Arlington, VA

Restaurant owners, residents, and advisory group members alike are demanding that an upcoming residential development in Crystal City includes more customer parking for the 23rd Street “Restaurant Row.”

At an unusually heated Site Plan Review Committee (SPRC) meeting Monday night, a representative from Crystal Houses developer Roseland Residential Trust outlined its plans for “Crystal House 5,” one of the new residential buildings proposed to be added to the existing apartment complex on the 1900 block of S. Eads Street.

The latest iteration of the development plan has been revised upward — with 819 new residential units planned, up from 798 previously. In addition to four new apartment buildings, Roseland is proposing three groups of townhouses.

Monday’s meeting, however, focused on the contentious issue of parking. Currently, Crystal House 5 is set to build over a Roseland-owned surface lot with 95 pay-to-park spaces.

Per use permit conditions, Roseland reserves 35 of those spaces exclusively for customers and employees of the businesses along 23rd Street S. — aka Restaurant Row.

Roseland plans to build a parking garage beneath the building, along with a small surface lot, with a total of 96 spaces. It is offering to reserve 35 of those spaces — 14 surface and 21 in the garage — for Restaurant Row owners and customers, with the remaining 60 for tenant use only.

However, because all 95 spaces in the current lot are open for public use, business owners argue this will result in a net loss of parking for them. Especially outspoken about this is Stratis Voutsas, who manages a trust that owns several of the buildings along 23rd Street.

Voutsas, along with a few other Restaurant Row business owners, wore matching shirts that said “Keep 23rd Street Weird, Eclectic & Uniquely Authentic, Support Parking For Your Local Business.” Voutsas has also started a petition, which he claims has over 3,000 signatures, emphasizing that the county’s Crystal City Sector Plan envisions the preservation of Restaurant Row.

“At Restaurant Row (500 block of 23rd Street), the plan visualizes preserving and retaining small, neighborhood oriented retailers,” the plan says. “Should redevelopment occur in this area, such retailers should be accommodated, to help support active streetscapes.”

Local restaurateur Freddie Lutz, who owns Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant and Federico Ristorante Italiano, told ARLnow he was promised by a county staff member 35 years ago that parking would be protected.

“When me and [business partner] Ted Sachs were standing on the surface parking lot 35 years ago, someone from the county said to us, if anyone builds on this parking lot they will have to provide parking for 23rd Street Restaurant Row,” Lutz said. “Live and learn, I should have stuck my hand up and asked, ‘Can we have that in writing?'”

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Tonight the Arlington County Board is expected to vote on advertising a review of the live entertainment permit of a Columbia Pike nightlife venue.

A staff report recommends moving up the review of Purple Ethiopian Restaurant and Lounge (3111 Columbia Pike) from January 2021 to next month, due to a series of violent incidents as well as alleged noise and alcohol violations. The restaurant opened in 2016.

“The Arlington County Police Department has noted ongoing issues and violations at this establishment that have created a public disturbance and violate the conditions of the live entertainment use permit,” the report says.

Notably, one person was shot outside the lounge early on a Thursday morning in September, resulting in a non-life-threatening injury and an arrest.

A memo from the police department, attached to the report, details some of the other violations and concerns. Most of the police dispatches to the restaurant have been after — sometimes well after — 2 a.m., when the restaurant should not be serving alcohol.

More from the ACPD memo:

On February 25, 2019 at 2:06am and 3:20am, an ACPD OCS confidential informant purchased and consumed alcohol at The Purple Lounge located at 3111 Columbia Pike. The VA ABC violation is captured in report # 2019-02250152. The calls for service reflect an apparent disregard for the conditions of their County live entertainment permit, their responsibility to comply with the law as a VA ABC alcohol licensee, and they are contributing to alcohol-related harm effecting [sic] public safety. Regular alcohol service past 2am has resulted in fights, disorderly conduct, intoxicated patrons, and destruction of property well into the early morning hours.

On May 22, 2019, ABC Agent Jacobs advised VA ABC filed an administrative violation and hearing for the after-hours service violation on February 25, 2019. On September 27, 2019, VA ABC Agent Jacobs advised a verdict from the VA ABC hearing held on August 2, 2019 imposed a $4,000 fine and a suspension of Purple Lounge’s VA ABC license for six (6) days. This finding will be effective after a thirty-day appeal period. Despite the above, according to Purple Lounge’s Yelp reviews, guests that stay after 2am are invited to an “After Hours Party”. After hours alcohol service was mentioned by guests on April 5, 2019, July 10, 2019 and September 18, 2019.

Additionally, there have been two (2) incidents of security using pepper spray on patrons. The first occurred on December 10, 2018 at 5:39am, when a patron who was being escorted out attempted to re-gain entry. After being sprayed, the patron retrieved a gun and smashed the front window of the business. On May 18, 2019 at 4:19am, a security guard sprayed a patron that had just been assaulted by another member of security causing injury. After being injured, the patron returned to the front entrance and was sprayed with pepper spray.

Should the live entertainment permit be revoked, the restaurant will no longer be able to host music and dancing.

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Morning Notes

Dorsey Staying Put, For Now — “The chairman of the Arlington County Board says he’s not going anywhere… ‘My personal financial issues do not impinge on my ability to work with colleagues both in Arlington and throughout the region, our county staff and our community,’ Dorsey said. ‘I intend to demonstrate over the next four years those who voted to re-elect me did not make a mistake.'” [InsideNova]

RiverHouse Plans Pick Up Opposition — “JBG Smith’s plans to add nearly 1,000 new housing units to its RiverHouse Apartment Complex in Pentagon City, not far from the future home of Amazon’s second headquarters, now look to be in trouble. Arlington officials and neighbors are pushing back against the developer’s proposal.” [Washington Business Journal]

Police Chase Theft Suspect in Rosslyn — “Two suspects allegedly entered a business, concealed merchandise in bags and left without paying. An employee attempted to confront the suspects outside the business and, following a brief scuffle, the suspects fled the scene on foot. A lookout was broadcast by dispatch and a responding officer observed two individuals matching the suspect descriptions walking in the area. One suspect complied with the officer’s commands to stop while the other suspect fled.” [Arlington County, Twitter]

One Argument for ‘National Landing’ — “In 2018 when Amazon announced it would locate its new headquarters in National Landing, people familiar with Crystal City scratched their heads and said ‘that’s not a real place.’ But the name Crystal City itself was also an out-of-nowhere developer creation about 60 years earlier… Before it was Crystal City, it was Brick Haven, so named for its abundant brick factories.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Restaurants Still Waiting for Amazon Effect — Restaurant owners in Crystal City are excited about Amazon’s arrival in the neighborhood, but are not yet seeing tangible benefits in the form of increased business. [Washington Business Journal]

CEO of A-SPAN Retiring — “A-SPAN announces the retirement of its President & CEO, Kathy Sibert. After leading the organization for 11 years, Sibert will continue her role through January 31, 2020. Sibert became the President & CEO of A-SPAN (Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, Inc) in 2008.” [Press Release]

Vienna Poaches from Arlington Economic Development — “The Town of Vienna has hired a business development manager in Arlington County to help revitalize local businesses. The town recently announced that Natalie Monkou, an Annadale resident, will be the town’s first-ever economic development manager.” [Tysons Reporter]

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Arlington is understood to be well behind D.C. in terms of fine dining restaurants and awards, but when it comes to barbecue it’s a closer contest.

Last week Washington Post food critic Tim Carman boosted the county’s ‘cue cred by naming two Arlington spots in his list of the top BBQ joints in the D.C. area.

The 2019 WaPo Best Barbecue list returns Texas Jack’s in Lyon Park (2761 Washington Blvd) to the top spot, praising it as being “as close to perfection, I dare say, as you’ll get in Washington barbecue circles.” The restaurant opened in 2015 and was recently the backdrop of a reality show filming in the area.

Meanwhile, Arlington now gets to claim Sloppy Mama’s — which opened earlier this year at Ballston Quarter (4238 Wilson Blvd) and in a standalone restaurant space (5731 Lee Highway) — as its own.

Sloppy Mama’s is No. 5 on the list, down from No. 3 last year, with Carman noting that “in the past few months, I’ve tasted the best that pitmaster Joe Neuman can produce (meltingly tender slices of moist brisket at Ballston), and I’ve observed the flaws in the system (spare ribs that had hardened into meat sticks, presumably from an extended stay in a holding unit at the Lee Highway shop).”

D.C. barbecue joints claimed spots No. 2, 3, 4 and 8 on the list, while Falls Church’s Liberty Barbecue (370 W. Broad Street) ranked as No. 9.

Other Arlington barbecue spots not in the top 10 list include Smoking Kow (2910 N. Sycamore Street), Epic Smokehouse (1330 S. Fern Street) and Rocklands (3471 Washington Blvd).

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The popular Best of Nextdoor Twitter account, which highlights “quality neighborhood drama” on the hyperlocal social networking site, has taken aim at the Taco Bell on Lee Highway.

Last night the account posted a screenshot of a post by a High View Park resident who says she was reprimanded by the owner of the recently-renovated Taco Bell at 4923 Lee Highway for taking “15-20 sauce packets” for a take-out meal for her family.

“Suddenly a man sitting and eating yells at me to leave sauces for other customers and that I’ve taken too much,” she writes. “He yells and says he’s the owner and that I have too many sauces. “It tell him it’s not like I’m stealing I just bought a bunch of food!”

“Neighbors beware, don’t take too many sauces or you will be yelled at and berated at Taco Bell,” she concludes.

Comments on the post show split reactions.

“No offense but 20 sauce packets is taking more than your fair share,” said a Leeway Overlee resident.

“What’s the proper fair share, according to the taco sauce police?” retorted a Waycroft-Woodlawn resident.

As of this morning, the Best of Nextdoor post about the Taco Bell had more than 1,800 likes and 100 replies, ranging from “you need all that sauce so you don’t have to actually taste the Taco Bell” to “if you’re going to grab 20 individual hot sauce packets, maybe just bring your own bottle of hot sauce.”

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Wine and cheese store and restaurant Cheesetique has opened its new, expanded Shirlington location.

Situated at 4024 Campbell Avenue, just down the block from its now-former space, signs describe the new Cheesetique location as “bigger, better, cheesier.” New features include two bars, ample seating, and a large outdoor patio.

“Our brand-new space embodies fifteen years of knowledge gained by daily interaction with customers, artisans, and small, gourmet purveyors,” said Cheesetique owner Jill Erber, in a press release.

The new location also includes a large private dining and event space, as well as a small private dining room for meetings and family gatherings.

“[Our] retail cheese and wine shop has been upgraded and expanded as well: more wine, a wider selection of dry goods, and of course, more space for cheese and charcuterie,” said Erber.

Cheesetique first opened its Village of Shirlington location in 2011 nearby at 4056 Campbell Avenue — which remained open until Sunday.

The store and restaurant features dishes such as “grown up” grilled cheese sandwiches, along with ample charcuterie and wine served by the glass. It also has locations in Del Ray and Merrifield.

The new Cheesetique takes over the space of the former Luna Grill and Diner, which closed in 2016.

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Just a little over a year after opening, Clarendon’s “Cajun Seafood and Sushi Lounge” has closed for renovations and a rebranding.

When complete, Asiatique — located at 3225 Washington Blvd, on the ground floor of the Beacon at Clarendon apartment building — will be renamed “Utahime.” The newly rebranded restaurant will serve Japanese cuisine.

“Yes, we are closed for remodeling the new restaurant to Utahime,” a representative from Asiatique said. “The reason we’re changing is that we only want to do sushi and hibachi.”

The restaurant hopes to reopen by Friday, November 15, “depending on the construction and printing new menus.” The former Asiatique signage has largely been taken down, and work has begun inside the restaurant.

A contractor said they were installing individual grills on the tabletops, so “people can grill all kinds of meats.”

Nearby in Clarendon, Japanese BBQ restaurant Gyu-Kaku features a similar cook-your-own meat dining experience at 1119 N. Hudson Street.

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The much-hyped Popeyes chicken sandwich is back and causing some traffic chaos in at least one corner of Arlington.

The sandwich returned to Popeyes restaurants on Sunday, weeks after the chain sold out nationwide amid a national craze. With the return of the sandwich, however, has come problems — some more serious than others.

Around lunchtime today, the sandwich was causing a traffic jam in front of the Popeyes at 4675 King Street — on Arlington’s western border, not far from Wakefield High School.

One lane was effectively blocked along westbound King Street approaching the Walter Reed/Beauregard Street intersection as drive-thru customers waited over 40 minutes to get their hands on the savory combination of bread, fried chicken and sauce. In the eastbound lanes, drivers trying to turn left into the cathedral of cluck also caused heavy traffic.

Leaving the restaurant, college student Bryce Davis of Ft. Washington, Md. was empty-handed.

“I waited at least 30 minutes and left without a sandwich,” he told ARLnow. “The wait is ridiculous. With social media and everything, there is too much emphasis placed on just a chicken sandwich. I heard it’s pretty good, though.”

For Nick Jirasophakul, an Alexandrian who works at a local car dealership, the sandwich was worth the slog.

“I think it’s worth the wait,” he said, chowing down with coworkers. “The sauce really ties it together. The sauce is good and it’s crispy.”

Similar to the drive-thru wait, Jirasophakul and his coworkers reported waiting about 40 minutes inside.

“This is my second time” getting the sandwich, Jirasophakul said. “It’s better the second time.”

Photos and reporting by staff photographer Jay Westcott

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(Updated at 11:50 a.m.) After one year in Arlington, Peruvian restaurant El Fuego (2300 N. Pershing Drive) is still going strong.

On the heels of its one-year anniversary in the county, El Fuego owner Manny Alfaro says new things are on the way, including a new drink menu with beer, wine, and Pisco cocktails — as soon as the restaurant obtains its Virginia ABC permit.

“Plus, something big is coming on Food Network for Father’s Day that I can’t say much about,” Aflaro said. “Stay tuned!”

The Lyon Park space is the brick-and-mortar location to El Fuego’s successful D.C. area food truck. Settling down after being mobile for years wasn’t easy, said Alfaro, but it’s been worth the effort.

El Fuego offers traditional Peruvian cuisine with staples such as ceviche, plantains and “lomo saltado,” a beer stir-fry served with white rice and french fries.

But Alfaro, who likes to draw influences from other cultures, opened his business in order to have the freedom to cook outside the box. For example, Alfaro’s “aji de gallina” dish, made from pulled chicken, is wrapped in an egg roll with mozzarella cheese.

“We have the blessing of Peruvian cuisine’s incredible diversity and variety will always allow us to bring something fresh to the table,” he said.

The food truck still roams around D.C. and Arlington, serving area lunch crowds, but having a fixed restaurant location has allowed Alfaro to make new friends and establish new regular customers.

“Neighbors, followers, old friends, all in all Arlington has been the most welcoming,” said Alfaro. “Exactly that, welcoming, and it’s been great.”

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The restaurant business has notoriously thin profit margins. Which makes a new promotion from Clarendon sports bar Bracket Room (1210 N. Garfield Street) seem extra risky.

The restaurant, which opened in 2013 and is co-owned by Chris Bukowski of Bachelor fame, says it will refund the checks of every guest for the entire year if the Washington Nationals go back-to-back and win another World Series in 2020.

There’s a catch, however — you have to keep the receipts. From a Facebook post:

We are launching a promotion to celebrate the Washington Nationals winning the #WorldSeries! If the Nats win the 2020 World Series we will refund every check for the entire year! Hold on to your receipts bc if the Nats go #back2back you will receive a full refund on all food, beverages and taxes (excludes tips) from Nov 2, 2019 to when the 2020 champion is crowned!

As unlikely as everything about the offer sounds — but still, go Nats — perhaps an even greater stretch of credulity is the challenge issued by Bracket Room to the entire D.C. area.

“The owners of {Bracket Room}… challenge everyone in the DMV to eat and drink with them 7 days a week over the next year,” the company said in a press release. That might be difficult to achieve: at last check, Bracket Room had a seating capacity of 100 inside and 36 on the outdoor patio.

Congrats to the Washington Nationals! We are launching a promotion to celebrate the Washington Nationals winning the…

Posted by Bracket Room on Saturday, November 2, 2019

Photo (top) via Facebook

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Naan Kabob near Clarendon is closed — at least for now.

The Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi buffet-style restaurant at 3300 Wilson Blvd has posted a sign saying it is “closed for renovations” on its front doors. However, a staff member told ARLnow in an email yesterday (Wednesday) that the restaurant is closed “permanently.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, the tables and chairs were gone from the dining room. Calls to the store’s phone number for more information went to voicemail — which was full.

The restaurant replaced the Pio Pio in 2017 after the Peruvian restaurant closed temporarily several times before shuttering for good. Since then, Naan Kabob has generated mixed reviews on Grubhub and Yelp.

It has been a busy week of kabob-related news in Arlington. Just down the street in Courthouse, the Afghan Kabob House is closing permanently after the owner accused food trucks and delivery apps of cutting into his business. Another kabob restaurant — Courthouse Kabob — is expected to replace it as early as this week.

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