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The largest Vietnamese heritage festival on the East Coast is elebrating its 10th anniversary this weekend.

The Plaza at Tysons Corner Center (7901 Tysons One Place) will be alight with the lively VietFest cultural celebration from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 12 and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 13. Vietfest is organized by the National Organization for Vietnamese American Leadership of Greater Washington, D.C. (NOVAL-DC).

Celebrated yearly, VietFest returned last year to its largest turnout of over 30,000 attendees after taking a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, its Facebook event page says.

The free, outdoor extravaganza includes cultural performances, a lion dance, a martial arts presentation, a traditional áo dài fashion show, crawfish and pho eating competitions, local food vendors, and beauty pageants. VietFest will also host its fifth annual talent show at 2 p.m. on Saturday, where participants will showcase their talents in hopes of winning a grand prize of $1,000.

To commemorate 10 years of VietFest — from its humble origins in a George Mason University parking lot to a sprawling two-day festival in one of Virginia’s largest shopping malls — the festival will have increased programming and “more food vendors than ever before,” says Bobby Ly, director of VietFest and co-president of NOVAL-DC.

Ly noted that this year’s celebration will feature a new heritage wall filled with photos of VietFest throughout the last 10 years.

“We usually have a heritage wall that’s like 30 feet long with pictures of the Vietnamese community from 1975 to now and all their contributions to the United States,” Ly said. “But this year, our heritage wall is different. It’s going to be…all pictures of Vietfest through all the 10 years that we’ve been doing it. And for me, I’m very proud of that and I think that’s going to be the highlight.”

Ly attributes VietFest’s smashing success over the last decade to its inclusivity, saying that it “stands out” from other festivals in the area because it’s “open to all communities” to participate, even if it’s primarily known as a Vietnamese festival.

“Now going into our 10th year, it’s going very strong,” Ly said. “The whole reason why VietFest was started was to help bring the community together, not just the Vietnamese community, but all other communities…Because every time we have the festival, not only Vietnamese show up, it’s all Asians, all other communities coming out.”

Looking ahead to the weekend, Ly optimistically predicts clear skies and high turnout, reminding visitors that they can always cool off from the heat inside the mall, where VietFest-affiliated vendors will be selling snacks like popcorn.

“The weather looks like it’s going to be nice, no rain,” Ly said. “It’s going to be a little bit hot, but the area where Tysons is, the buildings give us a lot of shade, and we have a little wind, so perfect weather. I have no doubt that we’re going to have a lot of people.”

Though last year set a high bar with its record attendance, Ly is determined to surpass those numbers and continue the momentum built up from 2022.

“I’m hoping that we could do much better this year, but last year, all our vendors, they made enough food for two days, but on the first day they sold everything,” Ly said. “Because of last year, I think this year will be even better because now everybody’s hyped up, and everybody knows that there’s gonna be a lot of people, and most importantly, all of these different organizations, all of these communities are promoting VietFest as though it was their own community.”

“So, you know, I think that this year will be phenomenal, and hopefully it will be the best year ever,” Ly continued. “I mean, that would be fitting since it’s our 10-year anniversary.”

Best known for its falafels, Taim serves build-your-own pitas and bowls (courtesy Untamed Brands/Taim)

From New York City to D.C. and now Fairfax County, Taim has traveled a long way to open its doors at 11011 Main Street in Fairfax’s Westfair shopping center.

The Mediterranean fast casual chain will host a community preview and fundraiser to support the Capital Area Food Bank tonight (Thursday) from 5 to 8 p.m. The $5 entree fees will go towards supporting CAFB’s mission to provide equitable access to food and fight food scarcity, a press release says.

The 1,815-square-foot restaurant’s grand opening will take place tomorrow (Friday), following its regular hours of 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The first 50 guests in line will receive branded swag and prizes.

The new Fairfax location serves as Taim’s second opening in Northern Virginia, closely following a location that recently opened at the Tysons Station shopping center (7502 Leesburg Pike) in Pimmit Hills this past July.

Though nicknamed “a falafel powerhouse,” Taim offers diners a diverse array of Mediterranean fare that includes “fresh, authentically made hummus,” pitas, chicken and cauliflower shawarma, golden eggplant, hand-cut fries with garlic aioli, and build-your-own meals, along with falafel.

“We obsess over every detail that goes into our food by doing things like soaking our chickpeas for a full 24 hours to bring the perfect texture to our falafel and hummus, sourcing 18 herbs and spices from around the world for authentic flavors, and our friendly team arrives early each morning to chop and prepare every vegetable by hand,” said Phil Petrilli, the D.C.-based founder of Untamed Brands, which owns Taim. “There’s really no comparison.”

A press release claims Taim’s chicken shawarma bowl — consisting of chicken seasoned with “classic shawarma blend of seven different spices” along with an array of toppings — is “the most popular item” on the menu.

Other highlights are taim’s $10 Crave Combo, “a Sunday special” that allows customers to choose any of taim’s pita sandwiches with a side of fries, and its O.G. Falafel Pita, the press release says.

“We describe our pitas, bowls and falafel as dreamy because that’s how our guests continue to talk about taim — from the first bite to their 100th visit,” Petrilli said. “Of course, our fans love the O.G. Falafel Pita, but our house-made fries and garlic aioli, and our signature house-made fresh ginger mint lemonade keep people coming back several times a week.”

Originally an all-vegetarian eatery, Taim first got its start out of a “tiny kitchen” in New York City’s West Village in 2005, where its falafels were once ranked among the city’s best, the press release says. Since becoming part of Untamed Brands in 2018, Taim has expanded to 15 locations across the East Coast.

“Since our early beginnings, we have given our local communities the means to experience the many great flavors and dishes from the Mediterranean, which we prepare from scratch daily using time-honored culinary techniques and the best ingredients,” Petrilli said.

With no plans to slow down its expansion into Northern Virginia, Taim is also preparing to replace Cold Stone Creamery in Vienna and move into Reston’s Plaza America. Both locations are expected to open this year, but more exact timelines were not provided.

Kids cheer on runner on Food for Others’ annual 5K in Tysons (courtesy Food for Others)

Registration has opened for the upcoming Food for Others 5K and Fun Run, which will return to Tysons for a 10th year next month.

The annual fundraiser will take place on the Plaza at Tysons Corner Center (1961 Chain Bridge Road) from 8-11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9. Proceeds will benefit Food for Others, a Merrifield-based nonprofit that collects and distributes food for people in need.

Interested runners can register online at $35 for the 5K or $30 for the fun run. There are also options to enter both races at a 15% discount or participate as a virtual runner through Sept. 16.

“With your $35 race registration, you provide 21 families with a gallon of milk, 7 students with weekend meal packs, or 1 family with 3.5 days worth of meals,” Tysons Corner Center said.

After exceeding its $90,000 fundraising goal last year, Food for Others anticipates getting about 550 participants this year and aims to raise $100,000. As of yesterday (Wednesday), the organization had reached $42,347, according to the event registration page.

In addition to the registration fees, the funds come from donations and sponsorships.

In addition to the races, the event will feature food and drinks from local vendors like Nothing Bundt Cakes, Compass Coffee, 29 Diner and Wawa. The nonprofit Forever Changed Animal Rescue will have dogs on site available for adoption.

Founded in 1995, Food for Others provides food for over 3,000 households and 3,700 students on average every week.

With the area seeing an increased need for food assistance since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the nonprofit expanded its warehouse at 2938 Prosperity Avenue with a new grocery market where clients can pick out their food. The market officially opened on Feb. 9.

Nearly 81,000 people in Fairfax County identify as food insecure, according to Food for Others. In addition to having its central warehouse, the nonprofit distributes food through neighborhood and mobile sites, community partners, and a program that gives meals to students for the weekend.

“We’ve received such passionate and heartfelt support from our community,” Food for Others Executive Director Annie Turner said. “Hosting our 10th Annual 5K is a testament to the incredible community, volunteers, and partners we have — driven by our shared passion for helping our neighbors…Together, we have made such a positive impact and we are looking forward to many more years ahead.


A different kind of Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Towda, has taken over the former Pomodoro Pizza at 12151 Fairfax Towne Center.

Co-owners and brothers-in-law Nhan Nguyen and Chi Phan moved into the shopping center after selling their original restaurant Pho Bytes (11211 Lee Hwy), which was just a few miles away. The duo sought a fresh start after experiencing complications with their previous third partner and the restaurant’s setup.

“The kitchen [at Pho Bytes] was run down so bad, and we couldn’t afford to renovate the kitchen, so we sold that, and we build a new one here,” Phan said.

After a difficult, long renovation process, Pho Towda finally welcomed customers for a soft opening from July 10 to July 13.

Nguyen, who also owns a cybersecurity company, says Pho Towda staff were “overwhelmed” by the customers that arrived after a friend advertised the soft opening in Northern Virginia Foodies, a Facebook group with over 100,000 members.

“We didn’t expect to have that many people show up for two, three days,” Nguyen said. “…We [sold] out all the food on the first day, and we had to close an hour early, and then the second day, the same thing.”

Unprepared for so many customers, the restaurant descended into chaos. Customers complained about long wait times, as young, inexperienced servers struggled to handle the rush, and the kitchen, led by Phan, became backed up with constant orders, Nguyen says.

After three days, the pair knew they had to regroup and adjust their strategy, so they shut down and delayed their grand opening to Monday, July 17. They worked to implement the feedback they received from friends, family and customers — namely, improving wait times.

“We had to look at how to improve our process,” Nguyen said. “…We did a taste test, and we [re-trained] all the servers to make sure that they knew all the food inside and out.”

Since reopening, Nguyen says operations have been “a lot smoother,” though they had to forgo some beloved practices, such as offering hand-cut noodles, to shorten wait times.

Pho Towda cooks “authentic Vietnamese food” with a modern American “twist,” specializing in banh mi and pho, according to Nguyen. Its name comes from the signature dish, pho tho da, a noodle soup served in a hot stone bowl.

“A lot of customer request hot soup…so I kept thinking and come up with the hot stone bowl,” Phan, the head chef and innovator behind Pho Towda’s menu, said. “It takes at least 10, 15 minutes to heat the stone bowl and make it hot, and it keeps the soup hot for longer.” Read More


A new cupcake business has landed at Fair Oaks Mall, adding a sprinkle of delight to visitors’ shopping experience.

Located near the mall’s upper-level food court next to a smoothie shop, Irresistible Cupcakes (11750 Fair Oaks Mall) celebrated its soft opening on Thursday, June 29.

Though Sunday, July 1 marked Irresistible Cupcakes’ official grand opening, founder and owner Fatima Reid has decided to extend the celebration through the entire month of July.

Until Aug. 1, Irresistible Cupcakes is sweetening the deal with a discount in honor of its grand opening: buy four or six cupcakes, get one free. Purchases of a dozen cupcakes are also discounted.

Reid says her cupcakes are freshly baked in the morning, and she hand-makes all of the cupcake batter and buttercream.

“Irresistible Cupcakes does everything from scratch,” Reid said. “So we use high-quality products and whatever I think are the finest products to produce a good quality cupcake and cake. I don’t cut any corners on that at all.”

Reid turned to baking cupcakes as her full-time career after losing her job in 2017, inspired by friends and family who insisted that there was something “special” about the cakes she would make during the holidays, she says.

Though Reid didn’t initially believe in her ability to perform physical labor and questioned whether her cupcakes could truly stand out against the pack, her husband and a higher calling gave her the final push to pick up a whisk and get to work.

“My husband said if you’re going to do this, you’ve got to be all the way in,” Reid said. “So I just researched and prayed about where I should go next.”

Launching her cupcake business out of her home kitchen, Reid went from selling baked treats at her local Bible study to opening her own store, which migrated across the D.C. region from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland to Fort Belvoir to Springfield Mall.

Reid settled on Fair Oaks Mall as Irresistible Cupcakes’ next spot after her storefront in Springfield Mall closed, because she would have access to an in-store kitchen, something she has long sought.

“My wonderful big fat oven that I love so dearly has brought me much joy in this last month here,” Reid laughed.

Now, she makes the 26-mile commute from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, to Fairfax every morning to open the store at 11 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

“I’m excited at being welcomed at Fair Oaks Mall and to the Fairfax community,” Reid said. “It’s a wonderful community, and it seems like the people are very kind and very welcoming to us.”

Reid says she’s observed over the last five years that, wherever her business operates, the residents seem to gravitate towards different cupcake and cake flavors, creating different lineups of best-sellers.

“Here, they love pineapple upside-down, strawberry shortcake, strawberry cupcakes,” Reid said. “And definitely the red velvet and the caramel. The caramel is a huge hit…and the rum is a great cake as well.”

In the future, Reid hopes to expand her menu to include more vegan options, and she is seeking another store manager to help run day-to-day operations when she isn’t there.

Until then, she’s focused on “figuring out what works best for Irresistible to flow” seamlessly and giving her customers “a great experience” when they come into the mall, she says.

“It’s not just a bite of heaven, but it’s a good experience,” Reid said.

The Lebanese kebab shop Yasmine is offering takeout and deliveries through The Kitchen Collective, a new “virtual food hall” in Tysons (courtesy Yasmine)

(Updated at 3:30 p.m. on 7/24/2023) Tysons residents can now pick up a meal from D.C.-based eateries without needing to cross the Potomac River, thanks to a just-launched “virtual food hall” in Fairfax Square.

The Kitchen Collective has opened a pickup window in the office and retail center at 8045 Leesburg Pike, Suite L160, where it will facilitate takeout and delivery orders for a slate of partner restaurants and food concepts.

Co-founded by Reza Farahani, whose Persian restaurant Joon opened at Fairfax Square last month, the food hall is initially hosting Pizza Serata — which operates out of D.C.’s Crooked Run Brew Pub — and Yasmine, a Lebanese kebab shop in Union Market.

“Yasmine has quickly become D.C.’s favorite Kebab bar and Pizza Serata’s unique focaccia style pan pizza is a pizza lover’s favorite,” said Farahani, who owns both brands. “Both concepts have received a great deal of accolades and we think they’re the perfect partners for us to debut our virtual food hall.”

According to a press release, the food hall will soon add more offerings, including:

  • Soul Rebel, a health food cafe originally founded in 2015 that serves salads, toast, juices and smoothies, and yogurt, grain and acai bowls
  • El Oso, a Mexican street food concept
  • San Tokki, a brand-new concept from the collective
  • Lucky Danger, the popular American Chinese restaurant from chef Tim Ma with a takeout site in Arlington

The Kitchen Collective says it focuses on concepts “by well-known chefs, made with the freshest and tastiest ingredients.”

The idea for the “virtual” food hall came in response to a surge in demand for delivery and takeout that has remained consistent since the early days of the pandemic, according to Farahani.

The size of Joon’s kitchen and its location in Tysons, which is surrounded by housing, offices and retail stores, made it an ideal place to try out the idea, he said.

“In our large kitchen we can cross-utilize many of our resources ranging from labor and real estate to equipment and utilities to create a business model that requires lower start up and operating expenses, while maximizes sales by allowing multiple brands to generate sales,” Farahani said. “Sure chef-driven brand partners allow consumers to have food from multiple brands delivered to them for lunch or dinner.”

The food hall accepts takeout and delivery orders from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Orders can be placed through its Toast website or in person at the walk-up window by Joon.

A girl smiles after receiving a free Cinderella-themed birthday cake through the Fairfax County chapter of Cake4Kids, an organization that provides free cakes to underserved youth (courtesy Mary Campbell)

For many, a cake on their birthday is a given. However, for others, it’s a quiet luxury that they are unable to attain.

Recognizing this unfortunate reality, Cake4Kids — a national organization with a Fairfax County chapter founded by Mary Campbell in 2019 — seeks to make birthday cakes accessible for all.

According to Campbell, her Cake4Kids chapter makes and delivers free custom cakes for major celebratory events, including birthdays, graduations, adoptions, and academic achievements, to people aged 1-24 throughout Northern Virginia. Popular cake themes include Disney, Minecraft and Fortnite.

“We’re helping families because some of them don’t have the resources, and it may be a choice between paying a bill and getting a cake,” Campbell said. “We want to remove that burden for them and be able to provide the cake that they want for their child. In other cases, it strengthens the bonds between a case worker and a child.”

Campbell’s branch of Cake4Kids is currently partnered with 117 organizations across the county, such as Fairfax County Public Schools, community centers, affordable housing nonprofits, immigration clinics and homeless and domestic violence shelters.

The collaborations help the chapter increase its reach and make a positive impact on as many families and children as possible — an impact that Campbell finds “hard to quantify.”

“I hear stories about the impact [Cake4Kids] has on families and children,” Campbell said. “I hear from schools how students are brought to tears when they realize they’ve just received a cake — families that are so relieved that they were able to give their child a cake that they too are brought to tears.”

Celebrating its four-year anniversary in May by delivering its 4,000th cake to a 14-year-old girl in Fairfax County, Campbell’s chapter has grown tremendously since its inception as a one-woman operation.

After baking 163 cakes in its first year, the chapter now has a hearty team of 750 volunteer bakers who successfully made 2,000 cakes in 2022. Its success relies on the dedication of a team of “heroes” who spend their free time baking and delivering cakes all across the county, Campbell says.

In many instances, the bakers never meet the children they baked a cake for, instead dropping the cake off with the organization, case worker or family who requested it. Campbell says this allows the child to build trust in and bond with their loved one without Cake4Kids imposing.

Even without the gratification of seeing in real time the often emotional reactions of those receiving the free cakes, her team of bakers continues to eagerly monitor their online portal for cake requests and get right to work when one comes through, according to Campbell.

“I can’t stress enough how many wonderful people we have in our chapter who work tirelessly to help us grow and get the word out there and help find more bakers and more agencies and raise funds,” Campbell said.

Campbell’s family has even joined her in the cause, she says, with her children and husband traveling all across Northern Virginia to handle many requests.

“It truly is a team effort. In fact, my son is on his way to Alexandria right now delivering cupcakes for me because I’m on crutches,” Campbell laughed.

Though she initially launched Cake4Kids in Fairfax County as a way to fill the free time she gained from her kids getting older and becoming more independent, Campbell’s charitable passion has turned into a full-time career. Several years ago, Campbell was promoted to a paid position running day-to-day operations at the nationwide level, which she does in addition to volunteering as a Northern Virginia ambassador, she says.

While the promotion means she focuses more on logistics and less on baking, Campbell still remains inspired by the creative ingenuity taken by her bakers after they receive a cake request. She says her favorite cake ever made featured “Spider-Man riding a unicorn.”

“I love it when a theme like that comes in because I can’t wait to see how these creative bakers are going to interpret that and put it on a cake,” Campbell said.

Looking ahead, Campbell hopes to continue spreading the word about Cake4Kids so the chapter can build more partnerships and more effectively “reach every child and family that wants to place a cake request with us,” she says.

“We’re always growing, we’re always looking for more bakers,” Campbell said. “We’re always looking for more families to help.”


A new Southeast Asian restaurant will join Scout on the Circle in Fairfax this September, business owner Gary Ngo says.

Located at 9530 Fairfax Blvd next to Peri Peri Original, Southeast Impression is slated to occupy a 4,104-square-foot spot in Building Two of the popular mixed-use strip — the largest commercial space in the building, according to a site plan from property manager H&R Retail.

Ngo expressed that the restaurant will serve a “variety” of Southeast Asian cuisine, including dishes from Thailand, Singapore, Laos and Malaysia. Patrons will also be able to enjoy an in-house craft bar.

Just a few buildings down from Southeast Impression is Genki Izakaya, a Japanese restaurant that Ngo also owns and opened in February 2022. Ngo acquired both properties after receiving a “better deal” to sign a lease on two properties rather than one, he explained.

A seasoned restauranteur who serves as vice president of operations for Idea Restaurant Group, Ngo also operates Urban Hot Pot (2980 District Avenue, Unit 110) and Gyu Shige Japanese BBQ & Bar (2980 District Avenue, Unit 100) in Merrifield’s Mosaic District.

Scout on the Circle first opened in late 2020, currently leasing to 400 apartments and 11 different commercial tenants, including Southeast Impression. The site plan appears to indicate two vacancies in Building One of the strip.

The gourmet macaron business Chiboo opens in Herndon on Friday (courtesy CHIBOO)

(Updated at 11:55 a.m. on 6/28/2023) CHIBOO Bakery, a new local gourmet French macaron business, is opening its first brick-and-mortar location this weekend in Herndon.

Chiboo will open on Friday (June 30) from 4-8 p.m. at 274 Sunset Park Drive and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday’s grand opening will feature “celebration specials, a lucky draw and a free macaron for the first 50 RSVPs,” according to the event page.

Anyone who registers now for the opening weekend can get 15% off on all purchases, the bakery says.

Chiboo owner Chelsea Tan Hweii Chiee moved to the area in 2020 and began selling her macarons in several farmers markets, including the Reston Farmers Market at Lake Anne and another market in Bethesda on Sundays.

After having trouble finding a job in finance and technology due to the pandemic, Chiee said she decided to switch to a brick-and-mortar location. Her customers also asked for more.

“My customers wanted to have their sweet fix beyond waking up early for the market and whenever — so of course I had to work to get a space to do walk-ins ASAP!” Chiee said.

She says she sources her fruit and herbs from local farmers markets and also incorporates her homemade fruit spreads in the weekly rotating menu.

“I am originally from Malaysia, and my flavors are a fusion of my upbringing and travels, and favorite local deliciousness,” she said.

The name of Chiboo is a term of endearment for her parents, derived from her name Chiee. The bakery will sell a mix of French macarons, “dainty desserts,” and other options that for custom event and gift orders, she said.

Sheetz is expected to open by August in Herndon (staff photo by Fatimah Waseem)

The convenience store Sheetz is expected to land in Herndon this summer.

A spokesperson for the company told FFXnow that the 6,000-square-foot location is set to open in July or August. An exact opening date has not yet been finalized.

It’ll be located at 13850 McLearen Road, replacing a two-story office building that was built in the late 1970s.

Sheetz will operate around the clock and will have 49 parking spots, five of which are dedicated as electrical vehicle charging stations.

The model combines a gas station, food store and restaurant with a drive-through. There are multiple locations through Virginia, including Sterling, Ashburn, South Riding and Leesburg, but this will be the first Sheetz in Fairfax County.


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