District Taco’s first franchise location has opened for business.
The Mexican fast-casual chain began serving customers at its new McLean restaurant on Tuesday, Aug. 15, an employee told FFXnow.
The 2,063-square-foot restaurant is located at 1334 Chain Bridge Road in the Lidl shopping center, which added Big Buns Damn Good Burgers and Matchbox Pizza in the spring. Operating hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, according to District Taco’s website.
The launch will be formally celebrated with a grand opening next Wednesday, Aug. 30. District Taco previously announced an Aug. 23 grand opening but later said that would be delayed.
The McLean restaurant is owned by Hicham El Abbassi and Isalmou Boussaa, who signed an agreement in August 2022 to open five franchise locations in Northern Virginia. That includes an upcoming site at Old Keene Mill Shopping Center (8432 Old Keene Mill Road) in West Springfield.
After initially anticipating an Aug. 3 opening for the West Springfield location, District Taco now says it’s “looking to open in the near future.”
According to the Washington Business Journal, El Abbassi and Boussaa both immigrated to the U.S. from Morocco and first encountered District Taco in 2015 through its Alexandria location. They also have experience franchising with Arlington burger chain Five Guys.
“I was truly inspired by the entrepreneurial story of District Taco’s Founder, Osiris Hoil, and his pursuit of the American dream,” Boussaa said in a press release. “Hicham and I are living out our own American dreams by opening our two new District Taco locations and we are so excited to begin serving high-quality meals to the local Springfield and McLean communities.”
Started more than a decade ago as a food cart in Arlington, District Taco has expanded to 16 locations across the D.C. area and Pennsylvania, including the new franchises in McLean and West Springfield. The company hopes to eventually extend its reach further outside the D.C. region — perhaps even to other countries.
Using recipes from Hoil’s family, District Taco serves customizable tacos, burritos, bowls, salads and quesadillas. Vegetarian and vegan options are available.
“Never wanting to compromise quality, District Taco ensures the freshness of its products by preparing its food daily,” the company said. “Chiles and tomatoes are roasted on the premises, grilled meats are marinated with a secret combination of citrus and spices that are indigenous to the Yucatán region, and chips and salsa are made in-house daily.”
A new restaurant specializing in North Indian Mughlai cuisine has landed in Fair Lakes.
Aroma Restaurant Bar and Banquet, operated by husband and wife duo Daljeet and Jyoti Chhatwal, opened its doors at 12821 Fair Lakes Parkway last month on Fourth of July weekend, according to Daljeet.
The restaurant is still in its soft opening period, but the couple aims to celebrate Aroma’s grand opening in mid-September.
“Our menu is so complex, I wanted my staff, especially my kitchen staff, to be very comfortable before we do a grand opening,” Daljeet said.
The menu blends old and new with classic hits — like the butter chicken served since Aroma first opened in D.C. in 1994 — featured alongside recently launched fusion cuisine. Aroma now serves Indo-Chinese and Indo-Mexican dishes, like hakka noodles and seekh kebab taquitos.
Daljeet, a culinary school graduate, created the dishes himself in his mission to bring Indian spices into famous dishes from other cultures.
Daljeet has also introduced other unique delicacies, like shahi batair (quail), scallop balchao curry and coco mussel curry, that he says are well-loved in India but typically not served in the U.S.
To ensure those who don’t eat meat aren’t left out, Aroma has an expanding variety of vegetarian options. Soya chops — vegetarian lamb chop mimics that still retain their “meat texture” despite being made from soya beans — just made their debut, Jyoti says.
Designed as a space to be rented out for gatherings and parties, Aroma’s Fair Lakes restaurant features a banquet hall that seats 200 people and three private rooms, including a men’s cigar lounge for small, official meetings or karaoke. Up to 70 guests can use the back patio, where the couple says they have already hosted wedding ceremonies. There are also two bars with 12 different beers on tap.
The restaurant’s large banquet hall is what initially drew the pair to the Fair Lakes location, which previously housed a sports bar.
The previous restaurants didn’t have dedicated square footage for private events, so the Chhalwats say having the Fair Lakes site as their first culinary endeavor post-Covid has been particularly exciting. Read More
Something new is brewing in Old Town Fairfax.
Expanding operations from Virginia Beach, Commonwealth Brewing Company is gearing up to join the neighborhood with an anticipated Labor Day weekend opening at 10426 Main Street.
In honor of its opening, which will ideally come on Sept. 1, the brewery will offer a “pie and a pint” special associated with its participation in Fairfax City’s upcoming Restaurant Week. Customers can choose from one of Commonwealth’s eight signature pizzas and a draft beer for $25.
Fairfax visitors can expect “an even bigger implementation” of Commonwealth’s offerings in Virginia Beach (2444 Pleasure House Road), where the brewery serves 25 to 28 styles of beer crafted in house, owner Jeramy Biggie says.
The new Fairfax location will boast a 4,800 square-foot tap room with 48 taps, five of which will be dedicated to draft cocktails that are currently exclusive to Fairfax. It will also eventually add the coffee brand that Commonwealth recently launched in Virginia Beach.
“It’s a great, great spot right on Main Street, and it has a pretty expansive patio with outdoor seating where dogs are welcome,” Biggie told FFXnow. “I’m just really excited to see how people can respond to the beer.”
Along with specialty alcoholic beverages, Fairfax’s Commonwealth Brewing will serve freshly made food, like its signature Neopolitan wood-fired pizza, and it will experiment with “eclectic concepts” and “interesting ingredients,” such as Korean short rib and kimchi, Biggie says.
He plans to maintain a rotating menu by introducing three to five new beer styles every week and new food items every month.
“I think our ethos is all about being creative and trying to really foster an environment where people can come together and have a really enjoyable, hopefully world class product,” Biggie said.
Also new with the Fairfax location is a dedicated beer production space for Belgian-style, long-term, barrel-aged sour beers — the very beer that Biggie says first sparked his passion for becoming a commercial brewer. This particular style of beer is aged on wild bacteria for a year to three years, so it’s “a labor of love,” Biggie says.
“They’re not profitable at all, but they’re delicious, so we like to make them,” Biggie laughed. “…It’s a really small percentage of our total volume, but it’s a really important part of it.”
Beers have long since been a labor of love for Biggie, who began home-brewing around 13 years ago as a hobby while working full-time as a structural engineer.
“When I met my wife, she was studying abroad in Germany, and I flew over to Europe to spend Christmas with her over 20 years ago now, and she took me to all the hot houses and European beer gardens, and I was blown away by the food and the quality of the beer,” Biggie said. “That’s where it all kind of started for me. I came back and started seeking out more interesting beers and then that turned into home brewing.”
After a decade of home-brewing, Biggie and his wife Natalie decided to liquidate their retirement savings and “make the huge jump” into their “first-ever entrepreneurial endeavor,” Biggie recalls.
“I found I had a pretty natural ability to make recipes and really loved doing it,” Biggie said. “I loved all the social inspiration that I got from it, being able to invite the neighborhood over to come try the beers and just really got into it and got super passionate about it — basically filled my entire house with fermenters. After making all different styles over a decade and passively researching, we made a decision to open a brewery.”
Formerly based in Alexandria’s Del Rey neighborhood, the couple found no better place to break ground on their brewery than where they first met: Virginia Beach.
Now, after experiencing success by the ocean for the past eight years, the Biggies are heading back to Northern Virginia, where they hope to “create a bigger and stronger nightlife scene” in Old Town Fairfax, Biggie says.
“We know the area, we know that people up there really appreciate high-quality products,” Biggie said. “We came across the Fairfax property, and it was just amazing, and we really liked the building owner, and we loved it being in a really cool main street.”
As Commonwealth prepares to open in Fairfax at the beginning of next month, Biggie says he’s focused on integrating the brewery into the Fairfax community and involving George Mason University students, who he hopes will become regulars.
His goal, he says, is to make Commonwealth a close-knit community hub that promotes interpersonal connection.
“We want to be a community center. We want to be a place where people can come every week and meet and see each other,” Biggie continued. “…We’re the antithesis of a sports bar. We have no screens anywhere, and we really want you to focus on the beer you’re enjoying, the food you’re eating and the people you’re with.”
The fastest growing restaurant in the U.S. will open its doors in Tysons next week.
Dave’s Hot Chicken, a California-based chain that counts celebrities like rapper Drake and actor Samuel L. Jackson among its investors, will hold a grand opening for its new location at 8397 Leesburg Pike in Pike 7 Plaza on Friday, Aug. 25, according to its website.
This will be the company’s first Virginia location but far from its last. About 19 franchises are planned in Northern Virginia alone, the Tysons manager told FFXnow.
“This is a great area,” he said.
Adjacent to China Wok at the northern end of the shopping center, the 2,445-square-foot restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Started as a food stand in a Los Angeles parking lot in 2017, Dave’s Hot Chicken has expanded rapidly over the past few years to more than 118 locations — with another 700 in development, Restaurant Dive reported in March.
The company attributed its success so far to positive buzz and careful recruiting of experienced franchisees both for its leadership team and as operators.
Specializing in Nashville-style hot chicken, the restaurant’s menu consists of chicken tenders, sliders and fries served in different pairings with pickles, the signature “Dave’s sauce,” and sides, including kale slaw and mac and cheese.
The Tysons location won’t be open for long before facing some competition on the spiciness front: Richmond-based Hangry Joe’s Hot Chicken, which has a similar waiver requirement for its top heat level, is working on a restaurant at Tysons Square (8359-A Leesburg Pike).
After debuting an Annandale location this past Tuesday (Aug. 15), Hangry Joe’s anticipates opening in Tysons in two to three weeks, the company told FFXnow.
Meanwhile, Dave’s Hot Chicken hasn’t publicly announced any additional Virginia franchises yet, but Franconia appears to be on the list. The business has applied for a commercial alteration permit from Fairfax County for 7015E Manchester Blvd in the Festival at Manchester Lakes shopping center.
Tomorrow will be the chance to taste Blend 111’s tapas and cocktails.
The European and Latin American fusion restaurant will serve diners one final time on Saturday (Aug. 12) after more than four years at 111 Church Street in Vienna, an employee confirmed.
In its place, restauranteur Nancy Sabbagh and chef Roberto Donna, her husband, are preparing to open Le Bistro, a pop-up French bistro that will serve traditional dishes like snails with garlic and parsley and pâté.
The couple are behind Roberto’s Ristorante Italiano, which opened on Feb. 8, 2022 at 144 Church Street NW — less than a block down the street from where Le Bistro will set up shop. Their plans were first shared publicly by Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema.
“No chemicals, no magic, no special prix cuisine, just great French, authentic style,” Donna said when asked about the menu.
Opened in August 2019 by longtime Vienna resident Michael Biddick, Blend 111 brought a mix of food and wine from Spain, France and Venezuela. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it closed temporarily and reinvented itself with a new culinary team and a popular outdoor patio shared with next-door neighbor, Bazin’s on Church.
However, Biddick clashed with town leaders and some residents living near Church Street who took issue with the noise levels from the patio. He said he was “deeply saddened and shocked” when the Vienna Town Council adopted outdoor dining rules in May 2022 that prohibited the patio, which has since turned back into parking spaces.
It’s unclear whether the loss of outdoor dining played a role in Blend 111’s demise, but Donna told Washingtonian yesterday that Biddick opted to return to his day job in the information technology world. He and Sabbagh decided to buy the space once it hit the market on Aug. 1.
The couple told FFXnow that they were contemplating an expansion based on the town’s embrace of Roberto’s, which is run by Sabbagh and serves both regular and seasonal menus designed by Donna.
“We’re so happy by the warmth and the love the community has shown us,” Sabbagh said. “We love Vienna and our surrounding areas. The neighbors have been incredible to us, which is obviously why we wanted to expand our business to another restaurant here.”
They were initially exploring the possibility of a pizzeria, but given how it was built out for Blend 111, they decided it would better suited for a more upscale concept.
With no construction planned beyond some interior design changes, Le Bistro will open in “about a month, give or take,” Sabbagh says. Though it’s conceived as a pop-up, the couple hasn’t ruled out the potential of a more permanent establishment.
“We’re going to see how the market is and how the community receives it,” Sabbagh said. “There’s a need for a French bistro, and we want to see what our community really is asking for and wants, so it’s a fun concept for us to try. We don’t have any real limits on ourselves. If…it’s not the right niche, then possibly we’ll visit the pizzeria concept again.”
A new Japanese restaurant has rolled into Fairfax City, opening its doors on Aug. 1.
Located at 10698 Fairfax Blvd next to Party City, Fujisan offers a wide selection of Japanese delicacies like wagyu steak, donburi (rice bowls) and ramen, but particularly specializes in sushi with options for both raw and cooked fish. Hibachi is also available, though it’s not cooked at the table.
For its soft opening period, Fujisan is offering 10% off the first order each customer makes using its website.
Fujisan’s official ribbon-cutting will take place on Sept. 14 at 11 a.m. Fairfax City Mayor Catherine Read says she recently organized the grand opening after learning about the new restaurant from a friend and trying out its food for herself.
“The hibachi was great, the soup is great, the quality of the food is great,” Read said. “It’s a cute little restaurant…I can hardly keep up with the number of new businesses opening in the city. And these ribbon cuttings are a great way to bring out [Fairfax City] Economic Development, local press and to get people to come by.”
Owner Kathy Yan, who previously operated a hibachi restaurant in Montgomery County, Maryland, says she moved to Fairfax two years ago. Since then, she has been working towards opening Fujisan, named after Japan’s tallest mountain, Mt. Fuji.
She expressed her desires to deliver an “upscale casual” dining experience that she says she hasn’t been able to find in the area.
“I go to those fancy restaurants in D.C., Arlington all the time,” Yan said. “I like the atmosphere, I like the seating, I like chatting with my friends, but I just think we pay too much for the food, so I want to give people a similar experience here but not so expensive. Good food, good environment but not super fancy prices.”
Yan says Fujisan works hard to keep prices low without sacrificing high quality, offering special lunch deals under $20 that are prepared by top chefs with “many years” of prior experience working in New York and at “five star hotels” in D.C.
“We have very, very good price compared to our food quality, presentation and fresh fish,” Yan said.
Customers especially seem to love the Fujisan Box Deluxe, which offers a combination of sushi and sashimi at a discounted rate, according to Yan. Salmon volcano rice — consisting of “seared salmon with a poached egg over rice” — is another crowd favorite for those who may not enjoy raw fish as much, she says.
Yan noted that Fujisan also caters towards younger customers, offering a special kids’ bento box and deep fried ice cream that has been popular among children.
“[We’ve gotten] I think 90% positive feedback,” Yan said. “People are happy.”
Yan’s next hurdle to overcome is obtaining a liquor license so Fujisan can introduce cocktail specials in time for its grand opening next month.
“We’ll have happy hour all week,” Yan laughed.
Yan’s future plans, however, are much loftier than just one license, as she aims to expand operations in the next few years.
“Here, we want to start small, and we want to have more interaction with our customers — we want more personal experience,” Yan said. “So we don’t want it too big. We want izakaya style, like more casual dining but still good food. So we hope to be able to open more locations in the coming three and five years in this area.”
Until then, Yan is focused on her one storefront and making sure Fairfax residents know that Fujisan is open and eager to serve new customers.
“We want more people to know we are here, we are open,” Yan said. “I believe once they know we are open, they come here, and they will come back. Even though we don’t have many customers since we are new, a lot of them have already come back three times.”
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.
The development now under construction on Falls Church City’s former high school site has landed its first retail tenants.
Hoffman & Associates, the developer behind the nearly 10-acre West Falls neighborhood, announced yesterday (Thursday) that the restaurants SEOULSPICE, BurgerFi and Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls will all open in fall 2024, along with the Spanish immersion preschool Tierra Encantada.
“West Falls will serve as a dynamic destination and vibrant community in the heart of West Falls Church,” Hoffman & Associates President Shawn Seaman said in a press release. “Each of these new businesses will bring something unique to the neighborhood, and we look forward to sharing more additions to this community in the near future.”
Tierra Encantada will occupy 10,000 square feet of space at 7131 Magnolia Street in the development’s retail corridor, which will be in the median of a new street called West Falls Station Blvd bisecting the neighborhood.
This will be the second of 15 locations that the early childhood education provider has planned for Northern Virginia. The first school opened in Alexandria last year, and a third one has been proposed near Ballston in Arlington.
“This early education and preschool program focuses on promoting early cognitive development and respect for diversity with a fully Spanish curriculum, a play-based learning model, and daily scratch-made meals from organic ingredients,” Hoffman & Associates said.
Here’s more on the three restaurants from the press release:
SEOULSPICE, a quick service restaurant known for its Korean comfort food, plans to open a new, over 2,000-square-foot location at 150 West Falls Station Boulevard. This will be SEOULSPICE’s eighth location in the DMV, expanding further into the Northern Virginia market and reinforcing the company’s commitment to serving delicious and nutritious gluten-free Korean cuisine.
BurgerFi, a popular fast-casual burger concept, will open a new over 2,000-square-foot location at 170 West Falls Station Blvd. With over 125 restaurants domestically and internationally, BurgerFi is a chef-founded concept offering a casual dining atmosphere with award-winning American cuisine. BurgerFi uses 100% natural American Angus beef with no steroids, antibiotics, growth hormones, chemicals or additives and offers a diverse menu including their award-winning vegetarian VegeFi® Burger, Wagyu Beef, Cage-Free “Fi’ed” Chicken Tenders and Sandwiches, Fresh-Cut Fries and Beer-Battered Onion Rings, Frozen Custard Desserts, beer, wine, and more.
Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls will open at 235 West Falls Station Blvd with 1,375 square feet – its largest location yet. Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls is the largest lobster roll brand in the U.S., bringing the luxury of lobster to all at an affordable price point and casual environment. Mason’s uses simple recipes and the highest-quality lobster sustainably sourced directly from Maine.
Planned for 1.2 million square feet of construction, West Falls is the biggest development project in Falls Church’s history.
In addition to 142,100 square feet of retail, it will include about 647 apartment and condominium units, 217 units of senior housing, a 146-room hotel, 326,100 square feet of office space, about 14,000 square feet of civic space, and an 18,000-square-foot community gathering space called The Commons.
The project broke ground in May 2022, and the first buildings are on track to be finished in fall 2024, though the senior living facility may be delayed after developer Trammel Crow dropped out of that part of project.
Hoffman & Associates told the Falls Church City Council in June that the first phase is expected to be substantially complete in January 2025. That includes the hotel, a multifamily condominium building, a medical office building, two parking garages, and an apartment building with a still-unidentified grocery store.
West Falls constitutes the city’s portion of a massive effort to revitalize the 40-acre West Falls Church Transit Station Area. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recently approved plans to overhaul both the Metro station property in Idylwood and Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center campus.
“This larger development is intended to add an active and pedestrian-friendly area to the vibrant neighborhood that fosters community, sustainability and innovation,” Hoffman & Associates said.
Wingstop is spreading its wings to Herndon.
The fast food franchise is set to open soon at Herndon Centre, according to signage posted at the front of the door.
The business has leased roughly 1,600 square feet of space next to Nothing Bundt Cakes.
Items on the menu include wing combos, chicken sandwiches, and tenders. Wingstop has locations throughout the country, including in Springfield, Bailey’s Crossroads, Centreville and Sterling.
The company did not immediately return a request for comment from FFXnow.
There’s one other vacancy in the row of several businesses in that portion of the center.
Raven’s Nest Escape Room — an expansion of Escape Room Herndon — is expected to open in the same shopping center sometime this fall, FFXnow previously reported.
Over in Annandale, taste buds are tingling as Hangry Joe’s Hot Chicken gears up for a new restaurant opening.
The rapidly expanding fried chicken chain recently announced via Instagram that it will be opening its next Northern Virginia location at 7042 Little River Turnpike. The future storefront will occupy a former Wendy’s now rebranded to EastGate Square, according to property manager Willard Retail.
Further details, like a specific opening date, have yet to be released. FFXnow has reached out to the Richmond-based franchise for more information but didn’t hear back by publication.
Hangry Joe’s also has a location coming to Tysons.
Located at the intersection of Little River Turnpike and John Marr Drive, Eastgate Square is also set to house Moby Dick House of Kabob, according to Annandale Today. The Annandale-based news site reported that the fast-casual Persian restaurant estimated it will open this past June, but it remains under development.
Clearly, Annandale residents will have no shortage of new dining options in the upcoming year, as Hangry Joe’s joins the ever-growing list of shops slated for future openings in the EastGate complex.
Photos via Google Maps