Interior rendering for new Taco Rock in Falls Church, courtesy Taco Rock

Rosslyn-based Taco Rock is planning to open its third location — and its largest to date — in Falls Church this fall.

In a press release, Chef Mike Cordero announced yesterday (Tuesday) that the new Taco Rock will open at 1116 West Broad Street in October.

“The former retail space will be transformed into a 2,815-square-foot fast casual taqueria and tequila bar that replicates its Rosslyn and Alexandria locations,” the press release said.

The restaurant will seat 85 guests and feature a 25-foot tequila bar. The menu will match the existing Arlington and Alexandria locations with the eponymous tacos on blue corn tortillas and churros, along with tequila and Mexican beer.

The new Taco Rock will be located in Falls Plaza Shopping Center, which has been rebranded as Birch & Broad in conjunction with ongoing renovations to the property. Existing retailers include a remodeled Giant, CVS Pharmacy, Starbucks, and Jersey Mike’s.

“Team Cordero is excited to expand Taco Rock‘s footprint in Northern Virginia with the opening of our largest and third location,” Cordero said in the press release. “The newly renovated Birch & Broad shopping plaza makes a perfect fit for our establishment and we anticipate the Falls Church community will welcome our concept.”

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(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) When residents at McLean’s Vinson Hall Retirement Community wanted outdoor recreation during the pandemic, retired Marine Col. Mike Cluff grabbed a pickax and sledgehammer and built the sought-after amenity himself.

Decades before he became a resident at Vinson Hall (6251 Old Dominion Dr.), Cluff oversaw the building of an encampment in Vietnam and was present during the Tet Offensive in 1968.

More recently, he put his “keep moving” mentality to use to construct horseshoe and bocce ball pits for the McLean retirement community, an approximately 400-room facility that focuses on caring for military veterans and their families as well as high-ranking former federal government employees.

“The genesis of this was…everyone wanted to play outside,” Michelle Crone, director of philanthropy and engagement for the Navy Marine Coast Guard Residence Foundation, said.

As Vinson Hall’s philanthropic arm, the foundation supports facility renovations and provides financial assistance to residents in need.

Cluff, 82, was motivated to construct the horseshoe and bocce pits by fellow Vinson Hall resident Midge Holmes, who is active with getting people involved and wanted residents to be able to play horseshoes.

After looking up plans for horseshoe pits online, Cluff worked with the retirement community to get the materials he needed and spent a few weeks during the spring of 2020 finishing the project, which is located on the site of a former house that was demolished years ago and is now becoming an outdoor recreation area.

Vinson Hall later added artificial turf to the horseshoe and bocce ball pits to help with maintenance. A multi-surface area next to them is under construction and could facilitate more outdoor activities, such as pickleball, which was played inside at the facility until the pandemic halted it.

The new outdoor recreational area is one of several capital projects that Vinson Hall has undertaken during the pandemic after getting a financial boost, thanks to a Fairfax County Economic Development Authority measure that let the retirement community refinance bonds that had been previously issued to fund campus improvements.

Vinson Hall Chief Financial Officer Rick Bova says the move will bring savings and help improve the lives of residents and staff by supporting property upgrades and salary increases for staff.

The retirement community is refinancing around $70 million in debt to get a savings of some $10 million to $12 million over a 12-year period with the economic development assistance, he says. The FCEDA approved the measure on June 14, and the money is being facilitated by Truist Bank.

“In our business, every dollar counts,” Bova said.

Among the ongoing improvements is a renovation of The Sylvestery (1728 Kirby Rd.), a memory care unit that assists residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Other proposed changes include enhanced lighting and other additions to the memory care unit’s sensory room, which offers an array of items for residents to touch and interact with, from stuffed animals to tropical colored bowling pins.

Called a sensory oasis, the room helps patients with dementia calm down, says Antionette Doublin, senior director and administrator of the skilled nursing facility Arleigh Burke Pavilion and The Sylvestery. Research shows that multisensory sessions can help verbal agitation and provide other benefits.

“So, we bring them in here, and it calms them down,” Doublin said.

The Sylvestry is also getting a central kitchen area that can host cooking demonstrations. The project is currently under construction and could be finished in two to three weeks.

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This past week, 34 properties were sold in Tysons Corner, McLean and Vienna, according to Homesnap.

These ranged from a $3.9 million six-bedroom McLean home to a $309,000 2 BD/2 BA condo with all utilities included except electricity.

A few of the recently sold properties include:

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Tysons is now home to the largest mural in the D.C. region — at least according to the development that commissioned it.

While its size and vivid coloring makes the mural difficult for any passersby to miss, The Boro will officially unveil the artwork with a party this Saturday (June 26).

The afternoon celebration will take place at Boro Park (8350 Broad St.) right in front of the mural, which graces the Leesburg Pike side of The Loft.

Baltimore artists Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn started working on the mural in May. The finished product is over 4oo feet long and 70 feet tall, making it one of the largest pieces of public art in the D.C. area, according to The Boro.

“The mural brings a feeling of joy and excitement to the neighborhood,” a spokesperson for The Boro said. “The Boro values community and we love bringing people together, so we’re proud to offer this new piece of public art that people can enjoy from down below with a coffee, or while passing by on the highway.”

The celebration will feature interactive color walls, lawn games, and giveaways as well as an “Art Hut” where guests can pick up art supplies to create their own mini-murals.

There will also be cocktails for the adults from local restaurants and family-friendly events. A DJ will perform throughout the event, which will last from noon to 4 p.m.

The event is free to attend, but guests are asked to register in advance on Eventbrite or through The Boro’s website.

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While a large percentage of Fairfax County residents have received their COVID-19 vaccine, there are still ongoing efforts to help — and convince — those who have not yet gotten the vaccine.

Nearly three quarters — 73.7% to be exact — of all Fairfax County Health District residents over the age of 18 have had at least their first shot, which is actually above Virginia as a whole.

About 65% of residents are considered fully vaccinated, meaning at least two weeks have passed since they received their final shot.

However, those statistics do not take in account those who got their vaccine through federal sources, such as the defense and veterans’ affairs departments, notes Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay.

“We remain committed to making vaccine as easily as possible to obtain for those in our community who want it,” he wrote in a statement.

While the days of supply scarcity long gone, some people still remain reluctant or hesitant to get vaccinated for a variety of reasons.

About 7.5% of county residents answered that they were “unsure,” “probably not,” or “definitely not” going to get a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a federal survey distributed in late May and early June.

To help address hesitancy, public officials and businesses have developed several incentive programs, like free baseball tickets and Krispy Kreme donuts, though Virginia is not offering cash or lottery incentives like other states.

Now that a majority of county residents are vaccinated overall, McKay says the county’s goal is to vaccinate at least 70% of adults in every neighborhood, and it has turned to a variety of methods, from a regional, multimedia awareness campaign to partnerships with local businesses and nonprofits, in its effort to hit that target.

“Community partners continue to offer up space for vaccination clinic sites, with community leaders urging the importance of getting vaccinated,” McKay said. “I have always said that we would only get through the COVID-19 pandemic together and am proud that our Fairfax County community continues to get us closer to that goal.”

For many residents, getting vaccinated is more a question of access than desire.

In recent months, the county and state health departments have set up several community vaccine centers, including one in an abandoned Lord & Taylor, and equity clinics. The county is even offering free transportation to some via the Fairfax Connector. Fairfax County Public Schools also hosted a series of vaccine clinics over several weeks.

Child care can be another barrier to access, so a number of companies are offering free child care to those getting the vaccine or recovering from it.

In total, the Fairfax County Health Department says it has held 307 vaccine equity clinics since February with an additional 23 clinics scheduled for the remainder of this month.

Mobile clinics are also still occuring and ongoing in partnership with George Mason University’s Mason and Partners mobile vaccination unit.

However, some clinics and access points are shutting down in the coming weeks as the vaccine becomes more widely available. For example, the Tysons mass vaccination site is slated to close on Saturday (June 26) and the FCPS clinics ended on June 10.

“Our outreach team and community health workers continue to work with community partners to provide vaccine education, identify potential vaccination clinic sites and help residents navigate the vaccination process,” an FCHD official wrote. “While the Tysons Community Vaccination Center is closing June 26, the Government Center remains open and will continue to offer walk-in service.”

The spokesperson also highlighted that vaccine supplies remain high and available through a number of expanding options, including private health care providers, pharmacies, and grocery stores.

Of course, getting the remaining portion of the population vaccinated isn’t only a county challenge, but a nationwide one as well.

Just today (Tuesday), U.S. officials admitted that the country is not going to hit the White House-stated goal of at least 70% of American adults having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

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Morning Notes

Inova Will Require COVID-19 Vaccinations for Workers — “Inova Health System is requiring all employees to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, making the Falls Church-based nonprofit the latest in the region to employ such a mandate. Inova, which counts 18,000 employees across the organization, notified staff last week of the requirement, which goes into effect Sept. 1.” [Washington Business Journal]

McLean Swimmer Qualifies for Summer Olympics in Tokyo — “After coming up short at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in 2012 and 2016, McLean native Andrew Seliskar has made the Olympic Team. The 24-year-old placed fourth in the 200-meter freestyle at Trials, earning a spot on the 4×200 meter freestyle relay team.” [WJLA-ABC7 News]

New Tysons Child Care Center Now Enrolling — After breaking ground on its new early childhood education center on Jones Branch Drive in March, Celebree School has opened enrollment for kids from infants through pre-kindergarten. The private school is also currently looking to hire teachers in preparation for its anticipated opening later this summer. [Celebree School]

Wolf Trap Announces More Summer Shows — “On Tuesday, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts announced the following new concerts: The Avett Brothers, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue with Michael Franti & Spearhead, A Tribute to Marvin Gaye featuring Raheem DeVaughn and Friends, and ABBA the Concert. The shows are part of the Filene Center’s 5oth anniversary season.” [Patch]

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(Updated at 6 p.m.) After a 20-year hiatus, The Italian Oven has returned to Old Dominion Drive in McLean.

The Italian restaurant officially opened on Monday (June 21) at 6852 Old Dominion Drive, moving back into a spot it had first occupied in 1985.

The Esposito family has been serving authentic Italian cuisine in Northern Virginia for over 40 years. Although the restaurant has operated under multiple names, the main attraction has been their wood-burning oven shipped from Italy, which reaches 800 degrees and cooks pizzas in about two and a half minutes.

Salvatore “Sal” Esposito, the former owner of the original Italian Oven, was a “pioneer of installing wood-burning ovens in Arlington, Fairfax, McLean, and Georgetown,” according to his son, Robert, who will own and manage the eatery’s latest incarnation.

A native of Naples, Italy, Sal Esposito was trained in the hospitality industry in Germany and England before coming to America.

His uncle, Franco, was a chef trained in Long Island, New York, and the first member of the Esposito family to open a restaurant in the U.S., starting with a small hole-in-the-wall in Arlington. They had lines out the door after the first few months of business.

Health complications led Sal to retire early in 2000, leaving the restaurant in the hands of five managers. Eventually, Moe Jebali became the sole owner and renamed the restaurant Pulcinella.

Now, Pulcinella is moving to a new location, and Robert Esposito has decided to buy his father’s old restaurant and refurbish it to reopen The Italian Oven.

A graduate of Langley High School, Robert is also deaf and has strong ties to the deaf community in McLean, according to his father. He is committed to making The Italian Oven a welcoming environment for members of the deaf community.

There are still remnants of the old Italian Oven. A mural depicting a scene from Italy is still intact in the lower dining room, and the original wood-burning oven is still cooking as well. Certain pictures and menu items remain the same too, all waiting for guests to come back and enjoy.

“The people of McLean have been coming through the door saying, ‘Welcome back. We love you and welcome back,'” Sal said.

Questions and concerns about the restaurant can be directed to 703-570-4975‬.

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Daniel Bechara knows better than most that sometimes to save a look, you need to make some cuts. It’s why Bechara decided to pull his hair salon, Salon Daniel, out of McLean after 30 years to move to a more visible location in Merrifield (2750 Gallows Rd.).

Bechara says the new location brings the salon into a more publicly accessible place than their previous locale.

“It feels great,” Bechara said. “It’s a new generation, a younger generation, and it’s a better location. I was [in McLean] for exactly thirty years, but it was hidden up on the second level and it was hard to see. I was only getting new clients because of our reputation, but not from somebody walking by and seeing us. It was time to move.”

The new location is two blocks south of the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station, almost halfway between the station and the Mosaic District. Bechara says the new location also benefits from being on the ground floor of a residential building.

“We’re right next to the Metro and in the Avalon Community,” Bechara said. “We’re in a retail and residential area with 830 residents right above us, and we haven’t even tapped into that yet because we want to make sure we have the capacity.”

The new salon location has been open for around three weeks. Bechara says all of his old team and many familiar clients have carried over into the new location. After years of stagnation in the other location, Bechara said he’s had over 25 new walk-in clients since opening.

“It’s new business every day,” said Bechara.

After 40 years working in hair salons, Bechara says the change in venue also gave him the opportunity to try something new with his salon.

“The other one was 30 years old. It was a different design,” Bechara said. “This one is more of a Miami-style salon. It’s a different vibe, a different look, more open concept with a bar. People can hang out at the bar and have a drink.”

Bechara says the new salon has the same price range as the McLean location, which varies by haircut type and by stylist. One new addition, however, is complimentary valet parking.

“It’s like pulling into the Ritz Carlton,” Bechara joked.

One of the things Bechara says he’ll miss from the McLean location is the camaraderie with other salons in the area, many of them owned by stylists who got their start with him. Bechara says he felt like a “godfather” to many of the nearby salons.

As the Merrifield neighborhood grows, Bechara said he looks forward — over time — to seeing a new community of hair salons take off in the area.

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Smiley, who’s always got a smile on her face, is a Golden Retriever mix looking for her forever home.

Here’s what her friends at Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation have to say about her:

Meet Smiley, a girl who is sure to always know how to turn your frown upside down! Smiley is a calm and gentle girl who greets everyone she meets warmly and politely along with her friendly grin. (Her name is Smiley for a reason!) You can make her grin even bigger by providing her with some pets to the head and ear scratches — those are her favorite!

Smily has immaculate manners. We haven’t noticed that she jumps on people at all and when we were taking her out, she even offered a sit to be leashed without a treat lure! She also walks well on the leash with little to no pulling (even when passing other dogs) and explores confidently outdoors, unfazed by loud noises or passing vehicles.

Smiley will truly be an amazing addition to her new forever family’s home. Come meet her to see for yourself just how truly amazing she is!

Are you and Smiley the perfect match?

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The consulting firm LMI has its headquarters at the Tysons Overlook office building in Tysons (via Google Maps)

The Tysons-based consulting firm LMI has been named one of the best places to work in the D.C. area by The Washington Post, which announced the results of its eighth annual Top Workplaces survey on Friday (June 18).

Recognized in a virtual awards ceremony held on June 17, LMI landed at the top of the list for “Largest Companies,” the category for organizations with 1,000 or more employees in the D.C. area.

Employing 1,800 local workers, LMI primarily serves the federal government, but it recently announced a partnership with Howard University that will support academic research and student mentoring for the university, according to The Washington Post.

“Having recently joined LMI myself, very quickly I realized there were distinct aspects that set us apart as an organization — the resiliency and commitment of our employees,” LMI President and CEO Doug Wagoner said in a press release. “Over the past year, LMIers have not missed a beat. We continue to excel in terms of contract wins, revenue, and profitability, as well as expand our capabilities by hiring great talent and remaining focused on our customers’ missions.”

According to the Post, more than 3,500 area companies were invited to participate in the survey, which was conducted through the third-party platform Energage LLC. More than 65,500 employees completed the questionnaires, addressing topics from pay and benefits to the company’s direction and leadership.

While LMI was ranked the highest, the Tysons area was well-represented among the 200 companies on the list. Here are the other local businesses that made the cut:

Largest (1,000+ employees)

  • Capital One Financial Corporation (#3)
  • Jim Koons Automotive (#8)
  • Dovel Technologies (#10)

Large (500-1,000 employees)

  • Appian (#8)
  • HITT Contracting (#21)
  • ActionNet (#23): This Vienna-based cybersecurity firm has been recognized every year of the survey
  • Applied Insight (#29)

Mid-Size (150-500 employees)

  • ValidaTek (#8)
  • SMS Data Products Group (#9)
  • Thomson Reuters Special Services (#10): This is the McLean-based data and research analysis firm’s third consecutive appearance on the list
  • Markon Solutions (#18)
  • MicroHealth (#21)
  • Credence Management Solutions (#26)
  • Tax Analysts (#29)
  • Steampunk (#36)
  • EGlobalTech (#44)
  • IntelliBridge (#48)
  • Slalom Consulting (#53)
  • Metropolitan Hospitality Group (#54)
  • CollabraLink (#58)
  • Alpha Omega Integration (#62)

Small (50-150 employees)

  • New Editions Consulting (#5)
  • Octagon (#12)
  • Cassaday & Company (#22)
  • SpinSys (#38)
  • Favor TechConsulting (#51)
  • Quadrint (#62)
  • Infina (#67)
  • B&A (#73)
  • Counterpoint Consulting (#79)

Photo via Google Maps

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