Newsletter

The new McLean location for grocery chain Lidl will be accompanied by regional favorite pizza and beer chains when it opens sometime next year.

Construction on Lidl, which is replacing the Safeway at 1330 Chain Bridge Road, is now underway, with plans to open next spring.

As first reported by the Washington Business Journal, Reston-based Thompson Hospitality is subleasing some of the space in Lidl to add D.C.-area chains Matchbox — a series of pizzerias spread predominately through Northern Virginia — and Big Buns, a burger eatery with locations in Reston, Ballston, and Shirlington.

According to an email from Connie Collins, senior vice president of the Thompson Retail Food Group, Matchbox and Big Buns are scheduled to open in the second quarter of 2022:

We believe the Mclean customer is quite adept at recognizing quality providing us with the exciting opportunity to deliver best-in-class product and service [by our flagship Matchbox and Big Buns brands] aligned with the needs of a discerning and deserving consumer. Our breadth of menu offerings provided a rounded environment to dine at various times of day and experiences to a wide variety of diners from children to retirees and everyone in between.

Both restaurants will take up a 6,200 square-foot space and will have their own seating areas. Matchbox will also have a patio space, like the pizzeria’s Mosaic District location.

Big Buns confirmed to Tysons Reporter in July that it is adding a location in the Town of Vienna, taking over the site in Danor Plaza previously occupied by Elevation Burger.

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Morning Notes

Controversy Hits Tysons Korean Cooking Contest — Half of the judges for the 2021 K-Food Cook-Off have quit after a statement introducing one of them drew social media criticism for suggesting that the D.C. area has a lack of Korean restaurants. The competition, which will be held on Sept. 26 at the Tysons Hyatt Regency, has also come under fire for only having one judge of Korean heritage on its original panel. [Washington City Paper]

Police Investigate Possible Murder in Falls Church — Fairfax County police found the remains of 78-year-old Truman Nguyen in a shallow grave behind his house near Bailey’s Crossroads yesterday after a family member reported him missing on Monday (Sept. 6). His son was arrested and has been charged with murder, which would make it the county’s 18th homicide this year, triple the number that had been reported at this time in 2020. [The Washington Post]

Family of 9/11 Victim Shares Memories of Tragic Day — Now a student pursuing a master’s degree at George Mason University, Fairfax County resident An Nguyen was just 4 when his father was killed in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon, where both of his parents worked. His mother, who came to the U.S. from Vietnam as a child, was not at the Pentagon when the plane hit. [NBC4]

Tysons Business Group Hosts Statewide Candidates Forum — “The Multicultural Chamber Alliance (MCCA), a powerful collaborative initiative of the Asian American Chamber, the Northern Virginia Black Chamber and the Virginia Hispanic Chamber, invites the press and general public to attend the Annual Candidates Forum. The Candidates Forum will take place Thursday, September 9, 2021, from 10 am-12 pm, at the University of North America (12750 Fair Lakes Circle) in Fairfax, Virginia.” [MCCA]

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Among a crowd of pizza crafters applying fixtures with eyedroppers or a brush, chef Andy Brown did what he did best: make the same kind of pizza he’d make if he were any given Friday at the shop.

That’s how Andy’s Pizza, a small regional chain with a location in Tysons Galleria, took home the first-place prize in the traditional pizza category of the International Pizza Challenge last month.

“The whole point of the traditional category is: what do you do really great at 7 p.m. on a Friday?” said Emily Brown, Andy’s cousin and co-owner of Andy’s Pizza. “Maybe it was a risky move, but we just did what we put out on Friday. No paint brushes, no eye-droppers.”

Originally introduced in 2007, the International Pizza Challenge is the largest pizza-making competition in the U.S. It unfolded this year from Aug. 17-19 as part of the 37th annual International Pizza Expo.

Part of the rules for the traditional category is to use no more than two toppings, but as Emily explained, traditional doesn’t necessarily mean simple. There’s a specific process behind the scenes that goes into making the pizza.

“We do a 72-hour minimum cold fermented crust,” Emily said. “For our sauce, we have a beautiful red sauce with a pinch of salt, and we use the best cheese money can buy — mozzarella from Grande Cheese. Our crust is blistered, and we use a special technique to keep it chewy and soft while being crisp on the bottom.”

Emily suspects it was the blistered crust that helped Andy’s Pizza stand out from the competition.

“A lot of people do that ferment, and a lot of people use that cheese, so it’s really the blister,” Emily said.

Meanwhile, the pizzeria just started serving its first vegan pies. Emily says they were previously unimpressed with the quality of artificial cheeses, but they found the right one with Vertage in Ivy City in D.C.

Emily also helped spearhead the pizzeria’s beer menu, which has started to see a gradual comeback after lunch and happy-hour crowds took a hit with office workers staying home during the pandemic.

“Tonight, people came out from D.C. and were like ‘how did you get this beer?'” Emily said. “Our bread and butter was office, and they were gone and started to trickle back…You still don’t get that automatic 50-person-on-a-Tuesday Capital One happy hour yet, so you have to work really hard not to let that program slip. If you do something hard enough, people will notice.”

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The Mo:Mo House storefront

After three years of business, Mo:Mo House has announced it will close on Saturday, August 28.

Located at 131-A Maple Avenue West, the family-run Nepalese restaurant opened in 2018 and is owned by Chef Shambhu Basnet and Shanta Basnet. Together, they created and shared dishes from their homeland, including the eponymous momo dumplings.

Tysons Reporter was unable to get in contact with Mo:Mo House before press time, but their Facebook post announcing the closure read:

With heavy hearts, we want to inform you that Mo:Mo House will permanently close its doors on 28 August, 2021.

We want to thank you, our amazing customers, for your unwavering support over the years, through thick and thin. We feel very fortunate for having known you, your family and friends. We’ve made many great friends, had a lot of fun times, and shared many life stories. We will always be grateful for having been a part of your lives.

Again, from the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU! Thank you for your support and patronage.

Please take care and stay safe!
— The Mo:Mo House Family

Mo:Mo House has become a beloved family-friendly restaurant in Vienna, which is apparent in the comments on its Facebook post.

One Vienna resident wrote, “Your restaurant is our number one family favorite and we will really miss you. Thanks so much for the beautiful memories you have offered to our family. Best wishes to your wonderful family.”

The restaurant was recognized for its customer service by the inaugural #ViennaUnited Virtual Business Awards that the Town of Vienna Economic Development Office organized last year to encourage residents to support local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mo:Mo House acknowledged the outpouring of goodwill that followed its closure announcement.

“Thank you, everyone!” the restaurant wrote on Facebook. “It has been so overwhelming to see all these comments and to think about all of the moments spent with you all. We’ve gotten to know each and every one of you so closely over these past few years. If nothing else, we are taking a lot of fun memories with us that will last a lifetime. Hope to stay in touch with you!”

Mo:Mo House is open for take-out from 4-8 p.m. until Aug. 28. Orders can be made by calling 571-459-2614.

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Fairfax County Public Schools children will continue to get free meals amid uncertainty with the pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture extended schools’ abilities to provide the food — traditionally for low-income families through free and reduced meal programs — by giving them special exemptions last year when schools were shut down due to COVID-19.

For FCPS, it means all students, regardless of their families’ incomes, can get free breakfast and lunch through June 2022.

“Pivot was the key word of success to the FCPS response to the pandemic and meals,” FCPS Food and Nutrition Services Director Maria Perrone said in a statement. “On March 13, 2020 — the day that schools closed — our FNS team opened 5 meal distribution sites” and continue to open more.

She says that by the close of this past school year, FCPS had 75 locations and over 400 bus stops distributing meals to students.

“By March of 2021 — one year after the start of the pandemic — the FNS team had served over 15 million meals,” Perrone noted.

The extension is funded by federal relief money from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that Congress first passed in March 2020 and extended in September, according to the USDA. The USDA has provided waivers to school districts to allow them to operate programs outside their normal parameters.

Buses with food drove through neighborhoods across Fairfax County yesterday (Wednesday) as part of a meal kit distribution effort, where children 18 and younger can get a week’s worth of food for free. FCPS will also provide meal kits at several schools through Aug. 16 as part of the USDA Summer Food Service Program.

A mother who teaches in FCPS picked up food for her kids and remarked how she wished more people would have been there.

FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand said the continued outreach comes as officials recognize the uncertainty that the pandemic has created for families.

After remote learning filled much of 2020, FCPS gradually shifted students back into classrooms throughout the school year, finally moving to four days a week in April. The district will return to five days a week for almost all students when it starts the school year on Aug. 23.

FCPS announced on July 28 that masks will be required in school buildings when students are present, regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.

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McLean Cares volunteers load food into a truck for SHARE to distribute (courtesy McLean Cares/Facebook)

With many restaurants struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of McLean residents created a group called McLean Cares to try to help keep their local eateries afloat.

Inspired by a similar Herndon organization, McLean Cares collects donations to buys meals from restaurants that they then give to residents with food insecurity.

Members of the Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Temple Rodef Shalom, McLean Baptist, and Lewinsville Presbyterian started the group in July 2020. They collected donations from their congregations, solicited local businesses, and applied for community grants to raise funds.

As of June 2021, they have raised $64,563, every penny of which was spent buying 5,600 meals for those who needed them.

“Our goal was simple: to support locally-owned restaurants by purchasing meals once a month and then distributing those meals to Fairfax County residents experiencing food insecurity,” said Immanuel Presbyterian member Leslie Regan, who is part of the planning team for McLean Cares.

On top of helping those who need food assistance, McLean Cares asks the restaurants to provide meals that cost no more than $10 to make. The organization then pays $11.50 per meal and asks that the extra $1.50 goes to the restaurant staff.

“The restaurants were so wonderful and the meals were incredible that they put out. We’re just so grateful to have them work with us,” Regan said. “They just jumped right in and said yes…We are so proud of how everything worked out. Several restaurant owners have told us they could not have survived without our business. And the food recipients were always so wonderfully grateful!”

While donations were coming in bundles for a while, incoming funds started to slow down as restaurants began to reopen. However, with the new Delta variant causing a new uptick in COVID-19 cases, organizers say restaurants are once again in need of some help.

McLean Cares is seeking new donations so it can purchase more meals. Interested donors can send a check with the memo line “McLean Cares” to Mary Ann Vaughan (Business Administrator) at Immanuel Presbyterian Church (1125 Savile Lane).

Donations can also be sent online through SignUp Genius to designate how many meals you would like to provide at $11.50 per meal.

The restaurants and catering companies involved include:

All of the meals have and will continue to go to local shelters, low-income housing complexes, SHARE of McLean, and local elementary schools and their families.

McLean Cares has a Facebook page to keep the community informed on their work.

“We don’t know the future and donating would be great,” Regan said. “Supporting our local restaurants by picking up [is important too]. We’re not out of the woods yet so support your local restaurants.”

Photo via McLean Cares/Facebook

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Bowls of fruit (via Melissa Belanger/Unsplash)

Two Fairfax County organizations have been awarded grants from a national nonprofit aimed at increasing access for food service programs for children and their families.

The Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center and Cornerstones in Reston both received grants from No Kid Hungry, a campaign from the national nonprofit Save Our Strength, whose mission is to end hunger and poverty.

No Kid Hungry announced on July 26 that it has distributed $1.16 million in grants to more than 30 Virginia school districts and organizations to combat food insecurity and provide more access to food to children and families.

The Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center received $25,000, and Cornerstones was granted $30,000.

“We are thrilled to get the grant and happy to help families in ways we couldn’t otherwise,” Renee Boyle, development director at the Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center, said.

Located at 7230 Idylwood Road, the children’s center provides early childhood education, along with an after-school child care program specifically for students at nearby Lemon Road Elementary School in Falls Church.

Boyle says the center will share money from the grant with the Seven Corners Children’s Center, a preschool in Falls Church.

$15,000 will go towards providing low-income families at both centers with grocery cards that can be used at their discretion. That way, children and their families, including parents and older siblings, can have easier access to food even outside of the schools’ walls, Boyle says.

“Oftentimes, it can be difficult getting to school to get food, or [the kids] don’t attend pre-school,” she said. “This allows [families] to purchase fruits, veggies, and meats of their choice and reflects their ethnic preferences.”

The other $10,000 will go towards contracting Good Food Company out of Arlington to provide high-quality lunches at the center. They provide meals full of fresh vegetables, proteins, and wholesome dishes, Boyle says.

“The menu varies everyday and they’re higher quality meals than county public schools,” she said.

Cornerstones — a nonprofit that provides assistance with food, shelter, child care, and other basic needs — is using its grant to rent an outdoor storage unit to expand its pantry program, pay off-site storage facility costs, and purchase a new cargo van to deliver fresh food to households in need, CEO Kerrie Wilson says.

Food insecurity remains a huge challenge in the D.C. region. About 1% of residents in several pockets of Reston, Vienna, Tysons, and Herndon were food-insecure in 2020, according to Capital Area Food Bank research.

One in eight children under 18 in Virginia live in a household where they may not be getting enough to eat, according to No Kid Hungry.

“If it weren’t for the free meals being offered by schools and community organizations, that number would be much higher,” No Kid Hungry Virginia Associate Director Sarah Steely said.

Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center Executive Director Lucy Pelletier says existing food access challenges have been exacerbated by the pandemic due in large part to employment uncertainty.

“We are seeing that our families are in widely varied states of employment recovery,” Pelletier said in a statement. “Our parents who are restaurant servers are exhausted from all their overtime hours because restaurants can’t hire enough employees. Parents in other direct service jobs such as house cleaning are either working less than pre-pandemic levels due to clients’ fears of covid, or they are traveling further to fill their schedule with families willing to accept cleaners into their homes.”

Rising food prices also means that paychecks are not going as far as they used too, she added.

Food insecurity also disportionately impacts communities of color and immigrants. Cornerstones says about 70% of the people it serves are people of color and 40% are children, half of whom identify as a member of a minority or immigrant community.

The nonprofit surveyed some of the residents it works with and found that food stability remains a huge, immediate concern.

“Food stability is a continued top priority and source of stress for themselves and their families,” Wilson said. “The concerns about access to healthy and adequate food and nutrition was significantly higher in respondents who identified as people of color and immigrants.”

Community organizations like the Falls Church-McLean Children’s Center and Cornerstones are critical to ensuring children have enough healthy food to eat, because they can provide access outside of schools, especially during summer and winter breaks.

“These meal programs work together with nutrition programs like Pandemic EBT and SNAP to ensure kids have enough to eat,” Steely said by email. “We know that summer can be the hungriest time of the year for children and families across the Commonwealth and beyond.”

Photo via Melissa Belanger/Unsplash

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The third Wednesday of July has arrived, and that means it is officially National Hot Dog Day.

Once again, Vienna Inn will celebrate the occasion by offering a slight discount on its signature hot dogs. Starting at 10 a.m. today, customers can buy a hot dog for $2, and chili dogs are also available at an additional cost.

The typical price of a hot dog from the longstanding Vienna restaurant ranges from $2.45 to $2.75, depending on whether it’s served with cheese, chili, onions, and other toppings.

“We have customers stop in from all over the country to try one of our dogs,” Vienna Inn owner Marty Volk said in a press release that says the restaurant still serves more than 10,000 hot dogs a month even with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

National Hot Dog Day is an annual event cooked up by the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, a trade organization established by the American Meat Institute, but the promotion carries a bit more weight this year for small businesses like Vienna Inn that could use the boost after over a year of navigating the pandemic.

At this time last year, Vienna Inn was only able to provide a limited amount of indoor seating, relying instead on contact-free curbside pickups and outdoor dining under a newly installed tent in its parking lot at 120 Maple Avenue E.

Dubbed the Outside Inn, the tent accommodates over 60 diners and has been outfitted with large-screen televisions to replicate the sports bar experience that’s as much a part of the establishment’s appeal as its chili dogs and wood-paneled furnishings.

Volk says the addition of the outdoor tent has been critical for getting Vienna Inn through the past year.

The tent was made possible by an emergency ordinance that the Town of Vienna has had in place since June 2020, allowing commercial activities on sidewalks and in parking lots due to COVID-19 health concerns. The ordinance has been extended five times, most recently on June 7, and is now scheduled to expire on Dec. 7.

“The last year was a challenge,” Volk said by email. “Without the addition of the Outside Inn (our tent which allowed for outdoor dining) and the loyalty of our customers who raised money to buy meals for first responders and hospital workers and found any excuse to order take-out, we may not be here today.”

Earlier this year, Vienna Inn commemorated its 61st anniversary with celebrity guest hot dog tenders and a challenge to customers to purchase 1,960 meals for first responders and other front-line workers by the end of February. The restaurant exceeded its goal by selling 2,176 meals that month, according to its website.

Vienna Inn says it has seen “a large increase” in dine-in customers since Virginia lifted all capacity and social distancing restrictions on May 28.

The restaurant is now preparing for an influx of new faces with the Virginia State Little League Majors Little League Tournament rolling into town tomorrow (Thursday).

“It’s been nice getting back to somewhat normal,” Volk said. “Seeing familiar faces, sports teams and families back in the restaurant has been a great feeling.”

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Morning Notes

New I-66 Ramp to West Falls Church Metro Opens — A new ramp designed to provide direct access from Interstate 66 to the West Falls Church Metro station is expected to open around midday today (Thursday). Work on the ramp, which connects two existing I-66 East/Route 7 ramps, began in May 2020 and is part of the I-66 Inside the Beltway widening project. [VDOT]

Partial Closure of Tysons Boulevard Begins — Fairfax County held a ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday (Wednesday) to mark the launch of a program to give pedestrians and bicyclists access to a half-mile of Tysons Boulevard. This is the second year that the county has experimented with a partial closure of the road near Tysons Galleria. [Dalia Palchik/Twitter]

McLean Family Starts Persian Ice Cream Delivery — The owners of Amoo’s Restaurant in McLean has spun off one of their most lauded dishes into a delivery service. Kinrose Creamery launched last week, producing ice cream that can be picked up at Amoo’s and delivery sites in Vienna, Sterling, and Manassas. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Wolf Trap Hotel Project Returns to Vienna Board — The Town of Vienna Board of Architectural Review will discuss the latest revisions to plans for a four-story, mixed-use development at 444 Maple Avenue W. when it meets tonight. After being slowed down by the pandemic and public opposition to proposed development on Maple, the developer told Tysons Reporter in June that they hope to start construction this fall. [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Behind the Architecture of Capital One Hall — “HGA worked with the client, presenting alternatives [to marble] such as Italian travertine, silvery Alabaman limestone, or Brazilian swirling granite to avoid joining the high number of noteworthy marble failures in the past sixty years. For Barry Mark, vice president of design and construction at Capital One, none of these had the distinctive beauty and character for the vision he had of the project.” [The Architect’s Newspaper]

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Istanbul Kitchen owners Feride Ozkan and Arzu Ozen (courtesy Istanbul Kitchen)

Tysons Corner Center welcomed its latest restaurant last week with the opening of Istanbul Kitchen.

Run by Feride Ozkan and Arzu Ozen, who also own Ozfeka Catering, Istanbul Kitchen joins a number of other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern eateries at the mall, from Cava Mezze Grill to The Halal Guys, but this is the only one to specialize specifically in Turkish cuisine.

“You can find all kinds of international food in the mall and we thought ours would be a great addition,” Ozkan said.

Ozkan says Istanbul Kitchen serves “homemade gourmet and healthy selections of Mediterranean cuisine,” including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options so there is something for all dietary preferences.

There is also a variety of desserts, including baklava, rice pudding, cookies, and Turkish coffees and teas.

“We are hoping to become one of the best restaurants in the mall with exceptional quality of foods and customer service,” Ozkan said.

Istanbul Kitchen is located on the first level between McDonald’s and Pokeworks.

“We are pleased to provide small and independent eateries like Istanbul Kitchen the opportunity to showcase their global cuisine with Tysons Corner Center as the backdrop,” said Matt Barry, the assistant vice president of property management for Tysons Corner Center.

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