These D.C. Chefs Are Opening Restaurants in Virginia
Get ready for a talent wave of new dining options. Here's who's coming and what's on the menu.
As masks come off and pandemic restrictions are lifted, many of Washington, D.C.’s finest restaurateurs are seeing light at the end of a tunnel that leads straight to Northern Virginia.
Rose Previte and Mike Schuster, who co-own Compass Rose on T Street NW and its nearby Michelin-starred sister restaurant, Maydan, on Florida Avenue, are one such pair. They’re bringing Tawle, a kebab-centric eatery whose name means “table” in Arabic, to the Mosaic District this summer, followed by a second location in Clarendon in 2023.
Had you told Previte five years ago that she’d be launching her next venture in the burbs, she probably would have been skeptical (a true D.C. denizen, she doesn’t even own a car). But the ripple effects of the pandemic have changed the dining landscape. Even as Covid cases fell and people started eating out again, she noticed a lot of her former regulars in the District weren’t so regular anymore. “They’re not going to the office and therefore not stopping in after work,” Previte says. “Some are coming in from Virginia, but it’s a trek. We’re hearing that a lot. That’s part of the decision to open at Mosaic.”
Unlike their Washington restaurants, which were never designed for takeout, Tawle is an evolutionary concept that will include takeout and grab-and-go fare in addition to on-site dining. “You need the grab-and-go because people want to get something and go back to their office,” she says, “which is now their kitchen at home.”
Previte isn’t the only hospitality maven seeking out hungry diners on this side of the Potomac. Other new ventures by chefs and restaurateurs who built their reputations in D.C. include The Salt Line in Ballston (Kyle Bailey and Long Shot Hospitality), CHIKO in Shirlington (Scott Drewno and Danny Lee), Stellina Pizzeria in Shirlington (Antonio Matarazzo and Matteo Venini) and RASA in National Landing (Sahil Rahman and Rahul Vinod). RASA now has a Mosaic District addition in the works.
Moreover, a handful of chefs who got their start in Virginia and then headed for the city are are coming back to reinvest in the commonwealth. Among them: Tim Ma (Lucky Danger), Cathal Armstrong (Mattie & Eddie’s) and Seng Luangrath, whose Falls Church Lao and Thai restaurant, Padaek, will soon open a second location in Arlington Ridge.
Nightlife cognoscenti Ian and Eric Hilton, proprietors of buzzy D.C. hives such as The Brighton at The Wharf, El Rey on U Street and Crimson whiskey bar in Chinatown, have made a big play in Virginia in recent years. Since 2019, their company, H2 Collective, has brought Parc de Ville to the Mosaic District, Café Colline to Langston Boulevard and a second El Rey to Ballston. The restaurateur brothers are also partners in Solace Outpost in Falls Church.
Multiple factors are spurring the migration. “With the pandemic, [D.C.]’s downtown core struggled due to a lack of office tenancy and tourism,” says Amy Rice, senior vice president of retail leasing for JBG Smith, the major developer of National Landing. With more people working from home—a trend that’s likely to continue—restaurateurs are seeking residentially dense neighborhoods with a high average income.
Amazon’s arrival has also shifted the tide toward Arlington. Pre-pandemic, the area around the tech giant’s emerging campus had 81,000 office workers within a 2-mile radius and 90,000 housing units within a 10-minute drive, according to the National Landing Business Improvement District (BID). Between 2023 and 2025, those numbers are expected to climb to around 136,000 to 148,000 workers and 97,000 housing units. The median annual income of households within a 10-minute drive is expected to rise from $102,000 to more than $150,000.
D.C. chef Enrique Limardo (whose Seven Reasons on 14th Street NW was anointed “Best New Restaurant in America” by Esquire in late 2019) is getting in on that action. His Seven Restaurant Group is creating a massive, multifaceted dining concept, Surreal, to fill a 1-acre park on Crystal Drive in National Landing.
Other parts of Arlington are proving just as enticing to discerning chefs. A few miles north, along Metro’s Orange Line corridor, Ballston has the three densest residential census tracts in the entire D.C. region, according to Tina Leone, CEO of the Ballston BID. “We attracted 1,000 more residents here during the pandemic,” she says, pegging the current population inside the BID’s perimeter at about 16,500. “Our apartment buildings are 95% occupied.”
Chef Kyle Bailey, co-owner of The Salt Line in Ballston (a spin-off of the Navy Yard original), cites that density as one of the reasons his team chose Arlington for their first expansion outside of Washington. He and his partners at Long Shot Hospitality are now gearing up to launch an 11,000-square-foot Tex-Mex restaurant at Capital One Center in Tysons next year.
Also heading for Capital One Center: an outpost of Stellina Pizzeria and a new concept by chef Pepe Moncayo, the talent behind Michelin-starred Cranes in D.C.’s Penn Quarter.
D.C.’s high rents are another factor propelling some darlings of the District’s food scene into Virginia. Rock Harper, whose Queen Mother’s fried chicken operation began as a D.C.-born concept, says that rents in the capital didn’t really drop during the pandemic.
“Landlords figured they’d be through this in a couple of years,” he says. “But people in the suburbs just aren’t going into the city [anymore], and independent restaurants can’t make it at $75 to $125 per square foot.” In late 2020, Harper relocated his business to Arlington, where he shares a kitchen and dining space with The Café by La Cocina VA, just off Columbia Pike.
“Businesses aren’t charities,” says Neighborhood Retail Group CEO Bethany Kazaba, who recently brokered a deal for sweets purveyor Captain Cookie and the Milkman to open its first Virginia storefront in Courthouse (more on that later). “It’s a numbers issue—the economics of paying $40 to $50 a square foot in Virginia, versus the high $60s and up in D.C. And downtown’s triple net costs [building maintenance, insurance and property taxes] add [another] $18 to $24 a square foot. That’s a huge expense.”
Kazaba’s client portfolio, which is usually evenly spread across the DMV, has been heavily skewed toward Virginia this past year. She says the commonwealth’s earlier relaxation of mask mandates and pandemic restrictions, combined with its generally pro-business attitude, has made D.C. operators look at Virginia in a different way.
Stuart Biel, senior vice president of regional leasing for Federal Realty (whose properties include the Village at Shirlington, Westpost and Birch & Broad in Falls Church), says D.C. chefs are tuned in to the fact that some of their biggest fans have traded downtown commutes for remote work. Those diners want the same kind of food and beverage experience they were accustomed to in the city, but closer to home.
Furthermore, Biel says, diners’ attitudes toward outdoor dining changed during Covid. People have gotten used to eating outside almost year-round and often prefer it. That makes the intentionally designed plazas and sidewalk cafés in places like National Landing, Westpost, Tysons and the Mosaic District more appealing. “We would not have considered a space at Mosaic without outdoor seating,” Previte confirms.
“People dumbed down the suburbs for a long time,” says Jessica Bruner, managing director of Mosaic’s developer, EDENS, which signed the Tawle deal. “But we have the most affluent and educated community. It’s an environment that a Rose [Previte] or Enrique [Limardo] can thrive in.” It’s a symbiosis that works for everyone, she says. Name-brand chefs secure greater economic stability and landlords lure sophisticated diners to their properties with high-profile talent.
Harper, of Queen Mother’s, brings up another essential ingredient—labor. “I’m finding more and more that staff don’t want to travel to D.C. and deal with no parking, parking tickets, traffic and Metro cutting hours. People are loving shorter commutes, riding a bike to work. That is a really attractive piece,” he says.
Whatever the reason, hurray for us. Here are six places we can’t wait to try.
Opened: March 2022
Arlington resident Scott Parker, a serial entrepreneur known for such establishments as Bronson Bierhall, Barley Mac and the Bearded Goat barbershop, has been called the “King of Arlington.” But he looked to D.C. to find the star of his newest dining concept—chef Johnny Spero, whose Georgetown restaurant Reverie is a paean to modern tasting-menu sophistication.
Parker and Spero, along with Aslin Beer Co. co-founder Andrew Kelley, teamed up to take over the massive, 10,000-square-foot former Champps sports bar space in Westpost and in March opened Nighthawk Pizza, a brew pub highlighting low-ABV beers, with a menu centered around personal pizzas with cracker-thin crusts and smash burgers. D.C.-based 3877 Design masterminded the throwback décor of the ’90s-themed restaurant, which has seating for 343 inside and 82 outside.
“There are so many people in Arlington who moved here right after college, have a lot of money, aren’t having families right away and just want to have fun,” says Parker. “The Amazon deal made people realize how many are going to move here—not only 25,000 jobs, but an average salary of $150k.”
During the pandemic, Spero pivoted to a pizza pop-up called Lonely Hunter, but his interest in Northern Virginia predates Covid. He says the D.C. market has gotten too saturated.
“I needed to do something more than fine dining,” says the chef. “At the end of 2019, I slid into Scott’s DMs. I admired his hustle.” What began as a simple overture for advice turned into Nighthawk Pizza.
Locals craving a chef’s take on pub food will appreciate Spero’s littleneck clam pie with white sauce, pecorino cheese and oregano; potato pizza with charred pepper-tomato sauce and stracciatella cheese; a smash burger with caramelized sweet onions, pickled jalapeno, smoked mayo and American cheese; a Green Goddess wedge salad with bacon lardons and cured egg yolk; and fried cheese curds with horseradish dipping sauce. //1100 S. Hayes St., Arlington
Projected opening: Spring 2022
Connoisseurs of breezy, West Coast-style dining will welcome this newcomer courtesy of Greg Algie and chef Nathan Beauchamp, managing partners of Blagden Hospitality Group, whose local repertory includes D.C. hubs Tiger Fork, Calico, The Fainting Goat and Hi-Lawn (as well as Hei Hei Tiger, which is slated to reopen in Tysons Galleria in June). Both men have ties to Northern Virginia. Beauchamp was the chef de cuisine of Alexandria’s Restaurant Eve (now closed) when it opened in 2004. Algie grew up in Vienna, attended Bishop O’Connell High School and now lives in Del Ray.
Conveniently located a block from the Clarendon Metro, the 3,000-square-foot restaurant will center around a 20-seat terrazzo bar with seating for an additional 59 inside and another 125 on a 3,500-square-foot outdoor plaza surrounded by greenery. A 12-foot coffee kiosk will offer breakfast items and pastries. The name, Bar Ivy, is a nod to the ivy-clad fences at Calico in D.C. and The Ivy, an L.A. restaurant frequented by glitterati.
“For me, coming back into Arlington was something I wanted to do for a long time,” says Algie, whose negotiations with landlord Carr Properties began in mid-2019. “The timing was right. Arlington is vibrant and has a lot of wealth and mixed demographics—young people, families, nice homes, condos, businesses. We have a lot of folks who come [into D.C.] from Virginia [whom we can now reach] in Virginia…closer to where they live.”
Jonathan Till, who was the chef at Evening Star Café in Del Ray from 2018 to 2020, is the group’s executive chef and will run Bar Ivy’s kitchen. Expect dishes such as a Crab Louie-like salad of Maine peekytoe crab, hearts of palm, cucumber and togarashi (a chili-based Japanese spice mix) dressing; Manila clams with lamb bacon, roasted shallots, basil and tarragon; local saddle of lamb; and pan-roasted quail with black pepper citrus sauce and polenta. Till plans to incorporate ingredients he finds on his frequent foraging forays. “He brings me mushrooms every week that he grows in his yard,” Beauchamp says. //3033 Wilson Blvd., Arlington
Captain Cookie and the Milkman
Projected opening: Spring 2022
This sweet venture by husband-wife duo Kirk and Juliann Francis started out in 2012 as a food truck making the rounds in Arlington and Fairfax. Today, Captain Cookie and the Milkman has three brick-and-mortar locations in D.C. and one in Raleigh, North Carolina, where the owners now live. Their stock-in-trade: freshly baked cookies, ice cream, made-to-order ice cream sandwiches, milk, cookie cakes, milkshakes and jars of edible cookie dough. The couple continues to operate trucks in the DMV and will soon open their first Virginia-based brick-and-mortar shop in Courthouse.
“Foot traffic-wise, the Virginia store is in a busy area close to the Metro. There’s a Starbucks two doors over. Those are good indicators for the customers we want to be visible for,” Juliann says. “We have a very loyal customer base in Arlington and had been looking for space there for quite some time.” With this expansion, they’ll expand their reach to Virginia fans who were previously outside of their delivery radius in the District.
Captain Cookie started out as a side hustle, inspired by Kirk’s childhood passion for baking. But it quickly grew into a bona fide business that allowed the couple to leave their D.C. jobs—he as a government contractor, she as a Bloomberg business reporter. GTM Architects, based in Bethesda, Maryland, is designing the 700-square foot confectionery, with JBG Smith as the landlord.
Captain Cookie sources its ice cream from South Mountain Creamery in Maryland and Ice Cream Jubilee (which has locations in D.C. and Ballston). Cookies come in flavors such as chocolate chip, double chocolate, ginger-molasses, vegan chocolate chip, snickerdoodle and funfetti. //2200 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington
Projected opening: November 2022
Location: Falls Church City
When developer Mill Creek Residential approached Carey and Yuan Tang about opening a place in West Falls Church’s Founders Row, the couple saw the opportunity as a homecoming. The married co-owners of D.C.’s acclaimed fine-dining restaurant Rooster & Owl are from Falls Church, where they worked in the food business as teenagers (Yuan at Red Lobster, Carey at Applebee’s). Now they are moving from Arlington to Falls Church with their two girls, and opening a casual, family-friendly spot called Ellie Bird, named after their younger daughter.
Theirs is a journey that’s come full circle. In 2008, Yuan ditched a dull job as a federal auditor and the pair moved to New York City, where he enrolled in culinary school. He later dropped out to work for high-profile restaurants such as The Good Fork in Brooklyn and The Modern and Jean-Georges in Manhattan. In 2015, the Tangs returned to D.C. (following a job offer for Carey at the George Washington University), welcoming the chance to be closer to family, while dreaming of starting one of their own and opening a restaurant that would earn Michelin stars. They achieved all three goals. Yuan cooked at 701 and Rogue 24 (both now closed) in Washington before he and Carey opened Rooster & Owl in February 2019. In 2021, it earned a coveted star.
Designed by D.C.-based 3877 Design, Ellie Bird will seat 70 inside (with lots of booths, Carey says) and 40 outside. Unlike Rooster & Owl, which has a prix-fixe tasting menu, the 3,200-square-foot Falls Church eatery will offer a la carte, takeout, brunch and kids’ menus, centering on Yuan’s version of comfort foods. Expect dishes in the style of the seafood paella and miso Caesar salad he served at Rooster & Owl during the pandemic when it pivoted to a takeout menu. Other crowd-pleasers will include house-made pastas, mac ’n’ cheese for kids and dishes created with whatever is in season at the Falls Church farmers market, such as a grilled pork chop with fresh peaches. “We will maintain our core values, putting our spin on classic American dishes with seasonal and technique-driven food from a chef’s lens,” Yuan says. //110 Founders Ave., Falls Church
Projected opening: Late summer 2022 (Fairfax) and 2023 (Arlington)
Locations: Mosaic District and Clarendon
Rose Previte and Mike Schuster soared to D.C. fame with Compass Rose and its Michelin-starred sister, Maydan. Now they are launching Tawle, a kebab-centric restaurant that, like Maydan, will focus on Middle Eastern and North African flavors. The concept will feature family-style meals and an a la carte menu of spreads, dips, salads and entrées for onsite dining, plus takeout and delivery.
Omar Hegazi, who most recently was the chef at Zööba, a fast-casual Egyptian restaurant in New York City (and whose D.C. résumé includes stints at Bourbon Steak and Zaytinya), will helm the kitchen. In February, Previte was planning a research trip with Hegazi to Turkey, which she considers the epicenter of kebabs. “They take the gold medals,” she says.
Tawle is an outgrowth of an epiphany Previte had during the pandemic. When D.C. restricted restaurant occupancy to 25%, she scrambled to figure out how to package Maydan’s food for delivery. In lieu of offering the entire menu to go (a model that proved unsustainable), she created a family-style takeout meal called Tawle (table), inviting customers to choose one main item, such as bronzini or rib-eye steak, plus a set variety of sides, spreads and condiments.
“People got used to having good food like this at home when they wanted it,” Previte says, “and that’s not going to go away. We wanted to hit that section of the market.” She and Schuster teamed up with ThinkFoodGroup alum Mayu Horie to develop the Tawle concept, which is set to debut this summer in the Mosaic District (EDENS is the landlord). “It’s really comfortable, there are a lot of families and young professionals, and it’s diverse,” Previte says. The 3,000-square-foot space, designed by Michelle Bove of D.C.-based DesignCase, will seat 40 inside and 30 outside. Watch for second location of Tawle coming to The Crossing in Clarendon some time in 2023. //2911 District Ave., Fairfax (Mosaic District); 2832 Wilson Blvd., Arlington (Clarendon)
Surreal at Dining in the Park
Projected opening: Fall 2023
Location: National Landing
In January 2021, developer JBG Smith asked noted chef Enrique Limardo, whose Seven Restaurant Group owns the upscale restaurants Imperfecto and Seven Reasons in Washington, to submit a proposal for a dining concept to occupy a large section of Crystal City Courtyard Green, a 1-acre park in front of its 2121 Crystal Drive office complex.
“We already had a name—Surreal—and a concept for a new restaurant that we had been looking to develop,” says Limardo, “so this was a great opportunity to step into Northern Virginia. National Landing is close to the city and a lot of new people are coming into the area because of Amazon.”
Limardo and his Seven Restaurant Group colleagues—business partner Ezequiel Vázquez-Ger, creative director Valentina Story and chief business development officer Alex Alevras—are now working with the Greek-Swedish firm OOAK Architects to design the park, which will literally become Limardo’s creative playground. “Nature will take over the restaurant,” he says, envisioning an urban oasis interspersed with mature trees. The concept will serve office workers during the day, but at night, the vibe will shift toward diners seeking an elevated culinary experience similar to Seven Reasons and Imperfecto. There will be carryout and catering components, too.
The Surreal concept will include a 5,600-square-foot restaurant, a massive kitchen and a 2,200-square-foot outdoor dining area. During the summer, Limardo says, there could be seating for as many as 250 guests indoors and out. In addition to the all-day bistro, the park will feature four or five interactive, kiosk-like concession stands serving baked goods, breakfast items, street foods and perhaps burgers, pizza and ice cream (they are still fleshing out ideas). “We will have a bakery. We’re developing sourdoughs, flatbreads and croissants,” says the chef, who was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and has experience with large-scale production. Earlier in his career he ran an all-inclusive resort in Cancun that was practically a 24-hour operation, waking daily to do prep at 4 a.m.
Though the planning is still in the early stages, Limardo is already thinking about the details—from lamps resembling floating clouds, to glassware and plates he’s sourcing from artisans in Europe, South America and the Middle East, as well as the U.S. “Surreal is an impressive, powerful name,” he says. “All its magical and cosmical meanings will be expressed, like in Dali’s paintings, but from a food perspective.” //2121 Crystal Drive, Arlington
David Hagedorn is the dining critic for Arlington Magazine.