Seven restaurants in Fairfax County are part of this year’s Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants list.
The restaurants that earned a coveted spot include:
- A&J Restaurant in Annandale
- Aracosia in McLean
- Elephant Jumps in Falls Church
- Honest Grill in Centreville
- L’Auberge Chez Francois in Great Falls
- Mama Chang in Fairfax
- Marib in Springfield
The highly anticipated list was published by the regional magazine for the first time since 2020. That year, nine local restaurants made the list, including several that reappeared this year: A&J, Elephant Jumps, Mama Chang, and Marib.
A&J Restaurant at 4316 Markham Street is no stranger to these types of accolades. The two-decade-old Annandale dim sum eatery was on the 2020 and 2019 lists as well, and last summer, it won a RAMMY for its brunch.
“We are excited to be included in the 100 Best again. Since we opened in the mid-90s, the Best Bargains issue featured us every year. 2019 marked the first time we were included in the 100 Best,” a restaurant spokesperson told FFXnow via email. “There are many outstanding restaurants in Fairfax County. It is great to see The Washingtonian highlight some hidden gems in the suburbs.”
Korean barbeque restaurant Honest Grill opened in 2021 in the Centreville Square Shopping Center and immediately got the attention of the magazine’s critics.
Restaurant manager Kevin Yoo told FFXnow that Honest Grill’s inclusion is “a testament to the hard work and dedication of the staff, and a reflection of the restaurant’s popularity among Washington DC foodies.”
Yoo also noted that the county has a “thriving food scene” that’s attracting a “growing local community of culinary innovators,” as evidenced by the restaurants that made this year’s list.
Aracosia, which opened about three years ago in McLean, serves Afghan cuisine and is owned by a Kabul native. Elephant Jumps on Arlington Blvd near Merrifield is regarded as one of the best Thai restaurants in the region.
The famed French establishment L’Auberge Chez Francois has been in Great Falls for close to 50 years. Springfield’s Marib is perhaps the centerpiece of a booming Yemeni food scene in Northern Virginia, while Mama Chang is one of several very popular area restaurants by former Chinese embassy chef Peter Chang.
Elsewhere, Arlington County placed four restaurants on the 2023 list. Plus, the magazine included a number of restaurants in Alexandria and Falls Church City included as well.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has given the green light to new affordable housing for seniors along Richmond Highway.
At last week’s meeting, the board unanimously approved the plan amendment for the affordable senior housing next to the Beacon of Groveton apartment building. The project calls for a six-story, 70,000-square-foot affordable, independent senior living facility with a “community-serving” ground floor at 6858 Richmond Highway.
An undeveloped urban park currently sits at the site.
The county’s Planning Commission also voted unanimously to recommend approval of the project back in December, despite some traffic concerns.
While all the supervisors voted for the project, a few shared that they had initially hoped to see more office space at the site. However, with the county actively trying to convert underused commercial space due to reduced need, they admitted that affordable housing for seniors was a much better plan.
“This area, unfortunately, will not be executed in the form of office, [but] I acknowledge the market just isn’t there,” Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk said during the meeting. “It makes sense to convert this to something that’s definitely needed in the community. Affordable housing — particularly affordable housing for seniors — is something that will have benefit.”
Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck agreed with that sentiment, saying that while some green space will be lost, the space was always planned for development.
“I share the regret that we don’t have office options, but equally say that I’m very pleased we can do more…senior housing,” Storck said. “It’s definitely a demand that will far exceed supply.”
The project to develop the half-acre “interim park space” into a multi-story building housing seniors was first proposed in May.
The development will sit next to the Beacon of Groveton apartment building and about a half-block from the Beacon Center, a retail area with a Giant, Lowe’s, and other stores. It will be about a half-mile from a future Richmond Highway Bus Rapid Transit station, which could begin operating around 2030.
While walkability to amenities was a point in favor of the project, an area resident at last month’s planning commission public hearing noted the proximity to Richmond Highway may pose a safety risk to residents. As a caregiver for his elderly parents, he said the traffic was so bad along the corridor that he didn’t let his dad walk in the evenings near Richmond Highway.
Commissioners overall understood this objection but said this project and other ones in the future should make the corridor more pedestrian-friendly.
The new senior housing along Richmond Highway remains far from being completed. Rezoning consideration likely won’t happen until the spring, with the building not expecting to open to its new senior residents until at least 2027.
Fairfax County is again asking the state for money to offset anticipated reductions in resident vehicle tax payments.
At a meeting on Tuesday (Jan. 24), the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a letter written by Chairman Jeff McKay for Gov. Glenn Youngkin, asking him to include money in his budget for localities to blunt the impact of a 15% decrease in car tax revenue.
“We all heard last year the complaints that came in. I don’t think people understand that we don’t set the value of cars. They are set by others,” Chairman Jeff McKay said. “So, the tool that we had in our toolbox was to automatically put a reduction in value on all those vehicles in the county. Even with that, most people’s…tax bills went up.”
Over the last several years, used car prices have increased dramatically, though they’ve started to come down in recent weeks. Because of that, many county taxpayers are paying significantly more in personal property tax — also known as the “car tax.”
Last year, the Board approved assessing vehicles at only 85% of market value in order to give some relief to county taxpayers. That came after Youngkin signed legislation giving localities express permission to do that, in accordance with the Dillon Rule.
However, the county relies on that money as part of its tax revenue to fund services. In 1998, Virginia passed the Personal Property Tax Relief Act, which dictates that the state should offer car tax relief and subsidize localities for lost revenue owed on the first $20,000 of a vehicle’s value.
But the amount of funding provided to localities hasn’t changed since 2007, and Virginia now provides 20% less relief. In other words, both taxpayers and the county government are getting significantly less money from the state than they did 16 years ago.
After cutting another 15% for fiscal year 2023, which began July 1, 2022, the Fairfax County board is asking to get more money back from the state — a request also made to the governor last year, McKay’s board matter notes.
Youngkin has suggested cutting the car tax entirely, but county officials have expressed some trepidation about the consequences unless the money is reimbursed. McKay said reimbursement might be possible now considering the state’s nearly $2 billion surplus.
“While either the state or county could eliminate car taxes all together, the state should honor its pledge of 1998 to eliminate the car tax while reimbursing local governments for lost revenue,” the letter to Youngkin says. “It is essential and possible, particularly as the state currently sits on a significant surplus, to allocate adequate funding to provide residents with effective personal property tax relief.”
Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw argued that the state can’t truly claim to have a surplus until “the Commonwealth pays its bills…and this is an example.”
“If it doesn’t happen this year with the surplus that exists, it ain’t going to happen next year or the year after that,” he said.
Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity is running for a fifth term.
The lone Republican currently on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors officially declared this morning that he will run for reelection again, making the announcement at his alma mater West Springfield High School.
In the follow-up press release, he said that the county is a very different place compared to when he last ran in 2019.
Since I last ran for office, we have faced unfathomable challenges; from a global pandemic to historic unemployment, unprecedented obstacles for our business owners, interrupted education and record-setting inflation…We live in a different world than we did four years ago and I can’t think of a more critical time to need strong, experienced leadership on the Board of Supervisors. That’s why I’m announcing today my campaign to run for reelection for Springfield District Supervisor on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
First elected in 2007, Herrity is the son of Jack Herrity, a former Fairfax County Board chair in the 1970s and 1980s. As the board’s only Republican, he has clashed at times with the other supervisors.
A challenger has already launched a bid to turn the seat blue. Tech entrepreneur Albert Vega announced in September that he’ll seek the Democratic nomination. If Vega wins the June primary or no other Democrats enter the race, he’ll take on Herrity in the Nov. 7 general election.
“We need someone representing us who has the experience and track record to keep getting results for the County. I humbly consider myself the most qualified to serve our community,” Herrity said in a press release. “I proudly stood as a check on the excesses of the Board, and made sure that each decision made considered the impact it would have on every single one of our county’s residents.”
Herrity’s announcement brings the number of incumbent supervisors seeking reelection this year to six.
Chairman Jeff McKay, Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, and Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw have all said they’ll be running in 2023.
Sully District Supervisor Kathy Smith and Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik have not made their intentions public yet.
Fairfax County’s top priorities for 2023 will be increasing mental health services, boosting police retention, addressing commercial office vacancies, and improving pedestrian safety, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says.
With the county increasingly reliant on real estate taxes, officials expect this budget cycle to be one of the most challenging in a decade.
As property values rise, the tax burden on property owners is already “significant” and hurting residents, McKay said. To not “exacerbate” the situation, the county likely needs to lower the real estate tax rate.
“I personally believe absolutely we have to reduce the tax rate as a part of this next budget,” McKay said.
Continued recovery from the pandemic is paramount, informing all the board’s priorities for the upcoming year, McKay said.
While economic recovery from the pandemic tends to get a lot of attention, there remains “a lot of work to do” on human services, according to the chairman.
“The thing that keeps me up at night is the ongoing growth of mental health challenges, especially with some of our young people,” McKay said. “I do think that a good chunk of that is a byproduct of what we’ve been through with Covid.”
Mental health-related challenges affect everything from police calls to unemployment and schools, he said. The county’s current budget gave close to $186 million to the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, which provides support services.
McKay believes the state’s $37 million contribution isn’t enough, arguing that mental health funding should be “primarily a state responsibility.”
“This is something the state has to get really serious about addressing,” he said. “Frankly, if they provided the level of support that the county did, we probably wouldn’t have near the mental health challenges in Virginia that we have now.”
Increasing mental health services could mean more educational programs, staffing, and supportive programs.
It also ties into public safety, as the Fairfax County Police Department struggles with understaffing and retention. McKay says officers are being asked to take on responsibilities that they shouldn’t have to handle.
“Increasingly our police are almost being asked to be mental health clinicians [when then are] mental health service calls,” he said. “It’s stressing them out and getting people not interested in joining police departments.”
In 2021, the county instituted a co-responder program where a crisis intervention specialist joins police officers on certain mental health-related calls. Alongside the county’s Diversion First program, launched in 2016, it provides treatment to individuals instead of incarceration. McKay says the programs need to “grow dramatically.” Read More
Tamara Derenak Kaufax won’t be seeking reelection to the Fairfax County School Board.
The three-term Franconia District representative and current board vice-chair announced this morning that she won’t be running this year via an emailed newsletter.
“I have never taken lightly my responsibility to you — my constituents, neighbors, and friends — to keep our schools strong so our community remains strong. I will continue to work hard for you throughout this year,” Derenak Kaufax wrote. “As I complete this chapter, I am filled with both humility and pride. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support and for this opportunity to serve.”
Her statement didn’t directly address why she made this decision. FFXnow has reached out to Derenak Kaufax but hasn’t heard back, as of publication time.
In the statement, Derenak Kaufax listed a number of accomplishments during her 12-year tenure including implementing later school start times, instituting the school system’s first strategic plan, and establishing an independent Office of the Auditor General.
She’s also been vice-chair now three times and school board chair once, back in 2014.
This announcement now makes it four school board seats that will be open during this election cycle. Last month, Dranesville District school board member Elaine Tholen officially announced she won’t be seeking re-election.
Laura Jane Cohen, who represents Springfield on the school board, also isn’t running because she’s looking to be voted in the Virginia House of Delegates. Neither is Sully District representative Stella Pekarsky, who’s campaigning in the Virginia State Senate’s redrawn 36th District.
Two school board members have said they’ll seek another term. Karl Frisch confirmed earlier this month that he’ll run again to represent the Providence District, and he already has a challenger. Conservative activist Jeff Hoffman has been a vocal critic of the school board, particularly over its policies supporting transgender students.
Hunter Mill District Representative Melanie Meren told FFXnow in December she is running again as well.
The six other school board members have not made an announcement yet if they plan on running in this year’s general election on Nov. 7.
Derenak Kaufax’s full statement is below: Read More
The eternal question “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?” has finally been answered. He’s in Fort Hunt, at least for the weekend.
Campbell is known for his five-decade career animating some of the world’s most beloved cartoons, including Scooby-Doo, The Jetsons, The Flintstones, The Smurfs, Rugrats, and the 1968 Beatles’ movie “Yellow Submarine.”
After retiring, Campbell partnered with Scott Segelbaum to put on a traveling cartoon pop art show featuring works inspired by his 50 years animating beloved television shows.
When the artist died in early 2021, exactly two years ago this weekend, Segelbaum decided to continue the show as a way of keeping his friend’s memory and legacy alive and help others remember their happiest days watching cartoons.
“Ron Campbell basically animated your childhood and your parents’ childhood — and their parents’ childhood,” Segelbaum told FFXnow.
When setting the show’s schedule for the year, Philadelphia native Segelbaum looked up art galleries in Alexandria after hearing great things about the local art scene. That’s how he found Nepenthe Gallery.
The relatively new art gallery located in the Hollin Hall shopping center on Fort Hunt Road was opened by the husband-and-wife team of Carrie and Jim Garland in March 2022.
They dreamed of owning a business together after their kids grew up, and an art gallery was a natural fit, considering their families’ long history of collecting art. So, the Garlands opened Nepenthe Gallery and a frame shop below the gallery, which is about a mile from their home in a space that used to be a Curves gym.
“We still get women who come in,” Carrie said. “I always tell them they are welcome to exercise here.”
The gallery’s location in Fort Hunt near the Hollin Hills historic district is in the middle of what Carrie calls an “art-centric corridor” between Old Town Alexandria and Mount Vernon.
Carrie and Jim both noted that their gallery is open to all sorts of styles of art. They never want to “pigeonhole” it, as Jim said.
So, when Segelbaum reached out about bringing his cartoon pop art show, the Garlands were happy to oblige. Read More
(Updated at 11:30 p.m.) Redistricting is going to make a number of state senate races in Fairfax County very interesting this year.
Just like the House of Delegates, every Virginia State Senate seat is up for election in 2023, and like in the Virginia General Assembly’s other chamber, several primaries may be extremely competitive after the 2021 redistricting process shook up electoral boundaries.
Incumbents that could face off
In the newly-drawn District 35, which covers Annandale, Springfield, and George Mason University, two longtime incumbents could be facing off.
Sen. Dave Marsden had been the senator in District 37 since 2010, but redistricting pushed him and about 31% of his constituents into the new district. He announced his bid for reelection a year ago and has been campaigning ever since, a campaign spokesperson told FFXnow.
“He’s knocked doors in more than half of the precincts of the new SD35, and looks forward to continuing to serve the residents of Fairfax,” the spokesperson said.
Marsden’s potential primary opponent, Sen. Dick Saslaw, has been in the senate since 1999, making him its longest-serving current member. He’s also been the Senate majority leader since the Democrats took control in 2020. While redistricting kept Saslaw in the 35th District, only about one-third of his former constituents remain with him.
There have been persistent rumors that the 82-year-old might retire, but no announcement has been made yet. FFXnow reached out to Saslaw about his 2023 intentions but hasn’t heard back as of publication.
Marsden and Saslaw, if he seeks reelection, would also face newcomer and entrepreneur Heidi Drauschak, who declared her candidacy for the Democratic nomination earlier this month.
The newly-drawn District 38, which includes Herndon, Reston, and McLean, could also pair two Democratic incumbents, including one that also has been rumored to retire.
Sen. Jennifer Boysko first became a senator in 2019 after previously serving in the House of Delegates for two terms. She hasn’t officially announced anything about 2023 and didn’t respond to FFXnow’s request for comment, but said last year that she intends to run again.
However, she may have to run against Sen. Janet Howell in the Democratic primary.
Howell has served in the senate for more than two decades, representing District 32. Her former constituents make up nearly half of the new District 38, but there are also similar rumors about her retiring.
Howell didn’t respond to inquiries from FFXnow.
Boysko told FFXnow when the redistricting maps were announced last January that she holds an enormous amount of respect for Howell, calling her “the dean of the Senate” and a “true pioneer for women in government.”
He told FFXnow that he’s running to break the “blue wall” in the senate, focusing on education policy, public safety, transportation issues and financial mismanagement.
Other potential primary battles
Other primaries that are shaping up to be potentially competitive include District 36, which covers Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, and Fair Oaks.
Stella Pekarsky, who represents the Sully District on Fairfax County’s school board, announced last week that she will challenge for the seat to “stand up” to Governor Glenn Youngkin.
The incumbent is four-term George Barker, though redistricting kept only about 6% of his former constituents in District 36. As a member of the Virginia Redistricting Commission, he came under some fire in 2021 for drawing himself back into a district that, at the time, had no other challengers. Read More
A new tree disease has been detected in Fairfax County, threatening one of the region’s most common trees.
County officials have confirmed, in the fall, they found that a number of American beech trees in three parks in Fairfax County were infected with beech leaf disease (BLD). The parks include Burke Lake Park, Hemlock Overlook Park near Clifton, and Fairfax Station’s Fountainhead Park.
The disease causes the leaves of beech tree saplings to develop dark green stripes in the veins as well as potentially puckered, cupped, or distorted leaves. In more mature trees, it can result in reduced foliage.
It can be fatal to the trees, causing them to possibly die within six to 10 years.
BLD is somewhat mysterious, in that officials and researchers at the county’s Urban Forest Management Division (UFMD) are still trying to figure out exactly how it spreads. There is also no cure.
“Good tree care, including proper mulching and watering during droughts, may be helpful,” the county’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) said in a press release. “There is ongoing research underway to learn more about BLD and how to effectively treat it.”
The disease doesn’t affect humans, animals, other tree species, or yard plants. It hasn’t been detected anywhere else in the county at the moment besides the three noted parks, DPWES spokesperson Sharon North confirmed to FFXnow.
The county is asking any residents who spot a tree they believe might be infected to report it to firstname.lastname@example.org with photos of the tree or by calling 703-324-1770 TTY 711.
“Reporting potential infestations will allow UFMD to quickly begin monitoring BLD and providing treatment once it is developed.”
BLD was first detected in Ohio about a decade ago, and Virginia’s first case was found in Prince William County in August 2021. What has officials so concerned is how poorly the disease is understood and the impact it could have on already-dwindling regional forests.
It remains unclear how BLD spreads. Experts are looking into several possibilities, including possible transmission through bacteria, fungi, mites, or even microscopic parasitic worms.
Additionally, the American beech tree makes up about 10% of the county’s forests. Any mass loss of the trees could permanently change the region’s landscape.
“Given the American beech tree comprises a large portion of our eastern trees, the disease can potentially alter the composition of the eastern forest,” DPWES said. “It is one of the most common local giant trees.”
The one-term Sully District representative announced her candidacy earlier today, saying she’s running to “stand up” to Governor Glenn Youngkin.
We are at a critical turning point as a Commonwealth where the lived experiences of our elected officials matter more than ever. The new 36th district deserves a Senator who has deep roots in the community with a long record of serving its residents and the bold energy it takes to stand up to Governor Youngkin’s extreme policies. As Chair of the School Board, I led the charge when we successfully sued Youngkin to protect our children against anti-science Executive overreach just days after he was sworn into office. I am focused on the future prosperity of the 36th district and its residents. It is critical that we protect abortion access, high quality public education, expanded voting rights, champion climate change solutions, and stand up for our progressive values. I look forward to talking with my neighbors in the weeks and months ahead as I seek to represent them in Richmond.
She also runs a local air charter company based in Manassas with her husband. She is also a first-generation immigrant, according to a press release.
The announcement notes that during her time on the school board, Pekarsky prioritized “closing opportunity gaps, increasing teacher and staff pay, improving title IX training for students, and requiring research-based literacy instruction.”
Last month, Pekarsky told FFXnow that she would make a decision in January regarding whether she will run for reelection to the school board.
This announcement now takes her out of the running for the Sully District seat, which will be on the Nov. 7 ballot with the school board’s 11 other seats. No candidates have come forward for the position yet.
However, with Pekarsky seeking the Democratic nomination for state senate in the 36th District, that could put her up against a long-time incumbent in the primary.
With redistricting, though, only about 6% of his former constituents are in the newly redrawn 36th District, where Barker resides and would potentially run for re-election. The district covers Chantilly, Clifton, Fair Oaks and Centreville right up to the Prince William County line.
Most of Barker’s former constituents are scattered across several other districts, including the 33rd District, the 34th District, the 35th District, and the 29th District, which is now mainly centered in Prince William County.
FFXnow has reached out to Barker about his intentions for the 2023 election several times but has yet to hear back as of publication, making Pekarsky the only confirmed candidate at the moment.
Photo via StellaPekarsky.com