The 15th-annual Taste of the Town will honor the man who is half responsible for the name of one of the area’s largest high schools.
J. Manley Garber is the
founder longest serving board member at the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative. His last name also makes up half of the name for Gar-Field Senior High School in Woodbridge.
Garber, and another area family the Manderfields donated the land on which the currently sits at 14000 Smoketown Road, just across from Potomac Mills mall. The school building opened in 1972.
Garner will receive the Lily Blackwell Lifetime Achievement Award for his service to not only Project Mend-A-House, but to the community at-large. The award is named after Blackwell, who founded Project Mend-A-House in Prince William County 31 years ago.
“Mr. Garber played an instrumental role in making Prince William County what it is today,” said Project Mend-A-House Director Jennifer Shock Bolles.
The non-profit organization based in Manassas provides free home repairs to low-income families, as well as makes safety modifications to homes belonging to seniors, people with disabilities, and veterans for low or no cost.
The annual “Taste of the Town” is the organization’s annual fundraiser. More than 39 restaurants — from PF Changs to Bonefish Grill — will set up a table inside VFW Hall 1503 at 14631 Minnieville Road in Dale City, and will offer tastes of appetizers and entrees.
“You can have whatever you want. There’s tons of food,” said Bolles.
The event will take place at 6:30 p.m. October 28. Tickets for the event are $30 in advance, or $35 at the door. This year’s theme for the event is “love begins at home.”
Last year’s “Taste of the Town” raised $10,000 for Project Mend-A-House. The organization aims to surpass that mark with this year’s event.
Those who attend will also hear from volunteers, and from those who have benefited from Project Mend-A-House services during a brief program that will also be held inside the VFW hall.
The owner of a sushi restaurant in Woodbridge wants to help you learn how to eat sushi correctly.
Bento Cafe Sushi & Roll, located at 13257 Worth Avenue in Woodbridge, has been open for 11 years – run by a woman who affectionately refers to herself as ‘Bento Mom’.
Bento Mom came to the country from South Korea as a child, without the ability to speak any English.
“I came to [Virginia] when I was 13 years old, through my father; because he was a correspondent through the Oriental Express…when I came, I didn’t know one word of English…I came from South Korea,” said Bento Mom.
According to Bento Mom, she became interested in healthy eating and living – which are important components in the food on her menu – after her father had a stroke.
“Unfortunately my father had a stroke at the age of 52, and I had to study, myself, what is happening to [his] body. This is why I went to school, to learn to do the acupuncture, and [the] tea,” said Bento Mom.
After her parents died, she became close with a Japanese woman whom she refers to as her ‘adopted’ mom, who taught about the Japanese culture and food.
And when she opened up her sushi restaurant, she decided to share her knowledge with her customers – including United States military members, who are going overseas, that need help understanding the food and culture.
“My father always said, ‘Knowledge is power. If you don’t it with someone, either you’re stupid or boring,’ and I don’t want to be either. The way I look at it – some people don’t know how to eat sushi correctly…I think if you eat it the right way, appreciating the miso and eating the wasabi and ginger in the right place, then I think your body will appreciate you more,” said Bento Mom.
In addition to her classes, she also offers a large menu including classics like the California Roll and the Veggie Roll, as well as some unique items like ‘potato-chip sushi’.
Bento Mom said that all of her classes are one-on-one, and interested customers just need to come to the restaurant and ask to speak with her.
Foodies have a great reason to get excited about fall!
September marks the return of Historic Manassas Restaurant Week. Restaurant Week is a tourism and marketing promotion celebrated throughout the U.S. to help bring in new customers and grow local businesses. Local restaurants feature their cuisine and offer a multi-course tasting experience for a special price.
Historic Manassas Inc. produces this event to showcase the City’s exciting culinary scene and encourage people to visit downtown businesses. Diners can try out places where they haven’t yet dined and regulars can score a great deal at their local favorites. Most Restaurant Week promotions are two courses for $25 or three courses for $35 and the specials run September 20 – 26.
Insider’s Scoop on Restaurant Week Specials
Carmello’s (9108 Center Street) brings seasonal fine dining and an award-winning wine list to Historic Manassas. Their Restaurant Week dinner for $35 will offer a choice of a chopped house or caesar salad to start; a choice of gnocchi con carne, veal Napolitano, or marinated pork chops for an entrée; and either crème brule or chocolate hazelnut cake for dessert.
C.J. Finz Raw Bar & Grille (9413 West Street) is the City’s surf and turf destination. They have a fantastic deal that starts with your choice of a pint of beer or wine and is followed by a half-dozen shucked oysters or a half-pound of spiced shrimp. Your meal continues with your choice of several sandwiches, including a lobster roll, fried oyster po’boy, tuna tacos, salmon BLT, as well as non-fishy options like rib-eye steak, grilled chicken, or a burger on pretzel roll.
City Square Café (9428 Battle Street), where many enjoy artisan charcuterie and cheese boards, will entice diners with a choice of appetizer, entrée, and dessert for $35 during dinner. For $48, you can indulge on a wine pairing with your meal.
El Cactus (9406 Battle Street) offers fresh Tex-Mex favorites. During Restaurant Week, two can dine for $36. Pick one of five different appetizers to share, including the Manassas Soup Bowl-winning chicken tortilla soup. Entrees on special include carne asada, smoking fajitas, mole salmon, shrimp-topped tilapia, honey roasted cilantro chicken, and sweet honey salmon salad. Dessert features churros or the Taste of Manassas-winning tres leches.
Mackey’s (9412 Main Street), an American pub, is home to bourbon-glazed, “drunken” meats from the grill as well as plenty of “pub grub” favorites. They are offering an appetizer and entrée combo for $25.
Monza (9405 Battle Street) is where you can enjoy live music on the weekends and your favorite team on the big screens. They will be offering a choice of bruschetta, mozzarella sticks, arancini, or fried calamari for an appetizer and a choice of chicken picatta or pan-seared Atlantic salmon for an entrée for $25.
Okra’s (9110 Center Street) brings a taste of New Orleans to Manassas. This Cajun Creole favorite will feature a different dinner special each day of Restaurant Week. Swing by to see what the day’s special entrée will be and enjoy it with the choice of an appetizer and dessert for $35 during dinner.
Philadelphia Tavern (9413 Main Street) offers authentic Philly fare and boasts hoagie rolls that come straight from Amoroso Bakery. Grab a pal and enjoy two of their famous cheese steaks and two draught beers for $25 during both lunch and dinner.
The Bone (9420 Battle Street) is downtown’s home for smoky barbecue and hand-picked craft beers. Come by for a two-meat combo platter with Banana Puddin’ Pie for dessert and a local craft beer for $25. Choose from pork, brisket, turkey, chicken, or ribs and pair it with two sides and bread.
Note: The full menus at every restaurant will still be available in addition to the Restaurant Week special menu items, deals, and pricing.
Mum Mum — the new Thai restaurant that sits outside the Hylton Performing Arts Center — will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday.
The ceremony will be hosted by the Prince William Chamber of Commerce.
Mum Mum will feature a menu of Thai food with recopies inspired by those who live near the border of Thailand and India, restaurant owner Kris Yoo told us in May.
The restaurant is located at 10945 George Mason Circle in Manassas.
There’s a new coffee shop coming, across from the train station in downtown Manassas.
Jirani Coffeehouse, located on 9423 West Street, is named after the Swahili word for neighborhood.
The goal for the owners is for Jirani to be a local hang out spot that’s much more than a coffee shop, according to store manager Connie Mosemak.
“We’re just people who really thought the community could use a coffee house that wouldn’t be just a coffee house – it would be a community center. It would be a place for people to gather, it would be for people to be comfortable and calm – where we’d have live music,” said Mosemak.
Mosemak said that they to offer band and open mic nights with their full stage, a projector screen for film screenings and a space in the middle of the shop called the ‘Bean Box’ that can be rented out for meetings and events.
“You have work that you go to all the time, you have home when you’re not at work – but this would be a ‘third’ space that you can feel comfortable in,” Mosemak said.
Jirani is getting their coffee from One Village Coffee, a company based out of Philadelphia, and their food from two local bakeries – Pies and Petals and Wow Bakery.
“It’s really important for us to try and support local businesses,” said Mosemak.
On the menu, they’re planning to offer a range of coffee beverages, breakfast foods, sandwiches, desserts and pastries. They’re also planning to incorporate gluten free items and organic ingredients into the menu, according to Mosemak.
Jirani Coffeehouse is set to open at the end of September.
After 10 years, it’s time for a change.
El Gran Charro inside the Town Center at Aquia closed its doors to remodel on Aug. 3. Inside the eatery on Aug. 10, a team of workers worked in a dimly lit room working on the ceiling.
It’s a complete renovation for the restaurant that sits just off Route 1 in Stafford County. When it’s done, the bar will sit in the middle of the restaurant, and new tables and chairs will be positioned on both sides of the restaurant.
The bar had been located on the right side of the restaurant, and that made some customers who sat on the left side of the eatery a bit lonely.
“[When the left side began to empty out] customers thought they were the last ones in the restaurant, and that we were about to close,” said owner Jose Gallardo.
As in most cases, there were more people sitting at the bar on the other side of the restaurant, they just couldn’t see them. The new floor plan will make the eatery more open and inviting, said Gallardo.
The renovations to El Gran Charro are happening as it appears work on the surrounding town center could finally begin. A new plan announced this spring indicates new commercial buildings and apartment homes could be built at Town Center at Aquia.
Stores closed, and buildings were demolished here in 2007, and the property has remained largely untouched since then. El Gran Charro has been located inside the town center or a decade.
“The finished shopping center is going to help a lot,” said Gallardo.
El Gran Charro will reopen its doors with a few new menu items. Seafood dishes and some new appetizers are the main new additions.
The renovations should take about two weeks to complete.
“I thought [this project] was going to be a smaller thing… but it turns out we’ve made a bigger mess than we thought,” joked Gallardo.
Think of it like a Mexican diner.
Chuy’s will open in the old Romano’s Macaroni Grill on Prince William Parkway in Woodbridge. Construction crews since last week have been working on getting rid of the makings of the old Italian restaurant to make way for the new Tex-Mex eatery.
Coined from a nickname people use for Jesus, the Austin, Texas-based Chuy’s has been opening new restaurants across the east cost. They opened their first one in Austin in 1982. The company opened its first Chuy’s outside Texas in 2009 and has been expanding ever since.
The company is expanding in Northern Virginia.
“We opened two restaurants, one in Fairfax and the other in Springfield, and they’re doing very well,” said Kianne Hilburn, a company spokeswoman. “Woodbridge was the obvious next step.”
The restaurant prides itself on using fresh, never frozen ingredients. The prices are more like something you would find in a traditional diner, said Hilburn. The most expensive item on the menu is the fajitas for about $15.
Patrons will also find silverware rolls, and funky wall decorations, much like you would find in a diner, when Chuy’s opens, said Hilburn.
The new Chuy’s in Woodbridge will open next door to another already popular chain Mexican restaurant — On the Border. On many nights when Macaroni Grill was still open, the parking lot at On the Border was packed with cars while fewer cars were parked outside the Italian joint.
“We consider ourselves to be different from On the Border simply because we are authentic tex-mex,” said Hilburn.
Chuy’s gets all of its recipes from border towns along the Rio Grande River between Texas and Mexico. It’s not clear when the new eatery will open, but the company hopes to open its doors before the end of 2015, said Hilburn.
Looking to savor great seafood without having to go very far to get it? These hidden hideaways right here in Prince William & Manassas, will transport you to a seaside retreat to indulge in fruity cocktails and fresh seafood. With a wide variety of activities, live music and more there is sure to be something for everyone at one of these local eateries.
Tim’s Rivershore – Located in Woodbridge, this waterfront restaurant sits on one of the widest points of the Potomac River and offers panoramic views of the river. The view can be enjoyed from inside the restaurants dining room, on the outdoor deck or at the torch-lit tiki bar and beach.
From monthly full moon bonfires on the beach to their annual “Not on the 4th” fireworks display there is a constant flow of events, live music and festivals held here every year. Serving fresh crabs, oysters, scallops, shrimp, mussels, and fish as well as steaks, burgers, pulled pork and chicken sandwiches this family-friendly restaurant is a must visit.
Blue Ridge Seafood – Find a southern twist on traditional seafood dishes in Gainesville, at Blue Ridge Seafood. From fried frog legs to alligator bites and crawfish you are in for a treat when visiting this southern seafood hideaway. More traditional fare such as fresh crabs, seasonal fish, hush puppies and french fries are also offered.
Plan a night out with family and friends to enjoy live music on the back deck or stop in and pick up crabs and hush puppies to enjoy at home. Their backyard tiki bar is the perfect backdrop to any happy hour too!
Crosby’s Crab Co. – Rated one of the best places to find fresh fish, lobster, crabs and oysters in Northern Virginia by Washingtonian Magazine, Crosby’s Crab Company prides itself on its fresh seafood selection. In addition to a variety of local seafood to choose from they also have alligator, frog legs and octopus available for the brave and curious.
A more traditional seafood market, they offer carry out service only and can often be found at the Historic Downtown Manassas Farmers Market on Saturdays during the summer months. Crosby’s is open year round to satisfy any seafood cravings.
CJ Finz Raw Bar & Grill – A surf and turf restaurant offering coastal dining with a hometown feel, is what guests will find at CJ Finz Raw Bar & Grill in the heart of Historic Downtown Manassas. Offering a hint of the Outer Banks in Northern Virginia, diners can relax on the rooftop deck while enjoying freshly shucked oysters or a beer from one of the local breweries.
This family friendly restaurant offers a wide variety of seafood and southern style dishes from fried pickles to oyster po-boy sandwiches. It is a must visit next time you are in the mood for a convenient get away with great food and amazing views.
Madigan’s Waterfront – Whether you are looking for a special place for date night or a unique location for your next private event, this waterfront retreat can accommodate both. Overlooking the Occoquan River and marina patrons can select from a variety of seafood dishes and seating options that are sure to please.
The topside deck and tiki bar play host to live music and entertainment throughout the summer months, making it the perfect spot to sit back and relax. From candlelit riverside dining to karaoke and dancing there is a little something for everyone at this restaurant on the river.
To discover more about where to dine and shop visit discoverpwm.com.
In the mood for some European-inspired deserts?
Bellash Bakery’s owner Mario Rubio, opened the New York and European style bakery a few months ago in Woodbridge.
“I saw there were no Italian or European bakeries around. So I thought it was something that the neighborhood would want,” said Rubio.
Rubio, who owned a bakery in New York for 30 years, wanted to bring residents a way to try European baked goods you couldn’t find elsewhere in the area.
Bellash Bakery offers an assortment of European desserts including butter cookies, Italian biscuits, French pastries, European tortes, cupcakes and Rubio’s custom cakes.
“A lot of people think that with a European bakery, they expect that all of our products come right from Europe. And around here, you aren’t really able to get those ingredients. But in New York, we are able to get those ingredients. So we are able to do a combination of the European tastes, with the American style bakery. You’re going to get the original taste from Europe, but you can imitate it with American ingredients,” said Rubio.
The bakery is located at Station Plaza on Jefferson Davis Highway in Woodbridge.
Bella Café is just a really nice, unique little spot. In a world filled with slick everything, it’s blissfully real and friendly. How many places are left where you can meet the owner and just chat? [Read more]
Guadalupe Castro has been baking and cooking up classic El Salvadorian food for a long time.
Castro, who is the owner of Castro’s Bakery in Falls Church, recently opened the doors at her new location in Woodbridge, near Potomac Mills Mall.
Castro has owned the Falls Church location for 30-years, and after requests from customers, she decided to expand.
“She was thinking about opening a second location, and we came down a couple of times…and then when she saw this location – next to the [El Salvadorian embassy] – she thought ‘well okay, I’ll open it,’” said Pam, the Woodbridge bakery’s manager.
Castro immigrated to the United States from El Salvador decades ago, and built her businesses up from scratch.
“Her whole experience – how she worked herself up to where she is now – she’s amazing. She just has this gift about her with cooking,” said Pam.
The Castro’s Bakery location in Woodbridge offers not only baked goods and custom cakes, but traditional El Salvadorian food as well – like enchiladas, pollo guizado, and paselito de carne.
The bakery is located at 14556 Potomac Mills Road, and is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Try some unconventional eats at Sweeto Burrito in Dale City.
From their luchador theme to their unconventional menu, Sweeto Burrito will be one of the coolest places to eat in Dale City at the Staples Mill Plaza at the intersection of Minnieville Road and Spriggs Road.
The burrito franchise got its start as a food truck in Idaho in 2011, by owner Jon Pierre Francia.
“It was really a blue collar story, where a guy went and borrowed money from his family to start a food truck, and the market came to him to start franchising,” said Virginia’s Sweeto Burrito franchise owner Mike Sarago.
Sarago first got involved with the company after seeing them on the Travel Channel program ‘Food Paradise’. Shortly after the program aired, Sarago flew out to Arizona to meet with Francia.
“I went out with the intention of buying a two or three franchise unit package, and by the end of the weekend, I had bought the rights for the state of Virginia,” said Sarago.
There are currently plans to open 25 Sweeto Burrito locations in Virginia in the next 10 years. The first location will be opening on August 17.
While the Sweeto Burrito will offer traditional TexMex style burritos, they also have plenty of unconventional fare on their menu.
“The food is very unconventional, but it has a complex flavor profile that you wouldn’t expect to click in the way that it does. You’re combining things into these TexMex burritos and it really creates these new and original things, with all these flavors that just clash together in a very positive way,” said Sweeto Burrito manager Max Haddad.
Haddad mentioned two burritos in particular – the ‘Buff Chick’ and the ‘White Chick’.
The ‘Buff Chick’ includes Buffalo wings, tater tots, cilantro ranch dressing and cheese. The ‘White Chick’ has grilled chicken, black beans, pepperjack cheese, sour cream, rice and cilantro ranch dressing, said Haddad.
According to Haddad, they also offer breakfast burritos, including the ‘Rise and Shiner’ – with steak and eggs, cheese, tater tots, cilantro ranch dressing and sriracha sauce.
Once the location is open, Sarago plans to work with community groups to host fundraisers.
“We want to do a partnership in the community, and do fundraising, and donate to the schools. That’s something I’d like to be involved in,” said Sarago.
The restaurant will have its grand opening ceremony on August 22.
- Tidewater Grill
- Phone: 571-383-3050
Between the Potomac River and the 18th hole of the Potomac Shores Golf Club, the Tidewater Grill sits like an oasis in the quiet of nature, cut off from the bustling city not too far beyond its walls.
In the kitchen, Executive Chef Matthew Blazey is cooking up something delicious.
“These are our pork belly bites,” Chef Blazey says, motioning towards one dish. “We braze pork belly in a bunch of seasonings, a little bit of vinegar, apple cider vinegar and some apple juice. We cool it down, cut it into cubes and then we fry it really quickly so it’s nice and crispy. Then we top it with jalapeños, scallions, and fresh cilantro.”
When asked about the kind of person that eats this dish, Chef Blazey laughs. “Everyone loves this dish,” he says.
The enthusiastic chef says that the Tidewater Grill has fun with its food.
“It is a golf club, so you have to have those staples like a burger, a hot dog, wings. We have those, but with our own twist. For instance, our hot dog isn’t your typical hot dog. It’s got bacon jam; caramelized onion and yellow mustard. We like to cook food that not only we like to eat, but people like to eat.”
Matt has been the Executive Chef for Tidewater Grill since before it opened last year. His passion for being in the kitchen began when he dropped out of the university where he had been studying business.
“I hated it,” Chef Matt said. “It wasn’t my kind of learning. I’m a very visual and hands on person. You can tell me how to do something until I’m blue in the face, but I’m not going to fully get it until I actually do it.”
He picked up a job at a golf course in Mason, Ohio instead. “I started working in the kitchen and I fell in love with it,” he said.
Years later, it’s clear the chef still feels strongly connected to the work that he’s involved in and passionate about being in the kitchen.
“That’s where everyone wants to be. It’s exciting, it’s dynamic. There’s always something to do. You know, we’re back there sweating bullets all day, behind a grill in this fast paced environment.”
He also has experience working in a variety of different environments, from hotels in busy city areas to the expansive wildlife of Virginia.
“If I want to take a break from the hotel, going outside there’s taxi cabs flying past me, there’s potholes, and people honking their horns,” Chef Matt said.
Things are different at the Tidewater Grill.
“Here, if I want to go outside, I go out on the back patio and there’s a bald eagles nest adjacent to our clubhouse. The Potomac River is a stones throw away and we’re looking out over the beautiful 18thhole.”
The atmosphere even inspires Chef Matt in the dishes that he makes and the ingredients he decides to use. “We’ve got crab all over the place in our menu: crab cake, crab mac n’ cheese, crab corn chowder.” He adds that the Tidewater Grill features meat and produce from local farms.
“You’re not only supporting local businesses and the local community, it shows the people dining in your establishment what they can also get and what their neighbors are producing,” he said.
Now that he’s Executive Chef, Matt spends a little less time in the kitchen. “My line cooks are probably faster than me now. They can probably run circles around me, so I rely heavily on them in that aspect.”
The chef also enjoys checking on tables and making connections with guests. He says it isn’t just compliments about the food that he’s pleased to hear.
“I like to hear them talk about how much they not only love the food, but just love coming here in general. Because of the atmosphere, you know the service that our staff gives, the conversationsthey have with guests, that whole interaction”
But of course, food is his main priority.
“Here, we have the luxury of making food that we believe in and changing it constantly,” Chef Mattsays.
“If we throw something against the wall and it sticks, awesome. If we throw something against the wall and it doesn’t, then we move on to the next.”
Chef Matt claims there’s nothing like the Tidewater Grill in this area. “I want to make it a destination,” he said.
It seems for Chef Matt at least, it already is one.
“We’re open 7 days a week,” he says. “Come on down.”
This promoted post and accompanying video was written and produced by Potomac Local.
Years after closing a location on Prince William Parkway in, Fuddruckers reopened Tuesday in Woodbridge.
The hamburger joint is famous for their large beef patties and fresh baked buns. They’re most famously known for the toppings bar that allows customers to pile high lettuce, tomato, onion, and several other toppings onto their freshly cooked hamburger.
At dinnertime on Tuesday, customers, in a line that stretched from the register to the front door, all waited to place thier order. Nearly all of the restaurant’s 41 tables were full with hungry diners munching on burgers and fries.
The new Fuddruckers sits inside what was Cheeseburger in Paradise, a restaurant built under the Jimmy Buffett brand name. It and a similar Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant in Fredericksburg closed.
This new Fuddruckers location is 6,523 square feet of space. Because it was retrofitted from an older restaurant, It is slightly larger than many of the new Fuddruckers being built from the ground up, said restaurant spokeswoman Rebecca Conner.
The restaurant offers bottled beers and is looking into the possibility of adding beers on tap. The eatery hopes a kids night, where children’s meals sell for 99 cents and a 20% military discount with ID, will bring in customers. The restaurant also advertises its catering business good for office parties and children’s sports teams.
After Fuddruckers, Inc. filed for bankruptcy in 2010, the old Fuddruckers location that opened in the early 1990’s, located on Prince William Parkway in Woodbridge, closed. The building was demolished, and a McDonalds built in its place.
Shortly after Fuddruckers filed bankruptcy, a new company, Luby’s, purchased the Fuddruckers brand and began expanding the chain.
There’s a new barbecue joint in town.
Mission BBQ opened in the North Stafford Shopping Center on Monday. The chain restaurant with locations in Richmond, Roanoke, Virginia Beach, saw a line form with hungry customers form outside their location off Route 610 in North Stafford.
Jacqueline and Mark Dickenson took their family to the restaurant for opening day. They said the pulled pork was delicious.
At noon on opening day, employees treated customers to a live rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. The grand opening followed a week of special fundraising events for the Stafford County Fire and Recuce Department, Stafford County Sheriff’s Office, and the Wounded Warrior Project.
Here’s more in a press release:
The restaurant known for its traditional American BBQ with a hefty side of patriotism opens its 17th location in Stafford on June 15. Now Stafford County can experience traditional favorites done the MISSION BBQ way. Menu items include Texas Inspired Beef Brisket; Jalapeño and Cheese Sausage; and the bestselling North Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich topped high with Cold Slaw accompanied by an array of homemade BBQ sauces. The opening of the Stafford location is part of MISSION BBQ’s expansion plans, with a targeted goal of 40 restaurants throughout the East Coast by 2018. MISSION BBQ currently has restaurants in five states: Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida.
My and wife and I went to Kobe Japanese Steak and Seafood House for the first time.
She had been before for a workplace party a few years back. For me, it was my first time. But not my first time dining at a Hibachi-style steakhouse.
The morning before we went, I called to make reservations, as was recommended by my wife. We arrived at 7:30 p.m. (a half-hour later than we made our reservation for — thanks, traffic jam) and the hostess welcomed us as if we were right on time. She showed us to our seats at a U-shaped table that surrounded a flat-top grill where our food would be prepared.
Two other women were already sitting down at the table and were enjoying their conversation. My wife and I took the time to catch up after what had been a long and busy week for the both of us.
Our drinks came — my wife ordered a plum dessert wine, and I had water. Then, in walked a family two children who sat down at our table. Now with a full house, it was for our onion soup ( broth with thinly shaved mushrooms and other spices) and house salad topped with ginger dressing. I ate about half of each.
For dinner, my wife ordered combination platters. Hers was a mix of chicken and shrimp and my filet mignon and chicken.
“OK, it’s showtime,” said the chef as he drizzled oil on the flat, hot cooktop. After a flash of flame to heat things up, he began to prepare the rice and vegetables — carrots and zucchini, and onions — that would make up the foundation of our plate. Of course, we were treated to the classic onion volcano that is always impressive to see, and is something I wouldn’t try at home.
As they cooked up, the chef placed a portion of rice on our plates and then portioned out the vegetables. Some at the table were clearly hungry and started eating right away. My wife and I waited until we had our full place in front of us.
When it was time for the meats, the shrimp seemed to cook up faster than anything else. The chef diced the chicken breast, and he made sure the steak was cooked to order. Mine was medium well and prepared just right.
Just as it was time to dig in, the chef played a little game. He cut up some remaining chicken and offered to play catch, and used his utensils to toss food toward the guests and see who could catch it in their mouths.
A few at the table made it look easy. It wasn’t for me as I was zero for two tries. My wife, ever the consummate lady, opted out of the food-tossing competition.
As we ate, the chef thanked all of us, and we all clapped in appreciation of the show we had seen. He poured rail vodka on the cooktop and quickly cleaned it and then went into the back.
The food was delicious and required no seasoning or sauce though two kinds of sauce are provided to you — a ginger dipping sauce and an orange sauce referred to as “yum yum” sauce.
Or bill for the two of us was about $70 with tip. While it is something my wife and I would do together again, this place would also be fun to share with friends and family.
Part 2 Read part one.
Aquia Towne Center may finally be rescued from the eyesore it has become. North Stafford residents have been waiting for years for Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust to fulfill its promise to rebuild it. Ambitious plans for a mixed-use town center were put on hold not long after the recession hit in 2008. Since then, the center has consisted of old one-level buildings, vast spaces of asphalt, gravel and dirt, and one modern five-story office building.
Ramco is the company that owns most of the property, which is now known as The Town Center at Aquia. At this time, Ramco is keeping the office building, which also requires about 400 parking spaces. But much of the rest of the property may be going to two companies that plan to revitalize the dilapidated shopping center. If all goes well, the new town center will provide some desired retail establishments, host brand new apartments and improve property values for nearby subdivisions.
The Franklin Johnston Group of Virginia Beach has purchased the southeastern portion of the shopping center where it plans to build apartments.
Stafford County Supervisor Jack Cavalier (I-Griffis-Widewater) said the residential component is likely to happen before the commercial component. Jeff Harvey, director of planning and zoning for the county, agreed and told Potomac Local News that the developer plans to break ground in two weeks.
“The proposed development includes 256 apartment units in eight multi-story buildings [that] include an in-ground pool with a community center,” said Harvey.
The residential portion of the development is expected to take more than a year to complete.
“I just built relations with the developer to allow food trucks in [The Town Center at Aquia],” declared Steven Cook of Steve-O’s BBQ, Burgers & Bacon, a mobile restaurant. Cook made the surprise announcement online May 13. “I will be coordinating a rotating schedule of trucks… during construction,” the post said.
Speaking to Cook via instant messaging, he shared that he has an agreement with Issac Pretter of Mosaic Realty Partners of Maryland to station food trucks in the town center at least until construction is complete. Mosaic plans to redevelop a large portion of the shopping center for commercial use.
The Stafford Board of Supervisors unanimously approved $6.25 million in tax breaks to Mosaic Realty Partners, according to county documents. The tax breaks are an effort to get The Town Center at Aquia project out from under the rubble.
“The Town Center at Aquia… has long been a key commercial gateway to the county,” stated the supervisors’ resolution for the tax break. “The board believes that an active and vibrant major commercial gateway located adjacent to Interstate 95, Route 1 and Garrisonville Road is in the best interest of the citizens of the county and that attractive mixed-use properties significantly increase the potential of attracting much-desired high-end retail to the county.”
It goes on to say the county worked hard to attract an investor for the property and that the board determined that incentives were necessary for the town center to be revitalized.
The most anticipated component expressed by nearby residents is the possibility of a grocery store in the shopping center.
Eron Sodie of Mosaic wouldn’t say which grocery store the company plans on bringing into the site, but he gave a few hints and let it slip that the grocery chain was based in North Carolina. Residents of Aquia Harbour, the neighborhood located behind the town center, have come up with a number of possibilities, but most seem to think Sodie was referring to Harris Teeter.
But there’s a small hiccup. According to Cavalier, the grocery store that is expected to come into the center requires an easement that it will use to create a second entrance on Washington Drive, which is the road that leads into Aquia Harbour from Jefferson Davis Highway. Cavalier said the second entrance would sit approximately 400 feet outside of the Harbour’s front gate. Such a transaction would have to be made between Aquia Harbour and Mosaic since the Harbour owns that portion of the road.
Supervisor Paul Milde III (R-Aquia) said the second entrance being proposed is supposed to be only for traffic in and out of Aquia Harbour.
Sodie said a traffic study will be done. He added that delivery trucks will not be allowed to use Washington Drive, though it’s unclear how that promise would be enforced.
According to site plans, the new grocery store would be built where the movie theater is currently located, at the rear of the shopping center. As for the businesses at the front of the shopping center, they are independently owned, according to officials.
HighGrain Bread Company, a locally owned bakery, is making a presence in Manassas with their “from scratch” philosophy and unique menu.
The store, which just opened about a year ago, is nestled in the Bull Run Shopping Plaza area, off of Sudley Manor Drive.
They offer standard lunch fare, including sandwiches, salads, soups and sweets. Some of their top items include the chicken gyro, hummus wrap and their Caesar salad.
One thing that makes this location unique is their baking. They offer a monthly baking schedule that constantly offers up new items and their menu staples – that customers can order for their own homes or events.
They also have a weekly schedule available for customers, so they can see the breads and different baked goods being baked on-site each day. From their challah bread, to their tea loaves and other baked goods, they try to keep their goods high quality and interesting, said an employee.
HighGrain Bread Company is closed on Mondays, and open Tuesday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The Ornery Beer Company is another brewery that will be opening in Prince William in July – but they plan to stand out for their offering of beer and food.
“We will be the first brewpub in Prince William County – meaning it is a restaurant with a brewery. The others ones that are in the county that are under construction – they’ll bring in food trucks…but they don’t have on-site restaurant services,” said Randy Barnette, the owner of the brewery.
Barnette, who is also the owner of the Hard Times restaurant locations, will put the brewery in the current Woodbridge Hard Times location – which has been open since 2001.
“The business has changed, the clientele has changed, and it was time to do something different…the lease came up here at the [Woodbridge] location of Hard Times, and it was either time to relocate it, close it down or make it something new and different,” said Barnette.
The brewery will have six beers to start, including the Ornery Blonde and the California Dreamin’ IPA, with plans to have 8 to 12 beers on-tap at all times in a few months.
According to Barnette, a chef announcement will be made soon, and he hopes to have a menu with dishes primarily made from scratch, including flatbreads, shareable appetizers, sandwiches and entrees.
“[We want] a non-standard menu that says ‘this is created by the chef’. That it changes every month, and is handmade…original and comfortable to eat in a community setting,” commented Barnette.
Additionally, Barnette acquired the space next door to the former Hard Times, and will be using that to expand and create another bar space.
Recently a vehicle crashed into the front of the location, but Barnette stated that the incident was not the reason behind the move from Hard Times to Ornery Brewery.
“This has been in the works for almost two years. We signed the lease with the landlord to make this transition a year and four months ago…all the accident did was to make a hole in the wall where we can bring in brewery equipment – it actually helped us out a little bit,” said Barnette.
In the next few months, a brewery and a distillery will open their doors in Prince William County.
Growling Bear Brewery
The microbrewery, Growling Bear Brewery, will be located at 14051 Crown Court in Woodbridge. The owners plan to open in the beginning of July.
According to the brewery owner, Mike Blivens, the idea to open the brewery came from his own experience with brewing at home.
“I’ve been a home brewer since 1998. I kind of got sick of my corporate job and figured I was going to go into something where I would enjoy going into work that I have a passion for,” said Blivens.
Growling Bear will offer 12 craft beers that are made on site, using equipment shipped over from Germany.
Blivens said that they plan to offer 4 core beers that they carry year round, 4 seasonal beers and 4 experimental beers.
“We are going to specialize in dark beers, and try to have at least four dark beers on tap all year long. A lot of breweries don’t do that for some reason – people stay away from dark beers until wintertime. But we tend to see that a little differently,” commented Blivens.
The brewery will offer a small menu, and they will be looking to have different food trucks come to the site during the weekends for customers looking to have some food with their beverages.
MurLarkey Distilled Spirits
On 7961 Gainsford Court in Bristow, co-owner Tom Murray is opening MurLarkey Distilled Spirits that will open its doors this month.
The distillery is located in the former Ferguson Electric building just off Wellington Road.
For Murray, the thought of opening up a local distillery was one that he had for a long time.
“I’m a former technology executive. My cousin and I founded the company [for the distillery] in 2013…it’s something that we’ve always been interested in…and it’s something we’ve been considering for a while,” said Murray.
At the distillery, they will be making hand-crafted vodka, as well as three varieties of infused whiskeys.
“We are using some traditional recipes that our grandparents brought over from Ireland,” Murray said.
Murray stated that while there is currently no ability to serve food, they would be working to do so in the future. There will also be a tasting area and special events on site.
More on the way
Growling Bear Brewery will encompass 2,150 square feet of space inside the Prince William Commons business park near BJs wholesale club.
Mularkey Distilled Spirits will have 4,322 square feet of space when it opens.
In Woodbridge, county records show a Hard Times Café located in the Potomac Festival shopping center across from Potomac Mills mall applied for county permits to become Ornery Beer Company Public House. That’s a change from its usual fare of chili macs and billiards.
The new breweries and distilleries join similar businesses in Manassas that opened their doors for the first time or expanded their operation. BadWolf Brewery chose to expand in Manassas after Prince William County officials halted a possible expansion at the Tackett’s Mill Center in Lake Ridge due to rules on still on the books last fall.
County officials later changed their rules to allow craft breweries and distilleries to open in popular shopping centers.
El Charro – 2893 Dale Blvd, Woodbridge, VA
El Charro is offering any two of their bottled beers for $5.
El Paso – 3031 Golansky Blvd, Woodbridge, VA
El Paso will be offering drink specials all day.
Zandra’s Tauqueria – 9114 Center St, Manassas, VA
Zandra’s will be hosting a Happy Hour until 7 p.m. with a Tequila Tuesday theme. They will also be offering drink specials and beef tongue tacos all evening.
Don Lencho – 9116 Mathis Ave, Manassas, VA
Don Lencho’s will be having a drink special for mimosas, and a Taco Tuesday with taco’s al a carte for $1.50.
El Cactus – 9406 Battle St, Manassas, VA
El Cactus is offering half-priced appetizers from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., 50 cent chili con queso from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and a sombrero contest. There will also be drink specials.
El Gran Charro -2834 Jefferson Davis Hwy, Stafford, VA
El Gran Charro will be offering a taco special, with $1.25 for hard shell tacos and $1.50 for soft tacos. They are also offering nachos for $2.99. Their Cinco de Mayo drink specials include $2.99 lime margaritas and Corona’s for $2.50.
El Vaquero West – 14910 Washington St, Haymarket, VA
El Vaquero West is offering drink specials including a 32-ounce draft for $6.85 and all bottled beers for $2.85. They will also be offering their medium lime margaritas for $4.25.
Get home safely
To ensure that participants in the Cinco de Mayo festivities get home safely, special ride programs will be available for area residents.
The SoberRide program, run by the Washington Regional Alcohol Program, is available to all Washington D.C. area residents from 4 p.m. today, until 4 a.m. tomorrow morning.
In order to use the free ride program, you must 21-years and older.
To use the service, you need to call 800-200-8294. SoberRide will pay for the first $30 of the fare, and anything over this amount all riders are responsible for.
The participating cab companies are Alexandria Yellow Cab, Barwood, Inc., Fairfax Yellow Cab, Loudon Yellow Cab, Northern Virginia Checker, Red Top Cab Company, Silver Cab of Prince George’s County, Yellow Cab of the District of Columbia, and Yellow Cab of Prince William County.