Press Club

A new champagne bar, market, and restaurant is finally set to serve bubbly early next month in Crystal City.

Beauty Champagne & Sugar Boutique is aiming for a Thursday, May 5 opening at the corner of 23rd Street S. and Fern Street in Crystal City, owners Zena Polin and Meshelle Armstrong announced via a press release.

The concept is an all-in-one champagne and wine bar, market, and “light bites” restaurant.

The new shop is from two well-known local restaurateurs, Zena Polin and Meshelle Armstrong. The two are also behind Hummingbird Bar & Kitchen in Old Town Alexandria as well as being associated with Eat Good Food Group. That restaurant group owns a number of local restaurants including Pentagon City’s Mattie and Eddie’s and is helmed by Meshelle’s husband, chef Cathal Armstrong.

Additionally, Beauty is somewhat of a revival of Alexandria’s Society Fair, Polin told us back in February. That’s the shop she owned that closed in 2019. A Columbia Pike offshoot shuttered in 2014.

The small-ish, 800-square foot space at 576 23rd Street S. will be divided into three rooms.

The front will be the retail shop and market, selling locally sourced cakes, cookies, treats, and other items. To the right, will be the wine room with champagne and wine being sold to drink on or off the premises. To the left, will be the 12-seat restaurant that will serve flatbreads, dips, charcuteries, sandwiches, and desserts including a “Big Ass Chocolate Cake” and the shop’s signature cookie “The Guilty Pleasure.”

The cookie is a Polin creation, according to the release, and made with “housemade marshmallow fluff, dark chocolate chunks and potato chips.”

The origin of “Beauty” goes back nearly two years, with a decision driven by a unique opportunity. In 2020, the partners happened upon the small residential-looking building in Crystal City that was once the home of consignment boutique Agents in Style.

“We jumped on it before [the concept] was quite ready, but that happens,” Polin said earlier this year. “We’ve been working on it for about a year.”

The location is a relatively short distance from Amazon’s new headquarters, as the press release points out. The partners had hoped to open the boutique in March, but permitting and licensing delays pushed the opening back by about two months.

Beauty Champagne & Sugar Boutique will be open Tuesday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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Pirouette Cafe, a new wine bar and restaurant, is set to open this summer on the ground floor of J Sol apartments in Ballston.

Pirouette is from the wife and husband team of Philippe and Jackie Loustaunau, residents of nearby Virginia Square who currently own a technology consulting business together.

The wine bar at 4000 Fairfax Drive will aim to have a “casual feel” that will focus on a variety of wines that takes the “intimidation” out of wine, Philippe and Jackie tell ARLnow.

The menu will be an assortment of small plates, desserts, and a few entrees that will focus on global cuisine. Vegan and vegetarian dishes will be offered. The head chef is Autumn Cline, who previously was at Rappahannock Oyster Bar and Rose’s Luxury in D.C.

A few dishes expected to be on the menu include bluefish rillettes with housemade pickles, duck confit with Japanese fermented fruit, and a vegan meaty red beet entree. While the wines and menu may be global, the focus is local.

“I love the idea of meeting our customers in the street, going to the park and seeing them with their children, seeing folks at school,” says Philippe. “This is a neighborhood environment, which I think creates community and connects people.”

Philippe is originally from France, so the idea of a neighborhood wine bar is familiar to him. Prior to having children, Jackie worked in the local restaurant industry. She has also volunteered at the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) and worked at Fresh Impact Farms.

They have long dreamed of opening a restaurant and wine bar together.

“Every time a new mixed-use building would go up [in our neighborhood] and the first floor is open, we’d be like ‘Maybe, maybe there’ll be some wine bar… or a good place to get a bite to eat,'” says Jackie. “And that never happened.”

So, they went for it, signing the lease in November. They are starting the interior build-out now and expect Pirouette to open in the summer, barring no further supply chain delays.

With a child in school, it was important to Philippe and Jackie to own a restaurant that was close by, within walking distance of their home together.

“With having a sixth grader, we wanted to do it in a way that [Pirouette] fits our life,” says Jackie. “We don’t need to build in time for a commute. We’re two blocks away and that makes a big, big difference.”

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Beauty by Society Fair, a “champagne boutique,” is hoping to start serving bubbly in Crystal City within the next month, co-owner Zena Polin tells ARLnow.

The store at 576 23rd Street S., which we first reported about in October, is set to be a combination of retail store, bistro and wine shop. The small, 800-square-foot space will include a front room offering items for sale and a side room with 10 seats. The business’s focus will be selling locally produced gifts, serving fresh cakes and treats, and providing space for a glass of wine or, yes, champagne.

“We want this to be a place where you come at the end of the day for wine and a piece of cake,” Polin says.

Beauty by Society Fair is owned by notable local restaurateurs Zena Polin and Meshelle Armstrong, who are also behind Hummingbird Bar & Kitchen in Old Town Alexandria. Both are associated with Eat Good Food Group, which owns a number of local restaurants including Mattie and Eddie’s in Pentagon City and is helmed by Meshelle’s husband, chef Cathal Armstrong.

This new shop is somewhat of a revival of Alexandria’s Society Fair, a gourmet food market that closed in 2019, and its offshoot location on Columbia Pike, which shuttered in 2014.

“The front [of the shop] will be most reflective of what Society Fair used to look like,” says Polin. “With fresh baked cakes, candy, and treats… and gifts, with a large focus on local and women-owned companies.”

Polin also credits Cheesetique, with locations in Del Ray and Shirlington, as an inspiration.

The residential-looking building is the former home of Agents of Style, a consignment boutique. The look fits the shop’s motif well, notes Polin. The aim is to appeal to the local neighborhood and community, while also being less than a mile from Amazon’s new headquarters in Pentagon City.

The location was scouted out by Armstrong prior to the concept being fully formed.

“We jumped on it before [the concept] was quite ready, but that happens,” says Polin. “We’ve been working on it for about a year.”

The shop is essentially ready to go, with the owners just waiting on inspections. They believe that Beauty by Society Fair could be open by the end of February.

While the store may not be as big as some of its predecessors, Polin thinks this is the perfect size and fit for the moment.

“With the way the world is working now, something smaller and more manageable is the way to go,” she says. “It’s a function of the times.”

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Retail space on the ground floor of J Sol at 4000 Fairfax Drive (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A new wine shop and bar is opening on the ground floor of J Sol apartments in Ballston.

Not much is known about what is coming and when besides what’s noted in the permit application, which was just submitted last week.

What we do know is that it’s not associated with Screwtop Wine Bar, another wine-bar-slash-shop nearby, on N. Fillmore Drive in Clarendon. Also, it’s not opening in the immediate future, according to J Sol staff that ARLnow spoke to.

ARLnow has also reached out to retail leasing agents for the building, but has yet to hear back as of publication.

The 326-unit high-rise, luxurious apartment building at 4000 Fairfax Drive opened in August 2020. It replaced the popular local bar CarPool, which has since reopened a half mile walk away on N. Glebe Road.

Hat tip to Chris Slatt

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A new shop is coming to 576 23rd Street S. (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A new business called “Beauty by Society Fair” is coming to 576 23rd Street S. in Crystal City, the former location of Agents in Style.

The establishment’s Instagram account describes it as a “champagne boutique.” The business also has an alcohol license pending, showing it’s looking to serve wine and/or beer both on and off the premises.

It also seems clear that the business is associated with the former market and eatery Society Fair and Bar PX in Alexandria, touted as the D.C area’s “original speakeasy-style bar.” Both establishments closed in 2019. An offshoot of Society Fair was also briefly open on Columbia Pike in Arlington in 2014.

Alexandria’s tourism blog promoted in April the eventual opening of “Beauty by Society Fair,” noting that it’s owned by Meshelle Armstrong. She’s the co-owner of several notable local restaurants with her husband, chef Cathal Armstrong, including Mattie and Eddie’s in Pentagon City. Armstrong’s Eat Good Food Group counts Society Fair, Bar PX, Eamonn’s and Restaurant Eve among its former restaurants.

Zena Polin, co-owner with Armstrong of Hummingbird Bar & Kitchen in Alexandria, also looks to be involved in Beauty by Society Fair.

ARLnow has reached out to the owners but haven’t received an on-the-record statement as of publication. A Sept. 30 Instagram post said Beauty by Society Fair would be “coming soonish” to “a darling spot [in] National Landing.”

The building, which is accessible via S. Fern Street, formerly housed the consignment boutique Agents in Style, but that shop moved to Charlottesville in July.

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(Updated at 2 p.m. on 8/30/21) Lorton-based RĀKO Coffee Roasters is opening RĀKO, its first brick-and-mortar coffee shop, on Saturday in Courthouse.

And to celebrate the grand opening of the café at 2016 Wilson Blvd, RĀKO will offer $1 coffees from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, with specially-priced natural wines available all day Saturday until 9 p.m.

The roasting company, founded by sisters Melissa and Lisa Gerben in late 2019, sources and roasts sustainably farmed, single-origin coffee. They planned to open a café last year, but the pandemic delayed that, and they launched an online store and a D.C. pop up location instead.

Now, the Gerbens have a space, in the former location of The Olive Oil Boom, to sell fresh roasted coffee from around the world, espresso drinks, food, cocktails and natural wines.

“Through its thoughtful offerings like the signature baklava latte made with cinnamon, cardamom, and clove infused honey syrup, RĀKO aims to make specialty coffee approachable,” according to a press release.

The company and shop are named for a mountain in Ethiopia called Rako, which translates to “challenge.”

“The brand’s name underscores its mission to create elevated and exceptional coffees while giving back to the communities it touches, both locally and globally,” the release said.

Weekday happy hours will start at 4 p.m. The drinks menu will center natural wines, a collective term for wines that eschew the chemicals, additives and extra processes found in many commercial wines, from cultivation to harvest to production.

“Much like its coffee program, the natural wine program is both approachable and dynamic, with the opening menu aptly named Summer Crush, boasting a curated selection of refreshing summer wines by women winemakers,” the release said.

Coffee will seep into the cocktail menu, from an espresso martini to a Negroni made with coffee-infused Campari.

To eat, RĀKO will offer seasonal foods, such as cucumber gazpacho and strawberry and manchego salad, meze and cheese boards. It will also serve “pocket foods” such as salteñas, empanadas and sambussas, a nod to the coffee-growing regions of Bolivia, Colombia and Ethiopia, respectively. Breakfast and baked goods will come from local bakeries.

All this will be in a trendy space that can accommodate 55 people and double as a private event space. RĀKO will be decorated with local art, textiles from Guatemala and vibrant paintings of Ethiopian flora.

“Lush and comfortable, the café is designed to be a space where guests can recharge and connect over a specialty coffee or a glass of biodynamic wine,” the release said.

The sisters aim to host a variety of events at the space, including wine tastings and latte art classes.

RĀKO regular hours are Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

(On Monday, RĀKO updated its regular hours of operation.)

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In two days, Montgomery County will start allowing alcohol consumption in select parks as part of a pilot program.

More from Washingtonian:

Beginning Thursday, September 24, alcohol consumption will be allowed in nine designated parks as part of a pilot program approved by the Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday. It will run at least through May.

The change is one facet of the county’s “Picnic in the Park” initiative, which aims to bolster takeout business for nearby restaurants while providing venues for safe social distancing. The MoCo Eats website shows picnic-goers which restaurants will deliver to them, and each park has drop-off spots for drivers.

In Arlington, alcohol consumption is banned in parks, with the exception of serving beer and wine during permitted events in two parks: Rosslyn Gateway Park and Clarendon Central Park. On top of the restrictions, Arlington has a program called Park Safe in which repeat offenders of rules like the alcohol ban — often homeless individuals with substance abuse problems — can be temporarily banned from all county parks.

Montgomery County’s program is specifically aimed at boosting outdoor dining during the pandemic and does not legalize public intoxication. But it’s the latest example of how long-standing laws concerning where you can buy and consume alcohol have become malleable as a result of COVID-19, allowing restaurants to deliver cocktails and parking lots to turn into watering holes.

Arlington has thus far declined to close streets to give restaurants more room to seat diners outside, as D.C. is doing, but perhaps adopting Montgomery County’s new temporary park rules could be the thing to give local eateries a boost.

What do you think?

Courtesy photo

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An Ohio-based company that offers boozy, candy-covered gifts is planning to open at Pentagon City mall, according to a permit filing.

Bliss in a Bottle, which previously opened a kiosk at Tysons Corner Center, sells beer and wine bottles covered in chocolate, sprinkles and other candies.

“In the perfect pairing, flavors from different families collide, creating a taste explosion that sends a wake-up call from your mouth to your brain. It’s not just delicious. It’s a truly novel experience,” says the company’s Facebook page. “Our fine Belgian chocolate, hand-painted on to a wine bottle covered with a removable food grade sleeve, is a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds.”

The company, which also has a location at Westfield Montgomery mall in Bethesda, has been expanding via franchising. So far there’s no word on an opening date for the Pentagon City location.

A video, below, shows how customers can peel the chocolate off the bottle before opening.

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(Updated at 8/16/19) Wine and cheese store and restaurant Cheesetique is opening a new location in the Village at Shirlington.

State and county permits show the local shop is planning to open at 4024 Campbell Avenue, in the former Luna Grill and Diner space, just down the road from its existing Shirlington location.

According to permits, the Luna space is being renovated on the first floor and the basement level, while exterior changes are being made to the storefront. There will be a new sidewalk cafe outside the restaurant and operable windows, the county permits suggest.

“After 8 years in Shirlington, Cheesetique will open a new, larger location at 4024 Campbell Avenue this autumn,” owner Jill Erber confirmed to ARLnow, following the original publication of this article. “The new Cheesetique will be home to private dining and event spaces, more generous restaurant seating, and an enhanced retail cheese and wine shop. Our current location at 4056 Campbell Avenue will close once we relocate.”

Cheesetique has locations in Shirlington, Alexandria’s Del Rey neighborhood and the Mosaic District in Fairfax County. A Cheesetique location in Ballston closed in June.

File photo

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A Sense of Place Cafe is considering catering to the happy hour crowd by serving wine and beer in the evenings.

Earlier this month, the independent coffee shop at 4807 1st Street N. in the Arlington Forest Shopping Center submitted an application to Virginia ABC to serve wine and beer on premises.

Owner Kim Seo said the cafe was still awaiting an inspection and that she doesn’t expect to receive a permit decision until early August, but that hasn’t stopped her and her sister from planning ahead.

Seo is hoping to cater to an after-work crowd, potentially staying open in the evenings (the cafe currently closes at 3 p.m.) for a happy hour and light appetizers.

“Once we get the license we will work on our actual menu,” said Seo.

Seo said she and her sister, Kay, decided to rethink the hours of operation after taking note of how many people visit the shopping center in the evening, after Sense of Place closes for the day.

For now, A Sense of Place will continue with its usual hours of operation: from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, Saturday from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

A Twitter thread caught my attention recently from Raven Book Store, an independent retailer in Kansas.

The story is familiar to anyone in retail, especially in the age of Amazon and other online outlets. Beer and wine haven’t really had to deal with e-commerce as a threat to smaller brick-and-mortar shops — not yet, anyway. The conversation has centered on “big boxes vs. little guys” instead. Now, though, it appears that big-time online beer and wine retail is just over the horizon.

Washington Business Journal reported earlier this month that Amazon is looking to hire a Manager of Public Policy focusing on alcohol, fueling speculation it’s looking to take another run at becoming as potent a force in the booze business as it has been everywhere else.

Amazon isn’t the only giant sniffing around online retail: ZX Ventures, the growth/investment wing of AB InBev (Budweiser) is already working with larger retailers like Walmart and Kroeger, along with delivery services like Drizly. Bryan Roth offers a good, comprehensive deep-dive here.

Giant corporations see something they want, and they usually get their way. So what does this mean for independents? For the foreseeable future, I wouldn’t expect the price difference to be as dramatic as in books or other items: with sales taxes and delivery fees, online retail prices will hang near an independents’ for now.

Imagine, though, if one of these services really takes off — say, after regulations are rewritten or struck altogether. Amazon might start moving enough of a local favorite at $11, versus $11.99 at an independent, that the distributor gives them a discount to buy per pallet, knocking off $3-4 per case. Then you’re looking at $8.99 online versus $11.99 at an independent that can’t buy by the pallet and can’t match that price.

That’s the realities of the market, you say, and you’d be right. This is the reality we’ve lived with, as big chains and boxes build an interest in “craft” beer. What I keep circling around is an Amazon-type taking it one step further: working with breweries directly.

Ever see your favorite go-to beer pop up at Costco at a price that shocked you? Just wait: if the big guys get their way, this is the game-changer. This is the move that drops the big guys’ cost dramatically enough to see book-like price discrepancies.

Back to books, actually: I support local bookstores as much as I can. I secretly harbor a daydream of opening one, if I’m honest. But if you’ve given me an Amazon gift card over the past few years, I’ve used it to find books on my wish list, used, as cheaply as possible. I do this because it’s fun, it’s convenient, and because I’m a massive hypocrite.

While those purchases usually end up being made through indie bookstores, after Amazon takes its cut who knows how much I’m actually supporting them? Still I do it: pictured are just some of the books I’ve picked up via this method over the past year.

What do my shelves look like when all of our favorites start popping up online for less than I pay wholesale? What will make sense for me to carry? As our success leans more heavily on the experience, and the service we offer, which breweries will rise to occasion to support small retailers?

Will beer go the way of books, shoes, and widgets of all types? If you’re in the business and not thinking about this stuff now, you need to start. Bezos is coming.

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