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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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Jake’s Ice Cream in Falls Church employs people with disabilities (courtesy Jake’s Ice Cream/Facebook)

A new gourmet popcorn shop is coming next year to Seven Corners Shopping Center.

Coming from the team behind Jake’s Ice Cream in Falls Church, Jake’s Gourmet Popcorn is slated to open next year at 6201 Seven Corners Center next to Michael’s.

Owner Robin Rinearson, a Fairfax County resident and retired optometrist, opened the Falls Church ice cream shop in August 2021.

Although ice cream is not on the new location’s menu, the team will continue its commitment to to hire people with disabilities, Rinearson told FFXnow. The effort is a partnership with the Arlington Program for Employment Preparedness, which offers internships that are pathways to paid employment.

“I have such a long wait list for employment at the ice cream parlor that I decided to expand the business,” Rinearson wrote in a statement. “I went to graduate school in Chicago where there is a popcorn shop every half dozen blocks. There are none in this area now. It’s time to start. I like a challenge.”

The ice cream parlor is named after Rinearson’s 29-year-old nephew, who has cerebral palsy and has worked for the company for several years. WUSA 9 covered the business, which has gained regional and nationwide attention for its business model.

Jake’s will sell flavors like kettle corn, caramel corn, cheddar cheese, buffalo wing and ranch, barbecue, maple bacon, lemon pound cake, birthday cake, Oreo and strawberry.

Patrons for events will also be able to make special requests for flavors, and seasonal flavors will be available.

Rinearson’s niece and husband — who are both architects — are designing the new shop. It’s expected to open in late winter or early spring 2023.

Photo courtesy Jake’s Ice Cream/Facebook

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The proposed route and stations for Route 7 bus rapid transit service from Tysons to Alexandria (via NVTC/Twitter)

(Updated at 4:25 p.m. on 1/3/2023) An ongoing study of the possibility of having bus rapid transit (BRT) service from Tysons to Alexandria can now proceed confident that the planning will be seen through to completion.

The $1.7 trillion federal spending bill that Congress approved on Friday (Dec. 23), just in time to avert a potential government shutdown, included $2 million to complete all planning and environmental studies needed for the project, known as Envision Route 7.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission — the recipient of the funds — has been studying whether and how to bring dedicated bus service to Route 7 between the Spring Hill Metro station in Tysons and the Mark Center in Alexandria since 2013.

The fourth and latest phase of the study — a mobility analysis evaluating the benefits and impacts of BRT — got underway in October 2021. Expected to finish in April, it will be followed by environmental and preliminary engineering design work.

Reps. Gerry Connolly and Don Beyer requested that funds for the project be included in the omnibus bill so it can “complete the planning and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis to prepare…for design and construction,” according to a press release from Beyer’s office.

The proposed BRT will provide “high-quality, frequent” bus service along a corridor that’s already the second busiest for buses in Virginia, Connolly said in a separate release:

This BRT project will provide a reliable and affordable transportation option for communities along this corridor; provide a green transportation option that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help in the battle against climate change; reduce congestion along a key transportation corridor in Northern Virginia already benefitting from significant economic development and investment; leverage a range of federal, Commonwealth, regional, and local transportation funds; connect major employment centers (U.S. Department of Defense Mark Center, Bailey’s Crossroads, Seven Corners, West Falls Church and Tysons); and further enhance a robust and growing transit system in Northern Virginia.

“The #EnvisionRoute7 BRT will provide as many as 42,000 daily transit trips giving people access to opportunities throughout our region with direct transit connections to Metro at Tysons and East Falls Church, as well as to the new Alexandria West End Transitway,” NVTC said on Twitter, thanking Connolly and Beyer for securing the funds.

The Tysons segment of the BRT will include six stops, traveling up International Drive and looping around the Spring Hill Metro before taking International back down to Route 7 (Leesburg Pike).

The service will use two transit-only lanes that Fairfax County plans to build by widening Route 7 from Route 123 to the Capital Beltway.

From Tysons, the route continues through Falls Church City, into the Seven Corners and Bailey’s Crossroads area, and down to Alexandria. NVTC held a community meeting to discuss the Falls Church portion in October.

Other Fairfax County projects that got funding from the federal spending package include a cycle track on Sunrise Valley Drive to the Innovation Center Metro station, pedestrian and bicycle upgrades near the Vienna Metro station, and a renovation of the Little River Glen Senior Center near Fairfax City.

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Fairfax County Planning Commissioner Andres Jimenez will campaign to become the next Mason District supervisor (photo by Piccadilly Posh Photography)

On the heels of Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross’s retirement announcement, a new candidate has already stepped up in a bid to become her successor.

Democrat Andres Jimenez announced this morning that he’s running to be the next Mason District supervisor. The Falls Church resident is the executive director of the nonprofit Green 2.0 and an at-large member of the Fairfax County Planning Commission.

This comes less than 24 hours after long-time Supervisor Penny Gross publicly shared that she will not running for reelection next year, instead retiring from the Board of Supervisors when her term ends in December 2023.

In his announcement, Jimenez touts his experience as an environmental advocate. Previously, he served as the senior director of government affairs at the nonprofit Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

He says affordable housing, transportation, commercial revitalization, and climate change legislation would be his top priorities:

We’ve seen much progress but I know there is more work to do. I know the struggles that many are facing as we continue to recover from the pandemic, the fight for affordable housing and transportation solutions, and the critical decisions that must be made to combat the effects of climate change.

We must drive economic investment and revitalization toward our older commercial areas. And it’s critical that we invest in our workers, our schools and school staff, and the programs that make Fairfax County a great place to live, work, and raise a family.

I’m excited for this opportunity, and I look forward to continuing to meet and speak with all Mason District residents and to help lift up every voice during this campaign and beyond.

A resident of Mason District for over a decade, Jimenez has run for elected office before. In 2019, he ran for his local House of Delegates seat where he pitched himself as a champion of progressive causes. However, he lost in the Democratic primary to the incumbent Del. Kaye Kory (D-38).

Jimenez has also worked in national politics. He was a staff member in two California Congressional representative offices, plus the New York City legislative representative under former mayor Michael Bloomberg.

For 27 years, Gross has served as the Mason District Supervisor. Yesterday, though, she announced that she will retire, saying “it’s the right time” to step aside.

Jimenez thanked Gross for her years of public service in his announcement.

“I want to thank Supervisor Gross for her decades of service to our community and our workers, particularly as the leader of the Board’s Personnel Committee and former chairwoman of the Environmental Committee,” Jimenez said. “She’s been a friend and a champion for so many, and I know we all have a great deal of admiration and thanks for her lifetime of service.”

For the moment, Jimenez is the only person who has declared their candidacy for the soon-to-be vacant Mason District supervisor seat. All 10 seats on the Board of Supervisors will be on the ballot next year.

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Retired Fairfax County Police detective Dick Kline addresses arrest for 1988 rape (via FCPD/Facebook)

(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Police have arrested a 61-year-old man from Arlington County who allegedly abducted and raped a Fairfax County woman multiple times over three decades ago.

Fingerprint and DNA analyses suggest George Thomas Jr. and his now-deceased brother, Gregory Allen Thomas, were the offenders in the 1988 rape of a 22-year-old woman who got attacked as she was leaving work in Bailey’s Crossroads, the Fairfax County Police Department said this afternoon (Tuesday).

“This is another chapter for the victim in this case, and undoubtedly, it’s a lifetime of trauma and healing. In this case, justice is delayed, but justice is not denied,” Police Chief Kevin Davis said.

According to police, the woman was walking to her car after finishing work at Skyline Mall (5115 Leesburg Pike) on Aug. 24, 1988 when two men attacked her in a garage and forced her to drive her vehicle to a secluded, wooded area.

After allegedly raping her, the men forced the woman to drive to another location where they raped her again, said FCPD Maj. Ed O’Carroll, chief of the department’s cyber and forensics major crimes bureau.

“This is a profoundly horrifying series of events. The victim was able to escape in her car and fled the scene following the second assault,” O’Carroll said.

FCPD officers responded to the crime that night and collected “an abundant amount of forensic evidence,” including fingerprints lifted from the woman’s vehicle, O’Carroll said.

The woman provided a description of one of the men, leading police to develop a composite sketch that was widely circulated, but no tips materalized leading to an arrest. Submissions of the collected evidence to state and national DNA databases also came up empty, the FCPD says.

A breakthrough came in 2020 courtesy of an “astute” forensic examiner who matched one of the recovered fingerprints to a print in an unrelated Alexandria City arrest record, O’Carroll said at the press conference.

Police say advanced DNA analysis confirmed that Gregory Allen Thomas, who died in 2009 was one of the offenders in the rape. Detectives later obtained a “discarded” DNA sample from Thomas Jr., who was “alive, well and living in Arlington,” that indicated he was the second offender.

Thomas Jr. was arrested at a Metro station in Montgomery County on Monday (Nov. 21) by U.S. Marshal Service deputies, with Metro and Fairfax County police assisting. He’s currently being held in Montgomery County’s Adult Detention Center but is expected to be transferred to Fairfax County, where the case will be tried.

The FCPD didn’t immediately respond to inquiries seeking clarification on which station the arrest was made at and the nature of the Alexandria arrest.

However, Alexandria General District Court records show that a George Thomas was arrested on Sept. 12, 2020 on a misdemeanor concealed weapons charge. He was found guilty and sentenced to 30 days in jail, which were suspended. He also paid a $214 fine.

O’Carroll said that both brothers had been involved with the police in the past, and the department believes they may have been connected to other cases in Northern Virginia. He advised anyone with information to contact Major Crimes Bureau detectives at 703-246-7800, option 8.

Among those present at the press conference was the original lead detective on the case, Dick Kline, who had joined the FCPD in 1980 and retired in 2007.

“It gives you a sense of resolve when something like this happens, because you do actually live these cases with the victim for years and years,” Kline said. “There are times when you have no idea, no help from the public. It’s very difficult…Even though it’s more than 30 years later, it’s a blessing. It’s a blessing from above that finally justice prevails.”

James Cullum contributed to this report.

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Kimball Bryant Winn, arrested for possession of child pornography (photo via City of Falls Church)

(Updated 4:25 p.m.) The City of Falls Church Police announced earlier this week that they’d arrested a man on five counts of Possession of Child Pornography.

Kimball Bryant Winn (64) was arrested on Sept. 9 as the result of an investigation by a task force comprised of Falls Church police and Virginia State Police, according to the release.

“The City of Falls Church Police Criminal Investigation Division began investigating the suspect after receiving a cyber-tip from the Northern Virginia and Washington, DC Internet Crimes Against Children (NOVA-DC ICAC) Task Force about possible crimes involving child pornography. During the execution of the search warrant at the suspect’s residence on August 31, 2022, multiple digital devices were forensically previewed and child pornography was located,” the release stated.

The items were seized and the investigation into the suspect’s online activities is ongoing.

Anyone with information related to the investigation is asked to contact the City of Falls Church Police Department at 703-241-5050.

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Founders Row concept rendering (image via City of Falls Church)

The theater at the Founders Row mixed-use project could be scaled down from earlier plans, but the tradeoff is that Falls Church could be getting a new arcade and bowling alley.

At a meeting of the Falls Church City Council on Monday, the Council reviewed requested changes for Founders Row. The development was approved for 59,493 square feet of ground floor retail, 4,946 square feet of office space, 394 apartments and a 32,079 square foot, 2-story movie theater. That theater, though, has become something of a sticking point.

Along the way, developer Mill Creek Residential Trust has asked for concessions that the City Council said they’ve been reticent to give. One condition of approval was a cap on residential occupancies at 50% until the movie theater was opened.

The theater was originally slated to be a Studio Movie Grill, but the dine-in movie chain filed for bankruptcy due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“[The] Applicant had previously entered a lease agreement with a theater operator, but the operator declared bankruptcy stemming from economic challenges due to the COVID pandemic,” the staff report said.

The report noted that Mill Creek wanted to be able to fully open the residential side of the project even if they were unable to secure another movie theater.

“With the bankruptcy and loss of the original theater and the current marketplace the ability to secure a replacement theater was delayed, while the Founders Row project construction and apartment occupancies were continuing,” the report said. “In order to release the second half of the project residential apartment for occupancies, Mill Creek agreed to add additional guarantees in support of the theater by escrowing $3.6 million in funds for commercial tenant improvements and with at least 50 percent of the total commercial retail having tenant improvements underway prior to the issuance of a certificate of occupancies for the last twenty (20) residential units.”

Now, Mill Creek is asking to reduce the minimum number of seats from 750 to 550.

The report said Mill Creek is now in the stages of securing a lease with Paragon Theaters.

“[The] Applicant is in the final stages of securing a lease with Paragon Theaters,” the report said. “Paragon will operate a 7-screen movie theater, including an IMAX-similar screen with a total capacity of approximately 600 seats. This is one less screen and approximately 150 fewer seats than previously agreed to in the [voluntary concessions], which necessities the current application.”

Another change to the theater space is the addition of a new full-service restaurant and bar in the lobby along with a small arcade, featuring games and bowling.

Falls Church, however, has “arcades” listed under prohibited uses, alongside gun stores and porn shops. According to the report prohibited uses include:

  • Disco
  • Gun stores or firearm dealers, or shooting ranges
  • Roller rink
  • Amusement arcade
  • Adult pornographic book store

The applicant is hoping to add “except as an accessory use to another permitted use” as a corollary to Falls Church’s Music Man-esque fear of arcades.

City Manager Wyatt Shields said the developer is asking for additional months to meet some of the project milestones and is asking for the incentive payments from the Economic Development Authority to be prorated with the theater opening rather than commencing after the first full year of operation as originally agreed.

The topic was briefly discussed at a City Council meeting earlier this week, but it was ultimately deferred to the Tuesday, Sept.  27, meeting.

“I like the concept of milestones,” said City Council member Letty Hardi. “I understand that due to market conditions things have had to move out, but I would still like to make sure there is forward progress.”

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Morning Notes

People walk by Caffi Field, a football field in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Driver in Fatal Franconia Crash Charged With Manslaughter — Sara Flores, 20, of Lorton was charged with involuntary vehicular manslaughter yesterday morning (Thursday) for a May 12 crash in Franconia where she allegedly drove into a telephone pole, killing a passenger. Police had already obtained a warrant charging Flores with driving under the influence. [FCPD]

Developer Pleads Guilty in Teen’s Death — “The owner of a Virginia construction company that specializes in luxury homes pleaded guilty Wednesday to involuntary manslaughter in the death of a 16-year-old boy who was killed while working for his company in 2019. Thomas Digges, of Digges Development Corporation, operated the Fairfax County job site where a trench gave way and buried Spencer Lunde, of McLean, on July 23, 2019.” [NBC4]

Two Displaced by Fair Oaks Townhouse Fire — A fire at a three-story townhouse in the 12000 block of Dorforth Drive on Wednesday (Aug. 10) was caused by improperly discarded smoking materials, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department says. The fire displaced two residents and resulted in approximately $175,000 in damages. [FCFRD]

One Rescued From Annandale House Fire — “8/11/22 at 1:08 a.m., in 3800 block of Gallows Road. One occupant trapped on 2nd floor was rescued by #FCFRD crews via ladder. Fire contained to basement. No injuries. NO smoke alarms found in home! Cause: improperly discarded smoking material. Damages $16K.” [FCFRD/Twitter]

County Names New Planning and Development Director — Fairfax County has appointed Tracy Strunk as director of its Department of Planning and Development, where she succeeds Barbara Byron, who retired earlier this year. Strunk’s career for the county goes back to 1998 and includes work as a planner and a member of the team that helped develop the Tysons Comprehensive Plan. [Fairfax County Government]

Fairfax County Public Schools Creates Program to Help Hire Teachers — “[Catherine] Coulter is entering her first year teaching in Virginia’s largest school system as a teaching resident, a newly-created position aimed at placing qualified teachers in classrooms while they take the final steps toward receiving a specific certification.” [WTOP]

Expansions and Renovations in Progress at FCPS — “Most students and teachers have taken the summer off, but Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has been busy with its usual tall order of school renovations and additions. Improvements now are in progress at these schools in the Sun Gazette’s readership area” [Sun Gazette]

Falls Church Development Nears Movie Theater Lease — “Developers of the new Founder’s Row mixed use development…announced through a new filing with the City that it is ‘in the final stages of securing a lease with Paragon Theaters,’ noting that ‘Paragon will operate a seven-screen movie theater, including an IMAX-similar screen with a total capacity of approximately 600 seats.'” [Falls Church News-Press]

Fairfax Shopping Center Gets New Mural — “If you’ve been by the Giant at Scout on the Circle recently you might have noticed some color appearing on the walls! The Abstract Expressionist painting on the corner of the building is by Steven Johnson. Johnson is a Indiana biased artist, who recently made his art available in the public domain.” [City of Fairfax/Facebook]

It’s Friday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 81 and low of 68. Sunrise at 6:21 am and sunset at 8:09 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center in Idylwood (via Google Maps)

A redevelopment of Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center (7054 Haycock Road) in Idylwood is back on the table.

The Falls Church City Council authorized agreements on Monday night (July 25) that will terminate the university’s 40-year lease for the 2-acre parcel and allow the city to sell the land to Converge West Falls LLC, an entity of developer Rushmark Properties.

Advanced by Virginia Tech’s board in April, the exchange will revive a plan to build a new design school, a headquarters for the construction company HITT Contracting and more on the Northern Virginia Center campus that abruptly collapsed in early 2021.

“Virginia Tech has a long history in the City of Falls Church and we are excited about this new chapter,” Virginia Tech Media Relations Director Michael Stowe said. “This vote moves us a step closer to creating a world-class smart construction research center in collaboration with HITT Contracting, and it means the community will benefit from a vibrant, mixed-use district that will transform the neighborhood.”

According to a city staff report, the Northern Virginia Center is a 101,000-square-foot office building on a larger, 7.4-acre site located in Fairfax County but owned by Falls Church, which has leased a portion of the land to Virginia Tech since 1995.

Under Falls Church’s new agreements with Virginia Tech and Rushmark, the city could sell the full site to the developer for $25 million, including $16.57 million that it would then pay to the university. The resulting development must feature:

  • A 240,000-square-foot office building for HITT’s corporate headquarters, including at least 40,000 square feet for a Virginia Tech National Center for Smart Construction
  • 440 residential units with ground-floor retail
  • Construction of a West Falls Station Blvd through the site, among other road improvements

The project still has to go through a number of steps to come to fruition. First, Virginia Tech has to get the governor’s approval for its planned land transfer to the city, and then, Rushmark must submit its plans to Fairfax County.

“Virginia Tech will continue to occupy the site, with no rent payments to the City, until the final closing date, which is no later than March 31, 2025,” the staff report said. The agreements are expected to be closed sooner than that, coming within 30 days of zoning and site plan approvals from the county. Read More

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Fairfax County police car lights (file photo)

Fairfax County police have released audio from the dispatch call where officers were filmed pointing guns at someone.

The video went viral on social media, showing two officers pointing their firearms at a person filming them detaining someone else.

Police said they were responding to an incident at a Falls Church IHOP where they believed a weapon was involved. Three to four juveniles had threatened a hostess earlier in the day, with one displaying a weapon in his waistband, before they returned at 11 p.m. to try and get the employee to go to the parking lot, police said.

“Possible weapon in progress,” the dispatcher said. “Caller is stating that there are about 10 males outside in reference to a weapon that was flashed earlier about three hours ago, has not seen one tonight, nothing was discharged, concealed. Caller is now saying that they are surrounding the windows from outside of the building, still attempting to get further.”

“Should we ask to see if the guy with the gun is back there,” one person on the audio asks. “Units in route to the weapons complaint, according to the caller, the subjects are currently at the emergency exit and sees the subject from earlier holding a gun, unknown if it’s pointing at them directly.”

As officers detained some of the people they believed were involved, a person approached them with something in his hands, police previously said in a statement.

“Due to the nature of the call and not locating a weapon, officers ordered the subject to the ground at gunpoint,” the Fairfax County Police Department said.

After they shared a description of the teen, someone is heard saying an individual is behind the officers on the sidewalk, saying, “Stop him. Just put him in cuffs.”

The video shows two officers drew their guns, pointed them at a person who was filming them and told him to get on the ground.

County leaders released statements saying the incident will be examined after the video circulated on social media. The police department also said it would be reviewed, like all incidents where officers point their weapons.

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