Tysons, VA

LoKL Gourmet has been permanently closed for less than a month, but a new restaurant promising a similar Whole Foods-style market with a local focus is already preparing to fill the void that the McLean shop left behind.

Roots Provisions & Grocery will take over Suite E at 8100 Old Dominion Drive, according to the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority’s database. With an effective date of March 10, the restaurant’s application for a liquor license is currently pending.

Anne Alfano, the chef and business manager for Roots, says it will be an “elevated” fast-casual restaurant with an emphasis on healthy ingredients. Like Lokl Gourmet, its menu will consist of sandwiches, soups, salad and vegan bowls, and assorted breakfast options.

The venue will also contain a bar that serves beer, wine, and cocktails as well as a grocery section with everything from freshly farmed milk and eggs to pasta, charcuterie, and baked goods, such as cake pops and croissants.

“My goal is to take the former concept of Lokl Gourmet, but make it cleaner, make it healthier, and a little bit more pleasing to the eye,” Alfano told Tysons Reporter.

A notice on the LoKL Gourmet website indicates that the eatery struggled financially throughout 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but managed to persevere until the end of February, thanks to support from its landlord, vendors, and community.

“Our team of food enthusiasts hope to have an opportunity to serve you in the future,” the message to patrons says. “But for now, our restaurant and bar are now closed and we will not be reopening at this location for the foreseeable future.”

The LoKL Gourmet team encourages customers to continue supporting local businesses and locally-sourced foods and products, which were at the heart of the gourmet market’s appeal since it opened in 2015.

In addition to offering a similar menu, Roots will retain some of Lokl Gourmet’s employees and its goal of fostering a neighborhood-friendly environment. The new restaurant’s name reflects the owners’ close ties to McLean, according to Alfano.

“It’s owned by people who live in McLean…who grew up in McLean and live in McLean,” she said. “They’re trying to keep it in the neighborhood, trying to keep the neighborhood vibrant, trying to contribute and give back.”

While the permitting process makes it hard to pin down an exact date, the Roots team hopes to open in April, when the weather will be warmer and COVID-19 vaccinations are expected to accelerate both locally and nationally.

Alfano says they will comply with all health protocols, including mask requirements, and there will be robust curbside pick-up and delivery options, along with an outdoor patio with limited seating.

“We’re in the midst of a major vaccination campaign, and people are eager to go out into the warm weather,” Alfano said. “…I think it’s a great time to open a restaurant right now.”

Image via Google Maps

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The ShipGarten, a long-anticipated food and drink experience in shipping containers from the team behind Tysons Biergarten, is slated to open in “early spring.”

“As many can tell, the tent’s been put up, the shipping containers are being built as we speak, and everything is pretty much moving forward rapidly,” former Tysons Biergarten CEO and managing partner Matt Rofougaran said.

ShipGarten plans to be a pop-up for three years at the Scotts Run development in Tysons. It will be six times larger than Tysons Biergarten space, which closed in November 2019.

The pop-up will feature four specially-designed shipping containers where food and drinks will be prepared, along with three year-round tents where guests will sit at tables.

Originally, the new bar was slated to open in the spring of 2020, but it was pushed to the third quarter of 2020 due to the pandemic. Rofougaran also attributed the delays to the long processes involved in trying to do something this new.

“Our contractor has never cut up shipping containers before and converted them into bars,” Rofougaran said. “Fairfax County has never seen anything like this.”

Finding the right tent took a while too, and ultimately, they had to be ordered from Germany.

“Overall, everything about it is different than your normal restaurant-bar,” Rofougaran said.

The experience completely diverged from the process for Hops N Shine in Alexandria, which took six months from getting permits to opening, he said.

At ShipGarten, customers can choose from four mini-restaurants that will each operate in a shipping container: Salamati (which Rofougaran describes as “Persian-style Chipotle”), Tysons Biergarten (German fare like the old establishment served), Rollbär (Asian fusion) and Chalkboard (barbecue).

Customers will order from kiosks outside the containers and pick up their food from one of a half-dozen windows that are being cut into the containers. They will be able to sit at tables, spaced 10 feet apart, under the tent or in the field.

During non-COVID-19 times, Roufgaran says customers would be able to sit at the bar section of the shipping container.

“This will be the safest place for you to do social distancing because of how much land we have,” Rofougaran said. “We’re providing very good social distancing.”

For now, people can try offerings from Salamati and Rollbär at Hops N Shine. Kitchen staff will be preparing the Persian food for a pop-up on Feb. 10 from 6 to 9 p.m., and Asian fusion food will be served from noon to 4 p.m. on Feb. 13.

“The pop-ups are the best,” Rofougaran said. “We get people from Tysons showing up to these all the time.”

Images via ShipGarten/Instagram

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The Japanese barbecue restaurant Gyu Shige is finally ready to make its American debut at the Mosaic District (2980 District Ave.) in Merrifield after a long delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Owner Edward Wong says the restaurant will open its reservation system tomorrow (Wednesday) so people can book tables ahead of a soft opening planned for the weekend of Valentine’s Day. Doors will technically open earlier in the week, but customers for the first couple of days will be limited to family and friends.

Gyu Shige has a strong presence in Japan, but this is the chain’s first venture into the U.S.

Wong was introduced to Gyu Shige — one of several brands operated by the company Food’s Style — in Japan about two years ago, and he says he has “great confidence” that it will prove just as popular on this side of the Pacific Ocean, particularly with a setting like the Mosaic District as its launching pad.

“Mosaic District definitely has [a] combination of all different people, from young kids to older people,” Wong said. “…I believe the Japanese barbeque experience is not just for any group, so it will be a great place to attract all kinds of people.”

While Fairfax County diners are no strangers to sushi restaurants and noodle shops like fellow Mosaic tenant Jinya Ramen Bar, they might be less familiar with Japanese barbecue, or yakiniku, which literally translates to “grilled meat.” Before Gyu Shige’s arrival, the closest venue specializing in this kind of cuisine was Gyu-kaku in Arlington.

Like Korean barbecue, yakiniku is cooked at the diners’ table, but it tends to come in smaller portions to encourage patrons to try a variety of dishes, and there is a greater emphasis on the quality of the meat cuts served, Wong says.

Among the options on the menu for Gyu Shige customers will be A-5 grade wagyu beef imported from Japan.

“The taste is definitely different from Korean barbeque, and we want people to take the time to enjoy the whole process,” Wong said. “…We also offer the service to cook for them if they want to, but we mostly let them cook for themselves. Let them experience it. Let them have fun with it.”

In addition to yakiniku, Gyu Shige will have a variety of appetizers and sushi, which will be prepared by a former Sushi Seki chef. The restaurant’s head chef also comes from New York City, where he previously worked for EN Brassiere.

The appetizers and sushi will be available for takeout, but the barbecue can only be served in-person and indoors, another potential challenge presented by COVID-19. Wong says the pandemic led to a three-month halt to construction. Even after work resumed, progress was slowed since fewer people could be on the site, resulting in an overall delay of about a year.

Initially, Gyu Shige customers will need to reserve tables in advance, and the restaurant will only be open during dinner hours, which will run from 4-10 p.m. The menu will also be exclusively a la carte, though set meals will be added in the future.

“When people order the set menu, they tend not to order other stuff. So, right now, we’re going to put the meat into a combo menu,” Wong said. “That way, people can experience most of the meat, but at the same time, they can get to choose their own appetizer, their own other items and try it out.”

In addition to Gyu Shige, local diners can look forward to the opening of Urban Hot Pot right next door. Tysons Reporter first reported that the Chinese restaurant was coming to the Mosaic District in September 2019.

After being delayed by the pandemic, Urban Hot Pot is now on track to open in May, according to Wong, president and CEO of IVEA International Restaurant Group, which is guiding the marketing for both restaurants.

Photo courtesy Gyu Shige/Facebook

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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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