Some of the D.C. region’s hottest new restaurants can be found right in Fairfax County, according to the Washington Post’s recently released spring dining guide.
Restaurants in the county claimed four spots on longtime food critic Tom Sietsema’s round-up of his favorite newcomers to the regional dining scene — more than any locality other than the District itself.
Leading the pack is Kirby Club, the eastern Mediterranean restaurant that launched in the Mosaic District late last year. The new concept from the restauranteurs behind D.C.’s Compass Rose and Maydān ranked no. 3 on Sietsema’s list, which highlights 25 eateries where he would “be happy to go on my own dollar.”
ICYMI: @tomsietsema has named Kirby Club as Number 3 in the @washingtonpost Spring Dining Guide! 🥂
Read what sets Kirby Club apart: https://t.co/pWuE9RQtlh
Tag a friend who needs to try their signature kebabs and dips this summer. 👇
📸 : @mariahmirandaphoto pic.twitter.com/5qzBC5UDiy
— Mosaic (@mosaicdistrict) May 19, 2023
Opened on Dec. 20, 2022, Kirby Club drew praise for its “always sunny” atmosphere and menu of kebabs and dips, which Sietsema says remain “luscious” even though original chef Omar Hegazi has returned to his home base in New York.
He also highlighted the restaurant’s offerings of both share-able platters and plates fit for one:
Non-sharers will rejoice over the plates for one, featuring a variety of kebabs — chicken, lamb, oyster (mushroom) — that feel like a feast given the fluffy yellow rice, sumac-spiked onions and bright salad that accompany them. “Picnic platters” are a throwback to Previte’s childhood memories of Labor Day spreads with the Kirby Club, a Lebanese social group her maternal grandparents helped found in 1933 in Akron, Ohio. My ongoing fascination is the whole roast chicken, massaged with garlic, turmeric and oil and presented on a raft of flatbread with the aforementioned rice and salad, but also crinkle-cut fries sprinkled with za’atar and a rainbow of sauces.
After initially opening with evening hours only, Kirby Club has expanded its operations to include lunch and to-go options. A second location is in the works in Clarendon.
“We love being a part of the vibrant Fairfax County community and welcoming in so many local friends and family to Kirby Club in the Mosaic District every day,” Kirby Club owner Rose Previte said. “It’s wonderful to have the Washington Post celebrating so many restaurants we know and love.”
Unranked after the top five, the guide also gives some love to Ingle Korean Steakhouse and Jiwa Singapura, signaling that Tysons may at last be breaking free of its reputation as purely an American-steak-and-business kind of town.
Ingle Korean Steakhouse at Pike 7 Plaza instantly won the Post’s food critic over with elegant decor, attentive servers, “distinctive cocktails” and “delicious dips” for its array of grilled meats and seafood.
For Jiwa Singapura, which opened on Feb. 15 in Tysons Galleria, Sietsema emphasizes the luxuriousness of the food and the setting, which he says suggests “a fine-dining lair.” He points to the salted egg shrimp, chicken rice and chili crab as menu highlights, though the “beef rendang isn’t worth the 30-minute wait.”
Moving outside the Tysons area — and price range — Sari Filipino Kusina rounds out the Fairfax County entries in the guide. Sietsema says the fast-casual Filipino restaurant in Annandale stands out for the “haunting” flavors of dishes like kare kare stew and smoked chicken wings glazed with adobo, which draw on co-owner and chef Paolo Dungca’s childhood in Manila.
Four Sisters will serve customers at the Mosaic District for the last time this Sunday (May 14).
The family-owned Vietnamese restaurant will permanently close after 30 years of business, about half of them spent anchoring the prominent corner of Strawberry Lane and Yates Way in Merrifield.
With the restaurant’s lease expiring, Four Sisters co-owner Lieu Lai says the family decided the time had come to wrap up their three-decade journey. She wants to spend more time at home with her kids, making Mother’s Day a particularly fitting final day.
In addition, Lai’s sister Le Lai — who has owned the restaurant with her since 2014 — and brother-in-law hope to travel, she told FFXnow.
Four Sisters has been a Merrifield mainstay since 2008, moving to what was then a mostly industrial area before it redeveloped as the Mosaic District in 2012.
Prior to helping jumpstart the mixed-use neighborhood, Four Sisters began life in 1993 as Huong Que at Falls Church’s Eden Center. Lieu and Le’s parents, Thanh Tran and Kim Lai, founded the modest restaurant with money they made selling hot dogs after they immigrated to the U.S. from Bien Hoa, Vietnam, according to the Washington Post, which broke the news of the impending closure.
Huong Que soon became a local favorite, expanding with a second restaurant in the Eden Center to accommodate its growing customer base and even appearing on the late chef Anthony Bourdain’s show “No Reservations” in 2008, according to Viva Tysons.
When the restaurant moved to the Mosaic District, the family renamed it as a nod to Lieu, Le and their two sisters, acknowledging that the original name was too often mispronounced by non-Vietnamese customers.
Since then, the family has extended their reach elsewhere in Northern Virginia, opening the fast-casual Four Sisters Grill in Clarendon and the 4 Sisters Snack Bar in Ashburn. Both of those locations, which are respectively run by oldest sister Ly and youngest son Thuan Lai, will remain open, per the Post.
An eventual return of Four Sisters hasn’t been ruled out either. Lieu says her sister and brother-in-law may open another restaurant in the future after they finish traveling.
“Deep down, I think that potentially I may open another Four Sisters somewhere,” Le told Post food critic Tim Carmen. “That would make my mom and dad really happy, for sure.”
For now, supporters still have a few more days to get in a final order of pho or a vermicelli rice bowl, among other dishes on the menu of Vietnamese staples. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day except Mondays.
A jewelry store that says it sells ethically sourced diamonds and gemstones has opened at the Mosaic District in Merrifield.
Brilliant Earth, which officially opened its doors yesterday (Thursday), takes up a little over 2,000 square feet of space at 2905 District Avenue in Suite 105.
This is Brilliant Earth’s second Virginia store, although there are other locations in Georgetown, Baltimore and Bethesda.
Taylor Jacobs, a spokesperson for the company, said the location “marks the digital-first jewelry company’s second showroom opening in Virginia.” The company, which is headquartered in San Francisco, has other locations in the works.
The Merrifield location includes services like walk-in consultations, “ethically sourced” jewelry, and gifts like engravable pieces and birthstone pendants.
The business was founded 2015 in order to foster a “more transparent, sustainable and compassionate jewelry industry,” FFXnow previously reported.
The home furniture store Pottery Barn and Faherty, a family-owned clothing business, are also expected to open in the Mosaic District at 2905 District Avenue this summer.
The robots are taking over the Mosaic District.
Starting today (Thursday), a fleet of boxy, self-driving bots will roam around the mixed-use Merrifield neighborhood, delivering food from restaurants in a pilot program by the delivery service Uber Eats and the robotics startup Cartken.
Right now, robot deliveries are available from the family-owned Greek restaurant Our Mom Eugenia, Pupatella Pizza and the Indian fast-casual eatery RASA, but other tenants could be added later. The pilot is slated to run through April 2024.
The Mosaic District is emerging as a prime testing ground for autonomous technology, hosting Fairfax County and Dominion Energy’s Relay shuttle — though the vehicle is currently sidelined by “mechanical issues” through Friday (April 21).
“We are excited to partner with Uber Eats and Cartken to bring cutting-edge technology to our community, and confident this innovative service will elevate visitor experience and customer engagement at Mosaic,” said Greg Dercach, vice president of property management for EDENS, which owns and operates the development.
Uber and Cartken — an Oakland, California-based artificial intelligence company created by former Google engineers — first teamed up to experiment with food delivery robots in the Miami, Florida, area, launching a pilot in December.
The companies chose to introduce the robots to the Mosaic District, their first site in Virginia, because of the development’s walkability and abundance of dining options.
“Uber and Cartken share a vision to provide greater affordability, reliability, and convenience to merchants and consumers — all at the touch of a button,” Noah Zych, Uber’s head of autonomous mobility and delivery, said. “Our expansion to Fairfax is another important step in this journey, bringing Virginia residents a little more Uber magic through sidewalk robot delivery.”
Sporting six wheels and a red flag, the robots are equipped with sensors and cameras that help them navigate and avoid collisions. They can carry 1.5 cubic feet — about two full paper grocery bags — and reach speeds of 3-6 mph, depending on the environment.
They will travel anywhere within the Mosaic District, though residents will have to step outside to pick up their deliveries.
While made by a different company, Cartken’s vehicles will look familiar to anyone who has recently visited George Mason University’s Fairfax campus, where robots from Starship Technology have been delivering food to students since 2019.
Founded in 2019, Cartken has also worked with Grubhub at some college campuses and deployed its robots to make Starbucks deliveries at malls in Japan.
“Our team at Cartken is excited to further partner with Uber Eats and expand our reach to serve the Fairfax community,” Cartken co-founder and COO Anjali Jindal Naik said. “Cartken is at an inflection point, where we are rapidly bringing our AI, computer vision, and lidar-less autonomous robots to more places, like Mosaic District, in partnership with Uber Eats.”
Patrons of the participating Mosaic District restaurants can request a delivery by robot through the Uber Eats app, which allows users to track the vehicle’s route and arrival time. A standard delivery takes 20 to 30 minutes, but there’s a “priority” option that advertises a 15 to 25-minute wait for a $1.49 fee.
Several county-run farmers markets are returning for the spring season this month with the remainder opening soon after.
The Fairfax County Park Authority operates 10 farmers markets across the county where residents can pick up fresh veggies, fruit, meat, and other locally produced goodies.
“Our markets are strictly producer-only, meaning that all of our farmers and producers may only sell what they raise on their farms or make from scratch,” reads the county’s website.
Three farmers markets are coming back later in April.
- April 19: McCutcheon/Mount Vernon on Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to noon
- April 22: Burke on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon
- April 29: Reston on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon
The seven remaining farmers markets will open in May.
- May 3: Oak Marr on Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to noon, Wakefield on Wednesdays from 2-6 p.m.
- May 4: Annandale on Thursdays from 8 a.m. to noon, Herndon on Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
- May 5: McLean on Fridays from 8 a.m. to noon, Kingstowne on Fridays from 3-7 p.m.
- May 7: Lorton on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Each market’s webpage has a list of vendors that are set to be selling. Besides food for sale, many markets will also offer family-friendly activities, live music, and civic-engagement opportunities.
Besides the county-run farmers markets, the nonprofit FreshFarm also has a number of local markets, including three that operate year-round.
- Oakton on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- Mosaic District on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Reston on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Two other FreshFarm markets — Springfield and Mosaic on Thursdays — were open last year, but it is not immediately clear if those will be open starting next month. FreshFarm is the area’s largest farmers market operator, and in February, its employees voted to unionize.
The Mosaic District’s Sip and Stroll map may soon get a new stop.
Grand Cata, a D.C.-based Latin American wine bar and market, is expanding to Virginia for the first time with a new store in the Merrifield neighborhood.
Located in the former Poke Bar at 8298 Glass Alley, Suite 100, next to B Side, the venue is on track to open early this summer, with construction about 60 to 70% complete, according to Grand Cata co-founder and CEO Pedro Rodríguez.
“We look forward to opening our first expansion to the Virginia market, and hopefully, people enjoy what we do,” Rodríguez told FFXnow.
After initially meeting as workers at a media development nonprofit, Rodríguez and Grand Cata President Julio Robledo bonded over a shared passion for wine, but after coming to D.C. from Puerto Rico and Chile, respectively, they noticed a lack of Latin America wines in local stores.
Grand Cata was created to fill that gap, launching as a retail shop in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood on March 15, 2016.
Listed among the top wine retailers in the country by outlets like Wine Enthusiast and VinePair, the business has become a hot spot for not just buying and tasting wine and spirits, but also learning about the history and cultures of the region where the drinks originated.
A second location with a bar opened in June 2019 as part of the La Cosecha market in Union Market, which shares a property manager with the Mosaic District in Edens.
Now, Rodríguez and Robledo are eager to bring their wine and knowledge to a new audience across the Potomac River.
“We have a really well-established identity here in the capital,” Rodríguez said. “In the more affluent, wealthy area of Virginia, it’s got Fairfax County and McLean, Falls Church, easy access. A lot of fun neighbors are in the mix there, so it’s a destination.”
Like the La Cosecha location, the new Grand Cata will have a wine bar, retail shop and market with sauces, spices and other pantry items. Since Virginia doesn’t allow alcohol-only service, it will also sell food, such as sandwiches and charcuterie boards.
Rodríguez says the menu will be simple and intimate in keeping with the space, which is just 908 square feet in size, per a permit from Fairfax County. Featured wines will include selections from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Mexico, Bolivia, and even Spain and Portugal.
“The best way to get to know the wines we feature is to taste them,” Rodríguez said. “So, people are going to have the opportunity to taste them with us and get to know them, and hopefully they like them and buy them and come back.”
(Updated at 1:55 p.m. on 4/6/2023) Spring is here, and despite a cold snap over the weekend, cherry trees around the D.C. area are rapidly approaching full bloom.
The Yoshino cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin remain on track with the National Park Service’s prediction that they will reach peak bloom — meaning that 70% of the flowers will be open — between Wednesday and Saturday (March 22-25).
Accordingly, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is now underway, though the official opening ceremony isn’t until this coming Saturday.
Since launching in the 1920s, the annual festival has expanded beyond D.C.’s borders, including to Fairfax County. For those who’d prefer not to endure the downtown crowds and traffic, there are plenty of events to catch closer to home when not taking in the flowers at local viewing spots like Meadowlark Botanical Gardens.
Celebration at the Lab
The Children’s Science Center has “transformed” its lab at Fair Oaks Mall into a scavenger hunt with various experiments to teach kids about the history and science of cherry blossoms.
Tickets are available for two-hour time slots at the lab between 10 a.m. and noon, and 2-4 p.m. from Saturday (March 25) through April 8. They cost $15 each, but there is a $2 discount for registering online.
Art Blooms at Mosaic
The Mosaic District in Merrifield has again partnered with the D.C. festival for a two-day celebration of its own that will feature live music on two different stages, crafts and farmers markets, and family-friendly activities, including a game corner and a “glamor” tent with hair-braiding and face-painting.
We're blooming with excitement for Art Blooms on April 1 and 2, featuring:
🛍️ A market of handmade and vintage vendors from URBN Market
🧺 Fresh produce from local vendors presented by Fresh Farm VA
🎯 Fun activities by Vienna Singing Princesses
🎼 Live music on two stages pic.twitter.com/UAf3KxYxDl
— Mosaic (@mosaicdistrict) March 1, 2023
For adults, some restaurants in the neighborhood allow alcoholic beverages outside. A full list of Sip and Stroll participants and the festival’s performance schedule can be found on the Mosaic District website.
Complimentary shuttle service will be provided from the Dunn Loring Metro station to the festival, which will take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on April 1 and 2. Read More
Several Fairfax County restaurants are joining in Spring Wine Fling — a nearly two-week stretch of wine and dinner specials on offer around the region.
The special is set to run from Monday, March 20 through Friday, March 31.
Across Maryland, D.C. and Northern Virginia, restaurants will offer a $55 dinner with an appetizer, entree and two one pairings. Each restaurant has their own selection of wine pairings with certain entrees.
In Fairfax County, participating locations include:
- Alta Strada Mosaic (2911 District Avenue)
- Circa at The Boro (1675 Silver Hill Drive)
- Hamrock’s Restaurant (3950 Chain Bridge Road)
- Matchbox McLean (1340 Chain Bridge Road) and Matchbox Reston (1900 Reston Metro Plaza)
The event is being organized by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), the trade organization that also puts on the region’s biannual Restaurant Week.
A full list of participating locations can be found on the Spring Wine Fling website.
Photo via Alta Strada Mosaic/Facebook
Though they won’t appear among the best director nominees at the Oscars this Sunday (March 12), female and gender non-conforming filmmakers will be celebrated tonight (Wednesday) at the Mosaic District.
The Merrifield neighborhood’s Angelika Film Center (2911 District Avenue) is hosting Lunafest — a traveling film festival that showcases movies by and about women — to mark International Women’s Day.
With doors opening at 6 p.m., the festival will screen seven short films from 7-9 p.m. The screenings will be preceded by a “social hour” with light hors d’oeuvres, drinks and a raffle, according to the event page.
All proceeds will go to Girls on the Run Northern Virginia (GOTR NOVA), a nonprofit based in Fairfax that offers running programs designed to teach girls life skills like teamwork and self-confidence.
“We love hosting Lunafest each year because it allows us to bring our community together to celebrate new perspectives and be inspired by the ideas of what our program participants could become and achieve,” GOTR NOVA Development Manager Catherine Reeves Keller said. “All of the proceeds from the event go back to GOTR NOVA to fund our programming and empower our participants.”
Lunafest was created in 2001 by Luna, a brand of Clif Bar & Company that makes a nutrition bar targeted toward women. Since then, the festival says it has raised over $7 million for nonprofits, featured 175 filmmakers, and hosted over 2,900 screenings in the U.S. and Canada.
The festival lineup includes a mix of live-action and animated films:
Reclaim Your Water: Natasha Smith — As a member of the Ebony Beach Club, Natasha Smith surfs, skates, and makes her own waves.
Miss Chelove: From Java to the Streets of D.C. — As she paints a mural, artist Cita Sadeli (aka Miss Chelove) opens up about her life, her cultural heritage, and how she fell in love with grafti in the 1980s.
Pete — The true story of Pete Barma explores gender identity, Little League Baseball, the people who inspire change by being themselves, and the superheroes who champion that change.
This Is Beth — As celebrated rock climber Beth Rodden grapples with her body image, she rediscovers the love of her sport… and herself.
More Than I Want to Remember — After her southeastern Congo village is bombed, 14-year-old Mugeni sets out on a remarkable solo journey across the globe, determined to reunite with her lost loved ones and lift up the Banyamulenge people.
Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night — All cards are on the table when Noor, a queer Pakistani Muslim woman, brings her Puerto Rican girlfriend, Luz, home for the rst time on the family’s annual game night.
Swimming Through — Amid a brutal Chicago winter and the global pandemic, Deirdre, Helen, and Jennefer’s friendship grows as they commit to a daily sunrise plunge together in Lake Michigan.
Tickets to the festival cost $30 and can be purchased online.
The Mosaic District roller skating rink won’t come back this year, but the development is still holding out hope for ice skating in the future.
Rink Management Services Corporation, which operates Mosaic Skateland, has decided it won’t “be doing any roller skating during this warm weather season,” Fairfax County’s planning staff told the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) at a Feb. 1 meeting.
With no roller skating planned for this summer, the company asked the BZA for another continuance of the public hearing on its request for a special permit that would allow roller skating and ice skating on a seasonal basis in the Merrifield neighborhood.
“They’re reevaluating their plans for perhaps next winter,” staff coordinator Brandon McCadden told the BZA. “At this point, they’ve asked to continue later into the spring to give them time to work on their plans for a winter ice event that would occur starting next November, December.”
A decision on the case has now been postponed four times after the board unanimously agreed to grant the continuance.
EDENS, the property owner and developer behind the Mosaic District, didn’t respond to a request for comment by publication time.
Mosaic Skateland was introduced in June 2021 with a launch event tied into LGBTQ Pride Month. The temporary roller rink returned in a different location by Barnes & Noble last year.
The developer and Rink Management Services filed for a special permit from the county last April, proposing that the roller rink become a regular pop-up every spring and that an ice rink be added during the winter months.
However, Mosaic residents took issue with the proposed facilities at a July 13 public hearing, worrying about the potential noise and traffic impacts, and the BZA later criticized the applicant’s public outreach efforts as lacking.
County staff indicated at an Oct. 19 meeting that the rink proposal will likely be “substantially” different when it next goes before the board.
At last month’s meeting, McCadden noted that the county may get updates before June, but for now, the case won’t return to the BZA until June 14.