Vienna Restaurant Requires Vaccinations to Eat Indoors — The Latin American restaurant Blend 111 announced on Friday (July 30) that, effective immediately, indoor dining will be limited to people who are fully vaccinated with unvaccinated people still free to eat outside. Patrons are asked to confirm their vaccination status when reserving an indoor table, but at some point, proof may be required. [Blend 111]

Police Arrest Spa Worker for Sexual Battery — “On July 29, 2021, officers with the Vienna Police Department executed a search warrant at the Green Spa located at 111 Church St. NW. Concurrent with the search warrant, officers arrested Hongsub Song, a/k/a ‘Greg’ for the sexual battery of a female client and for performing unlicensed massage. Mr. Song was held at the Fairfax County adult detention center without bond.” [Vienna Police]

Kennedy Daughter Wins Court Case over McLean Urn — “The daughter of Robert F. Kennedy has won a federal legal battle to claim a six-foot-high urn planter from the front yard of ‘Hickory Hill,’ the family’s former home in McLean, Va., after a judge ruled that an agreement made in 2010 by the estate’s new owner to relinquish it was binding, even though he made it under the mistaken belief that the urn was a family heirloom.” [The Washington Post]

Inova Proposes Adding Behavioral Health Capacity — “Inova Health System filed a letter of intent with the Commonwealth of Virginia last week to build 20 additional inpatient behavioral health beds at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital…If approved, the completed project will increase behavioral health capacity at IMVH to 50 beds, a 67 percent increase over the current capacity.” [Inside NoVA]

Vienna Firefighters Participate in Cancer Study — “Several VVFD firefighters, along with other volunteer firefighters from @ffxfirerescue, are taking part in the National Firefighter Cancer Cohort Study and had their first blood draw this morning…Our participation will play a small part to determine risk factors & develop cancer prevention & risk reduction strategies.” [Vienna Volunteer Fire Department/Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Plastic Bag Tax Public Hearing Scheduled — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors authorized a public hearing for 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 14 to gather community input on a proposed five-cent tax on disposable plastic bags. If the ordinance is approved, Fairfax County would be the second locality in Virginia to adopt a bag tax. [Fairfax County Government]

Tysons Partnership Funding Approved — The Board of Supervisors approved $250,000 in Economic Opportunity Reserve funds for the Tysons Partnership, which will use the money to support branding efforts, install a mural on the former Container Store property, and position itself for long-term financial health. The board nominated the organization for up to $1 million in EOR funds in December. [Sun Gazette]

McLean Area Is a Hotspot for Rich Politicians — Virginia’s gubernatorial candidates both call Fairfax County’s most affluent zip codes home, with Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe living in a $1.1 million McLean mansion and Republican Glenn Youngkin boasting a $1.7 million estate in Great Falls. More notably, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich says he moved to McLean because he and his wife saw “an alcoholic” sleeping on the ground in Old Town Alexandria. [The Washington Post]

Vienna Restaurants Up for RAMMYs — The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington tweaked its 2021 RAMMY awards to recognize how the industry adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic. Finalists include Clarity (Outstanding Covid-Safe Redesign), Caboose Brewing Company (Prime Pandemic Patio Scene), and Taco Bamba (Standout Family Meal Packages To-Go). The latter two categories will be open for a public vote from Aug. 2 to Sept. 2. [Patch]

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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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After years of working as a chef in restaurants throughout the region, Thomas Harvey will launch his own restaurant in downtown Falls Church later this year.

The eponymous Harvey’s is slated to open in early September at 513 W Broad Street. Harvey is an Alexandrian, but he says in a press release that Falls Church was the ideal spot for his latest venture.

Harvey was most recently executive chef of Tuskie’s Restaurant Group of Virginia and oversaw operations at local restaurants like Fireworks American Pizzeria and Bar in Arlington.

“Chef Harvey’s goal for his new 2,600-square-foot counter service restaurant is that it will become the neighborhood’s local spot,” the press release said. “…Harvey’s will serve true American cuisine in the sense that it will encompass multiple different cultural dishes, from sandwiches to house-made pasta dishes, and banana splits to Russian pastries. Locally sourced seasonal ingredients will drive the menu.”

The restaurant will serve daily breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch in a 48-seat main dining room, a 12-seat beer and wine bar, and an outdoor patio with 70 seats, according to the announcement.

Breakfasts, like croissants, buscuits, or scrambled eggs and sausage are expected to be between $7 to $12. Sandwiches at $12 to $18, entrees at $13 to $28 and desserts from $8 to $12. Among the deserts spotlit in the press release are Russian Honey Cake, along with the classic eclairs and tiramisu.

The restaurant will also have vegetarian options, like the Beyond Burger substitute.

The press release noted that Harvey’s will have beer and wine options as well, with beer selected primarily from local breweries.

According to the press release, the restaurant will also be supplemented by a retail market showcasing signature items from its pantry, along with prepared foods packaged for grab-and-go customers. The market will be open seven days a week with the same hours as the restaurant.

Courtesy Heather Freeman PR

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A tapas plate and glass of wine from Blend 111’s planned Pescao pop-up (courtesy Blend 111)

With summer in full swing, the Latin American fusion restaurant Blend 111 hopes to conjure up a cool sea breeze with a new seafood-focused tapas pop-up concept that will launch next Monday (July 12).

Pescao, which translates to “fish” in English, will operate out of Blend 111 (111 Church St. NW) in Vienna every Monday through Sept. 6. The menu will only be available during dinner hours from 4-9 p.m.

“We really wanted to try a small plate, tapas style concept,” Blend 111 owner and sommelier Michael Biddick said in a statement. “With all of the isolation and difficulty that we have all seen over the past 18 months, we thought that a concept that focused on sharing and having new experiences with friends as vaccinations increase was needed.”

Developed by Executive Chef Andrés-Julian Zuluaga, the menu will feature seafood small plates that are intended to be shared. There will be cold dishes, such as oysters and crab and trout cavier arepas, as well as hot dishes, including scallops and pulpo (grilled Spanish octopus).

The pop-up will also serve side dishes, cocktails, and wine, according to a press release.

Pescao represents a continuation of Biddick’s efforts to keep refining Blend 111, as relayed to Tysons Reporter when the restaurant marked its two-year anniversary in Vienna in May.

That willingness to adapt has been crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the introduction of a to-go lunch menu and the conversion of the venue’s parking lot into a patio for outdoor dining.

Biddick says the restaurant has seen “a steady increase” in customers since January.

“Since we have the patio space, we were fortunate to be able to host guests outside,” he said. “Even with the restrictions removed and higher vaccinations, guests still prefer to sit outdoors.”

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About a month after Virginia lifted all COVID-19 capacity and social distancing requirements, in-person dining is starting to make a comeback at local restaurants, even as evolving guidance around masks suggests the pandemic may not be entirely in the rearview mirror.

From D.C. to northern Virginia, restaurants throughout the region look much different than they did a year ago, when many venues were either temporarily closed or just starting to invite customers back inside.

Now, restaurants are free to return to full occupancy, and patrons can eat and drink without fumbling with a mask, though individual businesses can still require masks if they choose to keep a policy in place.

“Carryout and to-go sales of alcohol are still continuing to help our restaurants, but yet, we are definitely seeing a shift in the return of more and more in-person dining,” said Barry Biggar, president and CEO of the Fairfax County tourism agency Visit Fairfax. “The future is bright and we are on a forward trajectory towards full recovery.”

At Agora Tysons (7911 Westpark Drive), carryout with Uber and DoorDash is still busy, but after May, in-person dining demand increased to the point that the Mediterranean restaurant had to turn people away, restaurant manager Hasan Kaya said.

They’re getting 80 to 90 people per night on weeknights and exceeding 150 people per night on weekends, he said Thursday.

“Most of the offices around our restaurant [are] closed still,” Kaya said. “We are hoping to be open back for lunch once they move their office back.”

Shuttered offices are among the many challenges that the food service industry has faced over the past year, along with significant job losses, stay-at-home orders, and ever-changing public health rules. A reckoning over the industry’s conditions for workers poses another complication to recovery efforts.

“The positive news is that many of our restaurants are starting to see around 80 to 90 percent of pre-COVID numbers,” Biggar said in an email. “And while that sounds great, and sales are up, it does not always translate to straight profit. Many restaurants are still paying deferred rent, utilities, and other expenses that they had to hold off on paying due to the pandemic.”

While Virginia’s state of emergency is set to expire today (Wednesday), health officials have recently started raising new concerns about the spread of more dangerous COVID-19 variants, even for fully vaccinated people.

The Commonwealth followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s lead in May in easing mask requirements for fully vaccinated individuals in most places. But the World Health Organization suggested Friday (June 25) that even vaccinated individuals should still wear masks to reduce the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Experts who talked with the Miami Herald advised caution regarding whether or not to wear masks, and the CDC hasn’t adjusted masking guidance based on the Delta variant, which was first detected in India and is estimated to contribute to one in five U.S. cases now.

The CDC says there’s evidence that the variant causes more severe disease and has increased transmissibility.

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Pike 7 Plaza (via Google Maps)

Pike 7 Plaza is going all in on carryout, even with restrictions limiting indoor dining now a thing of the past in Virginia.

When the novel coronavirus arrived in Fairfax County in the spring of 2020, the Tysons shopping center introduced a curbside pick-up program. Now, as the pandemic recedes, property manager Federal Realty Investment Trust wants to build off that momentum by introducing a drive-through restaurant to the plaza.

Federal Realty has filed a special exception application with Fairfax County’s planning department to permit a one-story, pad site restaurant with a drive-through and an outdoor seating area at 8365 and 8371 Leesburg Pike.

“This new use is needed in response to structural shifts in the retail economy that are increasing the reliance on pickup options as part of retail operations,” land-use attorney Greg Riegle wrote in a statement of justification on Federal Realty’s behalf. “Supporting the retail industry and allowing it to logically evolve is critical to maintaining the viability of areas planned and developed with established retail uses and will benefit the County and the Tysons community both economically and from a service delivery standpoint.”

Federal Realty declined to comment on its application when contacted by Tysons Reporter, including on whether a prospective tenant for the drive-through restaurant has been identified.

Current food-related tenants at Pike 7 Plaza include Starbucks, MOD Pizza, Cava Grill, Sakura Japanese Cuisine, and Panera Bread.

“Federal Realty looks forward to making future announcements regarding Pike 7, but as of now, there is nothing to report,” a Federal Realty spokesperson said.

According to plans submitted to the county, the proposed building would be 3,600 square feet in size and 18 feet tall with 16 parking spaces. The drive-through aisle would accommodate 11 vehicles, more than twice as many as required.

Locator map showing the proposed site for a drive-through restaurant in Tysons’ Pike 7 Plaza (via Fairfax County Department of Planning and Development)

Since the building would be situated in a currently unoccupied corner of the parking lot, Pike 7 Plaza would see an overall reduction in the amount of available parking from 738 spaces to 679 spaces. The site does not have a minimum parking requirement because it is located right next to the Greensboro Metro station.

“The proposed parking is more than adequate for a retail center that relies on both transit and automobile arrivals,” the statement of justification says.

Federal Realty does not expect the project to adversely affect neighboring properties or produce any conflicts with traffic in the shopping center or the surrounding area.

According to the application, the new building is being designed to “minimize the potential for turning movement conflicts and to facilitate safe and efficient on-site circulation.”

The site will also provide pedestrian access from Leesburg Pike and to the adjacent Tysons Square shopping center.

“Vehicular circulation takes advantage of existing access points and fits logically within the circulation framework of the greater shopping center,” Riegle wrote.

A special exception is required to allow a drive-through restaurant in a C-7 commercial retail district, the zoning for Pike 7 Plaza. The application says the new building will not preclude future redevelopment of the shopping center, if Federal Realty decides to pursue that option at some point.

Photos via Google Maps, Fairfax County

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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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(Updated at 9:10 a.m. on 6/3/2021) After 20 years at 6852 Old Dominion Drive, the Italian restaurant Pulcinella is relocating to Chain Bridge Road.

Early last week, the Gariani family behind the McLean eatery posted a message on the home page of Pulcinella’s website:

We are excited to announce that we will be relocating Pulcinella to 1310 Chain Bridge Rd, McLean, with an expected opening in July. However, we will be closing our current location on May 31st. Pulcinella is honored to have served you all for over 30 years now, and we plan on continuing the tradition. We hope to see you all very soon. Check back in with us in July to see when the exact opening date will be.

While the existing restaurant has now closed, Pulcinella will take over a space previously occupied by Chain Bridge Cleaners, as first reported by Washington Business Journal Managing Editor Michael Neibauer via Twitter.

A permit issued by Fairfax County on May 14 indicates that the venue is being remodeled as Pulcinella moves in, including the demolition of existing interior walls, doors, and ceiling tiles.

As stated above, the grand opening date at the new location is not set. The restaurant plans to announce when in July on their website. Pulcinella was unable to be reached for comment.

Correction: Per a tip to Tysons Reporter, Pulcinella has been in business for over 30 years, but it was located at 6852 Old Dominion Drive for 20 years, with a lease from 2000 to 2020. Photo via Google Maps

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A crepe restaurant in Vienna and other businesses are easing into changes as Virginia lifts public health restrictions prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issuing new mask guidance for fully vaccinated people, Virginia has eased its mask mandate, and major retailers like Starbucks and Walmart have also lifted restrictions in stores, but businesses can still impose restrictions.

For the safety of customers and staff, Crepe Amour (407 Maple Ave. E.) in Vienna is still requiring people to mask up.

“You can’t declare a victory before you get to the finish line,” the restaurant’s owner, Sri Suku, told Tysons Reporter.

His business shut down in late March 2020 and reopened in June.

Suku says grants have helped businesses like his survive during the pandemic.

Crepe Amour is one of nine Fairfax County restaurants that recently received a $3,500 grant from the food ordering app DoorDash and the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association, which represents the state’s hospitality industry.

The VRLTA’s 2021 DoorDash Restaurant Operator Relief Grant program gave a total of $450,000 in grants to 128 businesses after over 690 restaurants in the state applied for relief.

The initiative is part of the tech company’s Main Street Strong Pledge philanthropy effort and did not require businesses to be a DoorDash partner to be eligible, the association said.

The grants were intended for restaurants that had their operations disrupted, saw reduced revenue, or experienced financial stress between March and December 2020. To be eligible, businesses had to have no more than three locations with 50 or fewer employees and annual gross revenue of $3 million or less for the specific location that was applying.

The other Fairfax County recipients were Pho 2000, Sully’s Pour House, and Herndon Donuts in Herndon, Reston’s Sprout Cafe, Mazadar Restaurant in Fairfax, and DC Steakholders and Meaza Ethiopian Restaurant in Falls Church.

Eight of the county recipients, including Crepe Amour, also got money from the Fairfax Relief Initiative to Support Employers that the Board of Supervisors established last year to give financial assistance to local businesses and nonprofits.

Suku has used the money for rent, marketing, and other expenses. He says the money is great to help stay afloat and especially helped the catering side of his operations with letting people know they’re back in business.

Under Gov. Ralph Northam’s current public health order, restaurants and other food service venues are limited to 100 people indoors and 250 people outdoors, and different groups of patrons must be kept at least six feet apart. However, the state will end those and other capacity and distancing restrictions on May 28.

While Suku says mask requirements will remain in place, Crepe Amour currently allows outdoor seating, and he plans to reopen indoor seating when Virginia’s capacity and social distancing restrictions end on May 28.

Photo courtesy Sri Suku

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