Tysons, VA

After a few months of delays, Island Fin Poké Co., a fast-casual beach shack serving up Hawaiian-style poké, is slated to open in Falls Church on Jan. 18 to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The poké (pronounced “poh-kay”) restaurant at 7501 Leesburg Pike in Idylwood Plaza will be owned and operated by Bonita Bell and her husband Howard. Bell said in a press release that she is excited to offer jobs and a health-conscious concept to the community during these turbulent times.

“We are delighted and grateful to open up this business at this time in our vibrant community,” Bell said. “The continuing restrictions due to the pandemic will present challenges, but we are now more excited than ever to start the new year promoting positivity and healthy lifestyles.”

The Idylwood Plaza location was set to open in the fall, but was delayed until this month. The owners did not return Tysons Reporter’s request for comment on the delay before publication.

The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. every day, according to the chain’s website.

The husband-wife duo have also committed to opening an Island Fin Poké location in Vienna, targeted to open in 2022.

Bell, an African American entrepreneur, said she wants to encourage others to serve their communities on MLK Day. To promote the mindset that the occasion is “a day on, not a day off,” her Falls Church restaurant will donate 20% of its opening day sales to the nonprofit Food for Others.

“The past year has hit many people hard,” she said. “With so many jobs lost from restaurant closings, we are happy to provide job opportunities and to partner with Food for Others to support those who are struggling in our community.”

Like the overall restaurant industry, the pandemic has posed challenges to Island Fin Poké, but the Florida-based fast-casual chain is poised to continue growing, co-founder Mark Setterington said in a statement.

The Falls Church location is Island Fin Poké’s first in Virginia, increasing the chain’s presence in the greater Washington, D.C., area after it opened an outpost in Bowie, Md., last year.

“The DMV area is somewhere we are really excited to grow in,” Setterington said.

He described Bonita  as “the perfect addition to our ohana, as she reflects our mission to bring guests high-quality poke in an immersive and welcoming environment. For us, ohana is a way of life, and we want every guest that walks through our doors to know they are a part of the family.”

Photo courtesy Island Fin Poké Co. 

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The Vienna food scene has a new addition with the arrival of Box’d Kitchen, a fast-casual restaurant that specializes in Mediterranean cuisine.

Box’d Kitchen opened its doors on Dec. 1 in the Avalon Dunn Loring apartment complex at 2750 Gallows Road. This is the second location for Box’d Kitchen after founder and CEO Curtis Lee introduced the concept in 2018 with a venue near the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville.

“With extraordinary food offering at an affordable pricing, we are looking forward to becoming a great neighborhood restaurant in Vienna,” Lee said.

Open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. seven days a week, Box’d Kitchen allows customers to build rice and salad bowls or flatbread gyro wraps with lamb, steak, chicken, pork, and vegetables.

Dishes are served with the restaurant’s version of Tzatziki sauce and an optional hot spice sauce. The spiciness level can range from mild to extra hot.

According to the restaurant’s new Yelp profile, Box’d Kitchen does not have outdoor seating, but it offers delivery, takeout, and curbside pick-up services along with sit-down dining.

It also has a contactless payment system, enforces capacity limits and social distancing, provides hand sanitizer, and requires masks as a safety measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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A month after opening Bansari Indian Cuisine (2750 Gallows Road) in Merrifield, Yash Bhatt picked up the phone.

It was Tim Carman, a food critic for The Washington Post.

He had been ordering takeout from the new Punjabi-style restaurant, enjoyed the food, and was writing a review.

“We had no clue,” Bhatt said. “We were serving him like a normal customer.”

His favorable review, published last week, buoyed the team.

“You feel that sense of pride when, not knowingly, you were doing the right thing the whole time,” he said.

The reward came after months of work and new obstacles caused by the shutdown. With regulatory agencies reachable only by mail or email, obtaining permits was slow going, but Bhatt “can’t complain.”

News of the restaurant is spreading. Outdoor dining fills up quickly, but people are skittish to eat indoors, he said.

The small team he has is “going crazy” trying to keep up, but Bhatt said “it is exciting to hear the phone ring all the time.” Bhatt wonders if it’s time to hire more wait staff.

The restaurant used to be Punjabi by Nature, but the owners wanted out of the business, Bhatt said. His wife Nirali and head chef Deepak Sarin, who used to cook for Punjabi by Nature, became co-owners in June. The space was closed for renovations and opened in mid-July. Read More

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Monday Morning Notes

Fairfax Connector Launches New Service for CIA Employees — “We need to find solutions to get ppl out of cars and into public transit. Access to transit is important for our fed workers who come from around the region. Now, we have a @ffxconnector service for CIA employees that will connect more essential fed workers to transit.” [Twitter]

Regional Leaders Host Roundtable on Transportation After COVID-19 — “The three top leaders in the D.C. metropolitan region talked about the coronavirus pandemic, racial and social injustice and transportation Friday during a Capital Region Business Forum.” [Washington Informer]

Busy Opening at Han Palace — Dim sum fans lined up in Tysons for the opening of new restaurant Han Palace [Twitter]

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As Han Palace, a new dim sum restaurant, makes its debut today in Tysons, the location announced it’ll be hosting a grand opening party this evening.

Those who want to celebrate are invited to do so from 5-9 p.m. at 7900 Westpark Drive tonight (Thursday), a flyer said, adding that complimentary wine and champagne will be available for those over 21.

As a type of traditional Chinese-style brunch, Dim Sum is typically enjoyed by a large group of family and friends.

“Unlike most Dim Sum restaurants, diners will not find any pushcarts at Han Palace,” a press release said. “All Dim Sum will be made to order and the menu will be overseen by Executive Chef Kenny Lei, whom Zhu (the owner) recruited from New York City.”

Specialty dishes at this location will include steamed shrimp dumplings, baked barbecue pork buns and sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves, according to a press release.

“Dim Sum desserts include an intricate Purple Gold Yolk Bun and Almond Ball with Custard Yolk Heart, both filled with an oozy, soft egg custard and for the very adventurous, a Deep Fried Durian Cake,” the press release said.

The location will also offer cocktails, including Japanese whiskey and a variety of liquors.

Both indoor and outdoor seating will be available.

Going forward, the eatery will be open Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., the Facebook page said.

Photo via Han Palace/Facebook

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Outside of the occasional bomb threat, life in the southern corner of the Leesburg Pike and I-495 intersection is pretty quiet. The Board of Supervisors is hoping the new Mint Cafe can help bring a little life to the area — but not too much, because they’re not permitted to have live entertainment or music.

The new cafe is planned to replace the first floor of the vacant United Bank at 7787 Leesburg Pike, while the office use on the second floor will continue. The new cafe was unanimously approved at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday.

“Replacing a vacant business will help to rejuvenate this prominent location,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said. “The planting of 16 new trees will help to spruce up this property.”

The block along Ramada Road currently features an office building and The Westin Tysons Corner.

The cafe is planned to be a primarily late-evening venue, meaning it won’t impact the notoriously atrocious rush hour traffic along that stretch of Leesburg Pike.

Palchik said the cafe will fit in well with other planned uses in the area, including a planned Residence Inn by Marriott planned to fit behind the cafe.

“A new restaurant and retention of an office use on the second floor will fit well with the pending construction of a new hotel behind this property,” Palchik said.

There’s no word yet on how soon Mint Cafe plans to open.

Photo via Google Maps, rendering via Fairfax County

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(Updated 10/23) –Hawk & Griffin, a new British pub coming to Vienna will offer guests the chance to enjoy British culture.

Located at 435 Maple Avenue West, the restaurant and bar will offer a place for people to hang out with friends and family, according to co-owners Michael Burgess and Thomas Kyllo.

The space will feature amenities such as a stage for live music performances and viewing parties of sports like rugby and soccer, a regular dining area, a bar, an outdoor sitting area, an area for patrons to toss around some darts and two “snugs.”

Originally intended as a “proper” place for women to hang out in British history, Kyllo said that two snugs included in the space will be meant for small group gathering places where people can host book clubs, parties or even use as a space for musical jam sessions.

The exterior of the building itself is designed after the Edwardian Era, which ranged from 1900-1915, according to Kyllo.

Menu items will include traditional British fare, according to award-winning chief Burgess, who also owns Pure Pasty in Vienna.

Along with dinner and lunch, the pub will also offer brunch on weekends, the owners said.

The inspiration for the eatery came to the owners after they felt there was a gap in the market for a mid-range, mid-price place around town that emphasizes the comfort of its guests.

“We’ve got great restaurants in Vienna, there’s no shortage of that,” Burgess said, but added that there isn’t anywhere where people can feel like they’re walking into a small British village for a pint.

Tieing the eatery back to the community, the owners said they decided to name the pub after James Madison High School and Marshall High School, where Kyllo volunteers as a coach and whose mascots are the Warhawks and Griffen.

“We want everything down to the name to reflect the community we are in,” Kyllo said.

The anticipated opening date for the pub is March 1, 2021, according to Kyllo, who said that the COVID-19 pandemic threw a curveball into their plans.

“Early next year hopefully we’ll have a better path out of this and people will be used to going back into restaurants and indoors,” said Kyllo.

Images courtesy Hawk & Griffin Pub

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A new cafe could be coming to a former drive-thru United Bank at 7787 Leesburg Pike.

Applicant Mohamed Rafaei is seeking a permit from the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Sept. 15, to convert the first floor of the building (built in 1980) into a restaurant.

“The proposed sit-down restaurant will replace the first-floor financial institution,” a report on the project noted. “The proposed hours of operation for the restaurant are 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m., 7 days a week. Approximately 4 employees and a maximum of 72 patrons are proposed.”

The application noted that the second floor of the building is currently an office, which would continue to be in use after the restaurant change. Given that the site is zoned for office buildings and hotels, a special exception is required for a restaurant use, but a staff report said the restaurant could support the surrounding offices and is “in harmony” with the Comprehensive Plan.

There was once a local Tysons establishment called Mint at 8346 Leesburg Pike, next to the former Tysons Biergarten, but it’s unclear if the two are related.

Photo via Google Maps

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An international ramen restaurant plans to start serving diners this week in The Boro.

Originally, Hokkaido Ramen Santouka wanted to open at 1636 Boro Place in April, but the pandemic delayed the eatery’s debut. The soft opening is set for tomorrow (Wednesday).

Now, Santouka will open limited indoor and outdoor seating, along with pickup and delivery services, according to a press release. The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.

Diners can find a dozen types of ramen, including shio, miso, pork and vegetarian, on the menu.

Started in Japan in 1983, the Hokkaido-style ramen chain has more than 60 restaurants in 10 countries, including 16 locations in the U.S., according to the press release.

Food’s Style USA, which is running the Tysons restaurant, said in a statement that the tables will be disinfected frequently and that the employees will have regular health screenings and sanitation training.

Santouka is the latest newcomer to the Tysons development near the Greensboro Metro station. FRESHFARM Farmers Markets opened at The Boro in July. Earlier this summer, Colour Bar StudioPoki DC and Tysons Nail Lounge also opened in the development looking to become a new destination in Tysons.

Photo courtesy Santouka

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After the closing of Cenan’s in Vienna, a new bakery and cafe is set to take its place in Danor Plaza.

Called the SugarBox Cafe, the new spot will serve Korean-French style food and drinks at 122 Branch Road SE, according to Lydia Russo, an administrator of the Vienna VA Foodies Facebook Page.

Future diners can expect to choose from brightly colored macaroons, according to the bakery’s Instagram account.

“They will have breakfast and sandwiches too,” according to Russo in a Vienna VA Foodies announcement.

There is no set opening date yet, Russo said, adding that the owners are waiting for construction to be completed.

Tysons Reporter reached out to the bakery’s owners for a comment but never received a reply.

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