Morning Notes

Fairfax County firefighters use a hose and ladder in a drill outside the Vantage Hill condominiums (via vantagehill/Flickr)

Ida to Bring More Rainy Weather — “The remnants of what is now tropical storm Ida could dump up to 6 inches of rain to parts of northern Virginia and the District of Columbia early Wednesday into Thursday morning…In addition to heavy rain, the storm could bring tornadoes and flash flooding.” [Patch]

Fairfax County Police Gets New Leadership Team Member — “Brian J. Reilly, formerly of the Prince George’s County Police Department, started a new chapter today as the Fairfax County Police Department’s executive deputy police chief. In this new role, Reilly is responsible for the coordination of FCPD’s crime control strategies, policy and legislative initiatives and the implementation of a new data and evidence-based policing strategy that prioritizes community interaction with police officers throughout Fairfax County.” [FCPD]

Local Afghan Restaurant Donates Meals to RefugeesKabobi by The Helmand, an Afghan fusion restaurant that opened in Dulles Station in 2019, is working with the nonprofit World Central Kitchen to provide home-cooked meals to refugees who have come to the U.S. after the Taliban took over Afghanistan’s government earlier this month. Anyone interested in volunteering can send a direct message to the restaurant to assist with packaging. [Kabobi/Instagram]

Friends of Reston to Hold 5K This Fall — “The inaugural Friends of Reston Fall 5K is coming soon! This video highlights the many ways you, your friends, family, co-workers, and business can get involved, and help support the Reston Youth and Enrichment Fund.” [Reston Association/Twitter]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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(Updated at 10:25 a.m.) When the Washington Football Team opens its season against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sept. 12, Northern Virginia fans who catch the game at FedEx Field might notice a familiar name among the stadium’s food options.

The Herndon-based, family-owned taqueria Casa De Ávila Tacos is one of eight local vendors included in the ‘Flavor of the DMV Showcase’ that D.C.’s NFL franchise will introduce to FedEx Field for the 2021 season.

“A year ago we never saw ourselves on a huge platform, where we find ourselves today,” Abraham Avila, a founder of the taqueria, said. “I consider it lifechanging.”

Abraham and his wife Stephanie Avila launched the taqueria on Sept. 5, 2020 with his mother Luz Avila and sister Jessica Avila.

Stephanie, whose background is in nursing, came up with the idea for the taqueria because she wanted to do something different. After the couple discussed the idea, Luz and Jessica offered to assist with the venture.

“In the beginning, we knew our food was good. Growing up, my friends would always come over and they would always look forward to my mom’s cooking,” Abraham said.

With influences from Guadalajara, Mexico, the taqueria’s recipes are often homemade, coming from either his mother’s family or his wife’s side of the family.

“When we started, the reception was great,” Abraham recalled. “We didn’t expect the numbers we had, and so that very first day we looked at each other and we were like, ‘we’re onto something.’ And so we started building a following.”

That community support inspired the Casa de Ávila team to apply for the Washington Football Team’s first-ever Flavors of the DMV Showcase, which was brought to their attention by a customer.

Abraham says, when he and his wife discussed the possibility of applying, they initially felt daunted by the competition, but they realized that “the worst they’re going to say is ‘no.'”

“So, we submitted the application and we told them why we think our food would be a good idea as they’re reinventing their image,” he said. “And a couple weeks later we got the invitation as one of the finalists to compete. We were over the moon.”

The family taqueria pitted its birria quesatacos against restaurants, food trucks, food stands, and more from the D.C. area. They were evaluated by a tasting panel consisting of Washington Football Team Vice President of Guest Experience Joey Colby-Begovich, Super Bowl XXII MVP Doug Williams, and representatives from Levy Restaurants.

After getting feedback, the family waited a couple of weeks before being notified that they had been selected as one of the official vendors for the season. After initial speculation that Abraham may be pranking the group, the reality of the moment set in, and there were “a lot of tears, screams, a lot of ‘oh my goodness,'” Abraham says.

“That just sent chills through everybody,” he said. “It gave everybody here a new sense of energy. It kind of told us we’re on the right path of what we’re doing.”

During the application process, Abraham made the case that Casa De Ávila could help the football team connect with the local Hispanic community, letting that segment of its fanbase know  that “we see you, we hear you, and here’s a piece of home in our stadium for you guys.”

Colby-Bagovich says the D.C. area’s increasingly diverse population was considered when selecting vendors for the showcase, along with the food’s taste, quality, and appropriateness for a stadium setting — that is, food that could be served in bulk and eaten without a table.

“One of our tent pole goals is to bring the community in as a part of our gameday experience,” Colby-Begovich said. “The DMV community is vast and diverse, and what better represents the richness of the DMV than food? We are thrilled to have local vendors representing their cultures, traditions, and culinary delights.”

The NFL extension of Casa De Ávila Tacos is located in Section B 134, near one of the end zones. It features three meats, with quesatacos (cheese) and carnitas (pulled pork) as permanent offerings, while a third will rotate between chicken, al pastor (sliced pork), and carne asada (beef) tacos.

While the NFL showcase will give the taqueria a whole new audience, for its owners, it will always remain a family affair.

“For us, family is number one. So our business name is our family name,” Abraham said.

When Abraham’s grandfather died earlier this year, the family had an opportunity to visit Mexico and bring his grandmother back to the U.S. visit her children. The sight of the taqueria’s name “brought tears” to her eyes, because she saw it as a way to keep her husband’s last name alive, he recalls.

“Being at the stadium, we want [people] to know that they’re also going receive the same high-quality food they can find at our restaurant or anywhere,” Abraham said. “We want to change the game up for concession food. And we’re doing it as a family.”

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A new Vietnamese and pho restaurant is opening later this month at Franklin Farm Village Center in Herndon.

The family-owned Pho VietFresh at 13340 Franklin Farm Rd. is projected to open in mid to late February, according to owner Tam Nguyen, although there’s no set date at the moment. Inspections and acquiring permits from the county is still being delayed due to the pandemic.

Nguyen says owning a restaurant has been a family dream ever since they immigrated to Herndon from Vietnam in 2008. His parents have worked at other area Vietnamese restaurants. After graduating from University of Virginia, Nguyen returned home and convinced his parents it was time to open a business of their own.

“Back in Vietnam, we’d have a lot of celebrations and my mom would always cook,” says Nguyen. “She’s going to be the main chef [at Pho VietFresh].”

The menu is relatively small compared to other Vietnamese restaurants, offering pho, raman, bánh mì, and a few other dishes. This was done on purpose, says Nguyen.

“We are very specialized,” he says. “We want to be more modernized… a little bit more Americanized, while also having the same authenticity.”

The restaurant takes the place of a former Starbucks (which moved across the street).

Take-out, limited indoor dining, and delivery through UberEats and DoorDash will be available upon opening. The hope down the road, Nguyen says, is for Pho VietFresh to offer their own delivery service, which will cut costs for both the customer and restaurant.

The original intent was to open last spring, but the pandemic delayed the family’s dream of opening their own restaurant… but only for a little a while longer.

“It’s a long time coming for us,” Nguyen says.

Photo courtesy of Pho VietFresh

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An empty auto repair building, formerly the home of Herndon Auto Care and Dulles Shell Service Center, will flip into a restaurant later this year.

Pollo Campero, a fast-food restaurant that serves fried, grilled and crunchy chicken, plans to move into the 2,900-square-foot building at 1131 Elden Street. The business is expected to relocate from its current location at 496 Elden Street.

The company is seeking a special exception from the town to redevelop the property into a restaurant with a drive-thru and parking.

The car shop moved from its Elden Street location to a new building just two miles away at 45410 Holiday Drive in Sterling, according to its website.

The front of the building will open up to the parking lot and connects to the town’s sidewalks. A walk-up window to pickup orders is also planned. A drive-thru is located at the back of the site, according to Shaghayegh Osipov, a project manager for the company.

Pollo Campero is excited to join the Elden streetscape and looks forward to working together to bring this new Pollo Campero location to life, he wrote.

In a Jan. 29 memo, town staff noted that the company should reconsider the company’s ‘somewhat festive theme’ in order to ensure the building is inviting. Town staff noted that most of the building’s windows are confined to the front of the building.

The town’s Architectural Review Board is set to discuss the item at a virtual meeting tomorrow night.

Image via Pollo Campero/Town of Herndon

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Outback Steakhouse is coming soon to the Town of Herndon with a new address, according to plans submitted to the town’s Architectural Review Board.

Kimley-Horn has submitted building and site design plans for the new restaurant, which will be located at 365 Elden Street. The 6,525-square-foot structure will be located on a nearly 1.5-acre site that is currently undeveloped.

Another location is under a mile away at 150 Elden Street. The company did not immediately indicate when it planned to move its current location.

The board will review the application at a meeting today (Wednesday). So far, staff has withheld a recommendation on the application to allow the board and the applicant to “further discuss the exterior materials” of the property.

In addition to the single-story building, an outdoor seating patio and new landscaping is planned on the site.

Outback Steakhouse offers casual American dining and is based in Florida. The chain has more than 1,000 locations around the world.

Image via Google Maps

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The COVID-19 pandemic is prompting a new international food hall to slowly phase out its offerings over the course of the next few months.

Spice Village, which will be located 2501 Centreville Road in the Village Center at Dulles, will kick off its soft opening on Friday, Dec. 4.

The food hall will kick off with its four-cuisine menu of Peri Peri Original first, followed by Chinese cuisine.

The Khyber Shinwari and Kallisto Steakhouse will be the last to due debut at Spice Village. The owner anticipates the full menu to kick off in six to ten weeks.

“We hope that this approach will help us weather this peak COVID-19 situation and assist us in mitigating all of our health and safety risk[s],” the team wrote in a social media statement.

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A new fusion pizza restaurant has opened in the Herndon.

Pizza Twist, a chain with other locations throughout the country, opened at 13049 Worldgate Drive on Thanksgiving Day.

The restaurant offers pizza, wings, tacos, and pasta with a mix of Indian flavors. Options on the menu include a spicy lamb kebab pizza and butter chicken pizza.

Partners Amita Mahajan Singla and Nishika Nibber Bhanot opened the business despite a recent surge in COVID-19 cases and the recent closures of some businesses due to the pandemic. Singla told Reston Now she’s confident that the variety of food — including the inclusion of a full-bar — will help the business succeed. 

Our strong trust in our food led us to use all of our own personal savings to spend on this venture along with support from friends and family,” she said.

She says the restaurant aimed to preserve personal safety as different people — including contractors, vendors and government employees —  entered the business as it geared up for opening. They had hoped to open their doors earlier but were stalled due to the pandemic.

Singla says all chairs, tables and high-contact surfaces are sanitized regularly and social distancing between patrons and staff is maintained when possible.

Pizza Twist offers gluten-free options and says its ingredients are locally sourced. More information about the restaurant is available online.

Photos via Pizza Twist

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Some new food options are coming to Herndon as Spice Village is set to open this month at the Village Center at Dulles.

Spice Village will function as a food hall featuring four restaurants and their takes on halal. There will be halal options with influences from China, Portugal, the United States and the Shinwari, a Pashtun tribe in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“Some people, they have their different tastes; some have a preference for Chinese, some want to have steaks,” owner Zayan Abbasi said.

“So, if there are five, six or seven family members, if somebody is not happy with one thing, there will be another option under the same roof and they won’t have to go to another location.”

Abbasi says he is aiming for Spice Village to have a soft opening in the middle of November. He’s been planning to open this space for two years.

The first of the restaurants inside Spice Village to open will be Peri Peri Original, an international chain restaurant. Abbasi plans to have Mandarin Halal Express open two weeks following the opening of the food hall.

Kallisto Steakhouse and Khybar Shinwari, respectively, will open over the next couple of months.

While the food hall has yet to open, Abbasi says he’s already received plenty of interest from the community.

“We have had a very good response so far,” he said. “I receive a lot of calls every single day and receive emails. People are ready for that concept, and they’re very excited.”

Abbasi is planning for a grand opening in about two or three months. He says he is holding off due to COVID-19 safety reasons and a desire not to create “long queues” at this time.

Photo courtesy Zayan Abbasi

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Several businesses in the Town of Herndon can soon take advantage of outdoor dining space on town property.

The Herndon Town Council is considering a proposal to approve the use of town property and public right-of-way for temporary outdoor dining. The proposal heads to the council for a vote tomorrow (Tuesday).

Although restrictions on indoor dining have been lifted, the businesses are seeking space to expand their operations on town property. Previously, the town streamlined its temporary approvals process for outdoor dining on private property.

Here’s more from Lisa Yeatts, the town’s attorney:

Under standard town procedures, requests for a License to use the town sidewalks, streets or parking lots, must be approved by the Town Council after a public hearing causing the entire process to take several months before a License is issued. In order to expedite the process established Phase I Temporary Outdoor Dining Permits, the Town Council amended Ordinance 20-O-23, Continuity of Governmental Operations during Pandemic Disaster (COVID-19), as amended, on May 26, 2020 by Ordinance 20-0-30, authorizing the Town Manager to approve and sign instruments necessary to address the phased reopening of the town. Such instruments are subject to final consideration and ratification by the Town Council at its next available Public Hearing

Seven business plan to expand outdoor dining:

The council meets tomorrow at 7 p.m. Other items on the agenda include discussion on federal funding due to COVID-19 and restructuring the town’s debt.

Photo by George Nikolopoulos

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It was love at first sight when Matt Rofougaran walked into a Biergarten in Munich, Germany. The then 23-year-old had just sold off everything he owned and went backpacking around the world for inspiration.

Roughly 16 years later, Rofougaran is bringing a traditional German beer garden to the Town of Herndon at 771 Center Street. Like the Tysons location — which closed late last year due to property redevelopment — the Herndon Biergarten will have daily activities, family-friendly games, events and beer festivals.

But unlike the Tysons location, Rofougaran doesn’t plan to have a token system. At the Tysons location, customers purchased tokens that were exchanged for food and drinks.

The business is expected to open in the spring of next year.

The Herndon location will include more than 60 craft beers, 100+ whiskeys, and a German food menu.

A patio will run along the building, which has a combination of textures like painted black brick and wooden awning. An open area with grass will offer additional seating, along with a 2,000-square-foot rooftop area.

Here’s more from the team behind the project:

In order to get the full picture of this crazy concept Herndon Biergarten (HBG), join us on the journey that brought us here. In early 2015, a group of five young entrepreneurs came together to take on a very ambitious project in the heart of Tysons, VA, and after a year of preparation, Tysons Biergarten officially opened its doors to the public.  TBG brought the features and excitement of a German Biergarten to Northern Virginia, with 40+ taps of German, Belgian, Austrian, and American craft beer, complemented by authentic German food and a great atmosphere. Almost instantly, the public gravitated to the new concept and after a few successful years, it was recognized as local staple.  TBG held events that attracted thousands of people from all sorts of backgrounds, hosted charity events with children from a local homeless shelter, and even hosted campaign fundraisers for local political offices. TBG earned various awards through the years and was featured in numerous publications ranging from local news channel broadcasts to articles in the Washington Post. Catching lightning in a bottle, Tysons Biergarten was truly an American success story.

Fast forward two years… Late December 2018, a small hole in the wall in Alexandria, VA, became the new home for our second restaurant, Hops N Shine. At HnS, we take great pride in being an artisan destination with a unique and constantly evolving menu. If you walk into Hops N Shine today, the first thing you’ll see is our enormous mural, 52 incredible craft beers on tap, a mouthwatering custom gourmet grilled cheese menu, and an extensive list of our delicious moonshine infusions that will have your taste buds singing for more. HnS is the perfect laid-back location for meeting with family, friends, coworkers, or even your dog on the back patio!

In early 2019, with several combined years of experience and loads of new ideas, we began putting a new concept into action that when finished will truly showcase the levels of creativity and ambition of our team.  Insert our newest project, Herndon Biergarten(HBG). HBG will shock your senses when you see its features. 

Overall, the project includes a bar on the main floor, two bars upstairs, a patio, a green room, an outdoor seating area, an outdoor bar, and a rooftop deck.

The beer garden will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Photos via Herndon Biergarten

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Restaurants in the Town of Herndon must apply for an outdoor dining permit as Northern Virginia’s reopening today opens up the opportunity for outdoor dining.

The move comes as Fairfax County moved to allow businesses to offer outdoor dining without applying for a permit by expanding outdoors at 50 percent of their indoor capacity.

The temporary permit, which was created specifically to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, will allow Herndon restaurants to reopen and operate with outdoor seating if rules are followed.

So far, several restaurants have been approved for temporary permits. More are expected to be ready to go by the wekeend.

  • Some conditions include:
  • Fencing and barriers must be installed
  • The area must be located next to or within 100 feet of the establishment
  • The location cannot “significantly interfere with pedestrian traffic or otherwise constitute a health and safety risk”
  • Hours of operation limited between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.
  • No pets are allowed in temporary dining areas

In some cases, outdoor seating may be allowed on town property. No more than ten patrons may be seated as a party.

Photo via Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern/Facebook

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The COVID-19 dining experience in Fairfax County will change tomorrow as more parking lots and other outdoor spaces in Fairfax County could be used for dining and exercise under certain conditions.

As Northern Virginia begins phase one of its reopening plan tomorrow, Fairfax County officials are considering instituting a blanket approval of outdoor dining, fitness and exercise activities.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will consider the plan at an emergency session at 3 p.m. today (Thursday). Typically, approvals for outdoor dining and fitness activities require a range of applications for approval. If the county approves the emergency ordinance today, businesses would automatically be able to pursue outdoor dining and exercise activities.

The county will begun easing COVID-19 restrictions businesses tomorrow (Friday). Gov. Ralph Northam’s order limits phase one to specific activities. For example, restaurants can only operate at 50 percent of their interior capacity.

Here’s more from the proposal:

With the impending expiration of Phase Zero in Northern Virginia, the County 2 needs to be prepared for Phase One. Under current County ordinances and 3 regulations, business owners would typically be required to pursue a range of 4 applications to allow outdoor dining and outdoor fitness and exercise activities. 5 In the midst of the COVID-19 emergency, the cost and time to meet such 6 requirements would compound the stress on economically challenged 7 businesses, hinder the opportunity presented by Phase One to revitalize the 8 County’s economy, and likely result in a continued de facto closure of such 9 businesses. At the same time, processing and deciding such a multitude of 10 applications on an urgent basis would be virtually impossible for the County 11 government and would consume extraordinary amounts of time and attention on 12 the part of the County’s staff and its deliberative bodies, at a time when they are 13 also strained by the emergency. These factors, separately and collectively, 14 threaten the County’s continuity in government.

Conditions for outdoor dining include, but are not limited to:

  • No outdoor entertainment activities
  • Outdoor area must be kept free of trash and debris
  • Temporary tents must be open on all sides and less than 900 square feet in size
  • All tables, chairs and other items must be removable and in good “appearance and repair”
  • Adequate parking must be available for on-site users
  • Parking designated for individuals with disabilities must be maintained
  • The location cannot obstruct sidewalks, travel ways, fire lanes, any building entrance or exit, or interfere with street access for fire department response

The ordinance will not go into effect in the Town of Herndon until the Herndon Town Council approves the emergency ordinance.

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Reston Association Reschedules Annual Meeting — The organization has rescheduled its annual meeting from April 14 to April 30 at p.m. The meeting will be held online. Election results will also be announced at the meeting. [Reston Association]

Roundup of Town of Herndon Restaurants and Grocery Stores — Town officials have put together a roundup of local grocery store hours, as well as restaurants that are offering delivery and take out. [Town of Herndon]

Surge of Cases Expected in Late April through May — “It could still be weeks before the worst of the coronavirus crisis hits Virginia. State officials are preparing for a surge in the number of people who test positive between late April and late May, Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday that analysis of the latest models shows Northam told residents he was planning for the worst and hoping for the best.” [NBC 4]

FCPS Superintendent Writes to Class of 2020 — Superintendent Scott Braband said that the state superintended plans to provide “maximum flexibility for graduation requirements.” “Even if you were not passing all of your required courses, I want you to know that there is still time for you to graduate this June.  Your teachers will ensure you have access to what you need to be able to complete your coursework through distance learning,” Brabrand wrote. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Sheetz, a popular gas and convenience store chain, has plans to come to Herndon.

The company, which recently opened a location in Sterling, has submitted an application to the county for a service station, convenience food store, and restaurant with a drive-thru.

The Herndon location is planned on a roughly two-acre parcel on 13850 McLearen Road.

Here’s more from the application:

The Applicant intends to demolish the office building and surface parking lot fronting on McLearen Road, and construct the new Sheetz service station with a quick-service food store and restaurant with drive-through uses facility. The proposed Sheetz store will total approximately 6,075 square feet in size. The retail store building will be oriented towards McLearen Road, while the fuel pumps will be oriented to Towerview Road. The drive-through lane associated with the restaurant is located along the back of the building and along the southern property line to effectively manage stacking and be less visible from surrounding streets.

The application was accepted by the county on Feb. 7. No dates for a public hearing or other steps in the county’s approval process have been set yet. 

Photo courtesy Sheetz/Facebook

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After more than a year of preparation, a new juice bar in the Junction Square neighborhood of Herndon has announced its opening date.

Vb Juice Bar plans to open on Tuesday, Jan. 28.

The business hopes to transform the juice bar experience by offering “total ingredient transparency,” according to the company.

A preview video — including a tour of its bathroom —  is available online.

Photo via Vb Juice Bar

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