Joe H

Dining in Reston Town Center

62 posts in this topic

Mon Ami Gabi from Lettuce Entertain You (which has an outpost in Bethesda) will open in one of two ten story office buildings currently under construction. Il Fornaio from California will open in Midtown West which is one of the 21 story condominiums. If anyone knows of any of the several other new restaurants scheduled for Town Center please post them here. On Linda Roth's website she notes that a high profile midwestern restaurant group is opening two concept restaurants in Fairfax county. Mon Ami Gabi is certainly one of them. Could this be the other: http://www.cafebabareeba.com/ Just a guess for this.

As an aside, for me, it is a shame that most if not all of the new restaurants will be part of national groups as opposed to locally owned or chef owned and operated. Where are Jeff Black or the group that did DC Coast/Ten Penh/Ceiba, etc.? Excepting Maestro, Colvin Run Tavern and 2941 western Fairfax County is becoming something of a wasteland for "regional" excellence. I suppose that I should be thankful that we even have these....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

welll....talking outloud -- Jeff and barbara black, one of my favorite couples in the business, just sunk a bunch of money into Black's Bar and Kitchen...and Passion Hospitality (DC Coast...) did the same for Acadiana.

Maestro has the luxury of being financially backed by an amazing hotel group...which isn't why it thrives, but why it exists.

With Michel, Cathal and Robert Wiedmaier expanding...up and comers like Barton Seaver and Michael Babin's crew...I'm hopeful for the independent operator.

it depends on who has the dollars...

I personally worry about the public's tastebuds being mentally oversalted by chains Granted, we opened 3 Krispy Kreme stores in DC (c'mon, who doesn't love an original glazed!?) and we're going to aid in the opening of Il Fornaio later this year (a v small company - this is their first east coast expansion). They have their place - and I think in such a transient city, regional/national brands are a source of comfort for newcomers.

...but if the rise in chains stumps the public's taste for culinary adventure - well that would be a crazy shame.

I think the hope lies in the growing culture of foodies and an interest in cuisine, et al. Boards like this, blogs like Metrocurean, Best Bites, The List, allowing chefs on radio shows and morning TV shows (which is growing more popular despite the conglomeration of radio)...i've heard that Food Network is the new MTV for Generation...um...whoever watches MTV now - high schoolers? Great restaurants are popping up in Tidewater, Richmond, Eastern Shore, etc...these are good signs!

But i don't know what's going to get one person to give up Outback for Ray's, or Olive Garden (ew) for Al Crostino...or to get the readers polls to support more independents than chains (albeit that's a numbers game). It's why brands that are new to the area hire us. To ensure that people hear about them! But in a cluttered city, it's still a challenge. Like all things, learning begins at home! :o

in other news, right on the mark with Mon Ami in Reston. will keep you updated on the rest. Thanks for reading...Cheers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What are the chances that an independent owner could even afford the lease or get adequate financing? The folks that own the buildings know who can pay the bills with little risk. It is too bad as all of us suffer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What are the chances that an independent owner could even afford the lease or get adequate financing? The folks that own the buildings know who can pay the bills with little risk. It is too bad as all of us suffer.
ain't that the truth in Reston aka the hell hole of eating in the DC area

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I find it most fitting that only chains are going into Reston Town Center.

Chain restaurants, chain stores, total homogenization.

But then again I'm a New England girl that thinks the whole idea of the fake/planned center is odd.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Growing up in this area, it has been nuts seeing RTC grow the way that it has, utterly shocking. While the parking is awful, I am actually impressed that the traffic around there never seems to be as bad as other places that I drive.

Anyway, they pushed out Lee's Ice Cream (original tenant) for Ben and Jerry's. Then they pushed out the sandwich place that used to be there, I think it was called WrapWorks, and word is that they are putting a Potbelly in its place. They say it is all to bring business into the shopping center, but could they possibly need any more business!? And, is anyone going to seriously go through the hassle of going to RTC for an ice cream cone at Ben and Jerry's!? People may be more likely to buy ice cream at Ben and Jerry's as opposed to Lee's, but I would be shocked if more people are coming to RTC just for that reason. You put in more anchor stores for things like that, not ice cream and sandwich shops.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love Reston Town Center. It is very European with a town square ambience that attracts a great deal of life to it, especially on the weekends. I would suggest that it is one of the most successful designs of its kind in America and the model for countless other developments. I also much prefer it to the ostensible alternative, a shopping mall connected to office buildings and apartments. What I am disappointed in is the very high cost of leasing retail space (downtown D. C. prices) which discourage local chef and ownership. I know that several years ago Kinkead wanted to come to the spot where Morton's is today but couldn't close a deal. Town Center needs to have a mix similar to, say, Bethesda where there are outposts of national chains alongside of regional or chef owned restaurants.

Having said this several of the groups going into/in Reston Town Center are among the best of their kind, i.e. Lettuce Entertain You, Uncle Julio's/Rio Grande, Clyde's and Morton's. Il Fornio is an interesting regional chain with a menu that emphasizes a different area of Italy every month or so. I've eaten at several of their stores in Northern CA and enjoyed it. Still, it is not an Obelisk or Tosca and that is what I hope will one day come to Town Center.

If we cannot have a Rock Creek come into Town Center, alternatively a Seasons 52 from Darden would be sensational. If there's no Jeff Black or Michael Landrum then perhaps, at least, Outback could bring a Roy's and Pappas Bros. would look north along with D. C.'s first Emeril's or Bobby Flay's. At least if we must have chains perhaps we can have those among the best, if there is such a thing.

Are any of those above even considering the D. C. area?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would like to see an Inox or Estadio or Zaytinya or Source like restaurant open in Reston Town Center where there IS foot traffic and also a space available in a building where ground was just broken diagonally across from Passion Fish.

I write this as someone who has no connection in any way to anything at Town Center; rather as someone who lives in Reston and would like to see a restaurant "which makes a difference" and is not an outpost of a national chain. There is education, wealth and a downtown ambience here in what I believe is the single best available location in northern VA.

And, yes, the subway is coming.

Estadio in the Reston Town Center would be perfect.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Estadio in the Reston Town Center would be perfect.

It would do extremely well there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Estadio, Proof, Zaytinya, Black's Market Bistro, Jaleo, Vermillion....any of them would be perfect in Reston and packed every night.

I also really like Mokomandy and have told the owner and chef they need to move to RTC. We'll see.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll have to take a differing viewpoint. I view the Reston Town Center as a Disney-esque playground with no sense of community or local charm. It is dominated by chains, with decidedly non-discerning palates and tastes chasing glitsy gimmicks and shiny objects. It's a place where 20-somethings can pile 5-deep in the screaming bar scene at Jackson's, or where well-heeled expense accounts believe that Morton's or McCormick & Schmick constitute deal-making atmosphere. Fine dining would not thrive here -- PassionFish is about the finest that can survive here. Crowds and dollars chase mediocrity here, from Clyde's to Big Bowl to Paolo's to Uncle Julio's.

I would assume that the owners of Estadio, Proof, Zaytinya, Black's and so on have done their homework and have avoided this Yuppie playground for sensible business reasons.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Kibbee, respectfully, but I may disagree a bit on this one. I would argue that at least some of the chains are "regional" such as Clyde's, GAR (Jackson's) and PassionFish. Jeff Black has five restaurants now, Mark will have four (I think?) and Zaytinya might have as many as all of them combined. If each of these added another location they would roughly be similarly sized to the first three.

Saturday night my wife and I were at Et Voila. I cannot tell you how badly I would like to see this at Town Center or Fabio's Fiola or Beck's or.... Still, I believe that the kind of restaurant that Estadio is or Zaytinya is fit perfectly into the mix at Town Center. I also believe that because of the exhorbitant rent they would be charged (am I not correct that per square foot both Clyde's and Jackson's have the highest dollar volume of each group?) the amount of investment, almost by definition, demands an ownership group that has other locations.

I think fine dining is becoming a fearful rarity for a lot of restauranteurs especially in an environment that might play host to $5.00 premium gas by the summer. Whoever goes into Town Center is going to be very much aware of this. I would see Beck's before Marcel's or Jaleo before a take on MiniBar. I mention Estadio because I love the place and the food. It is exactly the kind of restaurant that will do well in a downturn.

My guess is that unless one of the principals of those we mention aboved are interested we're looking at another Lettuce Entertain You (Big Bowl, Mon Ami Gabi).

OR, and this is a real hope of mine to: PassionFish is part of a group that includes (d) DC Coast, Ten Penh, Ceiba and Arcadia. What would a Ceiba or a Ten Penh do diaginally across the street from Passion Fish? Jeff Tunks is imaginative and gifted; he could do his own take on a Tapas restaurant.

Does Jeff follow this board?

Does Jose Garces follow this board?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Reston, Vienna and Tysons are starved for privately (non-conglomerate) owned fine dining establishments that have entrees priced below $30. Look at Bazins in Vienna, Nostos in Tysons and Villa Mozart in Fairfax (and the aforementioned Mokomandy in Sterling). Those places are consistently packed for all the obvious reasons.

Jacksons, Mon Ami, Il Fornaio, Clydes, M&S they all have the deep pockets behind them to pay for the space which the small guy can't afford.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am right there with UStifosi and Joe H.

The 20-somethings mentioned by Kibbee Nayee will continue to keep Jackson's and America's Tap Room flourishing, and even M&S seems to have become more of a bar scene for the next age group up.

I cannot tell you how happy I would be to have a non-seafood-exclusive (and non-Morton's) counterpart to PassionFish. I would be willing to pay about double what I now have to pay at Mon Ami Gabi and Il Fornaio to be able to frequent an Estadio or a Vermilion, or the like.

I had heard a rumor quite some time ago that NRG was looking at RTC and other locations in Reston for a third iteration of Rustico. I have not heard anything on that recently, however.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I cannot tell you how happy I would be to have a non-seafood-exclusive (and non-Morton's) counterpart to PassionFish. I would be willing to pay about double what I now have to pay at Mon Ami Gabi and Il Fornaio to be able to frequent an Estadio or a Vermilion, or the like.

Well, you're sort of hinting at a Ray's the Steaks kind of place, which I think is all that the Town Center can handle as far as fine dining is concerned, and which I believe would thrive there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll have to take a differing viewpoint. I view the Reston Town Center as a Disney-esque playground with no sense of community or local charm. It is dominated by chains, with decidedly non-discerning palates and tastes chasing glitsy gimmicks and shiny objects. It's a place where 20-somethings can pile 5-deep in the screaming bar scene at Jackson's, or where well-heeled expense accounts believe that Morton's or McCormick & Schmick constitute deal-making atmosphere. Fine dining would not thrive here -- PassionFish is about the finest that can survive here. Crowds and dollars chase mediocrity here, from Clyde's to Big Bowl to Paolo's to Uncle Julio's.

I would assume that the owners of Estadio, Proof, Zaytinya, Black's and so on have done their homework and have avoided this Yuppie playground for sensible business reasons.

Been thinking about this and I think you are right in your description but I also suspect the restaurants you mention would (generally) go where people are and would not snub RTC if given the chance.

I think the biggest cause of RTC being Disney-esque is its age. It just hasn't had the time to evolve into a personality the way older city centers have. I do think that city planners in charge of RTC should allow some creativity where they can - like if a restaurant wants to subdivide to allow a small bakery at the street front.

RTC also suffers from popularity. This city is STARVED for central places that are pedestrian friendly and filled with commerce, not monuments. (we kick butt in the monuments department!) We have a few such places - OT Alexandria for instance. But a place like Tysons is NOT pedestrian friendly at all - it is a car place...so not too much 'walking around' synergy like RTC has. The fix to this? Allow RTC to expand until it gets to where some areas can support smaller, sole-proprieter places.

Soo...Time and continued expansion of retail frontage will make RTC more within the reach of the kinds of places you describe. Give them 10 years and it'll happen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Been thinking about this and I think you are right in your description but I also suspect the restaurants you mention would (generally) go where people are and would not snub RTC if given the chance.

I think the biggest cause of RTC being Disney-esque is its age. It just hasn't had the time to evolve into a personality the way older city centers have. I do think that city planners in charge of RTC should allow some creativity where they can - like if a restaurant wants to subdivide to allow a small bakery at the street front.

RTC also suffers from popularity. This city is STARVED for central places that are pedestrian friendly and filled with commerce, not monuments. (we kick butt in the monuments department!) We have a few such places - OT Alexandria for instance. But a place like Tysons is NOT pedestrian friendly at all - it is a car place...so not too much 'walking around' synergy like RTC has. The fix to this? Allow RTC to expand until it gets to where some areas can support smaller, sole-proprieter places.

Soo...Time and continued expansion of retail frontage will make RTC more within the reach of the kinds of places you describe. Give them 10 years and it'll happen.

My observation, however right or wrong it may be, is that the nouveau Town Center concept appeals more to the people who find themselves in the upper middle class, for whatever good fortune has been visited upon them, but whose discernment for finer fare is quite immature. The chains, concepts, gimmicks and cupcake shops appeal to them, but not the truly contemplative and one-of-a-kind eating establishments.

The Town Center I would enjoy most would have Joe's Noodle House alongside Mount of Lebanon alongside Elephant Jumps alongside Han Gang alongside Cava Mezze Grill alongside Ray's the Steaks alongside PassionFish alongside Four Sisters alongside Pupatella alongside Hong Kong Palace alongside Thai Basil....whew! With some nice theaters and fine Old Town-ish shops and pleasant gathering places and watering holes. Alas, the Town Centers inflicted upon us are chains, chains and cupcake shops, and they chase me to Lancaster or Fredericksburg or locations where a real sense of place actually exists...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Reston is a planned town. Some others include Brasilia, Columbia, MD, Washington, DC, the Levittowns (PA and NY), and Roosevelt NJ. Some of them have flourished, and some have not. The planners have a tendency to overlook how people really live. Jane Jacobs vs Le Corbusier.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My observation, however right or wrong it may be, is that the nouveau Town Center concept appeals more to the people who find themselves in the upper middle class, for whatever good fortune has been visited upon them, but whose discernment for finer fare is quite immature. The chains, concepts, gimmicks and cupcake shops appeal to them, but not the truly contemplative and one-of-a-kind eating establishments.

The Town Center I would enjoy most would have Joe's Noodle House alongside Mount of Lebanon alongside Elephant Jumps alongside Han Gang alongside Cava Mezze Grill alongside Ray's the Steaks alongside PassionFish alongside Four Sisters alongside Pupatella alongside Hong Kong Palace alongside Thai Basil....whew! With some nice theaters and fine Old Town-ish shops and pleasant gathering places and watering holes. Alas, the Town Centers inflicted upon us are chains, chains and cupcake shops, and they chase me to Lancaster or Fredericksburg or locations where a real sense of place actually exists...

What exists in RTC has, as you say, and by and large, been "inflicted upon us". Probably a large number of people that frequent RTC meet your description, but I assure you that there are plenty of people, including me, who patronize RTC and who would be offended if you tried to characterize us in that way. I also think that many of those who currently meet your description would experience a maturation in discernment for finer fare, if given the chance.

I (and we) go to RTC (not as frequently as I (or we) otherwise might), because Tysons is a disaster and, if you, like me, were to actually live out this way, you could not make the trip downtown or to Old Town Alexandria at the drop of a hat. I do not hesitate to say, on my behalf as well as on behalf of a pretty wide circle of friends and acquaintances, "build it [something akin to the Town Center that you pine for], and they [we] will come [much more often than we go to RTC]."

By the way, upthread a little ways, I am not sure how you surmised that I was wishing for a Ray's the Steaks at RTC, when I specifically mentioned Vermilion and Estadio--unless you are equating the three places to each other, or are just struggling with reading comprehension...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My observation, however right or wrong it may be, is that the nouveau Town Center concept appeals more to the people who find themselves in the upper middle class, for whatever good fortune has been visited upon them, but whose discernment for finer fare is quite immature. The chains, concepts, gimmicks and cupcake shops appeal to them, but not the truly contemplative and one-of-a-kind eating establishments.

The Town Center I would enjoy most would have Joe's Noodle House alongside Mount of Lebanon alongside Elephant Jumps alongside Han Gang alongside Cava Mezze Grill alongside Ray's the Steaks alongside PassionFish alongside Four Sisters alongside Pupatella alongside Hong Kong Palace alongside Thai Basil....whew! With some nice theaters and fine Old Town-ish shops and pleasant gathering places and watering holes. Alas, the Town Centers inflicted upon us are chains, chains and cupcake shops, and they chase me to Lancaster or Fredericksburg or locations where a real sense of place actually exists...

The cava mezze near me is in a "town center".

I agree with your observation, but disagree with the cause. We've been subject, for 75 years, to crappy constructs that lack that sense of place - malls, strip shopping centers, big box stores and the like. Now we finally get some decently designed places and guess what - there's a mad rush to get in there. It isn't the fault of the the designed place, rather that deep pocket companies will elbow out the mom and pops when supply is limited. The biggest error continues to be that such places are confined to pens, like they are outdoor malls to be driven to, then exited from. The logical extension is to allow such places to expand to meet demand - of residents, mom and pops, etc.

The result? Places like manhattan. Which may not be to everyone's liking, but it has some of the highest densities, highest land values - and best selection of restaurants, chains and not. It can work and be sustainable for generations.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Reston is a planned town. Some others include Brasilia, Columbia, MD, Washington, DC, the Levittowns (PA and NY), and Roosevelt NJ. Some of them have flourished, and some have not. The planners have a tendency to overlook how people really live. Jane Jacobs vs Le Corbusier.

To be very clear about this:

Planning itself isn't bad - but most of the car-based planning of the last 75 years is really bad and lacks a sense of place. The more recent new urbanism movement seeks to return to design that is treasured and which people seek.

Columbia is a perfect example of a crappy place that is liked only by cars, not people. Who ever says "it's a nice day....let's go to Columbia for lunch and a stroll?". Where would one even stroll? Does Columbia even have two businesses close enough to stroll between? What does one envision when they think of Columbia? I think of 6 lane roads, strip malls that are 1/4 mile off those huge roads, store signs that are all the same color, a street plan that is unnavigable.... Etc. there's a reason that Columbia's land values never really showed any exception despite all the planning - cuz its just miserable there.

Good planning is rare, and often models older places that developed before planning involved micromanagement - in places like Annapolis, old town Alexandria, Frederick, etc, where planning only laid down a street grid and people were allowed to build as they saw fit - and built fabulous, albeit dense, places.

Such is RTC. People flock to it - as people like to be around other people and in spaces that are comfortable and scaled/designed for humans. The businesses will evolve over time and lend character.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My observation, however right or wrong it may be, is that the nouveau Town Center concept appeals more to the people who find themselves in the upper middle class, for whatever good fortune has been visited upon them, but whose discernment for finer fare is immature

To focus on this ... Notice that these town center places almost never have fast food places? Wouldn't the people you describe above yearn for a big Mac?

The physical layout of such places effectively shuns fast food places, as you can't have a drive- thru where walls are shared with neighboring businesses. Of course, McDonald's does have some urban locations but by and large they prefer the pad sites.

My point is that the design of RTC actually keeps out some of the bottom of the culinary barrel. More interesting options on a par with the places you mention will come with time.... But are also rare places by any measure, the exception to the rule.

But I don't think the fact that the place does not yet have exceptional offerings is reason to dismiss those walking the streets as incapable of appreciation of such offerings.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To further this - would we say that manhattan only appeals to those with immature taste? RTC is modeled after manhattan in many ways - mixed use buildings, high density zoning, cars pushed out and underground, vital street activity.

Manhattans had 200 years to develop- it isn't the clientele that precludes the places you've named from being at RTC. Mostly, it's that they are already located elsewhere. Give some places a chance to open and develop in RTC.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now