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The Persian restaurant Joon opened at Fairfax Square in Tysons in June 2023 (courtesy Joon)

Ten of the D.C. region’s best restaurants can be found in Fairfax County, according to a newly unveiled round-up by Washingtonian.

Acknowledging that “some of the year’s coolest spots…debuted in the Virginia suburbs,” Washingtonian ranked Joon at no. 23 on its 2024 list of the “100 Very Best Restaurants” in the region. Opened on June 13, 2023, the Tysons-based Persian restaurant was the only Fairfax County spot to be ranked.

Located in Fairfax Square (8045 Leesburg Pike), Joon is led by chefs Najmieh Batmanglij and Christopher Morgan, who blend traditional Iranian cuisine with contemporary western elements. It also contains the pop-up, The Kitchen Collective, which serves food from other concepts by Joon co-founder Reza Farahani.

Farahani says it’s “an honor” for Joon to be recognized less than a year after its launch in an area that boasts “a vibrant and innovative restaurant scene.”

“Our vision has been to showcase a modern approach to the ancient cuisine of Iran and the Middle East, while using local and seasonal ingredients and innovative techniques to create a one-of-a-kind experience,” Farahani told FFXnow. “Our wine list and craft cocktails have been developed with distinct Persian flavors such as saffron, rose and pomegranate and are an homage to Persia’s contribution to the earliest spirits and wines known in history.”

Washingtonian praised Joon for food “that’s both homey and beautifully presented,” singling out the “warm pita” offered to patrons when they arrive, dips and sour-cherry rice as highlights.

“Whole platters sized for two and up are stunners, whether a whole rotisserie chicken with apples, apricots, and honey or a strapping feast of kebabs,” the magazine’s staff said in a capsule review.

Joon’s inclusion on Washingtonian’s annual list continued a good day for Batmanglij and Morgan, who were also named semifinalists yesterday (Wednesday) for a James Beard award.

Other Fairfax County establishments that made the list, which is unranked after the top 25, include:

Several restaurants — A&J, Aracosia, L’Auberge Chez Francois, Mama Chang and Marib — also appeared on Washingtonian’s “100 Very Best” list for 2023.

In the case of A&J, the family-owned dim sum eatery has been recognized every year that the list has come out since 2019, though the magazine paused the yearly round-up in 2021 and 2022 in response to the Covid pandemic. A&J originated in Rockville, Maryland, in 1996 before adding the Annandale location in 2000.

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A pediatric sick clinic is now open at the Inova Cares Clinic for Children near Seven Corners (courtesy Inova)

Inova patients in the Falls Church area can now get medical attention for their sick kids without having to visit an emergency room or make an appointment.

The nonprofit health system launched a pediatric sick clinic this morning (Thursday) out of the Inova Cares Clinic for Children (6400 Arlington Blvd, Suite 50) near Seven Corners. Described as the first service of its kind in Northern Virginia, the sick clinic serves children with common but less severe symptoms of illness, such as fever or coughing.

The clinic offers similar services to an urgent care center, but since it’s in a primary care facility, the setting is more familiar to prospective patients, who are often uninsured or have Medicaid, Inova Senior Vice President of Community Health and Health Equity Karen Berube says.

“A lot of our patients might not have the resources to go to an urgent care kind of setting, and so, this would be an opportunity for them to get the…level of care they need versus having to sit in an a crowded emergency room,” Berube said.

With the staffing and capacity to assist 50 people a day, the pediatric sick clinic was designed to alleviate some of the pressure on Inova’s hospitals, whose emergency departments have been strained this winter by an especially intense wave of respiratory illnesses.

Last night, emergency room wait times ranged from no wait in Reston to nearly an hour at Inova’s Mount Vernon and Leesburg hospitals. Inova revived its face mask requirements on Jan. 4 for emergency departments, emergency care centers and urgent care centers.

Masks will likely be required at the sick clinic as well, Berube says.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Virginia is seeing high respiratory illness activity. Based on emergency department data from the week that ended Jan. 6, flu and RSV visits have declined in Fairfax County, while COVID-19 visits are rising, though hospital admission levels remain low.

Demand remains high at Inova, with hospitals reaching capacity “on several days” this season, according to Berube. She says this winter has been comparable to the previous year, when a moderate Covid surge combined with increased flu and RSV cases to create what the CDC has called a “tripledemic.”

“It was so crowded and we couldn’t even see our own kids in the clinic because we were so full with visits,” Berube recalled.

After that experience, Inova came up with the idea of a pediatric sick clinic that could siphon off some of the patients who were visiting the emergency room but didn’t actually need that level of care.

The health care system found support for the proposal from a donor who contributed the funding. The exact amount isn’t being publicized at the donor’s request.

According to Berube, the clinic features two doctors, two medical assistants, a resource nurse and front-desk staff. Only walk-in visitors are accepted, and initially, patients are limited to children who get primary care services from any of seven Inova Cares clinics.

Inova intends to eventually expand the sick clinic to any uninsured individuals, but officials want to get a better understanding of the patient volume first.

“We need to see how big the volume is for this before we can expand it,” Berube said. “So, if we fill it up right away, we won’t expand it necessarily in the near future because we would be full already. So, we just want to be able to understand volumes first and the need.”

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Mason District Supervisor Andres Jimenez (courtesy of Andres Jimenez)

For the first time this century, Fairfax County’s Mason District has a new supervisor.

In his first week since succeeding Penny Gross, who retired in December after 27 years in the position, Andres Jimenez says he has been actively engaging with constituents to tackle issues ranging from transportation to art projects and economic development.

An immigrant from Bogota, Colombia, who has now lived in the Falls Church area for 12 years, Jimenez is the first Latino to represent Mason District on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. He also works as the executive director of the pay equity campaign Green 2.0 and previously served as an at-large member of the Fairfax County Planning Commission.

Winning a decisive victory last November over independent candidate Terry Modglin with 72% of the vote, Jimenez says that, since taking office on Jan. 1, he has been setting up his various social media channels, launching a new podcast and organizing several public forums across the district.

“I think that smart government is when residents don’t just come to you, it’s when the government — when the supervisor’s office — is going into the community and reaching out to residents…and asking them what is working, what’s not working, because only then can you really begin to make change,” he told FFXnow.

The dates for the public town hall and open house events have not been announced yet. However, Jimenez anticipates key areas will include transportation, housing and economic development.

“We do plan to go out into the communities [and] listen to the residents and make sure that we are prioritizing the needs of Mason District,” he said.

Pedestrian and traffic safety

Top on Jimenez’s agenda is addressing pedestrian and traffic safety concerns in neighborhoods like Annandale, Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners.

Last year, the community advocacy group Fairfax Families for Safe Streets published a report showing that pedestrian fatalities increased in 2022 as a result of “underfunding for pedestrian-focused projects.”

“Unfortunately, there have been a lot of fatalities when it comes to the pedestrians,” Jimenez said. “…We need to really start working on figuring out not only why is this happening, but how can we solve this problem.”

In 2021, the Board of Supervisors approved $100 million for county-wide pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure improvements that will be allocated to different projects through 2028. About $30.2 million has been allocated to date, according to the county website.

At the moment, the county is reviewing 69 proposed safety projects proposed for Mason District. Each of the projects originated from resident suggestions through a county-led online survey.

Jimenez emphasized his objective is to ensure that money is promptly allocated to projects in Mason District, adding that the money is “desperately needed.”

Jimenez identified a few intersections — such as Leesburg Pike (Route 7) at both Row Street and Columbia Pike — as high priority, focusing more on signal upgrades and other spot improvements than more comprehensive, long-term solutions.

In the coming months, Jimenez noted that he plans to consult with local stakeholder groups, such as the Bailey’s Crossroads 7 Corners Revitalization Corporation, to help identify projects that need immediate attention.

“We’ve already identified several initiatives — obviously Seven Corners, Bailey’s Crossroads and Annandale — that need help,” he said. “They need signage and they need timers and they need different ways to make sure that pedestrians are safe.”

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Fairfax County police (file photo)

Fairfax County police are investigating the death of a teenager who experienced a drug overdose while at her home in Seven Corners earlier this week.

Detectives have determined that the girl became unconscious while on a video chat with a friend from an apartment in the 2900 block of John Marshall Drive on Monday (Dec. 4), the Fairfax County Police Department reported today (Wednesday).

“The friend alerted a family member who found the juvenile unresponsive and called 911,” police said.

When officers responded to the scene at 6 p.m., they found that the teen was unconscious and not breathing. She was transported to a hospital, where she died.

The FCPD says detectives “found evidence of narcotic usage nearby.” Major Crimes Bureau and Opioid Investigation Unit detectives are collaborating on the investigation.

The fatal overdose was first reported yesterday by WJLA, which identified the teen as a Justice High School student based on a letter sent to the community by Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Michelle Reid.

The FCPD didn’t confirm the teen’s school, since the overdose didn’t occur on school property. FCPS deferred to the police department when asked for comment about the incident.

Earlier this year, the Fairfax County Health Department reported a concerning uptick in overdoses among youth, nearly all of them involving fentanyl. As of Oct. 31, there have been 50 non-fatal opioid overdoses by people 17 and younger, and there were three fatal overdoses in that age group as of June 30, according to the county’s data dashboard.

Last month, Gov. Glenn Youngkin directed local schools to notify families about school-related overdoses after Loudoun County reportedly saw 10 non-fatal overdoses between the beginning of the school year in August and November, including eight in three weeks at Park View High School.

In Arlington, two people were charged after a pair of teen girls were hospitalized for drug overdoses at Wakefield High School on Sept. 27.

The FCPD advises families to encourage open communication, awareness and education for both parents and children about the risks of drug use.

Know the Signs: Be aware of the signs of drug use, such as sudden changes in behavior, declining academic performance, changes in friend groups, or unexplained financial difficulties. If you suspect drug involvement, seek professional help immediately.

Secure Medications: Safeguard prescription medications at home, keeping them locked away and out of reach of children and teenagers. Dispose of expired or unused medications properly through safe at-home disposal methods or designated drop-off locations in your community.

Supportive Environment: Foster a healthy and supportive environment within your family and community. Encourage participation in extracurricular activities, hobbies, and sports, providing positive outlets for expression and personal growth.

Community Collaboration: Engage with community organizations, schools, and local law enforcement agencies to collectively address the issue of youth drug usage. Participate in neighborhood watch programs, community events, and initiatives that promote drug prevention, like the Fairfax Prevention Coalition. Share messages from the County’s Opioid Communications Toolkit with your neighbors, family and friends.

Sign up for a virtual training on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose and administer naloxone nasal spray to reverse an opioid overdose. After completing the training, individuals 18 and older will receive Narcan, fentanyl test strips and treatment information.

For life-threatening situations, community members should call 911, the FCPD says.

“Fairfax County Fire and Rescue personnel carry medication that can prevent deaths from opioid overdose,” police said in the news release.

Treatment services are available through the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board (CSB). The agency’s entry and referral line can be contacted at 703-383-8500, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The CSB’s emergency services line is available 24 hours a day at 703-573-5679, and the Fairfax Detoxification Center can be reached at 703-502-7000.

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Deep Blue Massage is located in the Professional Courts Condominiums in Seven Corners (via Google Maps)

Local police are searching for additional victims after arresting a Falls Church man in connection to two robberies of massage parlors: one that occurred this fall and one from 2021.

Mohamed Tahir, 33, was arrested on Sept. 9 after a reported robbery at Deep Blue Massage (6105 Arlington Blvd) in Seven Corners, the Fairfax County Police Department reported this morning (Friday).

Officers responded to the robbery at 10:52 a.m.

“A man armed with a handgun and taser entered the business, assaulted two employees, and stole money,” the FCPD said. “The two victims were treated for minor injuries at the scene.”

Police identified Tahir as the suspect based on a review of surveillance footage. He was charged with robbery, strangulation and two counts of abduction by force.

According to the FCPD, detectives working on the case realized that Tahir “matched the description and behavior of a suspect in a similar robbery in 2021.”

At 10 p.m. on December 15, 2021, officers responded to a commercial armed robbery at the Blue Therapy Massage, at 5532 Hempstead Way in Springfield. The suspect, armed with a handgun, assaulted and robbed two victims. Through the detective’s investigation, the suspect was not identified.

According to a Fairfax County General District Court clerk, Tahir was released on a $1,000 personal recognizance bond granted by Judge Michael Lindner at a Nov. 17 hearing. The bond came with a condition that he be supervised and that his attorney be contacted if needed to address medical needs he may have been experiencing.

Police arrested Tahir again yesterday (Thursday) morning on new charges of robbery, abduction by force, strangulation and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony in connection to the December 2021 robbery.

He is now being held at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center with no bond, the FCPD said.

A preliminary hearing for the Sept. 9 case has been set for next Tuesday (Dec. 5), while a hearing for the 2021 case will be held on March 4, 2024.

The FCPD says its detectives believe there may be additional victims from both cases.

“Detectives encourage victims to come forward regardless of when a crime may have occurred,” the department said in a news release. “Victims can speak with a Victim Services specialist at 703-246-2141.”

Image via Google Maps

Bawadi Mediterranean Grill in Seven Corners (via Google Maps)

A restaurant in Seven Corners will raise funds tonight (Monday) for Palestinian refugees after its owner’s family members were recently killed in an Israeli airstrike.

Bawadi Mediterranean Grill announced last week that it will donate 50% of sales made between 6 and 9:30 p.m. to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which is tasked with distributing food and other aid in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

As a Palestinian born in Gaza, Bawadi owner Khalid Mekki says he “felt compelled…to try to do something” to help the civilians whose lives have been upended since Israel declared war on Hamas in retaliation for the militant group’s deadly surprise attack on Israeli military sites and towns on Oct. 7.

“When I was reached by the UNRWA, [I felt] it was a great idea for me to be able to participate in,” Mekki told FFXnow.

Bawadi also donated 50% of its sales to UNRWA on Oct. 31.

Located at 6304 Leesburg Pike, Bawadi has been serving kabobs, pita wraps and other Middle Eastern food in the Falls Church area for about eight years now. The restaurant moved to its current site after the lease for its original location in Bailey’s Crossroads ended in 2018.

“We serve all communities. We have no political agenda,” Mekki said. “All we’re trying to do is help those unfortunate people back in Gaza through the only channel that’s available for them.”

Late last week, Israel revised its death toll from the Oct. 7 attack to 1,200 people, down from previous estimates of over 1,400 people, most of them civilians. Another 239 people were taken hostage by Hamas.

Since Israel began its siege on Gaza, more than 11,000 people have been killed in the territory, including more than 4,100 children, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry. Israel has blocked food, water, fuel and other supplies, allowing just a trickle of aid, according to UNRWA, which operates 14 food distribution centers and 150 refugee shelters in Gaza.

Among the dead are Mekki’s niece, her husband and their three kids. He says the family was killed by an Israeli bomb that hit their house earlier this month.

“It is very sad to lose them,” Mekki told FFXnow. “…We are big believers [in God], and this actually gives us comfort. They are in a better place. We just don’t wish it to anybody else.”

With other family members still in Gaza, Mekki has also been advocating for the U.S. to pressure Israel for a ceasefire, urging anyone who wants to support the fundraiser to also contact Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner and their Congressional representatives.

“Killing civilians is not the right option to resolve this conflict,” Mekki said. “We hate to see anybody from both sides getting hurt as civilians, and we want this to end. These people are suffering, and it’s our responsibility, especially in the United States. We enjoy the freedom of speech, we enjoy the freedom of living good that other people in the world deserve the same way.” Read More

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Police respond to The Villages at Falls Church after Silvia Vaca Abacay’s murder (photo by Ed O’Carroll)

(Updated at 11:35 a.m.) An Arlington man could be sentenced to life in prison for fatally stabbing a woman and setting her body on fire in a Seven Corners condominium last year.

A Fairfax County Circuit Court jury has convicted 48-year-old Richard Montano of first-degree murder and arson for killing Silvia Vaca Abacay, whose body he subsequently attempted to burn, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano announced yesterday (Thursday).

“As Commonwealth’s Attorney, I’ve seen considerable crime scenes and photos, but the photos from this case stood out in terms of the severity of the victim’s injuries,” Descano said in a statement. “Nothing can undo Silvia’s death, but a conviction ensures that the defendant is no longer a danger to members of our community. I hope today’s verdict provides the victim’s family with the first step towards healing.”

Officers were called to a condo on Willston Place in The Villages at Falls Church at 3:05 p.m. on Aug. 10, 2022 for a man and woman who were heard arguing, Fairfax County Police Department Major Crimes Bureau Commander Ed O’Carroll said at the time.

Abacay had been stabbed multiple times, and her body was on fire when police found her. Though first responders extinguished the fire, she died at the scene.

According to police, a witness reported seeing a man flee the scene, prompting an extensive search of the area that briefly required residents to shelter in place. Montano was arrested at his home in Arlington around 6:30 p.m. that same day.

He was originally charged with second-degree murder, arson in an occupied dwelling and burglary with the intent to commit murder.

Descano’s office says prosecutors asked the jury to find Montano guilty of first-degree murder, noting that murder charges typically have some built-in flexibility allowing a jury or judge to determine if a first degree, second degree or manslaughter charge is most appropriate.

“Murder charges are usually indicted as second-degree because that is based on the information/evidence available at the time,” Laura Birnbaum, public information officer for the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, said by email. “Then, at trial, prosecutors can ask a jury or judge to find either first or second depending on the level of premeditation.”

The burglary charge was dropped at a preliminary hearing last fall, Birnbaum confirmed.

During a trial that began on Monday (Oct. 2), prosecutors made the case that Montano had mistaken Abacay for her friend, who had broken up with him after an eight-year relationship in July. Abacay was temporarily living at her friend’s apartment.

“A neighbor’s Ring camera footage showed that Montano had entered her apartment without her knowledge multiple times in the preceding month, with his last entry just 10 days before the murder occurred,” the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office said. “The same neighbor called 911 four times that afternoon after hearing screaming and banging from across the hall.”

The neighbor testified to a judge at the preliminary hearing in November that his last 911 call was to tell responders that “there was smoke and fire coming out of the building,” DC News Now reported.

Medical examiners determined that Abacay died from the stab wounds before Montano set her body on fire, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office says.

The murder and arson charges both carry potential life sentences. Montano is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 19, 2024.

Photo courtesy Ed O’Carroll/Twitter

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Arlington Blvd at South Manchester Street near Seven Corners (via Google Maps)

A Fairfax County police officer is under investigation for allegedly driving while intoxicated, causing a crash on Route 50 (Arlington Blvd) near Seven Corners.

Justin Faison, an officer assigned to the Mount Vernon District station, was arrested Saturday night (Aug. 19) after crashing into another vehicle near South Manchester Street at 1:41 a.m., the Fairfax County Police Department reported yesterday (Sunday).

There were seven people in the other vehicle. They were all transported to a nearby hospital to get treatment for what police described as “minor injuries.”

“The officer was off-duty and driving his personal vehicle at the time of the arrest,” the FCPD said.

Faison has been charged with a DUI and is now on administrative leave while the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau conducts an investigation, police said. He was sworn in as an officer last year.

The FCPD handled the crash even though it occurred just east of the county border, according to an Arlington County Police Department spokesperson, who said ACPD wasn’t involved in the response.

Image via Google Maps

The Woodlake Towers condominium complex in Seven Corners (via Google Maps)

A man shot his mother and himself in Seven Corners yesterday (Thursday), sending both of them to the hospital, Fairfax County police say.

Officers were dispatched to the Woodlake Towers condominiums at 6001 Arlington Blvd around 4:34 p.m. for the apparent domestic violence incident, according to scanner traffic on Open MHz.

A dispatcher relayed that a woman had called, saying her son shot her “in the arm, body and leg” and also shot himself.

Around 4:44 p.m., an officer at the scene reported that the shooter had been located with a gun in his hand.

“He shot himself in the head, and he shot the victim,” the officer said.

Both individuals were taken to the hospital with injuries that were initially considered life-threatening, according to the Fairfax County Police Department. Later, the woman’s condition was changed to non-life-threatening.

Police said there was “no apparent threat to the community.”

Photo via Google Maps

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A map shows the rates of “premature” deaths across Fairfax County (via Northern Virginia Health Foundation)

Black residents have experienced worse health outcomes than other populations across Northern Virginia, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report found.

Commissioned by the Northern Virginia Health Foundation (NVHF) and conducted by the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, the Fairfax County section of the “Dying Too Soon” report found “stark” disparities across the county in the rates at which people die before the age of 75.

The report attributed the dramatic differences in life expectancies — from 76.5 years to 91.1 years — to an individual’s race, ethnicity and address, reflecting the influence of socioeconomic conditions on health outcomes.

According to the report, a lack of access to health care contributed to 66% of premature deaths in the county from 2015-2019 that were avoidable with preventative measures or treatment.

Throughout Northern Virginia, premature deaths are more concentrated within “islands of disadvantage,” where residents experience poor living conditions, higher mortality rates, and food and housing insecurity, the report says.

Residents of these neighborhoods are more likely to be people of color and immigrants, a disparity resulting from “the region’s history of segregation and systemic racism” and policies that “systematically block access” to health opportunities and increase exposure to unsafe health conditions, the report said.

Prior to the pandemic, Black people in Fairfax County had a premature death rate of 221.0 per 100,000 residents, exceeding the rates for white people (165.8 per 100,000), Hispanics (126.2 per 100,000) and Asians and Pacific Islanders (112.4 per 100,000).

Those disparities were consistent throughout the region, which “exhibits smaller racial-ethnic disparities” that other parts of the U.S., according to the report.

Though Fairfax County is often touted as one of the richest counties in the U.S., with a median income of $133,974, many of the wealthiest census tracts are located just a few blocks from islands of disadvantage.

In fact, the study says one census tract in Springfield has a premature death rate twice as high as that of a census tract in Franconia only two miles away. Each census tract also showed drastically different education and poverty rates and racial and ethnic compositions.

“I don’t think there’s a sense among the general public that these kinds of health inequities exist in a wealthy area like Northern Virginia, which in aggregate is doing quite well and has a very high quality of life,” Dr. Steven Woolf, lead study author and director emeritus of VCU’s Center on Society and Health, told FFXnow. “But when you zoom in like this to see what’s actually happening, neighborhood by neighborhood, you expose these these pockets of disadvantage that we want the public to know about.”

Census tracts with the highest premature death rates were in Seven Corners/Bailey’s Crossroads and Route 1 regions, according to the report’s summary. The study also reported that poverty rates in Seven Corners/Bailey’s Crossroads, Mount Vernon and Oakton “exceeded 20%, higher than poverty rates in countries like Estonia, Lithuania, Peru, Tajikistan, and Uganda.”

The Covid pandemic only worsened inequitable health outcomes, according to data collected in 2020-2021. The report says the county’s islands of disadvantage “experienced higher COVID-19 death rates,” and Northern Virginia as a whole saw “much higher” death rates among Hispanic and Black populations compared to Asian and white groups. Read More

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