Arlington, VA

Queen Mother’s Fried Chicken from Chef Rahman “Rock” Harper has gotten a considerable amount of press since landing in Arlington nearly three months ago.

But it hasn’t altered how the chef does business.

“It hasn’t changed anything other than we’ve been blessed with more customers from a wider range of audiences,” Harper tells ARLnow. “We just have been busier.”

In early December, Queen Mother’s moved into the restaurant incubator Cafe by La Cocina at 918 S. Lincoln Street, right off of Columbia Pike, in the Alcova Heights neighborhood.

The menu is relatively compact. It includes four variations of fried chicken sandwiches — all cooked in duck fat and canola oil — including classic, Nashville hot, Virginia honey butter, and spicy mambo.

As sides, there are seasoned waffle fries and two different kinds of coleslaw. Homemade sweet tea and lemonade are offered as drinks. For desert, brown butter chocolate chip cookies.

Harper first got attention as the season three winner of the Fox competition show Hell’s Kitchen. He’s been an executive chef at Las Vegas and D.C. restaurants, an author, a podcast host, and has made numerous return trips to television. He also previously collaborated with another restaurateur on the short-lived, sausage-and-beer restaurant Fat Shorty’s in Clarendon.

Queen Mother’s is Harper’s first go at a restaurant he owns and controls himself. It was previously based at a virtual food hall in D.C. before making the move across the river.

“I’m from Alexandria… I’m a Virginia guy,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to ‘restaurant’ on this side of a bridge, so to speak.”

Growing up a neighbor, he notes his familiarity of Arlington and how he’s continuously overwhelmed with the support the community has provided Queen Mother’s.

“You know, people saying ‘Hey, we’re glad you’re here’ and ‘We need more things like this in the neighborhood, right down the Pike,'” he said.

The restaurant is named after his mom, Carol Harper.

“She’s affectionately known as a mother to her children… and to most of the people in my neighborhood,” he says. “And she’s a queen.”

Harper says he also named it as such to shift the conversation around Black food and Black women.

“Instead of going down the road that we’ve gone down in years past with the negative or stereotypical names, it’s my responsibility to put positive energy towards our culture and food,” Harper says. “And fried chicken is what I’m using.”

Recently, there’s been a movement around reclaiming chicken as a symbol of pride in the Black restaurant community.

Harper set up shop at the Columbia Pike-based incubator Cafe by La Cocina because the barrier for entry was significantly lower than taking on his own brick and mortar, particularly in the midst of a pandemic.

“One of the barriers to opening up a restaurant is all of the money, infrastructure, and access,” he says.”With these shared spaces, [the incubator’s owners] assume a bunch of the risk.”

It’s a win-win for the incubator as well, being able to offer a number of different concepts in the same space, he says.

There are challenges and drawbacks, Harper admits. It’s not a dedicated space, he and his employees need to be mindful of others working around them, and not all decisions fall into his hands.

He cites setting up the patio for outdoor seating as an example, saying he would love to have done it this week with the mild temperatures but the incubator makes that decision.

But for him, the collaboration with others makes it all worth it.

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(Updated at 5:10 p.m.) Several Safeway stores in Arlington are offering COVID-19 vaccine appointments in Arlington, amid high demand for vaccinations.

The appointments are available for those ages 65 and up only.

Safeway stores in Arlington that appeared on the company’s vaccine appointment website as of 1 p.m. include the locations at 2500 N. Harrison Street, 3713 Lee Highway in Cherrydale, and 5101 Wilson Blvd in Bluemont. Stores in McLean, Falls Church and D.C. area also listed.

As of publication time, appointments were available for the second week in March. Appointment slots in previous weeks had been already been filled.

“Three of our Arlington stores will begin administering COVID-19 vaccines tomorrow,” a company spokeswoman confirmed to ARLnow Tuesday evening. “At this time, the allocated doses are very limited.”

Safeway is part of a federal vaccination program for national pharmacy chains and networks. CVS, another partner in the federal vaccination program, started offering appointments in Arlington earlier this month but its appointment website says CVS locations across Virginia are all fully booked.

Walgreens stores in Virginia are expected to start vaccinations soon, after the company gets its first shipment of nearly a half-million vaccine doses on Thursday.

Arlington County started taking appointments for those ages 65-74 on Friday, Feb. 12, after previously only vaccinating certain frontline workers and those ages 75 and up.

As of Tuesday morning, the county crossed the 10,000 mark for those fully vaccinated with two vaccine shots. A total of 31,553 vaccine doses have been administered in Arlington, and 10,157 people have been fully vaccinated, according to the Virginia Dept. of Health.

Hat tip to @DMVVaccine

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We get it, 2020 was not a great year in many respects. But it was without a doubt a momentous year in both local and national history.

It took a little while to compile, but ARLnow staff photographer Jay Westcott has created a video (above) highlighting some of the photos that defined 2020 in Arlington. The music is of Jay’s creation as well.

“2020 was, at least for me, a year of challenges. Relentless challenges,” Westcott said, of his experience photographing the area throughout the year. “The pandemic has reshaped our world, we’ve been forced to rethink ways of going about daily life. It’s been a year of pain and loss, a year of grief and anxiety. But watching Arlington as it adapted to the lockdown and pandemic, and watching people together for each other was inspiring and amazing to witness. I am proud to call Arlington home.”

For a look back at the most-read articles of the year, see our Top 30 Arlington Stories of 2020 countdown.

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(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) A new Ethiopian restaurant on Columbia Pike could help fill the vegan and vegetarian option gap near the S. Glebe Road intersection after the closure of Elizabeth’s Counter.

The restaurant is called Greens N Teff (3203 Columbia Pike), reflecting the restaurant’s meat-free menu and traditional Ethiopian grain teff. Beakal Melaku, one of the restaurant’s owners, said the restaurant had been in planning before the pandemic started and was originally going to have meat but took a green turn over time.

“I started with grilling, but then started cooking more and I changed my mind to make it vegetarian,” Melaku said.

The proteins are primarily lentil or mushroom based, and Melaku said part of his goal is helping to make people aware that they don’t need meat to have a balanced, health diet.

The restaurant has a variety of plate sizes, from regular individual platters for $9.99 with one base, protein and two grains, to extra large platters for $13.99 with the base, three proteins and four greens.

Greens N Teff opened this past weekend and so far, Melaku said the restaurant has gotten good feedback and support from the nearby community.

“This has been our first week, and so far it’s been really good,” Melaku said.

Photos via Greens N Teff/Facebook

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Mi & Yu Noodle Bar at Ballston Quarter is now closed permanently, owner Edward Kim confirms to ARLnow.

The eatery was the first to open at Ballston Quarter’s “Quarter Market” food hall in March 2019. It was the establishment’s only location outside of Baltimore, Maryland.

The reason for the shuttering is simple, Kim says.

“Sales and COVID,” he tells ARLnow in a short phone call. “It’s pretty straight-forward.”

There are no plans to open any additional locations of the raman, noodle, and bao restaurant in Arlington, Kim said.

In general, the Ballston food hall has seen thinning crowds due to the pandemic. That hasn’t stopped a number of high profile openings in recent months, however.

In the fall, sandwich shop Superette opened along with a new pierogi stand in December. In 2021, Quarter Market has also welcomed taco and tequila spot Bartaco and fast casual Indian restaurant Bollywood Bistro Express.

It’s also been tough sledding for others at Ballston Quarter over the last year, including Mi & Yu Noodle Bar. Punch Bowl Social filed for bankruptcy in December and closed its Ballston location on Christmas Eve “until further notice.”

The Regal movie theater at Ballston Quarter remains temporarily closed.

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(Update at 11:50 a.m.) A new Bearded Goat Barber shop is opening in Shirlington this fall.

The full-service barber shop — from local entrepreneurs Eric Renfro, Jon Dodson, and Scott Parker — is opening its third location, at the Village at Shirlington. It will be located 4150 Campbell Ave, next to Samuel Beckett’s Irish Gastro Pub and across the street from Damn Good Burger Co.

It’s opening in the former Hair Cuttery space, which appeared to have closed during the summer. The ice cream shop next door I-CE-NY, which opened in October 2018 ,was listed for sale late last year.

“The Village at Shirlington is the ideal location for Bearded Goat Barber to open its third location,” writes co-founder Scott Parker in a press release. “Having opened our first shop in Ballston in 2019, and our second location in Navy Yard in Washington, DC this year, we are focused on neighborhoods that are future-focused, while retaining a certain charm.”

The barber shop will, of course, adhere to strict CDC guidelines, according to the release.

This includes santaizing workspaces, tools, chairs, capes, and waiting areas in between all visits. Masks are also required to be worn at all times by both patrons and employees, through the entire grooming experience.

The first Bearded Goat Barber location opened in Ballston about two years ago in 2019. It temporarily shut down last March due to the pandemic and re-opened in May with new safety and health guidelines in place.

The second location recently opened in Navy Yard in Southeast D.C.

The upscale barber shop is a partnership between two barbers, Renfro and Dodson, who were previously working at Clarendon’s Hendrick Barbershop, and serial local entrepreneur Parker.

Scott Parker is perhaps most well-known as a co-owner of popular bars and restaurants, including Don Tito in Clarendon, Bronson Bierhall in Ballston, and soon-to-be-open Nighthawk Pizza in Pentagon City.

He’s also co-owner of Bash Boxing, which also has two locations in Arlington. Another of his ventures, Clarendon’s The G.O.A.T., closed earlier this year.

The 1,088 square-foot barber shop joins Stellina Pizzeria and Market among Shirlington’s newest businesses.

Photo courtesy of Bearded Goat Barber 

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Unsurprisingly, Mardi Gras won’t be the same this year at Courthouse’s Bayou Bakery.

But that doesn’t mean that the decade-old, New Orleans-inspired eatery is out of fresh ideas for Tuesday’s festivities.

This year, the restaurant is offering a take-home “Mardi Gras in a Box,” which includes a king cake with a do-it-yourself decorating kit, beads, masks, a murder mystery party game, and Pat O’Brien’s signature Hurricane mix.

The party in a box is intended for six to eight people and costs $135.

“Knowing that really no one is going to large events or celebrating Mardi Gras anywhere, what we did is brought a kit… so that basically the party comes to you,” says David Guas, chef and owner of Bayou Bakery.

The restaurant is also selling individual king cakes, king crown cookies, and Mardi Gras pralines, as well as offering catering and its lunch and breakfast menus.

While business has continued to be steady, Guas says that king cake sales are way down this year.

“What’s obviously different than last year is that we don’t have our corporate clients that are buying 25, 30 king cakes all in one swoop,” says Guas.

Last year, he tells ARLnow, they sold about 1,500 king cakes. This year, he expects to sell fewer than a thousand. This despite the fact that they have now partnered with the online ordering platform Toast in order to sell cakes around the clock.

Guas is still keeping busy, despite the more subdued Mardi Gras this year.

Last March, 24 hours after schools shut down, the chef began serving red beans and rice from outside of the bakery to anyone in need. That evolved into a partnership with Real Food for Kids for an initiative called Chefs Feeding Families, which provided free, plant-based meals to local families, students, frontline workers, hospitals, and shelters.

That initiative continues, says Guas, with a recent partnership with Arlington County that sends 150 to 200 meals a week to Virginia Hospital Center. In total, the initiative is still providing about 300 meals a week; funds come from grants, private donations, and community support.

That isn’t all, though. Guas also helped to feed the National Guard while they protected the Capitol throughout January, dropping off hundreds of sandwiches to the troops. He’s currently in the midst of co-organizing Bean-efit, a joint effort with 25 other local restaurants to provide a free meal of beans to anyone in the hospitality industry on Mardi Gras (Tuesday, Feb. 16) from 4-6 p.m.

“Any industry employee who’s been furloughed, now part time, or lost hours, doesn’t matter, gets a free meal,” he says. “We’re not going to ask questions. We’re not taking names. We’re not vetting at all.”

While Guas and the Bayou Bakery team have continuously been cooking, baking, and working over the last year, business remains down. The care-free boozy brunches of the before-times, after all, were more lucrative than take-out sandwiches and coffee.

The restaurant, meanwhile, has taken on plenty of additional expense and effort to continue operating during the pandemic, from constant cleanings to a kitchen remodel to a new ventilation system.

“It sucks. There’s nothing positive about it,” Guas says.

He remains optimistic, however, that Bayou Bakery will make it to the other side of the pandemic.

“I’ve got no other choice but to make it work. That’s why I’m in the restaurant six days a week… and I have a mask on for 12 hours a day,” he says. “I got no plans to go anywhere.”

Photos courtesy of Bayou Bakery

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(Update 5:45 p.m.) The popular D.C.-based Chinese-American restaurant Lucky Danger is opening an Arlington outpost, as first reported by Washingtonian.

The new eatery will be located at Westpost, the shopping center formerly known as Pentagon Row, at 1101 S. Joyce Street. It takes the place of Aabee Express Mediterranean, which closed in August and was next to the F45 training studio.

Lucky Danger is hoping to open in April, according to Washingtonian, and will be takeout and delivery only. Unlike D.C., where Lucky Danger exists as a pop-up in Prather’s Alley in Mt. Vernon Triangle, the Arlington location is expected to be permanent.

The ease of drive-up for pickup and delivery drivers and the large parking lot, a Lucky Danger spokesperson writes ARLnow, is why the owners were attracted to Westpost.

There’s no sit-down capacity at the location, so Lucky Danger will remain only take-out and delivery.

According to Washingtonian, Lucky Danger has sold out of its food — a menu that includes classic Chinese-American takeout fare like sweet and sour chicken, duck fried rice and orange beef, as well as a “secret menu” of more traditional Chinese dishes — every day since opening in November.

Additional locations may be planned after opening in Pentagon City, the article suggests.

There has been significant turnover at the shopping center once called Pentagon Row.

Late last month, Origin Coffee Lab and Kitchen opened in what was formerly a Starbucks. Also in January, Irish pub Siné closed its doors and Unleashed was let off the hook. The shopping center’s Bed Bath & Beyond disappeared into the great beyond in September.

But Westpost has also become a somewhat unexpected location for pop-ups and buzzy restaurant concepts.

In August, Wild Tiger BBQ opened inside of Bun’d Up. In November, Napoli Salumeria debuted as a market concept version of D.C.’s now-closed Napoli Pasta Bar. While Champps closed earlier in the pandemic, it’s currently being converted into Nighthawk Pizza, a neighborhood gathering spot and watering hole that is set to open in the fall.

Nighthawk Pizza is a collaboration whose backers include local nightlife heavyweight Scott Parker. Likewise the duo behind Lucky Danger includes a restaurateur with prior Arlington experience: Tim Ma, who formerly helmed well-regarded Virginia Square restaurant Water & Wall, which closed in 2017.

“I’m overwhelmed by how much love this new concept has received since we opened as a year long pop-up just three months ago in D.C.,” Ma writes in a press release, “Now we have the opportunity to bring the full vision to life in a location in my backyard of Northern Virginia.”

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On Sunday afternoon, the Green Valley community celebrated the 104th birthday of Ms. Mary Sheppard Lockett with a drive-by parade of cars.

A line of nearly 40 cars plus Arlington police and fire vehicles drove by her house on S. Kenmore Street, honking and blaring sirens and shouting congratulations.

It was all a surprise for the centenarian, according to Green Valley Civic Association President Portia Clark.

Sheppard Lockett’s son and daughter brought her out on the porch, surprising their 104-year-old mother with a parade dedicated to her.

“She very much enjoyed it,” Clark says.

Sheppard Lockett is one of the oldest residents in Green Valley. Born in 1917 down the road in Bailey’s Crossroads, she moved to Green Valley in 1939. The house she currently lives in was built by her late husband Edward Lockett.

According to Clark, Sheppard Lockett remains pretty self-sufficient.

Several of her children live close by to assist, but she continues to make her own meals, clean her own house, and iron her own clothes. Waking up at 5 a.m. every day, Sheppard Lockett usually heads off to bed at 7:30 p.m., after Wheel of Fortune.

“She likes her independence,” says Clark.

Until she was 90, she drove her 1976 blue Chevy station wagon while, according to Clark, never receiving a ticket. Sheppard Lockett was particularly elated to have been able to witness the first Black U.S. president and his family living in the White House. She has also remained a member of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Alexandria for more than eight decades.

Sheppard Lockett’s words of wisdom include “eat your blueberries daily.”

According to the 2010 census, Virginia had about 1,200 residents over the age of 100, with that number going up in recent years. In 2018, Arlington County recognized and celebrated 19 centurians, including Lockett.

Clark says that over the last several years, the Green Valley community alone has celebrated 100th birthdays of four local residents.

She laughs, “There must be something in the water.”

Photo courtesy of Portia Clark

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Boston-based Tatte Bakery and Cafe is coming to fill a Baja Fresh-sized hole in Clarendon at 2805 Clarendon Blvd.

The company recently filed for a permit to build a new bakery within the existing building, adding new interior partitions and finishes throughout the facility.

Tatte Bakery and Cafe is a small bakery franchise with around 18 locations, mostly around Boston. The cafe offers pastries and desserts along with brunch and some dinner offerings, like maple chicken and potatoes.

Staff at Tatte Bakery’s lone D.C. location, at 1200 New Hampshire Avenue NW in the West End, said the Arlington location will open in July if all goes well with permitting and renovations. The Arlington location will have the same menu as the D.C. location.

The bakery will be on the southeast corner of the block being redeveloped as Market Common Clarendon Phase 2.

Hat tip to Chris Slatt. Photo via Google Maps.

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