Alexandria, VA

Del Ray restaurant Bon Vivant Cafe + Farm Market (2016 Mount Vernon Avenue) announced yesterday that it would close by the end of the day.

The restaurant, which opened six years ago, said on social media and on a sign in the door that the restaurant had faced mounting difficulties over the years:

After a lot of thought, we have decided to close Bon Vivant. Tuesday 25th February was out last day.

We have enjoyed being a part of Del Ray and its community, and we have loved and appreciated all the support we have received. However, due to the increasing difficulties of running a restaurant these days we found it necessary to close.

The sudden loss caught some local residents and longtime customers by surprise.

“This is huge,” said Jeff Shad, a local resident who had been a regular at the restaurant for five years. “I had no idea they were in trouble. Coming here been part of my regular routine. There’s no other place like it. They try to source local food at a good price. I don’t know what I’m going to do now.”

Jay Westcott contributed to this story

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How do you like your chili? On Saturday, the seventh annual Del Ray Chili Cook-off will be a heated contest.

The Del Ray Citizen’s Association is hosting the contest, which will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. at Commonwealth Academy (1321 Leslie Ave.). Tickets are $10 and free for DRCA members.

The event raises funds for Friends of Guest House, a home for previously incarcerated women in Alexandria.

The rules are strict:

  • Only Del Ray residents can compete in the event
  • Teams can only have up to three people on them
  • Contestants must bring their own ingredients and equipment, including utensils and fuel
  • Each participant must cook a minimum of six quarts of chili, prepared in one batch prior to the event

There are two categories for contestants — meat and non-meat entries. DRCA will provide spoons and cups for serving to the attendees and judges.

The three judges will be looking at “taste, aroma, texture and after-taste. Your chili can certainly be spicy, but it isn’t a requirement,” according to DRCA rules.

Prizes totaling $450 ($150 apiece) will be presented to 1st place vegetarian, 1st place meat and 1st place people’s choice. Professional chefs are ineligible from winning the main awards, but can win the people’s choice.

Last year’s winners were Christi Hart and Daniela Spigai, who tied for the meat competition; Sue Kovalsky for the best veggie chili and Kristine Hesse, who won the people’s choice.

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Preeti Patel and her 7-Eleven at 2108 Mount Vernon Ave. have won the heart of Del Ray — literally.

Last week, members of the Del Ray Business Association presented Patel with the 2020 Heart of Del Ray award. The annual award was presented after Patel’s business received the most votes from the community, and the 7-Eleven overtook Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & TapRock of Ages Music, Stomping Ground and Studio Body Logic.

“I really didn’t expect to win the award because of all the other nominees,” Patel told ALXnow. “Even though I’m not from here, the neighborhood is very supportive.”

The award represents the business that not only received the most votes, but exemplifies the community’s spirit. The DRBA also presented Affordable Signs & Banners with the Forever Heart of Del Ray award for creating years worth of banners and signs for the community.

“Del Ray is known for its mom-and-pops, so this is why this year’s award is unusual, because it’s going to a 7-Eleven. But it means more than that for the Del Ray community,” Reuter said. “There’s never been a time when we have an event that she hasn’t asked, ‘How can we help?'”

Patel, a native of Gujarat, India, moved to the U.S. 20 years ago. She grew up working in her father’s pharmacy, and worked as a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service before pulling up stakes in New Jersey and moving to Alexandria with her two young sons. She bought the 7-Eleven tens years ago, and it keeps her busy enough that she has no interest in owning another.

“After 10 years, it’s incredible to see customers and I’ll ask, ‘How is your son?’ and they say, ‘Oh, he’s in college now,’ and I remember when they were in here buying him a lollipop,” she said. “I’m very happy to be here in such a nice neighborhood.”

Photos via Visit Del Ray/Facebook

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A sushi bar coming to Tysons later this year is making a guest appearance as a pop-up in Arlandria this Saturday.

Roll Bär is scheduled to take over local bar Hops N Shine (3410 Mt Vernon Avenue) from 1-6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 22. The event will showcase items from the upcoming Roll Bär menu, like hand-rolled sushi.

Both Roll Bär and Hops N Shine — which recently celebrated its one year anniversary — are owned by Matt Rofougaran, who also owns the Tysons Biergarten.

The sushi restaurant is scheduled to open its full-time location in ShipGarten, a new beer garden-slash-food hall built out of an array of shipping containers in Tysons.

Photo via Roll Bär/Facebook

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The start of spring is just over a month away, which means the arrival of Girl Scout cookies is here.

You could just hope to encounter a stand somewhere on your commute, or locate a co-worker with a kid in the Scouts, but if you want to be more strategic about it, the Girl Scouts website has a cookie tracker to find your nearest stand.

You don’t even have to go that far, though, because ALXnow put a list together for where you can expect Girl Scout cookies across Alexandria this weekend and beyond.

Old Town, Eisenhower and Braddock

  • Safeway (3526 King Street): Fridays 4-7 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • SunTrust (515 King Street): Fridays 4-7 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Giant (3131 Duke Street): Saturdays 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • Meridian at Eisenhower (2351 Eisenhower Avenue): Saturday, Feb. 15, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Parc Meridian (750 Port Street): Saturdays 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • Safeway (299 S. Van Dorn): Saturdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Slater’s Market (1561 Potomac Greens Drive): Saturdays 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Ten Thousand Villages (915 King Street): Saturday, Feb. 15, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • The UPS Store (3213 Duke Street): Saturdays 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • Carlyle Mill Apartments (2201 Mill Road): Saturday, Feb. 22, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Carlyle Place (2251 Eisenhower Avenue): Saturday, Feb. 22, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • Crate & Barrel (1700 Prince Street): Saturday, Feb. 22, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Del Ray and Arlandria

  • Bellies & Babies Consignment Boutique (1913 Mt Vernon Ave): Saturdays 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sundays 12-4 p.m.
  • Department of Beer and Wine (2724 Jefferson Davis Hwy): Saturday, Feb. 29, 2-4 p.m.
  • Giant (621 E Glebe Road): Saturdays 12-5 p.m., Friday, Feb. 21, 4-7 p.m.
  • The Reserve at Potomac Yards (3700 Jefferson Davis Hwy): Saturdays 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • PetSmart (3351 Richmond Hwy): Fridays 3-7 p.m.

North Ridge, Seminary Hill and The West End

  • Robcyns (3660 King Street): Fridays 4-6 p.m., Saturdays 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Whistle Stop and Hobbies (1721 Centre Plaza): Friday, Feb. 14 and Feb. 28, 4-7 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • Giant (2901 South Glebe Road): Fridays 4-8 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
  • Cafe Pizzaiolo (1623 Fern Street): Saturdays 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • Presto Valet of Virginia (1623 Quaker Lane): Saturdays 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • St Elmo’s (2300 Mt Vernon Avenue): Saturdays and Sundays 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • USPS (340 S. Pickett Street): Fridays 4-5:30 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
  • Tropical Smoothie Cafe (6552-A Little River Turnpike): Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Photo via Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Alexandria Man Killed in Southern Va. — “A man and a woman from the Washington area were found dead Saturday on a road in a quiet part of southern Virginia, and state police said the two were homicide victims. Ntombo Joel Bianda, 21, of Alexandria, Va., and Ayanna Munne Maertens Griffin, 19, of Germantown, Md., were found at about 2:50 a.m. Saturday.” [Washington Post, WSET]

APD Crosswalk Enforcement in Del Ray — “APD’s Traffic Safety Officers successfully completed a crosswalk enforcement operation in the 400 block of E. Monroe Ave. today. This resulted in 23 citations being issued in 4 hours.” [Twitter]

Bus Barn Work Starts — “Demolition has officially started on the former Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) ‘bus barn’ to make room for a large new residential development. That development of 286 apartments will include 12 affordable units.” [Alexandria Living]

Local Resident Stands Up to Cancer — “The man with the open heart and time for hundreds of community causes can now use a boost to help him with his passion for cancer research. He needs pledges. Starting at 4:26 p.m. on Monday, February 10, [Pat] Malone will ‘Stand Up to Cancer’ for 24-hours straight at Fire Works American Pizzeria and Bar in Arlington.” [Zebra]

Naturalization Ceremony in Alexandria — “For nearly two decades, Vinod Krishnkumar had been waiting for this day to come. It was a day his father in India dreamed about but never got to experience for himself: On Jan. 31, Krishnkumar was among 170 individuals from around the world to take the Oath of Citizenship during the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalization ceremony at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.” [Gazette Packet]

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Morning Notes

Flood Watch Issued for Alexandria — “Multiple rounds of rainfall will occur through early Friday. The heaviest rainfall potential will begin Thursday afternoon and continue into Thursday night. Storm total rainfall amounts through Friday morning are expected to range between 2 and 3 inches.” [Twitter, Twitter]

New Facility Opens at Bishop Ireton HS — “After less than eighteen months since its groundbreaking, Bishop Ireton High School hosted hundreds on Monday, February 3 who were there to celebrate the ribbon cutting ceremony and opening of the school’s new 40,000 square foot academic center, which sits adjacent to the current school building at 201 Cambridge Road.” [Zebra]

Del Ray Awards Voting Starts — “It’s February — and that means it’s time for the Heart of Del Ray Awards! ‘Every February, the Del Ray Business Association presents the Heart of Del Ray Award to the business that serves as the heart and soul of Del Ray, as determined by a public vote of neighbors and customers,’ according to the Del Ray Business Association.” [Alexandria Living, Heart of Del Ray]

Library to End Movie Streaming Service — “Alexandria Library is set to end access to the Kanopy on-demand movie streaming service for members on April 30… The library began offering the streaming service for free to members in August 2018.” [Patch]

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After months of gathering feedback, city staff have a better idea of what residents of Arlandria and Del Ray think their communities need.

The public feedback is the first step in an ongoing effort to update the plans for Del Ray and Arlandria made in the early 2000s.

Over the last fall, staff hosted 35 meetings, nine mobile pop-ups, two large community conversations, and received over 800 responses to an online questionnaire, according to a report filed to the Alexandria Planning Commission.

The top priorities identified in by the Del Ray and Arlandria communities are pedestrian safety, public transportation, and various neighborhood amenities. Staff did note that there were notable differences between the Spanish and English language questionnaire results.

The English language questionnaire priorities were:

  1. Restaurants and stores
  2. Pedestrian safety
  3. Neighborhood safety
  4. Community activities
  5. Parks and playgrounds

The top priorities from the Spanish language questionnaire were:

  1. Housing options and affordability
  2. Increasing the minimum wage
  3. Pedestrian safety
  4. Job opportunities
  5. Public transportation

With those responses in mind, staff said one of the priorities of the plan will be focusing on housing affordability in Arlandria as “the most urgent issue in the plan area based on pressing redevelopment interest… and pressure from redevelopment outside the plan area.”

The elephant in room, in that statement, is the arrival of Amazon and new development coming into Potomac Yard. Advocates in Northern Virginia have been concerned since the announcement of the new headquarters that the development would push out the area’s affordable housing options.

“Meetings in the spring will focus on developing a vision and supporting goals, as well as identifying specific issues, tools, and strategies for addressing housing affordability in Arlandria,” staff said in the report. “Staff will return to the Planning Commission and City Council in the early fall with recommendations for consideration.”

Subsequent phases of the plan will focus on other issues highlighted by the community like maintaining the neighborhood character and housing in Del Ray, pedestrian and bicycle safety, public transportation and supporting local retail.

City staff are scheduled to meet with the Planning Commission on Tuesday, Feb. 4, and the City Council later in February.

“The final plan will cover the entire Mount Vernon Avenue corridor with sections or chapters devoted to particular areas as appropriate,” the report said. “Draft options and recommendations will be introduced in spring 2021 for discussion and refinement before posting a final draft plan for consideration and adoption in fall 2021.

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In just one year, local bar Hops N Shine has become a staple in Arlandria/Del Ray area and this weekend, the business is scheduled to host a celebration of that success.

The bar and beer garden sits at 3410 Mount Vernon Avenue at the intersection of Mount Vernon Avenue and E. Glebe Road. It is frequently packed, particularly on the weekly Wednesday night trivia events (where, full disclosure, at least one ALXnow reporter is a regular).

The celebration is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 1, with a special menu combining some past favorites and debuting new items according to a Facebook post. The event is scheduled to include complimentary hors d’oeuvres from 8-9 p.m., free gifts for the first 50 attendees, live music at 8:30, and a moonshine ice luge.

Hops N Shine has a selection of 52 draft lines and claims to have the widest beer and whiskey selection in Alexandria. It also has an extensive selection of moonshine and moonshine cocktails.

The event will be dog and kid-friendly as well, the post said. Free tickets for the event are available online.

Photo via Hops N Shine/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Summer Camp Guide Released — “Registration for 2020 summer camps offered by the City of Alexandria’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities will begin at 9 a.m. on February 12 for City residents and February 14 for nonresidents. Registration will be available online, or in-person at the Lee Center (1108 Jefferson St.).” [City of Alexandria]

Women’s Guest House Profiled — “In the heart of Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood, there is a place that’s been quietly offering hope and rebuilding lives for 45 years.” [NBC 4]

Superintendent Serves as Substitute Teacher — “Dressed down in a hoodie and T-shirt, he looked every bit the young, enthusiastic teacher ready to handle whatever this class of lively fourth graders could throw at him. And while ACPS Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. admitted to feeling a little apprehensive when he introduced himself to students at Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy last Wednesday, he soon felt right at home.” [Zebra]

Parent Liaison Named Living Legend — “She’s been a much-loved and respected figure as the Parent Liaison at Mount Vernon Community School for the last twenty years and has touched the lives of thousands of children and their families in that time. Now Rosa Landeros has been bestowed a major honor — named as one of just a handful of outstanding citizens who become Living Legends of Alexandria each year.” [ACPS]

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The City of Alexandria is hosting an open house this evening to help gather community input for plans to shape Arlandria and Del Ray.

The open house is scheduled to be held from 5-8 p.m. at Casa Chirilagua (4109 Mt. Vernon Avenue). The event will be an opportunity for people to share their thoughts before the start of the formal planning process later this year, according to the city website.

The process to update the city’s Arlandria and Del Ray plans was launched in the wake of several city government discussions about how Amazon’s arrival will impact the tight-knit neighborhoods. In addition to Amazon, the nearby Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, the redevelopment of Potomac Yard, and the new Potomac Yard Metro station will likely bring new residents and redevelopment.

Planned or not, changes are coming to both neighborhoods. In Arlandria, for instance, a D.C. developer recently filed plans to redevelop the shopping center that houses MOM’s Organic Market into 624 apartments and 44,500 square feet of ground floor retail race.

Previous meetings have been held throughout the community in both Spanish and English. The next open house is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 1, at 10 a.m. in the Mount Vernon Avenue Recreation Center (2701 Commonwealth Avenue).

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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How spicy do you like your vindaloo? For the last five months, Spice Kraft (2607 Mount Vernon Ave.) has helped diners answer that very question, and on the frigid evening of Monday, Jan. 20, the restaurant finally held its ribbon cutting.

“We are finally settled down, and it took about four months,” said Spice Kraft manager Anthony Shankar. “We want to keep the price at a minimum level, but at the same time we want to give a very good experience in terms of service and food presentation.”

“Our chef is from South India, and he’s really into fusion cuisine,” Shankar added. “He can mix up South and North Indian cuisine and create a diverse variety of dishes.”

The restaurant had a soft opening at the end of August, after it replaced Bombay Curry, which closed last year after more than 20 years in business on Mount Vernon Ave.

The Jan. 20 event was attended by Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson, Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, Alexandria Small Business Development Center Executive Director Bill Reagan, members of the Del Ray Business Association and neighbors.

“We welcome you with open arms,” Wilson told Shankar. “We are thrilled that Anthony is continuing that tradition and bringing great Indian food here to Del Ray.”

Shankar, native of Chennai, India, moved to Alexandria with his family from Roanoke, where he managed the Indian restaurant Taaza for seven years. He also brought along former Taaza chef Premnath Durairaj, who has worked with Shankar for more than two decades.

“We make food that is mild, spicy and extra hot from all over India,” Durairaj said. “Business is greater than we expected. We have good support from the neighborhood.”

The restaurant serves well-known dishes like veggie samosas and Chicken Tikka, in addition to vegan options and gluten-free bread.

Spice Kraft is open for lunch Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and from 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Dinner hours are from 5-9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 5-10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.

Photos by James Cullum

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