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Businesses in and near Vienna will offer special deals during Vienna Restaurant Week, returning March 3-10, 2024 (courtesy Caboose Tavern)

(Updated at 4:30 p.m. on 2/28/2024) The Town of Vienna will kick off March with its third annual Restaurant Week.

More than 40 restaurants in the town will offer special deals during the promotional campaign, which will run from March 3-10. For the first time, the town will celebrate the week by hosting a drop-in social event near the Town Green on Tuesday, March 5 from 4-6 p.m. with giveaways and live music.

Sponsored by the Town of Vienna Economic Development Department, the program aims to boost resident and visitor activity in the town, while also boosting business for the participating restaurants, with a goal of increasing the number of patrons at each eatery during the week.

“While some restaurants are offering multi-course, prix fixe menus, others are offering exciting specials, or creating new menu items just for the week,” a press release says. “Alongside meticulously curated menus, local restaurants and eateries are introducing discounted à la carte dining and exclusive deals. These enticing options are designed to tantalize the palates of discerning food enthusiasts, encouraging them to explore new and delightful cuisines.”

Vienna introduced its own restaurant week in 2022 and revived the concept last year, when it more than doubled the number of participating eateries.

This year’s event will begin the same day that nearby Fairfax City’s Restaurant Week ends. From bakeries and cafes to fast-casual chains and fine-dining restaurants, the full list of participants is below, sorted by the type of food offered.

Asian

  • Burapa Thai And Bar (delivery, carryout, dine-in)
  • Chit Chaat Cafe (delivery, carryout)
  • Oh My Dak (carryout, dine-in)
  • Peking Express Of Vienna (curbside pickup, delivery, carryout, dine-in)
  • Royal Nepal Bistro (carryout, dine-in)
  • Sushi Koji (dine-in)
  • Sushi Yoshi (carryout, dine-in)
  • The Mixx Delight (carryout)
  • Viet Aroma Asian Cuisine (carryout)

American

  • America’s Best Wings (delivery, carryout, dine-in)
  • Bazin’s On Church (dine-in)
  • Bear Branch Tavern (carryout, dine-in)
  • Big Buns (curbside pickup, delivery, carryout, dine-in)
  • Caboose Tavern (dine-in)
  • Domino’s Pizza (curbside pickup, delivery, carryout)
  • Foster’s Grille (delivery, carryout, dine-in)
  • Maple Ave Restaurant (dine-in)
  • Social Burger (delivery, carryout, dine-in)
  • The Virginian Restaurant (carryout, dine-in)

Read More

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Fairfax Connector buses parked at the West Ox Bus Facility (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 10:30 a.m.) Fairfax Connector is now in its sixth consecutive day without service, as workers continue their strike for better pay, benefits and working conditions.

More than 600 bus drivers and mechanics ceased working last Thursday (Feb. 22) when their union — Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 — called for a strike after months of negotiations with Transdev, the private company that operates Fairfax Connector, for a new labor contract to replace one that expired on Nov. 30.

In a press release, the union said yesterday (Monday) that it met with Transdev but didn’t reach an agreement, stating that the company “failed to offer an acceptable deal,” particularly when it comes to retirement contributions.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation has said Northern Virginia’s largest public bus system can’t resume service until the strike ends, forcing the Connector’s approximately 26,000 daily riders to find alternate travel options. The county has suggested teleworking, carpooling, walking, bicycling or using other transit, such as Metro and Virginia Railway Express (VRE).

County data indicates that most commuters drive to work, as public transportation usage fell during the COVID-19 pandemic, from 10% in 2019 to 5% in 2022. However, Fairfax Connector’s ridership appears to have bounced back last year, exceeding 2019 levels with 774,875 passengers as of June, according to the Northern Virginia Regional Commission’s transit data dashboard.

In addition to workers, the Connector provides a crucial travel option for many students, who can get a free pass if they’re in middle or high school that can also be used for Fairfax City’s CUE bus and, for select schools, Metrobus.

According to ATU Local 689, the next bargaining session isn’t scheduled until March 5, when federal mediators are expected to attend. This strike has already surpassed the last Connector work stoppage, which lasted four days in 2019.

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Casino chips (photo via Chris Liverani on Unsplash)

A McLean resident has pleaded guilty to spending federal COVID-19 relief funds intended for his home business on personal expenses, including gambling and real estate payments.

Mehdi Pazouki, 65, pleaded guilty in federal court on Friday (Feb. 23) to defrauding the Small Business Administration of approximately $455,000 in loans created to help businesses survive during the pandemic, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Eastern District of Virginia.

The office says Pazouki applied for funds from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program between August 2020 and August 2021 that he claimed would be spent on Systems Integration Services Inc., the IT consulting company he ran out of his McLean home.

“He actually intended to, and did, use [the money] to fund his gambling at area casinos, pay down personal debt, and purchase real estate,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

More from the Department of Justice:

Within days of receiving his first EIDL disbursement, Pazouki spent over $27,000 in EIDL money at Hollywood Casino in Charles Town, West Virginia. Pazouki also used the PPP and EIDL money for down payments on two different real estate properties, to pay off his personal credit card debt, and to fund his personal investment account. Pazouki also falsely represented to the SBA in loan forgiveness applications that the PPP money had been used for legitimate business expenses, which resulted in the complete discharge of the loans.

Pazouki could face up to 20 years in prison when he’s sentenced on May 24, though the press release notes that “actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced last August that the Justice Department had recovered over $1.4 billion in COVID-19 relief funds that were allegedly obtained through fraud by over 3,000 defendants.

The PPP and EIDL programs were both created by the CARES Act in 2020 to assist small business owners during the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders implemented early in the pandemic. Up to $659 billion was available for PPP loans, and $224 billion in EIDL grants and loans were approved through February 2021, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which found that at least 3,000 loans totaling about $156 million went to ineligible applicants.

The PPP program ended on May 31, 2021, while the Small Business Administration shut down its application portal for EIDL funds in May 2022.

Photo via Chris Liverani on Unsplash

Fairfax County police arrested Manassas resident Rickey Lowe for allegedly stealing a medical transport vehicle from Inova Fairfax Hospital (courtesy FCPD)

A man who allegedly stole a medical transport vehicle from Inova Fairfax Hospital last week has been located and arrested, Fairfax County police announced over the weekend.

Rickey Lowe, 32, of Manassas was arrested on Friday (Feb. 23) by Fugitive Tracking and Apprehension Unit detectives who found him “near a hotel in Manassas,” the Fairfax County Police Department said in a news release on Saturday (Feb. 24).

According to police, Lowe was a passenger in a 2015 Toyota Corolla that was reported stolen from Prince William County on Feb. 14. When officers spotted the sedan near Fair Oaks Mall at around 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 19, the driver took off, reportedly speeding out of the mall parking lot and onto eastbound Route 50.

“The driver quickly changed directions and drove towards the westbound I-66 ramp,” the FCPD said in an earlier news release. “The driver lost control of the Corolla, entered the embankment, and struck a small hill sending it airborne. The vehicle landed against a concrete wall on the exit ramp of westbound I-66 toward Route 50 eastbound.”

All five occupants of the Corolla were hospitalized with injuries, but while receiving treatment, Lowe allegedly left the emergency room at Inova Fairfax Hospital “in his medical gown with an IV still in his arm and then stole an ‘MMT’ Medical Transport vehicle,” police said.

The vehicle was later found in the 4200 block of Annandale Road in Annandale, but officers didn’t locate Lowe.

Upon his arrest on Friday, Lowe was transported to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center, where he was held on a $2,000 bond. He has been charged with grand larceny.

The driver of the Corolla — identified by police as Xxeavius Romoance Marlow, 29, of Manassas — has also been charged with grand larceny. After getting treated for injuries from the crash, he was taken to the county jail, where he’s currently in custody without bond.

Fairfax County General District Court records indicate that Lowe remains in custody after an arraignment this morning. He faces a preliminary hearing scheduled for May 29, while Marlow’s preliminary hearing will be held on June 12.

The Indian restaurant Dhoom has opened in Tysons Corner Center (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

A local family with decades of culinary experience unveiled a new restaurant last week that serves Indian food, tapas-style, at Tysons Corner Center.

Dhoom opened this past Thursday (Feb. 22) on the mall’s second floor near Shilla Bakery. Paired with the counter-service eatery Naan & Beyond, which opened earlier this year, the sit-down restaurant is the latest establishment run by the Arora family.

They also own Diya Bistro in Ashburn, and their past ventures include Diya Tysons, which was located inside Tycon Courthouse, and the original Naan & Beyond in D.C., which shuttered in January 2022.

“Our menu features traditional Indian flavors with a modern twist, and our vibrant atmosphere is perfect for a night out with friends or a lively dinner with family,” Dhoom said in social media posts announcing its opening.

According to Dhoom’s website, the Arora family opened their first restaurant in New York City in 1982, but they’ve been based in D.C. and Northern Virginia “for decades,” even garnering some attention from Barack Obama when the then-president sampled food at D.C.’s Naan & Beyond in 2014.

Co-owner Ajay Arora, who works with his brother Rahul and their mother, Kusam, says the family decided to open Dhoom in Tysons “to do something different, to make people happy so they can appreciate the food and all the effort.”

Where Naan & Beyond takes a fast-casual approach, serving naan rolls and rice bowls, Dhoom aspires to be fine dining. It focuses on small, tapas-like platters of tandoori with both meat and vegetarian options, though there are also larger, “shareable” plates and even a $125 kabob feast that the menu says can feed three to four people.

Dishes include staples of American Indian restaurants, such as butter chicken, briyani and chicken tikka, which can come as a stuffed flatbread or as tacos. The restaurant also has a bar that serves beer, wine, spirits and cocktails.

Ajay noted that all of the food is made fresh.

“We are happy to be in Tysons,” he said. “We are just planning to stay busy and get some more business…and we are doing our best.”

Dhoom is located at 1961 Chain Bridge Road, Suite G21U, and operates from noon to 10 p.m. on Wednesday through Sunday.

The restaurant was one of two newcomers to Tysons Corner Center last week, preceding the launch of the Pakistani clothing store Khaadi on Saturday (Feb. 24). Tenants on their way to the mall include the fashion retailers Primark and Mango, and the chain restaurants Maggiano’s Little Italy and the Cheesecake Factory.

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The intersection of Leesburg Pike (Route 7) and South Jefferson Street in Bailey’s Crossroads (via Google Maps)

A 93-year-old woman died earlier this week from injuries she sustained in a car crash on Leesburg Pike (Route 7) in Bailey’s Crossroads, police say.

Gladys Bilbao, a Falls Church resident, was in the front passenger seat of a 2007 Toyota Corolla when the driver collided with a 2023 Toyota GR86 in the South Jefferson Street intersection around 7 p.m. on Feb. 16, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

“Preliminarily, detectives determined the driver of the Toyota Corolla turned left onto South Jefferson Street from eastbound Leesburg Pike, in front of the Toyota GR86, which was traveling west on Leesburg Pike, resulting in the crash,” the FCPD said in a news release. “The Corolla and GR86 both had two occupants per vehicle. All four occupants involved were transported to area hospitals for treatment.”

Detectives were notified on Wednesday (Feb. 21) that Bilbao had died from her injuries, the FCPD announced yesterday (Thursday).

An investigation into the crash is ongoing, specifically to determine “whether speed was a factor,” police said.

According to the FCPD, Bilbao is the seventh person to die in a traffic crash in Fairfax County this year, more than doubling the three fatalities recorded at this time in 2023. The count doesn’t appear to include this year’s two pedestrian fatalities, which both stemmed from crashes in the Richmond Highway corridor, where four people have died this month.

A 2022 study conducted by the immigrant advocacy organization CASA and nonprofit Coalition for Smarter Growth identified the Bailey’s Crossroads section of Route 7 as a dangerous road for pedestrians, citing frequent speeding by drivers and a lack of crosswalks and sidewalks. Last year, the Virginia Department of Transportation reduced the speed limit from 40 to 35 mph between the Falls Church and Alexandria city limits.

The speed limit was also lowered on much of Richmond Highway last May.

Image via Google Maps

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Updated at 3:55 p.m. — Fairfax Connector service will stay suspended at least through this weekend (Feb. 24-25) as drivers and mechanics continue their strike, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation has announced.

FCDOT says it “expects negotiations to continue in good faith with the goal of completing a new contract very soon.”

Earlier: Stagnant wages. Eleven-hour work days with barely enough break time for a meal. Just seven days of sick leave, even after a pandemic that research suggests sickened and killed transit workers nationwide at an elevated rate.

Those are some of the challenges Fairfax Connector workers report facing under Transdev, the private company that Fairfax County hired in 2019 to operate its public bus system. In a bid for improved working conditions, more than 600 bus drivers and mechanics are now on their second day of a strike called yesterday (Thursday) by Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689.

“You have to make a choice. When is enough, enough? When do you stand up and fight back? It was time to stand up and fight back,” Sharon Forsyth said while picketing outside the West Ox Road Bus Facility where she works as a Fairfax Connector driver. “What the outcome would be, who knows? But at least my voice was heard…Treat us right. Fair contract, fair wages, sick leave. Give us something more than a slice of pizza and a handshake after 35 years of service.”

A relative newcomer who joined the Connector just over a year ago, Forsyth has worked in transportation for 37 years — including a previous stint with Transdev. The starting salary for drivers is nearly the same as it was 20 years ago, which is “unacceptable,” she says.

“You can’t afford the housing in this region. You can barely afford food in this region,” said Forsyth, who commutes from Prince William County. “So, that is the purpose of this. Nobody wants to be here, but we’re all here, you know? If you don’t take care of the people that run your business, you’ll soon be what? Out of business.”

Forsyth was one of about 128 people who showed up yesterday to march, chant and display signs at the West Ox facility (4970 Alliance Drive), which employs about 163 Connector workers, according to ATU Local 689 organizer Troy Barnes. Workers began convening around 2 a.m., rotating in three shifts.

Across all three Connector garages, including ones in Herndon (268 Spring Street) and Lorton (8101 Cinder Bed Road), about 97% of the workers represented by the union were expected to join a picket line, Barnes told FFXnow.

Authorized by members on Dec. 29, the strike call came after Local 689 and Transdev spent 12 bargaining sessions between October and last Friday, Feb. 16 trying to hammer out a new labor contract that will determine pay, benefits and working conditions, according to the union. Before the strike, workers were operating under a four-year contract that was negotiated after a four-day strike in December 2019 and expired on Nov. 30, 2023.

Fairfax Connector service will remain suspended until the strike is resolved, leaving around 26,000 daily bus riders in limbo, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation has said.

As reported yesterday, Transdev called the union’s work stoppage disappointing in a statement that detailed some of its contract proposals, including a 19.5% wage increase over three years, coverage for 90% of health care expenses and 50% of dental and vision expenses, and yearly performance bonuses of up to $5,300.

However, Barnes says the contractor’s offers for sick leave, retirement benefits and guaranteed work hours remain inadequate. Read More

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Graham Center in West Falls Church (via Google Maps)

Graham Center’s days may be numbered.

The 61-year-old retail strip in West Falls Church has been targeted by the not-for-profit health system VHC Health for a future emergency department and urgent care center, according to a special exception application recently submitted to Fairfax County.

“This innovative hybrid model of a Freestanding Emergency Department combined with an Urgent Care Center (the ‘FSED-UCC’) will offer convenient and timely access for emergency patients, many of the Applicant’s scheduled outpatients, and the general public,” Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh attorney Kathryn Taylor wrote in a statement of justification for VHC Health.

Built in 1953, Graham Center was anchored for decades by Harvest Moon, a Chinese restaurant and banquet hall that became popular for wedding receptions after it opened in the mid-1980s. However, the restaurant closed permanently during the pandemic, leaving behind a mix of small shops, including eateries, a nail salon, a shoe repair outlet and a Vietnamese supermarket.

County property records show that VHC Health bought the 105,698-square-foot site at 7234 Arlington Blvd for $2.4 million in July 2023. The future of the still-operating tenants remains to be determined, but VHC Health’s application says the one-story retail building will be demolished.

VHC Health Vice President of Real Estate Acquisition and Development Adrian Stanton said in a statement to FFXnow that the organization has “maintained open and continuous communication with the tenants about plans for the site” since it purchased the property.

VHC Health chose the Graham Center location because we saw a need in the surrounding community for an important and currently unavailable care option — emergency department services co-located with urgent care services. VHC Health prides itself on offering convenient healthcare options in the communities where our patients live and work…Given the current condition of the property, the plan includes redevelopment as part of the County review and approval process. While we wait for approval from the County, we are still working to determine what other healthcare services and business development opportunities will be offered that will benefit the community most.

According to the Feb. 16 application, which was first reported by Annandale Today, the retail strip will be replaced by an approximately 24,250-square-foot, 40-foot-tall medical facility. About 14,000 square feet will be devoted to the emergency department and urgent care center, while the rest will house primary care, specialty and diagnostic imaging services.

The proposal continues VHC Health’s recent push to expand beyond its main hospital in Arlington with more community-oriented sites around Northern Virginia.

“The primary purpose of the proposed facility will be to decompress high emergency department utilization on the nearby Virginia Hospital Center campus and provide the surrounding community with an important and currently unavailable care option,” the application says. “In addition, the medical services of the FSED-UCC will be provided at a fraction of the cost for services typically furnished at conventional emergency departments or hospitals.”

A special exception is needed to allow the facility in a commercial district that limits office uses to 25% of the lot. The facility is categorized as an “office” under the county’s zoning ordinance because it won’t support overnight stays or regular ambulance usage, according to Taylor.

As part of the redevelopment, VHC Health has offered to eliminate access points to the property except for a northeastern entrance along Graham Road and a southwestern entrance along Arlington Blvd, which will be upgraded with crosswalks and ADA-compliant curb ramps. Read More

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St. Paul’s Lutheran Church is seeking to sell part of its property in Idylwood, including a now-vacant building, to a housing developer so it can expand its sanctuary (via Google Maps)

Plans to build housing in front of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Idylwood have been resurrected.

After a previous attempt in 2019 sputtered out, the church has found a new developer partner to potentially buy vacant portions of its property at 7426 Idylwood Road and transform it with residential development.

The developer EYA submitted an initial pitch to Fairfax County last summer for approximately 65 to 75 townhouses that would be constructed on two parcels of the roughly 10.7-acre site, an EYA marketing manager told FFXnow. The church intends to stay and use the money from the land sale to fund an expansion of its building, which was built in 1968, per county records.

“EYA is interested in the site for townhome development given its proximity to nearby established retail amenities, Tysons Corner and the City of Falls Church for work and shopping, and a direct bus connection to the West Falls Church Metro Station,” EYA said in a statement. “…We look forward to continuing to engage with the community, staff and elected officials as we develop our plan for this site.”

EYA’s proposal revives a development plan filed in March 2019 by Toll Mid-Atlantic LP Company, an affiliate of the Delaware-based home builder Toll Brothers.

According to that application, St. Paul’s wanted to sell part of its property to pay for a “family life center” that was approved in 2005 but never constructed “due to financial constraints.” The church consists of a main sanctuary with an attached educational building, though it also owns a separate, now-vacant building that once housed Lutheran Social Services.

Toll Mid-Atlantic sought to replace the empty building and another undeveloped parcel — totaling about 5.85 acres — with 67 residential units, which would’ve been a combination of single-family townhomes and two-over-two multi-family units.

The county’s land use database indicates that the application was scheduled for a public hearing before the Fairfax County Planning Commission multiple times, most recently on Sept. 30, 2020, but it ultimately got deferred indefinitely.

To allow for EYA’s development, the county needs to revise its comprehensive plan for the site, which currently designates the entire church property as a future residential development with 16-20 dwelling units per acre.

With the church committed to remaining at the site, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed county staff on Tuesday (Feb. 20) to craft a plan amendment that would reduce the intensity of the housing envisioned for the site.

“Recognizing that the Church wishes to remain on site, and this impacts the available area for development and the design of the site, a Plan amendment for residential development at a lower density, with suitable conditions related to site design, recognizing retention of the existing Church, is appropriate,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said when introducing the request.

Recalling the previous attempt to develop the site, she added that “transportation improvements and others are key to this development.”

The proposed amendment will be added to the second tier of the county’s comprehensive plan amendment work program, meaning it will be reviewed concurrently with rezoning and special permit amendment applications. Submitted on June 27, 2023, EYA’s proposal is still in the “pre-application” stage, so it’s unclear when an official plan will be available.

According to a summary report from the Department of Planning and Development, the initial concept tweaks Toll Mid-Atlantic’s earlier design to allow for more open space and tree preservation. It also features a recommended sidewalk along Idylwood Road and commits to replenishing landscaping that screens the church from existing townhouses to the south.

Image via Google Maps

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Memorial Street is closed approaching Richmond Highway after a fatal single-vehicle crash (via Google Maps)

Another person has been killed in a crash in the Richmond Highway corridor.

Police and emergency medical services were dispatched to Memorial Street at Richmond Highway for a single-vehicle crash around 9:24 a.m. today (Thursday), according to scanner traffic on Open MHz.

An adult man was transported to a hospital in life-threatening condition. He was pronounced deceased at the hospital, the Fairfax County Police Department said at 10:37 a.m.

“Memorial St is closed as our Crash Reconstruction Unit investigates,” the police department tweeted.

Just minutes earlier, around 9:21 a.m., Richmond Highway was shut down in both directions in the Lorton area after a multiple-vehicle crash at Hassett Street. Police said at 10:16 a.m. that an adult woman was taken to a hospital with injuries not considered life-threatening.

“Please use an alternate route,” the FCPD said.

There have now been four fatal crashes along Richmond Highway this month.

A man was arrested on Sunday (Feb. 18) after a reported hit-and-run that killed a pedestrian at the Brevard Court intersection in Woodlawn, and another pedestrian died in a crash at Belfield Road in Belle Haven on Feb. 15. In addition, a 19-year-old driver died after rear-ending a dump truck in Lorton on Feb. 14.

Map via Google Maps

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