Diners now have a better chance to get a table at the Desi Breakfast Club.

The Herndon-based Indian and Pakistani cuisine restaurant (3065-G Centreville Road) expanded its dining room from its original 1,500 square feet to 5,500 square feet late last year. 

The breakfast club is currently celebrating their grand reopening this month and is inviting potential customers who are interested in dining on some of their more popular specials such as Nehari (a slow cooked beef shank stew) and Haleem (shredded chicken with wheat, barley, and lentils).

According to co-owner Malik Waleed Amhed, Desi was able to acquire the space next door in July 2021 making the extension of the dining room possible and has allowed Desi to expand its capacity to 250 people. 

“This has been in the making since July last year. We are celebrating our grand [opening] this entire month of February and invite everyone to come experience Desi Breakfast Club,” says Ahmad. 

Desi first opened in June 2021 and markets itself as the first halal breakfast restaurant in Virginia, the restaurant was founded by Ahmad along with his brother Zaheer Ahmed and his father who all emigrated to the United States from Pakistan 19 years ago. 

The restaurant is opened Tuesdays through Sundays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Reservations are required on Saturdays and Sundays. Desi also serves High-Tea daily from 2-6 p.m.

Photo via Desi Breakfast Club

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Hunan East Restaurant (Via Google Maps)

A Chinese restaurant that’s been at a Reston-area shopping plaza for 17 years is closing next month.

Hunan East Restaurant told Reston Now that the permanent shuttering is due to a variety of factors and will occur at the end of February.

The COVID-19 pandemic led many customers of the restaurant to get takeout orders, but the business said it didn’t use assistance to restaurants adversely affected by the shutdowns.

Federal funding through the CARES Act in 2020 gave money to Fairfax County, which distributed around $53 million to over 4,800 small businesses and nonprofits through its RISE program.

The American Rescue Plan Act in 2021 provided further money to the county, which has already awarded over $16 million of $25 million set aside for its PIVOT program.

Last year, Weber’s Pet Supermarket, another longtime tenant also located in the Fox Mill Shopping Center, announced it would relocate.

Photo via Google Maps

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Reston Next’s office buildings have begun welcoming office workers. Volkswagen Group of America and Fannie Mae are anchoring the offices. (Staff photo by David Taube)

Boston Properties’ CEO Doug Linde says that Reston’s urban market is dramatically outperforming other areas.

In a quarterly earnings call, Line said that the community’s urban market core is under 10 percent vacant, bringing in starting rents in the high 50s and 60s gross.

The company’s Reston Next Project — which is welcoming anchor tenant Fannie Mae this month — has secured rents starting in the low 60s. The company takes up roughly 700,00 square feet of space. Volkswagen will also move into that project.

Reston Town Center also secured several leases this year. While the company did not disclose the name’s of the latest tenants, Boston Properties signed a 20,000-square-foot lease with a new theater operator.

Last week, the company also completed a 20,000-square-foot fitness operator.

He also said three other leases for restaurants are “close to execution.”

Last month, the company confirmed that Open Road Distillery, Hammer & Nails, and Compass Real Estate signed leases and are slated to open next year.

So far, the company has declined to comment further on the leases.

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FedWings has opened at Reston Town Center, smoking and frying out of the Ted Bulletin's kitchen (Photo courtesy of Salis Holding)
FedWings has opened at Reston Town Center, smoking and frying out of the Ted Bulletin’s kitchen (Photo courtesy of Salis Holding)

A delivery-only chicken wing spot from the owners of Ted’s Bulletin and Federalist Pig has opened at Reston Town Center.

FedWings opened the outpost last month, smoking and frying chicken wings out of Ted’s Bulletin kitchen at 11948 Market Street.

The wings were being served at their barbecue restaurant Federalist Pig (with locations in D.C. and Maryland) prior, but it became clear to the owners that there was a big appetite for this easy-to-eat-at-home, finger food.

“When the pandemic happened, a lot of people wanted more wings,” co-owner Nick Salis tells Reston Now. “And we were trying to figure out how to keep our kitchen staff employed and keep people working… so we launched this wings brand.”

Their first so-called “ghost kitchen” was out of Kramer’s Bookstore in D.C.(which they also own) and have since expanded to eight locations, including Reston as well as ones in Merrifield and Arlington.

Salis says what makes their wings unique is that they smoke them, quickly deep fry them, and, then, toss them in a proprietary rub.

“These wings are not the easiest wings to make,” he says. “We smoke them for an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the wood. Smoking is a little bit of an art.”

Since they started smoking and frying in mid-September, Reston’s FedWings has been doing crisp business, Salis notes.

While the pandemic continues to change and debilitate the restaurant industry, Salis says that the Ted Bulletin’s location at Reston Town Center has been hurting ever since Boston Properties infamously instituted paid parking back in 2016.

“There was a drop in sales of 30% overnight,” he says. “It was like your worst nightmare. It leaves a scar.”

Salis is hopeful though, since sales are climbing back, creeping closer to what it was when the restaurant opened there in 2014.

The hope is that FedWings will help continue that trend. The response has been “awesome” so far and the company is evaluating what the next steps could be, whether that means opening more ghost kitchens or establishing dedicated brick and mortars for FedWings.

“As of right now,” Salis says, “We’re just enjoying serving these wings to the community of Reston.”

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PassionFish (Photo by PassionFish)

A local employee was selected as employee of the year during this year’s RAMMYS.

The awards, which are organized by Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington. Fully vaccinated guests attended the in-person ceremony over the weekend at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Ruben Avila of PassionFish in Reston Town Center was named employee of the year by a panel of judges. But more than half to the awards were based on public votes.

The awards honor the accomplishments of organizations and individuals integral to the local foodservice and restaurant community.

A complete list of the winner is available online. Silver Diner, which has a location in Reston, was recognized for being a technology trailblazer.

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Two Lake Anne Plaza restaurants recently paid tribute to the 13 U.S. military service members who died in a suicide attack at the Kabul airport last month.

Café Montmartre and Kalypso’s Sports Tavern joined other restaurants around the world in setting aside tables over Labor Day weekend (Sept. 4-5) for the men and women, ages 20-31, who were killed during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“Both of us decided to do this at the same time in order to allow the many visitors to our plaza to take a moment to reflect on the loss and remember the sacrifices made to help others,” Kalypso’s owner Vicky Hadjikyriakou said, noting that she collaborated with Café Montmartre owner Anh Lee.

The Aug. 26 suicide attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport came amid an urgent evacuation effort after the Taliban seized power and U.S. troops started to leave, ending the country’s 20-year military presence in Afghanistan on Aug. 30.

A regional offshoot for the Islamic State claimed responsibility for two bombings, which occurred at an exterior gate of the airport and a hotel.

More than 100 people died.

Café Montmartre and Kalypso’s decorated the tables that they set aside with small American flags. Kalypso’s placed them in cups of beer along with a sign that said “Reserved for the 13 fallen HEROES.”

“Both of our families emigrated to the United States within the last 50-60 years, with Anh’s family leaving Vietnam in much the same circumstances as those in Afghanistan, so doing this was especially meaningful,” Hadjikyriakou said.

The tables were kept indoors or outdoors all day and evening throughout the holiday weekend. People could also sign their names, give condolences, and share messages that the two restaurants plan to send to the victims’ families through the nonprofit United Service Organizations.

Other businesses across the country and globe have made similar memorials.

“Anh and I wanted to honor those who gave their lives for others, but weren’t quite sure of the best way to do it,” Hadjikyriakou said. “We saw that other establishments had ‘Tables of Honor’ and we decided we would join the hundreds of restaurants across the country ensuring that these men and women were not forgotten over the holiday weekend.”

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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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About a month after Virginia lifted all COVID-19 capacity and social distancing requirements, in-person dining is starting to make a comeback at local restaurants, even as evolving guidance around masks suggests the pandemic may not be entirely in the rearview mirror.

From D.C. to northern Virginia, restaurants throughout the region look much different than they did a year ago, when many venues were either temporarily closed or just starting to invite customers back inside.

Now, restaurants are free to return to full occupancy, and patrons can eat and drink without fumbling with a mask, though individual businesses can still require masks if they choose to keep a policy in place.

“Carryout and to-go sales of alcohol are still continuing to help our restaurants, but yet, we are definitely seeing a shift in the return of more and more in-person dining,” said Barry Biggar, president and CEO of the Fairfax County tourism agency Visit Fairfax. “The future is bright and we are on a forward trajectory towards full recovery.”

In Herndon, the funky upscale pizza and craft beer joint Mellow Mushroom (1030 Elden St.) has seen customers in person go to a “whole new level” with restrictions dropping, general manager Ted Kinsall said.

Business hasn’t quite returned to 2019 levels yet, but he expects it to continue growing. Now, the eatery is dealing with a challenge that has become widespread in the food service industry: the need for workers.

Kinsall says his business is currently staffed at 70% with job openings in a number of positions, from cooks to servers and hosts.

Labor issues are complicating recovery efforts for an industry hit hard by job losses, stay-at-home orders, closed offices, and fluctuating public health rules.

“The positive news is that many of our restaurants are starting to see around 80 to 90 percent of pre-COVID numbers,” Biggar said in an email. “And while that sounds great, and sales are up, it does not always translate to straight profit. Many restaurants are still paying deferred rent, utilities, and other expenses that they had to hold off on paying due to the pandemic.”

While Virginia’s state of emergency is set to expire today (Wednesday), health officials have recently started raising new concerns about the spread of more dangerous COVID-19 variants, even for fully vaccinated people.

The Commonwealth followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s lead in May in easing mask requirements for fully vaccinated individuals in most places. But the World Health Organization suggested Friday (June 25) that even vaccinated individuals should still wear masks to reduce the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Experts who talked with the Miami Herald advised caution regarding whether or not to wear masks, and the CDC hasn’t adjusted masking guidance based on the Delta variant, which was first detected in India and is estimated to contribute to one in five U.S. cases now.

The CDC says there’s evidence that the variant causes more severe disease and has increased transmissibility.

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Morning Notes

Hickory Cluster stream restoration in the rain (via vantagehill/Flickr)

Family of Herndon Murder Victims Mourns — “A father is grieving after his two young children, a boy and a girl, and their mother were found dead inside an apartment in Herndon, Virginia, on Saturday — the same day the family planned to have a birthday party for the 10-year-old girl. Outside of the apartment where they died, there is a memorial for the family. A balloon flies for the daughter who was killed on her birthday.” [NBC4]

Reston Man Arrested at Crystal City Restaurant — “Arlington County Police charged a Reston man early Thursday morning for acting disorderly and assaulting a police officer at Crystal City restaurant, according to the daily crime report. Officers responded around 12:50 a.m., for the report of a manacting disorderly inside a restaurant in the 400 block of 23rd Street S.” [Patch]

Police Officer Says Prosecutor Withholding Evidence in Use of Force Case — “A Fairfax County police officer accused of using excessive force, including deploying a Taser, against a Black man has asked a judge to dismiss the case, claiming prosecutors have not disclosed evidence that would bolster his defense.” [The Washington Post]

Dulles Chamber Spotlights Local Eateries — The Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce launched a new “Taste of Dulles Corridor” promotional effort yesterday (Monday), highlighting a different local hotel or food establishment, including restaurants and breweries, in its weekly newsletter. The first venue to get the spotlight is Mile 20 at the Mediterranean Breeze in Herndon. [Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce]

Cicada Eggs to Trim Tree Limbs — “You’ll soon see a lot of this. Tips of tree branches are dying and breaking off. These are the places that cicadas laid eggs. No big deal. The trees have been through this before, and it’s just a minor trimming for most of them.” [Fairfax County Park Authority/Twitter]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Paul Olsen opened a second location of Weird Brothers Coffee at Worldgate Metro Plaza in October 2019.

The shopping center on Worldgate Drive was specifically marketed and named in anticipation of the Herndon Metro Station opening less than a quarter of a mile away as part of the Silver Line’s second phase.

Two years later, the Herndon station and the other Silver Line Phase II stops still won’t be operational for at least another eight months.

“At the time, we weren’t even considering expansion,” Olsen tells Reston Now. “We saw the Metro and…figured this is a great situation. But, then, obviously things changed. COVID hit a few months later. Then, we saw more Metro line delays.”

Weird Brothers Coffee on Worldgate Boulevard in Herndon (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Olsen’s situation isn’t unique. Many businesses specifically set up shop near a future Silver Line Phase II Metro station thinking it would provide a boost, only for Metro’s opening to be continuously delayed.

“We initially thought that the Metro would open, at the latest, early 2020,” said Don Lee, co-owner of Alo Vietnam Restaurant in Herndon.

The restaurant is about a five-minute walk from the not-yet-opened Innovation Center Metro station. Alo Vietnam is also expected to start a location in Reston at Faraday Park.

“We did invest in 2019…thinking that we will carry the load the first year until the Metro opens,” Lee said. “Then, we will have a good location with a lot of foot traffic with tourists and from all the businesses around.”

Seven years ago this July, the most expensive transportation project in the D.C. region’s history began operations. The opening of the Silver Line and its five new stops brought Metro into Tysons and up to the Wiehle-Reston East station.

However, the intention was always to extend the transit system further into D.C.’s growing Northern Virginia suburbs. Construction on five additional stations, including one at Reston Town Center and two in Herndon, began even before Phase I opened and originally had a completion date of 2018.

However, issues proliferated, from design changes and defective panels to flawed rail ties and bad concrete. Soon, the opening got pushed to early 2020, but the problems kept coming and coming. Read More

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Longtime staple Pica Deli has closed after serving the area for three-plus decades, telling customers that it is a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Started in 1987 by Frank Pica, the business was carried on by his son Tyler Pica and Tyler’s childhood friend Caleb Max, but has now shut down.

“People call every day and ask if we’re going to open up,” Max said. “It really just depends on the real estate market and what’s out there.”

A sign on the store’s entrance says that COVID-19 got the best of them, adding that “hopefully, we will be back when the pandemic is over.”

The restaurant is located at 11864 Sunrise Valley Drive, nestled next to office buildings and tucked away off Reston Parkway.

Max says the business stopped after the building changed ownership. According to a county property database, Sunrise Valley Real Estate LLC bought it April 6 for nearly $1.1 million from Pentagon Federal Credit Union.

He told Reston Now he thinks an orthodontist is putting an office there.

Max and Tyler Pica took over the eatery in early 2020 after it was run by Jung Sook Kim for over a decade. A photo even showed the business in 2004 when they were Reston neighbors on a Pica Deli-sponsored little league baseball team.

The business received Paycheck Protection Program or PPP loans for over $17,000 and other assistance, but Max says the exodus of office workers made too great of a deficit.

“The aid was good, but for the restaurants, we were hit so hard,” he said.

If Virginia’s timeline for businesses to reopen had been clearer, Max says he would have closed for much longer than the two-week shutdown that they had in early 2020.

Pica Deli could continue in the form of a food truck in the interim, Max says, but he wants to make sure they’re well past the pandemic before returning to the food industry.

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Local restaurants are getting help from DoorDash and a statewide association for the hospitality industry.

The Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association gave $3,500 awards to businesses after over 690 restaurants in Virginia applied for relief. Egg Karne, Pho2000, Spice Town, and Sully’s Pour House in Herndon as well as Sprout Café in Reston were among the nine recipients in Fairfax County.

According to a county news release, Qaiser Aziz of Spice Town said the restaurant lost nearly 30% of its revenue during the pandemic, noting a big chunk of its lunchtime business decreased due to physical distancing as well as business and office closures.

“These restaurateurs are building businesses and community, and they continue to give back in spite of the hardships they have faced over the past year,” the VRLTA said in a news release. “Many have adapted and pivoted to offer online ordering, takeout, delivery and outside dining, and they are looking forward to a better year in 2021.”

The association joined forces with the online food ordering platform DoorDash to give out money to small restaurants that had operations disrupted, saw reduced revenue, or experienced financial stress between March and December 2020.

The 2021 DoorDash Restaurant Operator Relief Grant program was part of DoorDash’s Main Street Strong Pledge and did not require businesses to be a DoorDash partner to be eligible, the VRLTA said.

To be eligible for the grants, businesses had to have no more than three locations with 50 or fewer employees and annual gross revenue of $3 million or less for the specific location that was applying.

VRLTA and DoorDash allocated a total of $450,000 in grants to 128 restaurants in Virginia.

Fairfax County noted eight of the local recipients also received money from the Fairfax Relief Initiative to Support Employers that the Board of Supervisors established last year to give financial assistance to local businesses and nonprofits.

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issuing new mask guidance for fully vaccinated people, Virginia has eased its mask mandate, and major retailers such as Starbucks and Walmart have also lifted restrictions in stores for vaccinated customers, but businesses can still impose restrictions.

Under Gov. Ralph Northam’s current public health order, restaurants and other food service venues are limited to 100 people indoors and 250 people outdoors, and different groups of patrons must be kept at least six feet apart. However, the state will end those and other capacity and distancing restrictions on May 28.

Photo via Griffin Wooldridge/Unsplash

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Taste of Istanbul is set to open at 11190 Explorer Street in Reston Town Center on May 16.

The restaurant will serve authentic turkish food like baklava, döner (seasoned meat), dolma (stuffed grape leaves), shepherd’s salad, Turkish pizza, and Turkish coffee.

Taste of Istanbul’s arrival was first announced in November. It is replacing Midtown Kabob, which closed last year.

The owners told Reston Now in November that they were prepared to open despite the uncertainty of the pandemic.

“This is a time where people don’t know what’s going to happen next,” they said. “But we believe we are prepared for this.”

While cases were on the rise late last year, vaccinations are increasing, and restrictions on businesses are easing as Fairfax County starts to gain a greater semblance of normalcy.

Taste of Istanbul’s owners got their start serving up food at local farmers markets several years ago, first at EatLoco market at One Loudoun and then at the FRESHFARM Reston farmers market.

They will continue to have a presence at those markets, a restaurant representative confirmed to Reston Now in an email.

The restaurant is family-owned and operated. Chef Ercan Karaman and his wife Hacer grew up in Turkey and learned how to cook for a big family, according to EatLoco market’s website. Their children also help with the family business.

Taste of Istanbul is 100% halal and will also provide catering.

Reston Town Center is seeing a gradual increase in restaurant openings as the pandemic appears to be waning. True Food Kitchen opened at 11901 Democracy Drive late last month as well after initially planning to open late last year.

Photo courtesy of Taste of Istanbul

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A new seafood ghost kitchen is coming to Reston.

Willie T’s Seafood Shack is opening in the Reston-area but will only be available for delivery through Ubereats, GrubHub, and DoorDash, a company spokesperson tells Reston Now.

While the hope is to start delivering “in a few weeks,” there are plans to open a dedicated brick and mortar in the coming months also in the Reston area.

The current concept of delivery-only, says the spokesperson is to “build branding” as they prepare for a more permanent restaurant opening.

The term “ghost kitchen” refers to setting up a kitchen in a non-permanent space and providing delivery-only service. They’ve become very popular during the pandemic, particularly in the D.C.-region.

Willie T’s Seafood Shack is owned by Reston-based Thompson Hospitality, which owns a number of restaurants across the region and the country.

This includes Makers Union at Reston Town Center (which replaced American Tap Room), Big Buns in Arlington, and Hen Quarter in Alexandria. Late last year, the company bought out Matchbox Food Group, which owns all of the Matchbox locations.

Thompson Hospitality also owns Homewood Suites in Reston, off of Sunset Hills Road.

A previous iteration of Willie T’s was in Dupont Circle in D.C. before moving across town to Connecticut Avenue NW, and, then, closing.

According to the restaurant’s website, the menu is simple. For soups, there are lobster bisque and clam chowder. Entrees include sandwiches and baskets of grilled and fried fish, which includes catfish, whiting, and shrimp. There’s also crab cakes.

At least one job is currently available as well at the delivery-only establishment, kitchen supervisor.

Photo via Thompson Hospitality

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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is easing some of the public health restrictions prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the 10 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales.

Effective Mar. 1, Virginians will be able to buy and drink alcohol at restaurants, food courts, breweries, distilleries, and wineries until they are required to close at midnight.

The changes to the current executive order come amid declining rates of hospitalizations and infections and rising vaccination rates in the Commonwealth, Northam said during a press conference this morning (Wednesday).

Northam is also easing restrictions on outdoor entertainment and social gatherings, where evidence shows the risk of airborne transmission of COVID-19 is lower.

“Thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of all Virginians, hospitalization and positivity rates across the Commonwealth are the lowest they have been in nearly three months,” Northam said in the press release. “As key health metrics show encouraging trends and we continue to ramp up our vaccination efforts, we can begin to gradually resume certain recreational activities and further reopen sectors of our economy.”

He attributed the rise in cases over the winter to cold weather and the holidays.

The state’s Safer at Home strategy will remain in place, along with its accompanying requirements for physical distancing, mask-wearing, gathering limits and business capacity restrictions.

“Even as we take steps to safely ease public health guidelines, we must all remain vigilant so we can maintain our progress — the more we stay home, mask up, and practice social distancing, the more lives we will save from this dangerous virus,” he said.

The current modified Stay at Home order will expire on Sunday (Feb. 28).

The full press release from the governor’s office is below.

Gov. Ralph Northam today announced that as COVID-19 hospitalizations and infection rates continue to decline and vaccinations rise in Virginia, certain outdoor sports and entertainment venues may begin to operate at increased capacity starting Monday, March 1. He amended Executive Order Seventy-Two with the next steps of the “Forward Virginia” plan to safely and gradually ease public health restrictions while mitigating the spread of the virus.

“Thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of all Virginians, hospitalization and positivity rates across the Commonwealth are the lowest they have been in nearly three months,” said Governor Northam. “As key health metrics show encouraging trends and we continue to ramp up our vaccination efforts, we can begin to gradually resume certain recreational activities and further reopen sectors of our economy. Even as we take steps to safely ease public health guidelines, we must all remain vigilant so we can maintain our progress-the more we stay home, mask up, and practice social distancing, the more lives we will save from this dangerous virus.”

The Commonwealth will maintain a Safer at Home strategy with continued strict health and safety protocols including physical distancing, mask-wearing requirements, gathering limits, and business capacity restrictions. The current modified Stay at Home order will expire on February 28, 2021.

Governor Northam is beginning to ease public health restrictions by taking steps to increase capacity limits in outdoor settings, where evidence shows the risk of airborne transmission of COVID-19 is lower. The key changes in the Third Amended Executive Order Seventy-Two include:

  • Social gatherings: The maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase from 10 to 25 people for outdoor settings, while remaining at 10 persons for indoor settings.
  • Entertainment venues: Outdoor entertainment and public amusement venues will be able to operate with up to 1,000 individuals or at 30 percent capacity, whichever is lower. If current trends continue, these venues may be able to operate at 30 percent capacity with no cap on the number of people permitted to attend starting in April. Indoor entertainment and public amusement venues must continue to operate at 30 percent capacity with a cap of 250 people. All entertainment venues were previously limited to a maximum of 250 individuals.
  • Dining establishments: The on-site sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol will be permitted until midnight, extended from 10:00 p.m. All restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, and tasting rooms still must be closed between midnight and 5:00 a.m.
  • Overnight summer camps: As of May 1, overnight summer camps will be able to open with strict mitigation measures in place. Registration can begin now.

The new guidelines will be effective for at least one month and mitigation measures may be eased further if key health metrics continue to improve. Current guidelines for retail businesses, fitness and exercise, large amusement venues, and personal grooming services will remain in place. Individuals are strongly encouraged to continue teleworking if possible.

The full text of Third Amended Executive Order Seventy-Two and Order of Public Health Emergency Nine is available here. Updated guidelines for specific sectors can be found here.

Last week, Governor Northam amended Executive Order Seventy-Two to increase the number of spectators permitted at outdoor youth sporting events to 250.

Visit virginia.gov/coronavirus/forwardvirginia for more information and answers to frequently asked questions.

Image via Virginia Public Media/YouTube

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