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Banditos Tacos and Tequila will open at University Mall this February (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

A taco and tequila restaurant is opening later this month at University Mall in Fairfax.

Banditos Tacos and Tequila will open on Feb. 22, serving up Mexican street food and a line-up of live music and tastings throughout the day.

The 7,500-square-foot location open at 10621 Braddock Road near George Mason University. The restaurant also includes an outdoor patio with multiple TV screens.

“Every attention to detail goes into Banditos, from our restaurant design and aesthetics to the ingredients used in our cocktails and kitchens,” said Sean White, founder and CEO of Baltimore-based White Oak Hospitality. “We are super excited to be a part of the Fairfax community and extremely thrilled to be a new place for the University community to experience!”

The menu will feature 20 different flavors of tacos and over 30 brands of tequila.

This is the company’s sixth location, including one in Arlington County. The restaurant is currently hiring for all staff positions online.

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A&J Restaurant in Annandale (file photo)

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:

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.

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The county is considering a proposal to add cottages to The Virginian in Mantua (via Fairfax County)

A developer is considering the addition of 24 age-restricted cottages to an existing continuing care facility in Mantua.

The Virginian (9229 Arlington Blvd), a building built in 1980 that includes independent living units and assisted living, could see an addition of duplex units for people 55 and older, if Fairfax County approves the application submitted on Oct. 14.

The request would require rezoning the nearly 36-acre property from residential to planned continuing care to accommodate a broad range of senior housing.

Jennifer Garcia — a senior land use planner with DLA Piper, the applicant’s representative — said the rezoning would allow the the applicant “greater flexibility” to use beds and units for independent living, assisted living, memory care or skilled nursing.

“A logical next step to ensure the continued viability of the Property and to best serve County residents is to improve upon the mix of age-restricted housing stock, with additional flexibility to provide a continuum of care to better residents and families,” the application states.

No changes to the structure of the main building are proposed. The private equity firm Focus Healthcare Partners purchased the property in 2019 and has since invested $56 million into the facility, according to the application.

The developer anticipates “minimal impacts” on traffic, including 73 peak-hour a.m. and 108 peak-hour p.m. trips.

Applying under the affiliate name FFI Virginian Owner LLC, Focus Healthcare plans to provide $3 per square foot of new gross floor area for the county’s affordable housing fund. It’s unclear if some portion of the units will be designated as affordable.

So far, the applicant says it “anticipates and requests further discussions with staff regarding the equivalency between the provision of affordable units and the monetary contribution.”

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(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Insomnia Cookies has set up shop in Fairfax County.

Tomorrow (Saturday), the late-night bakery chain will open the doors of its new location at University Mall (10669 Braddock Road, Suite D-7) with a 13-hour grand opening event — and yes, there will be free cookies.

Throughout the grand opening, which will last from noon until 1 a.m., customers will be granted one free “classic” cookie with no purchase required. Additional free cookies and other giveaways will also be available to those who participate in a “Sink a Shot” milk pong challenge, according to a press release.

As previously reported, this is Insomnia Cookies’ first bakery in the Fairfax area, though it has six locations elsewhere in Virginia.

“We’re so excited to be joining the Fairfax community,” Insomnia Cookies Chief Marketing Officer Tom Carusona said. “This new location near George Mason will allow us to deliver warm cookies to both students on campus nearby as well as reach new Insomniacs throughout Northern Virginia.”

Headquartered in Philadelphia and New York, the business was founded in 2003 by Seth Berkowitz, who was a University of Pennsylvania student at the time and came up with the concept in his dorm room. It now has more than 220 locations across the country.

Menus vary across locations. The Fairfax bakery’s cookie line-up features “classic” flavors, including gluten-free chocolate chip, vegan birthday cake, and snickerdoodle, as well as “deluxe” flavors, such as s’mores and chocolate peanut butter cup.

The store also sells brownies, ice cream, ice cream sandwiches and cakes.

After the grand opening, operating hours will be:

  • Monday to Wednesday: 11 a.m.-midnight
  • Thursday and Friday: 11 a.m.-1 a.m.
  • Saturday: noon-1 a.m.
  • Sunday: noon-midnight

In addition to its brick-and-mortar stores, Insomnia Cookies ships cookies nationwide and offers deliveries, including late at night.

Per the press release, the Fairfax bakery will deliver to George Mason University, Fairfax City and other nearby parts of the county, including Centreville, Chantilly, Springfield, Lake Ridge, and Vienna. Delivery hours go until midnight or 1 a.m., depending on the day, according to the website.

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A sign for Old Lee Highway in Fairfax (via Google Maps)

If you’re passing through the City of Fairfax, some of the streets you drive will be renamed.

Names of 14 of streets will be changed after the City Council voted Tuesday to go with the recommendations by the Connecting Fairfax City for All Stakeholder Advisory Group. The advisory group was established to examine Confederate related street and place names, historical markers and monuments and elements within the city seal.

The streets to be renamed are Confederate Lane, Lee Highway, Lee Street, Mosby Road, Mosby Woods Drive, Old Lee Highway, Plantation Parkway, Raider Road, Ranger Road, Reb Street, Scarlet Circle, Singleton Circle, Traveler Street and Stonewall Avenue. The renaming public engagement and selection process will begin, according to the city.

Several jurisdictions have recently moved to rename roadways and buildings in light of their ties to the Confederacy. In Fairfax County, one of the districts was recently renamed Franconia District, ridding it of the name Lee. In Arlington, Langston Boulevard was previously named Lee Highway. Jefferson Davis Highway in Arlington was also renamed.

The City of Fairfax’s advisory group also recommended the city stop using its current seal, as it develops a process to replace or revise it, possibly keeping the motto and dogwood flowers but removing Confederate soldier John Quincy Marr and British Lord Fairfax, according to the group’s report.

“While the [advisory group] notes that symbolism of the city seal, monuments and markers, and street and neighborhood names is a crucial start to the task of achieving greater equity and inclusion, the Group also believes that Fairfax City has an opportunity to be a leader in bringing systemic changes to the lives of historically disadvantaged groups,” the report reads.

Photo via Google Maps

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The Justice Department logo (via DOJ)

A Fairfax man was sentenced to 52 months in jail yesterday (Tuesday) for conspiring to distribute drugs through the darknet in a conspiracy that extended to other Fairfax County residents.

Tyler Pham, 39, conspired to distribute peach tablets through the U.S. mail that were advertised as Adderall but actually contained methamphetamine, according to a U.S Department of Justice press release. Six other individuals previously entered guilty pleas in connection with the conspiracy and were sentenced to over 13 years in prison combined.

The co-conspirators lived in other parts of the county, including Springfield and Annandale, as well as in Alexandria.

Pham was sentenced for conspiring to distribute between 15 and 45 kilograms of the pills from about May 2019 through December 2019, according to the press release. Pham used the moniker “addy4cheap” on darknet markets, the Empire Market and Cryptonia.

Law enforcement agents purchased 767 tablets, weighing about 268 grams total, from “addy4cheap” between August 2019 and December 2019.

On Dec. 9, 2019, search warrants were executed at Pham and his co-conspirators’ residences, including the homes of Lien Kim Thi Phan, 37, of Fairfax, and Hon Lam Luk, 35, of Chantilly.

In the home of Phan and Pham, agents found 95 peach tablets, and in Luk’s residence, investigators found over 6,000 peach tablets weighing approximately 2.2 kilograms, all of which resembled those advertised on “addy4cheap” and those received by law enforcement through controlled purchases.

As of Dec. 10, 2019, “addy4cheap” had completed 3,665 sales on the Empire Market and received 2,568 reviews. Based on these reviews, “addy4cheap” had received approximately $482,572.10 in sales for an approximate 44,872 pills sold. As of Nov. 7, 2019, “addy4cheap” had fulfilled 140 transactions on Cryptonia.

Pham’s other co-conspirators were listed as Phan and Duong Nguyen, 29, of Springfield; Son Nguyen, 36, of Annandale; Dat Nguyen, 37 of Alexandria; and Trieu Hoang, 39, of Springfield.

The FBI’s Washington Field Office’s Hi-Tech Opioid Task Force, which includes local and federal agencies and members, conducted the investigation.

“The task force is charged with identifying and investigating the most egregious Dark Web marketplaces, and the vendors operating on the marketplaces who are engaged in the illegal acquisition and distribution of controlled substances, to include fentanyl, methamphetamine, and other opioids,” the release said.

The full release is below.

Read More

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Twins Ace Hardware in Fairfax is one of several donation sites for the nonprofit Britepaths’ July Back ot School drive (courtesy Twins Ace Hardware)

Fairfax County Public Schools won’t be back in session for the fall until Aug. 22, but Britepaths is getting a head start on helping students prepare for that day.

The Fairfax-based nonprofit is asking community members to donate money or backpacks for its annual Collect for Kids Back to School program, a month-long campaign that launched on July 1.

The organization’s goal is to collect 700 new backpacks and enough money to purchase supplies for 2,500 students, primarily in the Fairfax and Justice high school pyramids, according to a news release.

“Working families in our community who were already dealing with the effects of the prolonged pandemic have been further stretched by the higher costs of food, gas, rent and other necessities,” Britepaths Executive Director Lisa Whetzel said in a statement. “When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, the thought of having to find funds for school supplies on top of everything else is extremely stressful.”

According to the county’s most recent demographic report, more than 13% of families have a household income of under $50,000, including 4.2% who earn under $25,000 annually. About 31% of FCPS students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, as of Oct. 31, 2022.

Now in its 38th year of existence, Britepaths provides food, financial assistance, workforce development and other services for Fairfax County residents in need.

For its back to school drive, the nonprofit has partnered with several local businesses that will serve as donation sites for backpacks through Aug. 1:

  • Alya Salon & Spa (139 Park Street, Vienna)
  • Twins Ace Hardware — Fairfax (10310-B Main St, Fairfax)
  • University Mall Theatres (10659-A Braddock Road, Fairfax)
  • Sugar Mama’s Ice Cream (11208 Lee Highway, Fairfax)
  • Cinema Arts Theatre (9650-14 Main Street, Fairfax)
  • Central Fairfax Chamber of Commerce (10304 Eaton Place, Suite 100, Fairfax)

All backpack sizes will be accepted, but large ones are most needed, per the news release.

Backpacks can also be purchased through Britepaths’ Amazon wish list. Monetary donations are being accepted online and as checks mailed to 3959 Pender Drive, Suite 200, Fairfax.

In addition, from July 11 to 31, Twins Ace Hardware, a sponsor of the program, will offer customers at its Fairfax City store the option to donate the change from their purchases to the campaign.

Schools that will benefit from the donations include:

  • Fairfax High School Pyramid: Daniels Run Elementary, Eagle View Elementary, Providence Elementary, Willow Springs Elementary, Katherine Johnson Middle School, Fairfax High School, and Fairfax Adult High School
  • Justice High School Pyramid: Bailey’s Upper Elementary, Glen Forest Elementary, and Justice High School
  • Fairfax Villa Elementary School

“We are grateful to all who are donating this summer to help ease that stress for families and allow children who might otherwise go without be able to start off the new school year unashamed and with all the supplies they need,” Whetzel said.

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Pender Village Center in Fair Lakes (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A high-end hair salon is uprooting its current location in Fairfax this fall.

Ash + Willow Hair Co plans to relocate from its current space at 10560 Main Street in Fairfax to the Pender Village Center in Fair Lakes.

Owner and founder Tanya Ko says the new location is larger than the previous space.

“I decided to move to expand my salon from a 5 chair studio in an office space to 8 chairs retail location. I am bringing a luxury hair salon to Pender Village that will offer luxury hair extensions and coloring,” Ko told FFXnow by email.

The company expects to open this fall.

The salon offers hand tied extensions, foils and balayage, hair color, hair cuts, toner and other services.

The village center is home to other retailers, like Bruster’s Ice Cream, Golftec, Corner Bakery and Harris Teeter.

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The dessert shop Insomnia Cookies plans to open a new location in Fairfax soon (via Insomnia Cookies/Facebook)

Good news for George Mason University students and anyone else looking for a late-night snack: Insomnia Cookies is adding a location in Fairfax County.

The business plans to open up shop soon in University Mall at 10669 Braddock Road, according to its website. The plaza is anchored by Giant and includes other businesses like Domino’s, United Bank and Gathering Grounds Cafe.

The company did not immediately indicate when it plans to open, but its website anticipates that it will open “soon.”

Founded by a University of Pennsylvania student in 2003, Insomnia Cookies sells fresh cookies and ice cream. Popular cookie flavors include chocolate chunk, snickerdoodle, and s’mores deluxe. Delivery options will also be available at the new store.

Insomnia Cookies already has several shops in Virginia, including Richmond, Blacksburg, and Charlottesville, but this will be its first in Fairfax County. Another location is also planned in Williamsburg, according to the company’s website.

Photo via Insomnia Cookies/Facebook

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Fairfax County Police Department Executive Deputy Chief Brian Reilly talks at a press conference (via Fairfax County Police Department)

(Updated at 4:55 p.m.) A man and two women were found dead with apparent gunshot wounds barricaded inside a room of an apartment in Fair Lakes today (Tuesday), Fairfax County police said.

Police found the three people dead inside the apartment in the 4200 block of Mazarin Place after a family member of one of the deceased called 911 and requested a welfare check, Executive Deputy Chief Brian Reilly said at a press conference.

When officers arrived around 10:30 a.m., a roommate let them into the apartment and told them the back bedroom was the room the family member would be in, Reilly said. They were unable to open the door, so asked the fire department to assist. Using a ladder truck they could see inside the room and that the three appeared to be dead.

They forced entry into the room and saw two women and a man appeared to have been shot, Reilly said. They were pronounced dead at the scene.

“We believe all three people in that room were the only three people that were in that room at the time of what we believe to be a shooting of all three,” Reilly said. “Our detectives are investigating what took place.”

Police believe it is an isolated incident and there is no threat to the public, he said.

Photo via Fairfax County Police Department

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