Alexandria, VA

Morning Notes

Seminary Road Saga Continues — Despite suggestions “that the Alexandria Fire Department had significant input into the Complete Streets Design Guidelines and whether to narrow Seminary Road, documents obtained by city residents under the Freedom of Information Act reveal this was not the case.” [Alexandria Times]

Sushi Restaurant Coming to ‘West Alex’ — “Sushi Jin Next Door, which opened its first restaurant in Silver Spring in 2006 and now has a second location in Woodbridge, is opening a third location in Alexandria, Virginia. The new location will be part of the West Alex mixed-use development at King Street and North Beauregard Street.” [WTOP]

New Glass Recycling Bin Now Open — “Alexandria residents wanting to recycle glass now have a fifth bin as an option. MOM’s Organic Market at 3831 Mt. Vernon Avenue is the location of the new purple recycling bin. The city ended curbside glass recycling on Jan. 15, citing increasing recycling costs and the lack of glass-sorting facilities in the region.” [Patch]

ACPS To Buy Five Electric School Buses — “Under the terms of the grant, Dominion Energy will pay the additional costs towards each of the five buses that ACPS was already scheduled to buy this summer, allowing ACPS to upgrade them to electric vehicles. The goal is to have the new electric buses on the roads in time for the start of the 2020-21 school year in September.” [ACPS]

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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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If you’ve followed the recent widespread war over the best chain-restaurant fried chicken sandwich on the market, there’s a new homegrown player in Old Town.

Reston-based Thompson Hospitality, the owner of Hen Quarter at 801 King Street, has converted the first floor of the restaurant into the southern-style restaurant The Rub. While the second floor is still devoted to Hen Quarter, the new establishment, which opened on Thursday (Jan. 17) offers five fried chicken sandwiches with fries ranging in price from $8.50 to $12.50. The sandwiches are all made to order and take about eight minutes to prepare.

“We couldn’t ignore the recent explosion of the fried chicken sandwich,” Craig Carey, Thompson’s vice president of marketing strategy, told ALXnow. “We’re really motivated by bringing awesome creative food that is inclusive of everyone’s budget.”

The sandwiches were created by Chef Graham Duncan, formerly of Alexandria Restaurant Partners.

Carey is also the founder of Big Buns Damn Good Burger Co. in Shirlington, and partnered with Thompson Hospitality a year-and-a-half ago. He said that Thompson, which includes Austin Grill, Matchbox and American Tap Room among its brands, plans to open many more restaurants throughout the region over the next two years. Those new restaurants include a new Big Buns in Reston by this April, and a Big Buns in the Navy Yard in June.

The company plans to open three to five Matchbox and Big Buns locations per year, we’re told.

Carey said that the fried chicken sandwich was the most popular item on the menu when it debuted at Big Buns in 2015.

“The Rub is really about the customer, and I think it’s a really cool space to have fun with,” he said. “The fried chicken sandwich is really something that has exploded for us. Soon we will be coming out with a new fried chicken sandwich every month.”

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A new restaurant called Thai Signature could be taking over 722 King Street, once home to local establishment Geranio Ristorante.

Geranio Ristorante closed in 2018 after 42 years of serving up Italian meals and the building has been empty since then. Recently filed permits show, however, that Thai Signature could be taking over the space with a focus on offering street food from Thailand. The restaurant will also have a bar serving wine, beer and cocktails.

Before Thai Signature opens, new restaurant will also have something of a facelift, with plans to remove the awning and replace the front facade with a new green and white design.

The space was originally a cobbler shop in the 1880s but the current building was constructed sometime between 1902 and 1907, according to a city staff report.

The original plan was a wall-to-wall glass building with a very modern design, Historic Preservation Manager Al Cox said, but staff worked with the applicant for something more Old Town appropriate. The new designs were unanimously approved at the Dec. 18 Board of Architectural Review meeting.

On the same block, a new pair of restaurants called The Handover and The King’s Ransom are in the works for the space that was once Eamonn’s Dublin Chipper and Bar PX, with signs recently placed in the window.

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A new Japanese sushi bar and grill is coming to 909 N. Saint Asaph Street in North Old Town, but it’s still several months away.

The restaurant will be the first location for Chef Hyun Su Kim, as first reported by Alexandria Living Magazine, though Kim has worked in sushi restaurants throughout the region for 14 years.

Kim told ALXnow he’s hoping to open the restaurant in late March, but there’s still more work that needs to be done on the building in the meantime. The menu will focus largely on seafood and will emphasize the sourcing of ingredients, he said.

“We’re definitely looking at fish dishes, with a lot of focus on telling people where the fish is from,” Kim told ALXnow. “We want to let people know where each meal comes from.”

Kim said he’s still working on the menu, which will try to walk the line between affordable and fancy. Kim said prices could range from $25-50 per person, which seems to fit with the luxury apartments built above it, called The Gables.

Hinata is one of several new businesses coming to the block, including the Smart Press cleaning service, pet store Loyal Companion, and a barbershop called Cut and Shave.

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There are no signs on the walls or permits from the city visible, but there are nevertheless signs of life at the former King Street Blues restaurant at 112 N. St. Asaph Street.

Neighbors told ALXnow that movers bringing equipment into the space told them the new restaurant would be called Old Hat. A company under that name with the King Street Blues address was created on Sept. 11 this year.

While the building is still covered in King Street Blues signs, the former two-story barbecue and southern cuisine spot has sat empty since at least early 2018. Patrick’s Fine Linens and Home Decor next door is likewise abandoned, with some of the windows broken.

Paint cans and other signs of activity are visible through the sheets of paper plastered over the windows of King Street Blues. While no permits are visible on the outside of the building, city records show a number of recent inspections of the address.

The owners of the Silverman Galleries next door said they didn’t know anything about the new restaurant, but said they were happy to see something new coming to the long-vacant location.

Owners of Old Hat LLC could not be reached for comment.

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The tables are set and the staff at El Saltado Restaurant and Carryout (3616 King Street) say it’s just about ready to open in the Bradlee Shopping Center.

The restaurant is replacing the Hong Kong Bistro on the east side of the shopping center. The restaurant will serve Peruvian food, though the website listed in flyers outside the restaurant still contains mostly placeholder descriptions and generic photos of food.

El Saltado has also filed for a permit to serve alcoholic beverages.

Staff working at the restaurant said it is planned to open sometime next week. Signs in the window say the restaurant is still looking to hire:

  • Line cooks and helpers
  • Dishwashers
  • Order attendants
  • Drivers
  • A manager

Applicants are requested to apply in-person.

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Morning Notes

Meeting About Detention Center Held Last Night — “Should a youth detention center in Northern Virginia stay open? That question spurred passionate debate at a series of public meetings this month, as the operators of the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center make decisions about the future of the facility… ‘I would like to see the facility stay open because it helps youth,’ said Bill Cleveland, former vice mayor of Alexandria.” [WTOP, Twitter/@AmyJacksonVA]

City Council Approves Waterfront Restaurant — “The Mill, a southern kitchen and market, gained approval to open in a historic Alexandria warehouse at 10 Duke Street on the waterfront. City Council voted on Nov. 16 to approve the special use permit and encroachment into the public right-of-way on Duke Street for a balcony, steps and signage.” [Patch]

Xmas Tree Selected for Dec. 8 Tree Lighting — “After scouting for the Del Ray Christmas tree by air over the Naughty Pines tree farm in Dickerson, Md., the perfect specimen has been identified. They found it in Anderson’s single engine Cirrus airplane, and all they have to do now is inspect it on the ground, cut it down, lift it onto a trailer, and haul it over to Mount Vernon Avenue.” [Zebra]

NORAD Exercises Planned Tonight — “Don’t be frightened if you see and hear military aircraft speeding overhead… The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is expected to conduct air exercises over the Washington area from Thursday night into early Friday morning. Flights are scheduled between midnight and 5:30 a.m.” [WTOP]

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(Updated 5:35 p.m.) Watch out, Red Lobster, there’s another crustacean crawling into town across Van Dorn Street.

According to a city permit application, the national seafood chain Crafty Crab is planning on moving into the shell of Portner Brewhouse (5770 Dow Avenue) in the Modera Tempo mixed-use development. A representative of the applicant confirmed the new location was part of the national chain.

Crafty Crab offers a wide selection of seafood focused primarily around the eponymous crab, along with sides like fries and corn on the cob.

The company has locations in Maryland, including one across the Potomac in Prince George’s County, but the Alexandria location would be the franchise’s first in Virginia.

Portner Brewhouse was a brewery from the great-great granddaughters of Alexandrian brewer Robert Portner. It closed in 2018, one year after it opened. In the wake of the closure, city staff identified a chronic shortage of parking for retail as the cause of several closures in the shopping center.

On Saturday, the City Council authorized Modera Tempo to allow retail parking in the unused residential space of its garage.

Photo 1, 2 via Jay Westcott. Photo 3 via Crafty Crab Seafood

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(Updated at 2:15 p.m.) A new bubble tea joint near the Braddock Road Metro station called Spill the Tea could start serving next month.

The restaurant will be located at 515 Braddock Road, in the space once occupied by the now-shuttered Aveda. The exact opening date for Spill the Tea is still TBD, however.

According to co-owner Natalie Hilunmonkul, the restaurant is finishing up some construction but plans to open sometime in December.

“We haven’t really found any other place that has a full bubble tea bar,” Hilunmonkul said of potential local competition.

The shop will focus on bubble tea, but Hilunmonkul said it will also serve food.

“For the most part, the menu will be small and simple,” Hilunmonkul said. “We’ll have classic milk teas and fruit teas, maybe seasonal items. For food, we’re keeping it simple: soups, salads, and Vietnamese summer rolls.”

Vernon Miles and Airey contributed to this story

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A new restaurant is in the works for the former Eamonn’s and PX spot at 728 King Street.

Tentatively labeled as “The Handover,” the restaurant has filed permit applications this week, seeking to serve beer and wine in a space with a seating capacity of up to 100.

A lawyer listed as representing the company behind the application — Monarch Novelties LLC — could not be reached for comment. No phone number was listed.

Construction is currently underway inside the building, with crews refurbishing the floors on the upper level where PX once was.

PX, a local speakeasy popular with fans of craft cocktails — a number of local officials were regulars, too — closed earlier this year, as did Eamonn’s, the fish and chip shop on the ground floor.

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Korean chicken restaurant Choong Man Chicken is coming to the northwest corner of Alexandria.

Paperwork filed for the new restaurant says it will be moving into Suite 4668 at Shoppes at Summit Centre (4700 King Street), though suite is currently home to nail salon that said they have no plans to close, while the nearby Suite 4686 is currently vacant.

The restaurant currently operates four other locations — in Annandale, Centreville, Gainesville and Fairfax. According to staff at another location, the restaurant is very tentatively scheduled to open in roughly two months.

Choong Man Chicken’s menu focuses, unsurprisingly, on chicken. Flavors range from simple fried chicken to curry and spicy garlic varieties, while options vary from wings and chicken tenders at $11 to whole chickens for $21.

The restaurant is also applying for an ABC permit to serve soju — an alcoholic drink from Korea — and beer.

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