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A florist from Eastern Europe is bringing her passion for flowers to Arlington.

What started as an online business for floral delivery has blossomed into a brick-and-mortar storefront, Kat Flowers Design and Decor, which had its grand opening at 2342 Columbia Pike this past Friday, Feb. 9.

Yekaterina Allotey, the owner and lead designer, told ARLnow that she stumbled on the future home of her flower shop by accident, while pushing her baby in a stroller along the Pike. Once she laid eyes on the location, she knew it was the place for her.

Allotey says the Columbia Pike community welcomed her with open arms.

“You don’t feel alone when you’re starting something big like a floral business or flower shop,” said Allotey. “It’s so important to have supporters or someone who actually appreciates you here.”

Supporters from all over came to help Allotey settle in. She said her family flew from her home country of Belarus, as well as from Spain, for opening day. Other floral businesses showed their support at the ribbon-cutting, too.

“We are friends with every other shop I used to work with,” said Allotey. “We support each other.”

While the florist says she loves her new home, she still clings to memories of home.

Allotey told ARLnow that her fascination with flowers was sparked in her childhood home in Belarus, where her mother always displayed outdoor plants and flowers in the front and backyard of the house and had some arrangements inside, too.

“I remember in the summertime, when I would have guests coming over, she would ask me, ‘Hey, can you go pick up some flowers so that we can put them on the table as a centerpiece?” she said.

Allotey also recalled obsessing over flowers while at school, spending all of her lunch money on floral and landscaping garden magazines. Little did she know that her childhood obsession would become her career.

“I didn’t know that, at that moment, I was going to be a florist, ” said Allotey. “I think that’s where everything started.”

From then on, Allotey did everything she could to be around flowers. Before coming to the U.S., Allotey worked at a small wedding business, where she sometimes worked with flowers but mostly, due to the high price of flowers, decorated with drapes.

Allotey immigrated to the U.S. and settled on the East Coast, working for other floral shops before starting an online flower business in 2021. Now that her online business has transitioned to a physical storefront, she is eager to connect with customers face-to-face.

“Right now I’m waiting for more walk-in customers to buy flowers,” Allotey said.

As of Tuesday, Allotey served 40 customers and she says she hopes for an even bigger turnout today for Valentine’s Day. She says she is fully stocked up for the day of love and touted her arrangements and specialty roses.

“We have six special bouquets. We don’t use regular roses: Our roses are garden-style and it’s not like something you buy from any other grocery stores,” she said.

Allotey is also willing to break outside the mold of a traditional floral designer. She and her team have done unique requests ranging from money bouquets to sparkling powder on roses.

“None of the florists I worked for would ever accept this type of request because they have their style,” Allotey said.

She says she even works with artificial flowers, if that is what the customer wants.

“I want to try to keep quality and delivery,” said Allotey.  “You know they say happy customer, happy shop.”

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A Valentine’s Day arrangement sample at Azi Flowers, along Columbia Pike (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

It’s Valentine’s Day, truly the Super Bowl of the floral and heart-shaped-chocolate-box industries.

Previous ARLnow polls have already established that a strong majority of readers — both single and in a relationship — prefer to stay in rather than go out on V-Day. Today we’re wondering about readers’ Valentine’s Day gift of choice.

Whether you’re more of a gift giver or gift receiver today, what do you typically prefer to give and/or get on Valentine’s Day? Between the two, do you prefer flowers — or food, like the aforementioned chocolate box? (You can use the comment section to brag about getting both.)


Love is in the air and in National Landing.

This week and next, several events in Pentagon City and Crystal City will celebrate the day of love with specials and experiences for attendees spending the day solo or with a loved one.

Kick off Valentine’s Day this evening by saying goodbye to old loves — whether it is an ex-partner, a job or that bag of clothes you’ve been meaning to donate — at the Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington Innovation Studio + Store, which opened last month in Amazon’s second headquarters in Pentagon City.

The pre-Valentine’s Day event today from 5-7 p.m. at 525 14th Street S. features drop-in activities include writing goodbye letters on burning paper and making sage bundles to burn, plus snacks and tea.

Then, on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14), wine and dine a loved one, or yourself, at local restaurants in the area.

Say “I love you” with old-school Italian dishes such as salmon piccata, veal saltimbocca and clams casino, paired with wine, at La Bettola Italiano (558 23rd S.). The cozy, not overly formal restaurant is only offering its special Valentine’s Day menu with wine pairings on Feb. 14. Be sure to make reservations, which can be done on the website.

Next up on the food tour is Surreal, with its oasis-like outdoor dining experience suitable for both singles and couples.

The gourmet diner, which opened late last year in Crystal City (2117 Crystal Drive) is offering a three-course menu for single diners starting at 7 p.m. in the private dining room.

For couples, Surreal is open for both lunch (12-2 p.m.) and dinner (4-10 p.m.) with classic chocolate lava cake service and inventive options, such as a crispy tuna poke pillow. Reservations can be made on Surreal’s website.

Those seeking a more intimate atmosphere can head to Beauty Champagne & Sugar Boutique (576 23rd Street S.) where, on Valentine’s Day, just two couples will get to have the wine room to themselves. For $250 per pair, the wine bar will serve cocktails, wine, champagne, small bites, a main course and dessert. Couples can nab either the 5:30-7:30 p.m. slot or the 8-10 p.m. slot.

Outside these slots, the wine bar will be open regular hours for a more low-key Valentine’s or Galentine’s Day, with sparkling wine, light bites and treats. RSVP by Saturday, Feb. 10.

National Landing has a few kid-friendly Valentine’s Day activities, too.

On Monday, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. families can bowl and play arcade games  at Bowlero while raising money for the Leadership Center for Excellence. The organization helps local leaders “expand their network and access quality leadership development,” the website says.

Tickets, sold on the center’s website, include two hours of bowling, shoe rental, a $5 arcade card plus food and drinks.

On Wednesday — Valentine’s Day — children and adults can get crafty at a card-making pop-up co-hosted by MoCA Arlington and Amazon in Met Park from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In the mood for a tragedy? Head to Synetic Theater (1800 S. Bell Street) for its rendition of “Romeo and Juliet,” a tale of star-crossed lovers, a bitter family feud and a romantic yet ill-fated destiny. Its wordless production from Feb. 9 to March 14 is a “unique and stunningly visual interpretation of a classic story, capturing emotion with every movement,” the website says.

Photos 1, 4 and 7 via Facebook

Valentine’s Day cookies from Village Sweet bakery in Arlington (file photo)

Arlington has plenty of dimly lit, romantic restaurants and charming, cozy local spots suitable for a date night.

Whether you’re hoping to share a bowl of noodles “Lady and the Tramp”-style, split a slice (or whole pie) with a partner, or would rather skip straight to dessert, these local spots have you and your loved one covered for Valentine’s Day next week.

Don’t want to venture out on Feb. 14? Stay in with take-home treats from your favorite local spots suitable for solo diners, a duo or even with a group of friends.

1. Village Sweet

5872 Washington Blvd, Westover

We’re starting with dessert on our romance roundup. Begin your Valentine’s Day with the sweet smell of croissants, cookies and other Valentine’s Day treats at Village Sweet Bakery.

The bakery’s holiday offerings are available now and include a royal wedding layer cake, “brown sug’ah” cupcakes with spiced graham buttercream, strawberry and black velvet swirl loaf and chocolate snacking cake with Irish coffee buttercream. Place your order ahead of time or stop by and peruse all of Village Sweet’s offerings.

Surreal is opening in Crystal City in the fall (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

2. Surreal

2117 Crystal Drive, Crystal City

Step into a garden-like oasis for a dinner experience suitable for both singles and couples at Surreal, a gourmet diner that opened late last year in Crystal City. Surreal is offering a three-course Valentine’s Day menu for single diners starting at 7 p.m. in the private dining room. For couples, Surreal is open for both lunch (12-2 p.m.) and dinner (4-10 p.m.) with creative favorites like chocolate lava cake service and the crispy tuna poke pillow.

Reservations can be made on Surreal’s website.

Interior of WHINO in Ballston (Photo courtesy of Timothy Yantz/WHINO)


4238 Wilson Blvd., Second Floor, Ballston

Step into the colorful and carefully-curated WHINO, a restaurant, bar and art gallery where you and your valentine can peruse art and the menu. This year, WHINO is offering a special Valentine’s Day dinner menu on Wednesday, Feb. 14 from 5-10 p.m. The menu has not yet been made available, but WHINO’s current menu can be found on its website.

Reservations can be made online.

Some dishes on the menu at Padaek (courtesy Noh Leftovers)

4. Padaek

2391 S. Glebe Road, Arlington Ridge

Elevate your dinner experience with a five-course chef’s tasting menu this Valentine’s Day at Padaek, which opened last fall in the Arlington Ridge Shopping Center.

Inspired by Chef Seng Luangrath’s 35-year marriage, the menu of Southeast Asian dishes include goong nahm paa (Argentine red shrimp with chili garlic and lime sauce), pak naam (flash-fried sweet potato leaves with tamarind sauce), gaeng som (chicken consommé, Chilean sea bass, pickled lime, roasted cherry tomatoes and smoked hot pepper), and kanom soat sai (steamed sticky rice cake stuffed with caramelized shredded coconut and coconut cream).

The dinner is $89 per person. Reservations are required and can be made on Padaek’s website.

Ambar in Clarendon

5. Ambar

2901 Wilson Blvd., Clarendon

Looking to share new experience this Valentine’s Day? Ambar is offering a Valentine’s Day feast of traditional dishes from the Balkan Peninsula, prepared with a modern twist. The dinner features small plates including spreads, charcuterie, soups and salads, seafood, dessert and more to share.

The Valentine’s Day menu is $94.99 per person (tax and gratuity not included) at Ambar Clarendon. Pre-selected cocktails are priced at $0.99 per drink and featured beverages include an Ambar Old Fashioned, mango lemonade, margarita, kiwi smash, red punch sangria and a variety of wine and beer. Ambar’s Valentine’s Day menu will be available exclusively on Wednesday, Feb. 14, from 4-11 p.m.

There is a 2-hour time limit for all parties. Reservations can be made on Ambar’s website.

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A woman contemplating whether to go out or stay in on Valentine’s Day (image generated by DALL-E 2)

When we last asked, in 2017, just under 20% of you said you planned to go out for Valentine’s Day that year.

That includes both singles (28.5% of overall respondents) and those in a relationship (71.5% of respondents). Those in a relationship were only slightly more likely to be planning to head out: 20% of those in a relationship said they were going out to 17% for singles.

On this Valentine’s Day, we’re asking a slightly different question: do you prefer going out or staying in on Valentine’s Day?

Surely, some people going to a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner would rather be home with a pizza, while some staying in would rather be out somewhere. Let’s see if these results differ from the previous poll.

Valentine’s Day reservations (Photo by Rene Ranisch/Unsplash)

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, which naturally leads many to consider where to take their significant other out on a date.

If you live in Arlington, there’s a natural gravitational pull to stay closer to home when possible. After all, you’re presumably paying the higher rent or mortgage payments associated with living here because you like being close to stuff.

One significant challenge to taking your beloved out in Arlington has been a dearth of properly impressive options. D.C. has far more hip and high-end restaurants to choose from, for instance. Of Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants list from Feb. 2020, most are located in the District and only one currently operating restaurant — Ser in Ballston — is from Arlington.

But the picture seems to be changing, at least by some measures.

We now have some new, well-regarded homegrown spots (like Ruthie’s All-Day and Cafe Colline), local outposts of popular city eateries (Salt Line and Sfoglina) and an entire neighborhood (Pentagon City) that seems intent on transforming into a drinking and dining destination with plenty of interesting new restaurants, many apparently banking on business from those working at Amazon’s under-construction HQ2.

Entertainment options in Arlington remain limited, however, with options for going to big shows pretty much confined to Signature Theater and, when a national name is on the marquee, the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse. The Rosslyn-Ballston corridor is still screaming out for a decent concert venue or comedy club.

Given all that, five days before V-Day, we’re asking: on balance, do you think Arlington has improved as a date destination over the past few years?

Photo by Rene Ranisch/Unsplash


If you’re dating but on a budget, Arlington is a good place to be.

That’s according to a new-for-2021 set of rankings from the website SmartAsset, which examined cities and places from around the U.S., comparing to cost of things like coffee and wine, in addition to access to parks and employment.

“One small upside is that dates during COVID-19 may be cheaper than usual,” SmartAsset wrote about the study. “Many COVID-friendly dates such as picnics and takeout are less expensive than typical activities, so wooers won’t have to dig as deep into their savings accounts to make Cupid strike.”

The couple seen above, Justin and Alexis, proved that thesis on Valentine’s Day this past Sunday. They headed to the View of DC observation deck at the top of 1201 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn — which is free for Arlington residents — and danced to a record player amid the breathtaking vistas.

Arlington ranked No. 2 on SmartAsset’s budget-friendly list, between Madison, Wisconsin (No. 1) and St. Petersburg, Florida (No. 3).

From the website:

Arlington, Virginia ranks at the top of our study for economic favorability, which means that your date in this D.C. a suburb is likely employed and has a decent disposable income. In November 2020, the unemployment rate was 3.8%, the fourth-lowest in our study, and on average, residents pay only 26.14% of their income on housing costs, the second-lowest for this metric. Those looking to share a special meal with a significant other also have a vast variety of options: Arlington ranks 15th for the greatest density of restaurants, with almost 230 for every 100,000 residents in the city.

The rankings compared metrics like “date affordability (cost of two cappuccinos, cost of takeout and a bottle of wine, average monthly internet cost), date access (coffee and snack shop density, restaurant density, percentage of households with internet access, percentage of city made up of parkland) and economic favorability (housing costs and unemployment rate).”

Jay Westcott contributed to this report. Image (bottom) courtesy SmartAsset.


Morning Notes

Love Notes in Rosslyn — “In honor of Valentine’s Day, we created Rosslyn Love, a community-wide free activity where anyone in the DMV could submit a message to be displayed across four temporary murals outside of 1550 Wilson Boulevard in Rosslyn. Whether it was for a partner, a friend, coworker, family member, healthcare professional or even just a favorite spot around the neighborhood, we received over 400 messages of love and gratitude.” [Rosslyn BID]

Dems Keep Focus on Equity — “The Arlington County Democratic Committee in early March is expected to make its ad-hoc Inclusion and Equity Committee a permanent standing committee. The goal, deputy party chair Maggie Davis said, was to ‘do better including more people that look like the population of Arlington’ in Democratic Party activities.” [InsideNova]

Local GOP Surveying Members — “The Arlington County Republican Committee is in the midst of surveying its membership in hopes of making the party and its meetings more relevant to the rank-and-file and broader community. ‘Dozens of Arlington Republicans have already taken the time to complete this survey, and their responses are thoughtful and thorough,’ said Matthew Hurtt, the Arlington GOP’s communications director.” [InsideNova]

Police Investigate Sexual Battery in Arlington Mill — “The victim was walking in the area when she noticed the male suspect walking behind her. The suspect approached the victim, grabbed her waist and thrusted himself against her multiple times while making sexual comments. The victim continued walking and, as she approached her residence, the suspect re-approached her and brushed his hands against her breast. The victim was able to enter her residential building and close the door, preventing the suspect from following her inside.” [ACPD]

Air Force Vet Still Standing Up to Cancer — “‘Pat’ Malone, a seven-year cancer survivor, and 20-year Air Force veteran will ‘stand up to cancer’ for 24-hours straight, during his Seventh Annual Stand Up To Cancer® (SU2C) 24-Hour Fundraiser, beginning at 4:26 p.m. on Wednesday, February 10, and ending at 4:26 p.m. on Thursday, February 11, 2021, at Fire Works American Pizzeria & Bar, 2350 Clarendon Blvd.” [The Zebra]


This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for Nick’s email newsletter and also receive exclusive discounts and offers.

Valentine’s Day is often associated with indulgences in food, wine and chocolates or other desserts.

If you’re looking to change things up a little this year, there are some beer options that can make your evening just a little more special. If I may humbly offer a few suggestions:

Before Or With Dinner

If you’re starting with finger foods or a cheese/charcuterie plate (wherever might you acquire one of those, I wonder?), a clean, snappy Pils or other lighter Lager can simultaneously accentuate flavors while staying out of their way. My old standby Veltins Pilsener does this well, as do Hardywood’s Pils, Port City’s Downright Pilsner and the new Bruery Ruekeller: Helles.

Helles is a great way to go for something with a tick more flavor that you can also take to the table. Consider The Bruery’s version along with Rocket Frog’s Hellenor.

With Dinner

English-style Ales offer a great mix of sweet notes from both their malts and yeasts, along with easy-going lower ABVs and balanced mouth feels thanks to judicious hop usage that rarely crossed over into bitter or overpowering. We’re lucky to have a couple good local options available in the Denizens Lowest Lord ESB and the recently arrived Fast Mail from Danville’s Ballad Brewing, a lovely interpretation of an English Mild clocking in at 4.2% ABV.

For the more adventurous, a nice Belgian or Belgian-style beer always works. Denizens comes through again here with Third Party Tripel, but it’s hard to stay away from Trappist classics like Westmalle Tripel, Rochefort 8 and Orval. It’s a bit esoteric, but De Proef’s Saison Imperiale is a unique, maltier take on the style that is complex and gorgeous on its own but would play well with earthier entrees.

After Dinner

Staying with the Belgians, Rodenbach’s Felmish Sours play beautifully off of chocolates and fruits. The Rodenbach Classic runs more tart than sour, with hints of cherry, while Alexander actually sees the addition of sour cherry juice. In my opinion, you can never go wrong with Rodenbach.

If you’re veering toward a truly indulgent end to the meal, consider a lush Imperial Stout: Toasted Almond from Back Bay’s Farmhouse Brewing Company in Virginia Beach is a cocktail-inspired, Bourbon barrel-aged monster made with lactose (pair with/on ice cream?), whole coffee beans and yes, toasted almonds.

It’s not cheap and hard to find — apparently only two cases came up to NoVA; guess who got one? — but if you’re going all-out, go all out, right? Also consider: Sierra Nevada’s Barrel-Aged Narwhal (recently released in 16oz cans and apparently as a year-round beer), Port City Porter, or Hardywood’s seasonal Baltic Sunrise, a lovely Baltic Porter on coffee.

As always, follow us on Untappd or check our site for real-time updates on what’s on the Draft Station. Until next time!


In case you forgot, Friday is Valentine’s Day. Wait, before you make a panicked purchase on Amazon and hit “next day shipping,” a market is scheduled this Friday in Crystal City to rescue last-minute shoppers.

The Valentine’s Market is scheduled to run from 4-8 p.m. at The Grounds (1102 S. Eads Street) with a variety of local vendors. If gift-giving isn’t really your style, an event listing said there will also be plenty of activities to turn it into a date night:

Leave your Valentine’s Day shopping to the last minute again, or just looking for a nice outing that doesn’t involve a quiet restaurant? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with the Valentine’s Market at The Grounds!

Join us at The Grounds in Crystal City for wine & beer tastings and shopping from local crafts and treat vendors. There will also be a cash bar and food trucks, powered by Curbside Kitchen, so you can make an evening of it!

The Facebook page noted that the beer tastings will be offered by Caboose Brewing Company and the wine will be offered by Crystal City Wine Shop.

According to the website, vendors at the event include:

The website also says Arlington County’s Vision Zero program will be in attendance, in case your partner is a transportation policy wonk.

Photo via Agents in Style/Facebook

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Haven’t made Valentine’s Day reservations yet?

You’re in luck. Here are the top 15 best-reviewed restaurants in Arlington, according to OpenTable, that — as of publication time — still have reservations available between 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 14.

1. Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant (Crystal City)
Time slots available: 6:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m., 7 p.m., 7:15 p.m., 7:30 p.m.

2. Maya Bistro (Lee Highway)
Time slots available: 6:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m., 7 p.m., 7:15 p.m., 7:30 p.m.

3. MeJana (Courthouse)
Time slots available: 5:30 p.m., 5:45 p.m.

4. True Food Kitchen (Ballston)
Time slots available: 5:30 p.m., 5:45 p.m., 8:30 p.m.

5. Heritage Brewpub (Clarendon)
Time slots available: 6:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m., 7 p.m., 7:15 p.m., 7:30 p.m.

6. Lebanese Taverna (Westover)
Time slots available: 6:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m., 7 p.m., 7:15 p.m., 7:30 p.m.

7. Sushi Rock (Courthouse)
Time slots available: 5:45 p.m., 6 p.m.

8. Palette 22 (Shirlington)
Time slots available: 5:45 p.m., 6 p.m., 8:30 p.m.

9. Open Road Grill (Rosslyn)
Time slots available: 6:15 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m.

10. Istanbul Grill (Bluemont)
Time slots available: 6:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m., 7 p.m., 7:15 p.m., 7:30 p.m.

11. Baba (Clarendon)
Time slots available: 6:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 7:45 p.m.

12. La Bettola Italiano (Crystal City)
Time slots available: 6:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m., 7 p.m., 7:15 p.m., 7:30 p.m.

13. Osteria da Nino (Shirlington)
Time slots available: 8:15 p.m., 8:30 p.m.

14. Liberty Tavern (Clarendon)
Time slots available: 5:30 p.m., 5:45 p.m.

15. Texas Jack’s Barbecue (Lyon Park)
Time slots available: 6:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m., 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m.

Photo by René Ranisch on Unsplash


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