the D.C. region’s restaurants over the last year. Stellina Pizzeria and the restaurateurs behind CHIKO, both with Shirlington outposts, as well as Mark Bucher of Medium Rare (which has a Virginia Square location) were also named award finalists.

The RAMMY Awards are handed out by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, the region’s restaurant industry trade association. It’s intended to honor restaurants for its work over the last year (from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2021). An in-person gala is set to be held in July, when the winners will be announced.

In total, seven finalists this year have Arlington ties, which is pretty much on par with other recent years. It’s a far cry from more than a decade ago when local restaurants were routinely given few accolades, further proof how far the reputation of Arlington’s food scene has come.

Last year’s awards were, understandably, altered, with more of a spotlight on how local restaurants adapted to pandemic conditions. For example, David Guas of Bayou Bakery was recognized with a “Good Neighbor Award” for his Chefs Feeding Families initiative. That category is no longer part of the ceremony this year.

This 2022 edition is, more or less, back to what it was in 2019, though “Hottest Sandwich Spot,” “Splendid Holidays at Home,” and “Outstanding Pop-up Concept” were new categories from 2021 that are being held over.

Four Arlington-based restaurants are finalists this year for an award.

Bayou Bakery in Courthouse is being recognized in the “Splendid Holidays at Home” category.

“Restaurants have a way of making special occasions feel extra special, and this year they continued to meet customers at their comfort level as Covid (and other interruptions during the year) uprooted holidays for many,” says the award description.”This nominee went all out to create celebratory menus with all the bells and whistles to help guests have memorable holidays at home.”

Chef David Guas, who’s back from Poland where he was helping to feed Ukrainian refugees, tells ARLnow that it is an honor that Bayou Bakery’s efforts in making Mardi Gras special despite challenges are being recognized.

“It was a nice surprise to be honored and a warm welcome home upon returning from an intense and rigorous two weeks in Poland assisting with World Central Kitchen. This nomination is the result of something our team created during the pandemic to help keep us afloat,” he says. “The cliche — ‘It’s a team effort’ really holds true in this scenario. I value my team everyday, and especially during the pandemic, which was such a peculiar time for us all. It was fun and rewarding to find new ideas to bring people together — that’s the New Orleans way!”

Clarendon’s Northside Social, which now has a satellite location in Falls Church, is a finalist for its wine program.

Ruthie’s All Day, which opened in October 2020 in the Arlington Heights neighborhood, is up for “casual restaurant of the year.”

Ruthie’s All-Day’s Instagram post celebrating RAMMY nomination (image via screenshot/Instagram)

Queen Mother’s, located in the restaurant incubator Cafe by La Cocina alongColumbia Pike, is honored in the “Hottest Sandwich Spot” category. Chef Rahman “Rock” Harper and the eatery are known for their fried chicken sandwiches.

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Jeni’s is coming soon to Shirlington Village (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A new Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams location is coming to Shirlington, though only a sprinkling of details are available so far.

Signs are up but the company and its PR reps have given the cold shoulder to ARLnow’s requests for more information.

The new ice cream shop is located in the former storefront of I-CE-NY, a Thai rolled ice cream purveyor which opened in 2018 and closed late last year. The windows of the 4150 Campbell Avenue location, near Signature Theatre and the Shirlington branch library, are now covered in colorful Jeni’s posters that say “Hello, Shirlington” and “Scooping Soon.”

There’s no word of an opening date and the location is not yet listed on the Jeni’s website.

The Columbus, Ohio-based premium ice cream company has existing scoop shops in Alexandria, Tysons, Bethesda and the District.

Hat tip to @DionMitchellVT

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Morning Notes

Clouds over Rosslyn (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

New Football Coach for Wakefield — “For someone who has never previously been a high-school football head coach, Darrell Weeks’ vast and diversified experience in the sport certainly makes him qualified. Now his chance has come. On March 30, the 45-year-old Austin, Texas, native was announced as the Wakefield Warriors’ new head coach during an after-school gathering in the high school’s town-hall area. Weeks, a special-education and math teacher at Wakefield, has been out of coaching since 2010.” [Sun Gazette]

Target Opening Delayed — “The new Target at Pentagon Row didn’t open today. Opening has been pushed back a week to April 10. No carts yet.” [Twitter]

ACPD Looking for Missing Man — “MISSING: ACPD is seeking assistance locating Shaun… [age] 39. Described as a White male, 5’7″ tall and weighing 145 lbs. He was last seen on the afternoon of March 15 in the 1400 block of S. Joyce Street” in Pentagon City. [Twitter]

Honor for Clarendon-Based Axios — “@axios Congrats on being named on @Comparably’s Best Places to Work in Washington, DC Metro Area 2022 list.” [Twitter]

Peter Chang Responds to Award Nod — “‘We were surprised this time it’s the outstanding chef category, not the regional. It’s such an honor to be recognized among all the talented chefs,’ Peter Chang told me in an email through his daughter, Lydia Zhang. When Zhang informed him of his nomination, he says, his response was, ‘OK, what’s next? We have a business to run here.'” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Clarendon Bars Win ‘Fake ID Awards’ — “Last night, @ARIArlington recognized two security guards and management of two restaurants (@dontitova & @BarBaoVA) during ACPD’s sixth annual Fake ID Awards. The recipients were recognized for their excellence in detecting false identifications and preventing underage drinking.” [Twitter, WTOP]

Amazon Pledges Millions More for Housing — “As it seeks county approval for the next phase of new HQ2 construction, Amazon is pledging a $30 million contribution to support affordable housing in Arlington. The figure was revealed in county documents posted online this week, as Amazon’s latest HQ2 development proposal is set to go before the county planning commission on Monday.” [WJLA]

Nearby: Armed Robbery in Falls Church — “City of Falls Church Police seek two men who are suspected of armed robbery. At about 3:30 today, police responded to a tobacco and vaping shop in the 1100 block of W. Broad St. for a report of an armed robbery. Store employees told police that two men entered the store, one showed a handgun, and demanded valuables. There were no injuries. The men seemed to arrive and leave by foot.” [City of Falls Church]

It’s Monday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 57 and low of 37. Sunrise at 6:49 am and sunset at 7:36 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Out of control cars and falling trees have made the past 24 hours the thing of nightmares for local light poles.

The pole carnage started just before 12:30 p.m. yesterday (Tuesday), in Courthouse.

A delivery driver parked her SUV on the steep section of Wilson Blvd in Courthouse in order to pick up kabobs, but the car somehow started rolling down the hill after she got out. It crashed into a parked pickup truck, smashed some sidewalk seating and annihilated a light pole in front of Burger District at 2024 Wilson Blvd. Construction workers who were in the area ran to the scene and called 911, but luckily no one was hurt.

George Ishak, owner of Burger District, says it was his truck that was damaged. He was grateful, however, for the ultimate sacrifice made by the light pole.

“God protected me,” he tells ARLnow. “If the pole wasn’t there, the car could have easily gone into my store.”

The restaurant’s surveillance video of the crash, provided to ARLnow, is below.

Just a couple of hours later and less than a mile away, another light pole was felled by the dangerous combination of vehicles and gravity.

At the intersection of Key Blvd and N. Oak Street, among the office and apartment buildings of Rosslyn, a car rolled backward down a hill and crashed into a pole that looked uncannily similar to the first. The circumstances around the 3 p.m. crash were unclear, but the result was the same: what had once stood proudly along Key Blvd, sharing its light with the world, was now horizontal and shattered on the ground.

Police arrived on scene shortly thereafter, assessing the damage and talking to a man who was either the driver or a witness.

Unfortunately for the light poles of Arlington, the destruction has continued this morning.

Police were called to the intersection of 21st Street N. and N. Scott Street in the North Highlands neighborhood around 9:30 a.m. for a report of a tree that fell and demolished yet another light pole. No human injuries were reported. Officers remain on scene as of publication time.

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