Hard Times Cafe in Clarendon occupies one of the most iconic restaurant locations in Arlington, directly across from the Clarendon Metro station. After more than 20 years in business at 3028 Wilson Blvd, it appears that the local eatery is preparing to leave.
While Hard Times in Clarendon remains open, its 8,240 square foot space is being offered for lease. A marketing flyer says the “trophy restaurant or retail space” is “available immediately.”
The space consists of three levels, including a basement kitchen and storage area. It’s being marketed by the Maryland-based firm H&R Retail.
So far, Hard Times has not responded to a request for comment emailed to the store.
Hard Times was founded in Old Town Alexandria in 1980 and has a dozen locations around the D.C. area.
It’s going to be a busy six days at Ireland’s Four Courts (2051 Wilson Blvd) in Courthouse.
On Saturday morning, the local watering hole will again sponsor the sixth annual Four Courts Four Miler race. After the 9 a.m. race, the bar will be packed with runners enjoying their complimentary beverage and other post-race libations. There will also be a live band.
Registration is still open and will be available at Four Courts on the day of the race.
On Wednesday, Four Courts will mark its 20th anniversary. To celebrate, the bar will be offering Guinness for the original 1996 price of $4.50 from 4-8 p.m. Live music will follow, with Sanford Markley taking the stage at 6 p.m. and Sheen Righter at 9 p.m. There will also be a giveaway of $1,000 cash and other prizes, “in support of your loyal patronage.”
On Thursday, St. Patrick’s Day, Four Courts will open at 9 a.m. for the usual St. Daddy’s festivities. There will be live music all day and a heated tent in the back to help accommodate the crowds.
Dave Cahill, an Irishman and Four Courts’ long-time general manager, credits the establishment’s longevity, amid all the change in Arlington, to its core mission of being a community-oriented place to eat and hang out.
“I think we’ve never lost sight of the fact that we’re a neighborhood restaurant,” he told ARLnow.com today. “We have a great relationship with the community, we sponsor sports teams and donate to charities. We have a home-like atmosphere.”
The evidence of customer loyalty is literally hanging from the walls: Four Courts has sold 2,750 pewter mugs to its regulars. The mugs are proudly displayed around the bar, available for use when a customer comes in. Want more proof? Some of the staff are the now-grown children of Four Courts’ first customers.
In addition to pouring Guinness and running Four Courts, Cahill has another race day duty. He’s the race’s official running leprechaun, of course.
Ten minutes after the race starts, Cahill will take off down the course, dressed in green and accompanied by a lady leprechaun on a bicycle, announcing his approach. By the end of the four mile race, Cahill, 44, will have passed about two-thirds of the field.
“I usually catch the first people around the mile and a half mark,” he said. “I catch more people on the mile 2-3 turn. Then, coming up the hill [on Wilson Blvd between Rosslyn and Courthouse] people start looking over their shoulder waiting to see the leprechaun coming.”
Those who beat the leprechaun get a prize from Pacers. For every runner Cahill passes, $1 is donated to the Arlington County Police Benevolent Fund.
How does he do it? It’s not by tricks or the luck of the Irish. Cahill happens to be a very accomplished amateur runner. At last year’s Potomac River Run Marathon, he clocked a 3:10 finish time, good enough to qualify for his first Boston Marathon, in April.
The Four Miler will result in some road closures Saturday morning. The traffic alert from the Arlington County Police Department, after the jump.
Republic Kitchen & Bar (801 N. Quincy Street) has been shuttered for the past several days and may be closed for good.
The Ballston eatery has a sign in the window that reads “We close [sic] to make some changes today, sorry for your inconvenience.” Its phone number, meanwhile, has been disconnected, as has its website. The restaurant’s Facebook page was last updated Jan. 16.
Another sign in the window — this one handwritten — states that the local backgammon club has moved its meeting to Carpool, at least temporarily.
Republic served “modern comfort food” and took on something of a lounge atmosphere at night. After it opened, Republic’s owner bragged that the food was so fresh the microwave in the kitchen wasn’t even plugged in and was being used for storage.
Last night, the finalists for the 2016 RAMMY Awards were announced and a number of Arlington restaurants made the cut.
Organized by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, the RAMMYs recognize excellence among D.C. area restaurants. Typically the awards are pretty District-centric. In 2011, for instance, only two Arlington restaurants were nominated.
This year, Arlington restaurants garnered a half dozen or so nominations. Among them:
- Favorite Gathering Place of the Year – Northside Social Coffee & Wine
- Employee of the Year – Andrea Raiello, Water & Wall
- Manager of the Year – Carlos Fernandez, Best Buns Bread Company
- Pastry Chef of the Year – Bridie McCulla, Northside Social, The Liberty Tavern, Lyon Hall
- Pastry Chef of the Year – Tressa Wiles, Bayou Bakery
- Rising Culinary Star of the Year – Jonah Kim, Yona
- Restaurateur of the Year – Mike Isabella Concepts (Graffiato, Kapnos, G, Kapnos Taverna, Pepita, Yona, etc)
Rocklands Barbeque, at 3471 Washington Blvd, has some exotic meats on the menu this week for an annual event called “Grills Gone Wild.”
The four-day event is being held from Tuesday to Friday at the four Rocklands locations in the D.C. area, including Arlington.
The menu includes:
- Alligator Brunswick Stew served with a honey jalapeño cornbread square
- Camel Burgers topped w/pickles & onions served with French Fries
- Rabbit Sausage topped w/grilled peppers & onions served w/a side of whiskey mustard sauce & carrot sticks
- Wild Boar Barbeque Sliders (2) topped with coleslaw
The restaurant is encouraging customers to use the Twitter hashtag #grillsgonewild to suggest new “Grills Gone Wild” meat offerings for next year.
Today through next Monday, more than a dozen Arlington restaurants will be participating in Northern Virginia Restaurant Week.
The weeklong event is being organized by the Reston, Loudoun, Arlington and Prince William Chambers of Commerce, with more than 60 restaurants participating across Northern Virginia. First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe kicked off restaurant week during a ceremony at Jaleo (2250 Crystal Drive) in Crystal City this morning.
Here are the Arlington restaurants participating:
- Bistro 360
- Bracket Room
- Cinnabar by Hyatt
- Cityhouse Hyatt Arlington
- Crystal City Sports Pub
- Il Forno Ristorante
- Kona Grill
- Lebanese Taverna
- Liberty Tavern
- Lyon Hall
- McCormick & Schmick’
- O’Malley’s Pub & Fresh Kitchen
- Potomac Bar and Grille
- SER Restaurant
- Sushi-Zen Japanese Restaurant
- Upper Crust Pizzeria
Osiris Hoil, who founded District Taco as a single taco cart and now serves as the chain’s CEO, said the Lee Highway restaurant is getting some needed TLC and will remain closed for a few weeks.
“We opened back in November 2010 with a low budget and since then we have improved the model with our new restaurants,” Hoil told ARLnow.com. “I believe in a system that our work environment need to be fun and clean so we can perform better in general.”
“The Arlington location, is getting the love that the other DT stores have and our longtime employees of that store will love getting a new restaurant with new equipment,” Hoil continued. “We should reopen in [a] couple weeks, we are working day and night so we can reopen and serve tacos to our amigos again!”
Arlington residents with a District Taco craving can head to the company’s new location in Rosslyn, which has been doing brisk weekday lunchtime business since it opened.
Photo courtesy Matt Gibert
Dudley’s Sport & Ale, a new sports bar coming to the former Bungalow space in Shirlington, is hoping for a June opening.
Initially it was hoped that the bar could open in March, but work associated with the planned rooftop deck has pushed that back, according to owner Reese Gardner, who also owns nearby Copperwood Tavern.
Dudley’s plans to make the most of its airy 12,000 square foot interior space. According to renderings shared with ARLnow.com, there will be a 28-seat bar, another 125 seats in the dining area, a private room and bar for events and — in a unique touch that should make sports fans jealous of their home theater setup — a “stadium style” viewing area, with more than a dozen comfortable, drink-holder-equipped seats, facing a giant screen made up of four 90-inch displays.
Dudley’s will have Shirlington’s first rooftop bar. The 3,000 square foot space will have a game area, a 15-seat bar and patio seating for 114, according to the renderings.
Additional details about Dudley’s are not expected to be released until closer to its opening.
Wakefield Advances to Finals — The Wakefield boys varsity basketball squad defeated Potomac Falls last night, 76-67, in the regional semifinals. The Warriors will now face Potomac in the 5A North Region final at 7 p.m. Saturday. [Washington Post, Twitter]
Hough, Laich Tip Big at Don Tito — Caps player Brooks Laich and his fiancée, dancer and actress Julianne Hough, recently left a server at Don Tito in Clarendon a $100 tip on a $24 bill. [Washington Post]
Wakefield Grad to NFL Combine — Former standout Wakefield High quarterback Drew Powell will be competing at the NFL regional Combine in Baltimore tomorrow. Powell just finished his final season as quarterback at Division II Livingstone College, where he broke six school records. [InsideNova]
Spotlight on Developmental Disabilities — The Arlington County Board has declared March 2016 “Including People with Developmental Disabilities Month.” [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by J.D. Moore
What’s it like to run a restaurant in a competitive market like Arlington? Four prominent local restaurant owners sat down with Sarah Fraser and ARLnow.com to discuss the business at our ARLnow Presents event last month, just after the big blizzard.
The full video from the event, courtesy of Arlington Independent Media, is above. The following are some of the interesting insights from the evening’s program.
What are some of the challenges in running a restaurant in Arlington?
Javier Candon, SER: “In Arlington, the biggest challenge, I think is the mentality, and proximity to the city. A lot of Arlington residents when they are having a real date night, they go to D.C.”
Does local government make it difficult to open a restaurant?
Mark Fedorchak, Liberty Tavern: “I think that Arlington county is pretty aware of the issue, but it is pretty difficult to open a restaurant with permits, and time. Every single day that you are paying rent waiting for permits, your are losing money.”
What’s more difficult, attracting customers when you first open, or keeping them?
Tim Ma, Water & Wall: “Everybody was coming through the door on day one, two years later, it’s all about retention. Staying relevant is probably the hardest thing. There’s so many new restaurants opening, so many different areas coming back to life, staying relevant is hard. Keeping the food good keeps people coming back.”
How do you feel about Yelp?
Mikala Brennan, Hula Girl Bar and Grill: “I think that as an opening restaurant you have to look at it and see if there’s trends happening. I think as chefs and owners we tend to take things a little personal sometimes. It’s sometimes hard not to respond immediately my GM reads them first and decides if there’s something I need to respond to immediately. I’ll be honest I think it’s relevant, but there is some things that are nit picky and irrelevant. I want to listen to people’s critiques, people that really want to tell you how they’re experience was sometimes email you, which I can respond to faster.”
How do you feel about new restaurants opening?
Scott Parker, A-Town Bar and Grill: “Arlington is in a very transitional time right now. Having two venues that are getting older and older, I wish new restaurants would open in Ballston, we don’t get the foot traffic that they get in Clarendon.”
How do you feel about bar crawls? Will we see more restrictions on them in the future?
Mark Fedorchak: “We are pro bar crawl, it’s been proven that they can be done in a controlled manner where they set a limit on the number of participants. While we don’t participate in them, it’s good for business across the board. They bring new guests from D.C. to Arlington.
What do you know now that you knew you wish you knew earlier?
Javier Candon: “How hard it is. Being there every single day, I took a break from being on the floor every day, and I think I forgot just how hard it is to be there seven days a week.”
How do you attract regular customers and locals?
Mikala Brennan: “We have a lot of residential people in the Shirlington area, and we find that they want to come in, they want to live there and support local business. So for us it’s important that we take care of neighborhood people. Making sure that they understand it’s okay to bring their kids in, it’s okay for them their kids to throw Cheerios on the ground, and do whatever they need to do. We want them to know it’s okay for them to come in with a shirt and flip flops on but if they want to wear a suit that’s fine too. We want to welcome everyone in.”
What have you found to love about being a restaurant and small business owner?
Scott Parker: “It’s just something you can’t describe, it’s grueling, late nights, long days. To be able to look around and see one of you venues packed, people smiling, enjoying your food and drink, in that moment it’s not about the money, it’s so thrilling.”
Thank you to our participants and to A-Town Bar and Grill for housing us. Look out for details about the March ARLnow Presents event, which will be held in Crystal City and will focus on Arlington’s burgeoning tech scene.
Quotes compiled by Justin Funkhouser.
ACFD Battles Fire on Patrick Henry Drive — On Thursday morning Arlington County firefighters assisted in battling a two-alarm blaze at an apartment building on the 3000 block of Patrick Henry Drive, just across the border in Fairfax County. [Twitter, Twitter]
Arlington Doubling Down on Startups — Arlington Economic Development plans to use the $1.5 million in one-time additional funds it’s allocated in County Manager Mark Schwartz’s budget to target early-stage tech companies and help them lease offices between 5,000 and 20,000 square feet. [Washington Business Journal]
W-L Alum to Direct Sci-Fi Film — Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams has selected Washington-Lee High School alum Julius Onah to direct “God Particle,” a new sci-fi thriller being produced by Abrams’ production company. Onah was named one of the top 10 “Up and Up Feature Directors” in 2013. He’s also signed up to direct an upcoming Universal Pictures film, “Brilliance.” [Blackfilm.com, Indiewire, Twitter]
Local Chef Nominated for Big Award — Peter Chang, whose eponymous restaurant opened last year in the Lee-Harrison shopping center, has been nominated for a prestigious James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic.” [Patch]
Shirlington Profiled by Post — As part of its “Where We Live” series, the Washington Post has profiled Arlington’s Shirlington neighborhood. Shirlington earns high marks for having a variety of walkable entertainment, dining and shopping options, and for having only six crimes of note over the course of 12 months. [Washington Post]
More on Nauck History Project — Arlington County’s Nauck Green Valley Heritage Project has already received dozens of photos in its new online photo archive. A vibrant, historically black neighborhood since before the Civil War, Nauck has been changing — some say gentrifying. “Today, we’re probably less than 32 percent African American,” noted the community’s civic association president. [WJLA]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
El Rancho Peruvian Chicken, at 3610 Columbia Pike, appears to have closed.
A neighboring business owner told ARLnow.com that the restaurant closed a couple of weeks ago and has not reopened since. Inside the eatery around noon yesterday, the doors were locked and chairs placed on top of the tables.
No explanation was given for the restaurant’s closure and no signs announcing the closure were posted on the windows at the time of ARLnow.com’s visit.
(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) The Johnny Rockets in the Pentagon City mall has apparently gone the way of sock hops and McCarthyism.
The 1950s themed burger-and-shake restaurant has been closed and boarded up for the past several days. While the Pentagon City location’s Facebook account is still publishing generic food photos, it has been removed from the company’s website and customers asking about the closure earlier this week have gotten no response.
There was no answer at the restaurant’s phone line. We’re still awaiting confirmation that the eatery has closed for good.
A Johnny Rockets in Shirlington closed last year.
Update on 2/6/16 — A PR rep for the mall writes in an email to ARLnow.com: “Johnny Rockets has been a valued eatery at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City for many years. We expect to make an announcement on plans for the space very soon. Further questions should be directed to Johnny Rockets.”
Expect Early Spring, Says Groundhogs — Updated at 9:40 a.m. — Punxsutawney Phil and Potomac Phil both did not see their shadow this morning and thus have predicted an early spring. Unfortunately, the former Phil is wrong more often than he is right. [CNN, Borderstan]
New County Manager Inks Contract — The Arlington County Board last week ratified a contract with Mark Schwartz, the county’s newly-appointed county manager. (Schwartz served as interim county manager for six months before his appointment.) Under the contract, Schwartz will earn $245,000 in his first year, which is less than the $270,000 annual salary of his predecessor and former boss, Barbara Donnellan. [InsideNova]
WeWork Now Open in Crystal City — The WeWork co-working space in Crystal City officially opened yesterday. The office space is decorated with plush couches, hardwood floors and oversized light fixtures, among other design elements. [Twitter]
Online Plan Review System Up and Running — Arlington County launched its Electronic Plan Review system yesterday, allowing plans for building permits and land use to be submitted, reviewed and approved online. The system is expected to save time and money compared to the previous, in-person submissions, though those submitting plans still have to go to the county offices to pay the permit fees in person. [Arlington County]
Praise for Texas Jack’s — A food critic finds a lot to like at Texas Jack’s, the new barbecue restaurant in the former EatBar space in Lyon Park. Writes Tim Carman: “[Chef Matt Lang’s] moist brisket is A-lister stuff, thick, succulent slices with a pink smoke ring lingering just below a dark outer bark of salt, pepper, smoke and fat, all fused together in a Southern Pride smoker set low and slow.” [Washington Post]
Photo via Twitter/Scott Kelly
It was hard enough for many Arlington residents to leave their house during last weekend’s blizzard — literally, two-plus feet of snow blocked many doors from opening — so imagine how hard it was to run a restaurant during the storm.
On Tuesday night, at ARLnow Presents: Running a Restaurant in Arlington, several prominent Arlington restaurant owners told attendees how they pulled it off.
Scott Parker, co-owner of A-Town and Don Tito, said his company paid for staff members to stay in nearby hotels — the Hilton in Ballston and the Holiday Inn in Courthouse — so they could get to and from work safely.
“We booked a big block of rooms in both of those… it was a big slumber party with all of our staff,” Parker said. “We were worried that if we sent people home and they fought through the storm on Friday night, they would then have to fight through it again to get back to work on Saturday, and that wasn’t really fair.”
Mark Fedorchak, co-owner of Liberty Tavern, Northside Social and Lyon Hall, said he and his team managed to keep Liberty Tavern open all weekend courtesy of an employee with a big SUV.
“We had one staff member with an ’85 Ford Bronco with huge wheels, that was able to go around and pick people up and take them back home all weekend long,” Fedorchak said.
Tim Ma, chef and proprietor of Water and Wall in Virginia Square, opened the restaurant on Sunday with only two staff members: his general manager and a server.
“I was able to get out of my house but the rest of my staff wasn’t,” said Ma, who was a 2015 “Culinary Rising Star of the Year” Rammy Award nominee. “I went into the kitchen, no dishwasher and no cook, and cooked the entire day by myself. We ran the entire day, with decent business, by ourselves.”
The next ARLnow Presents event, featuring new County Board members Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey, will be held at Mad Rose Tavern (3100 Clarendon Blvd) on Feb. 10.