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Adrian Nicotra says you can pickle anything, but the problem is it’s harder to find new clientele since repeat customers buy out his pickled products because they have long shelf lives.

Last October, the 32-year-old bartender at Tiki Bar Del Ray launched his business Pickles And Cures, and is now working to get his products in area restaurants and farmers markets.

“You can pickle anything, literally anything,” Nicotra told ALXnow. “Pickling infuses flavor, and my products are perfect for foodies. They can go to town with it. You can take a cucumber along with the brine, and mix anything with it and it’ll just grab those flavors and infuse them.”

Nicotra has spent the last 15 years working at restaurants around the area. His products — cured meats and pickled vegetables and fruits — are put in clear, plastic containers.

“You can still see the beautiful brine and fresh dill and the garlic in the container,” Nicotra said. “If someone buys a couple $9 containers of product, they can sit on them and let let them just chill on the brine for months. My first customer in October still has her products in the fridge.”

Nicotra now plans on getting his products into the Old Town North and Del Ray farmers markets this summer.

Photos via Instagram

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A construction crew installs a check valve on East Mason Street in November (via City of Alexandria)

City staff laid out what’s ahead for some of the city’s stormwater infrastructure projects in a presentation prepared for the City Council’s meeting tonight (Tuesday).

Three large projects to increase sewer capacity are planned in Del Ray, according to the Flood Action Alexandria presentation. Two of the projects — a $34 million undertaking at East Glebe Road and Commonwealth Avenue and a $16 million project at Ashby Street and East Glebe Road — were merged together for planning purposes. The two projects are next to each other in the Four Mile Run watershed.

“This project is expected to increase the capacity, or size, of the stormwater sewer pipes; create opportunities for stormwater to be stored and released slowly over time; and incorporate ‘green infrastructure’ practices, such as permeable pavement, that allow the stormwater to soak into the ground, reducing runoff,” the city website states.

The contract for work in the Four Mile Run watershed is estimated to be awarded sometime this spring, with the project targeted for completion in 2025.

Another, called the Hooff’s Run Culvert/Timber Branch Bypass, is at the southern end of Del Ray. The $60 million project will construct a new stormwater pipe system to transport stormwater away from the Hooff’s Run Culvert, helping manage flows from the Timber Branch watershed, the city website states. The city plans to put out a request for qualifications for that project this spring.

Between fiscal years 2023 and 2032, the city proposes to fund $156 million in large capacity projects, $55 million in maintenance, $44 million in spot improvements and $18 million in water quality projects, according to the presentation.

The presentation lists two spot improvement projects in the design phase and another two in construction phase. Spot improvements are small capital projects meant to address localized flooding and draining issues relating to the city’s storm sewer system.

Cul-de-sac inlets and drainage are being designed for the Mount Vernon Avenue cul-de-sac near Blue Park. At Oakland Terrace in Rosemont, the city is in the design phase to stabilize degrading and eroding banks and protect sanitary sewer line.

The city is also increasing inlet capacity at Hume Avenue in the Potomac Yard area, and not far away at Clifford Avenue, and Fulton and Manning streets. The latter work started at the end of February.

Vernon Miles contributed to this article. Photo via City of Alexandria.

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Ready for all-day brunch in Del Ray? Matt & Tony’s opened today (March 16) at the former Charlie’s On The Avenue.

Alexandria Restaurant Partners bought the 3,000 square-foot space at 1501 Mount Vernon Avenue last fall with the intention of turning it into a concept called Joe’s Kitchen, but those plans were scrapped when ARP managing partner Matt Sloan announced he was leaving to open his own restaurant. ARP offered the space to Sloan, who moved to D.C. a year-and-a-half ago from Michigan to be the general manager of ARP’s Ada’s On The River and The Majestic.

“Thank you to EVERYONE who helped get us to this moment!” Matt & Tony’s wrote on Facebook.

The menu is based around an all-day brunch concept, and the restaurant is named Sloan and his great-grandfather Anton (Tony) Schabas, a pastry chef who emigrated to the U.S. from Austria at the turn of the 20th century.

Charlie’s closed in January 2020, after being in business for less than three years. Before that it was home to Fireflies for 15 years.

Matt & Tony’s is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and is closed Monday.

Via Matt & Tony’s/Instagram

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Del Ray boutique Kiskadee will be closing its doors when its lease expires on April 30, shop owner Celeste Crutchfield recently announced.

Crutchfield said she felt zapped on energy and full of dread when facing another two-year renewal on her lease.

“I don’t want to do it anymore, at least not at this point in my life,” Crutchfield wrote in a blog post. “I knew I didn’t want to stay in Kiskadee’s current building for a variety of reasons. I started looking for a new location, but I wasn’t feeling inspired by other spaces I looked at or the prospect of continuing as a small business owner.”

Kiskadee will close on April 3, and all full-priced merchandise is 20% to 30% off. If necessary, the store will reopen on April 18 to sell any remaining merchandise and fixtures.

Darby Rush and Neil Hall opened the women’s clothing and accessory boutique at 2205 Mount Vernon Avenue in 2007, and sold it to Crutchfield in 2017.

“The last two years, running a business in a pandemic has zapped me,” Crutchfield wrote. “What a doozy of a curveball for someone who had just started to know what she was doing. I’m proud that I was able to weather the storm and survive. However, it took everything I had. I have nothing more to give.”

This is not the end for the business, Crutchfield wrote.

“I just need a break and may reopen another brick-and-mortar store sometime in the future,” she wrote. “For now, I’m going to focus on the online segment of the business. The website will stay active, and I will add new products regularly. I also hope to do pop-ups and holiday shows. Please keep an eye out for these, which will be updated on our Instagram and Facebook accounts.”

Via Kiskadee/Facebook

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Del Ray Business Association Board Members and past Heart of Del Ray award winners present the 2022 Heart of Del Ray to Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap. Joey Civali of the Yates family represented Lena’s in accepting the award. (Via Bill Blackburn)

The thoughtful dining experiences have paid off. Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap was awarded the Heart of Del Ray award on Friday (Feb. 11), beating out four other local businesses.

More than 1,000 voters cast ballots for the spot that captured the heart of the community. The Del Ray Business Association presented the restaurant with a large heart-shaped award on Friday morning — just in time for Valentine’s Day on Monday, Feb. 14.

“It’s a great anchor for Del Ray and reinforces what we’re all about — the small, locally owned family business,” said DRBA board member Gayle Reuter. “They know their customers, and we know them. It’s what we look for in a community — a place where we all know and care about each other.”

Lena’s has been widely recognized for transforming the restaurant into creative and Covid-conscious dining spaces with Haiku fans to kill airborne pathogens. The second floor was converted into The Loft at Lena’s, a seasonal pop-up with new concepts and menus, and the top of their parking deck was made into the tropical retreat Lena’s Oasis.

“Lena’s didn’t just put up a tent with tables outside,” wrote one nominator. “They recognized people needed an escape during COVID, so they created an elevated dining experience — and it changes with the seasons!”

Lena’s is owned and operated by Alexandria Living Legends Jason and Loran Yates. It opened in 2015 at “Yates Corner” at Braddock Road and Mount Vernon Avenue, and is next door to Yates Dry Cleaning and across the street from the Yates Automotive Service Center.

The award was presented to Dolce & Bean last year, and Preeti Patel’s 7-Eleven on Mount Vernon Avenue in 2020.

“The past year has been hard on all of us,” Lena’s said on its website. “We created Lena’s Oasis to say ‘thank you’ and to give back to this wonderful community that has supported us through thick and thin for more than 57 years. An oasis is something calm in the midst of chaos. So, come to our safe space and relax for a while. You deserve it. We will get through this together.”

The other nominees:

Courtesy photo

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Local developer Bonaventure hopes their new shopping center in the middle of Del Ray could be constructed as early as summer 2025. That’s if all goes according to their plan.

Right now the plan for 2525 Mount Vernon Avenue is still in its conceptual phase, but includes a four-story, 43-foot-tall building with 12,530 square feet of retail and 79 rental units on the one acre lot. Bonaventure is not planning on including any affordable housing units in the project, and will instead contribute to the city’s Housing Trust Fund.

The 88,500-square-foot building is the former Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services. Bonaventure bought it for $22.5 million in the summer of 2019, along with the properties at 2401, 2403 and 2411-2419 Mount Vernon Avenue.

Bonaventure also owns the 144-space parking lot across from Pat Miller Square on Mount Vernon Avenue and E. Oxford Avenue, which will be available for residents of the new building, but shoppers will be relegated to parking on the street.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the developer wants the plan to go to the City for review in November, followed by the final site plan and building permit process, and then upward of a year-and-a-half for construction.

“If things go according to our schedule, we would go to public hearing in November,” said Cathy Puskar, an attorney for Bonaventure. “Following the public hearing, there’s a final site plan process and building permit process, and we would look to start construction in the fourth quarter of 2023, and the building would be completed in 18-to-20 months.”

Via Bonaventure

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The nominations are in for the annual Heart of Del Ray Award, and all the community has to do now is find the love.

Voting closes at noon on Thursday (Feb. 10) for the Del Ray Business Association’s annual award to the business that best represents the heart and soul of the community.

“We are excited that YOU — our neighbors, customers and friends — will determine the winner of this prestigious award,” DRBA said. “(W)hat business warms your heart when you hear its name?”

The nominees:

Votes can be cast here, and the deadline is noon on Thursday, Feb. 10. The winner will receive a large heart-shaped award on Friday, Feb. 11 — just in time for Valentine’s Day on Monday, Feb. 14.

Previous Heart of Del Ray award winners:

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Ever since he was five years old, local muralist Patrick Kirwin has been drawing on walls. The artist behind the Dogs Of Del Ray mural has been busy during the pandemic, and his work is mostly positive.

Kirwin says that’s what his clients want these days.

“I have a younger brother who was pissed at me because I wasn’t doing political work, but I got to be who I am,” Kirwin told ALXnow in a recent interview. “I’m basically optimistic, try to be happy and don’t want to bring more garbage to the world. I want to have something that connects to people. I don’t want to make people angry.”

Kirwin, an Arlington-based artist, has taught drawing and painting courses at The Art league at the Torpedo Factory Art Center for years. He was raised with 12 siblings in Columbus, Ohio, and was sent to art school as a young child after his parents found him drawing on the walls of their home.

“They sent me to art school so I wouldn’t draw on walls, and now I’m back to drawing on walls,” Kirwin said. “I’ve gone full circle.”

Kirwin, who is married and has two children, moved to the area in 1984 to get his master’s at The George Washington University. He also taught at the Corcoran School of Art and Design, the Smithsonian, and the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton.

Kirwin’s work dried up because of the pandemic, prompting him to lower his prices. When he did that, the work started to pour in.

“I had to make cheaper bids,” Kirwin said. “Not real big things, like a 10-foot-by-10-foot outdoor painting in a backyard on Capitol Hill. I really built up a portfolio, and now people working at home and remotely they want something fresh, they want something exciting at home.”

He continued, “I learned to get a job you have to back it up with a lot of work. If someone wants work, I can bomb then with a lot of examples, and that’s important because competition is tight.”

In Alexandria last year, Kirwin also painted a mural in the alleyway of Union Street Public House. In it, George Washington is looking out of a window inside the pub.

“He is such a lively person, and I was able to see the mural day-to-day until it was finished,” Union Street employee Heather Smith said.

Kirwin also recently painted the interior of the new Tiki bar pop-up in Del Ray, and last year unveiled his “Dogs Of Del Ray” mural on the north side of Stomping Ground. The dogs mural, which faces the Pat Miller Neighborhood Square in the heart of Del Ray, showcases more than 100 of the neighborhood’s pooches.

For the time being, Kirwin is back to a massive project — a 30-foot-tall mural outside an apartment building in D.C.

“It will actually be a giant picture of a group of people taking a selfie,” he said. “It will be very, very big with a D.C. backdrop.”

Kirwin welcomes interruptions from people while he’s working.

“I love to talk to folks while I work,” he said. “Don’t be shy. Come and say hi.”

Courtesy images 

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Bonchon Chicken is coming to 3690 King Street in the Bradlee Shopping Center. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Getting hungry? A number of new restaurants are slated to open this year in Alexandria, according to the city’s tourism bureau.

Visit Alexandria highlighted many of these new businesses in their annual “What’s New in Alexandria” update, which was held Thursday morning (Dec. 27).

Below is a list with expected opening dates.

Old Town

West End

Del Ray

Carlyle

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Matt & Tony’s will open for all-day brunch this spring at the former Charlie’s On The Avenue, the new restaurant’s owner tells ALXnow.

Alexandria Restaurant Partners bought the 3,000 square-foot space at 1501 Mount Vernon Avenue last fall with the intention of turning it into a concept called Joe’s Kitchen, but those plans were scrapped when ARP managing partner Matt Sloan announced he was leaving to open his own restaurant.

“I was going to leave working for them and they came to me and said they have this building, this opportunity,” Sloan told ALXnow. “It was Scott Shaw, Dave Nicholas and David Clapp. Those guys are awesome. We have a great relationship and it just made sense. They offered to lease me the building.”

Sloan, a Michigan native, moved to D.C. a year-and-a-half ago to work with ARP. He opened the company’s Ada’s On The River as their general manager and then spent time working at ARP’s The Majestic.

“The plan is to open in middle-to-late March,” he said.

Sloan is now developing a menu based around an all-day brunch concept. He named the restaurant after himself and his great-grandfather Anton (Tony) Schabas, a pastry chef who emigrated to the U.S. from Austria at the turn of the 20th century.

Charlie’s (1501 Mount Vernon Avenue) closed in January 2020, after being in business for less than three years. Before that it was home to Fireflies for 15 years.

“The important thing going into this space is getting engaged with the community and doing something special for the neighborhood,” Sloan said. “We will have an emphasis on breakfast and lunchtime, with steak and eggs, chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits.”

Sloan says that the hours for the restaurant will likely be 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends.

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