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Willow, Chef Tracy O'Grady and Pastry Chef Kate Jansen on N. Fairfax Drive in Ballston - Closed


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Closed 3 years ago this month.  Landlord still searching for a replacement tenant.  I guess that Brian Wolken's comment that the landlord "has unrealistic expectations about what the space is worth on

I helped open the Bistro Bistro that was there in the late 90's. It was a Schlotski's deli prior. The factors I always contributed to Uncle Julio's success and demise of other restaurants across the w

It's a shame, I have some great memories of this place, but I agree with the posters that noted that the dining room prices were simply too high for the inconsistency and relatively uninterested servi

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On ‎10‎/‎5‎/‎2015 at 5:21 PM, hopsing said:

I walked by there today.  So sad to see the patio stripped of its furniture.

willow gone.PNG

I was over that way this past weekend.  There was a whole lot of construction going on in that very patio and along the side on N. Utah Street.  The construction barricades made it impossible to get up to the window to read the posted permits and see what, if anything, might be going on inside.

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37 minutes ago, dcs said:

I was over that way this past weekend.  There was a whole lot of construction going on in that very patio and along the side on N. Utah Street.  The construction barricades made it impossible to get up to the window to read the posted permits and see what, if anything, might be going on inside.

I heard this interesting comment the other day.  Someone I know who has been a skilled front of the house person for over two decades was describing where he is currently working, some pluses and minuses.  Then we moved to general and systemic pluses and minuses in restaurants, and then we moved to specific places.   

This person has tons of experience, has worked in many different places, has been a manager, has turned down managerial positions, etc.  He has worked in well named restaurants that get many laudatory comments in dr.com and places that escape mention from this forum.      

In his experience Best Operated restaurant he ever worked in from a management/organizational/ met customer demands/ etc perspective--> Rio Grande/Uncle Julio's   When he goes there now or in the last few years he still sees some of the behind the scene elements that made it so well run in his perspective.

As a diner/customer there, I'd never see those things.  In fact he didn't get into details, so I can't elaborate on his perspective.  But just an interesting comment vis a vis the rather striking turn over of the Willow side of that building versus the fact that Rio Grande/Uncle Julio's has lasted on the other side of the courtyard in the same building since the 80's.  

I found that intriguing.  I'm going to go over to Rio Grande, for either a table with others or the bar as a singleton or both and turn on my "front of the house sniffer" to see if I can get a feel for what he found so outstanding.  

 

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Willow space remains empty now 4 years and running.  Given the center of gravity in the neighborhood is shifting towards Ballston Quarter, I'd say this is a condition not likely to change anytime soon.

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2 hours ago, dcs said:

Willow space remains empty now 4 years and running.  Given the center of gravity in the neighborhood is shifting towards Ballston Quarter, I'd say this is a condition not likely to change anytime soon.

I should know this offhand, but Uncle Julio's is still chugging along there, isn't it?

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17 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

I should know this offhand, but Uncle Julio's is still chugging along there, isn't it?

I believe the ex Willow space and Uncle Julio's space are virtually identical in size.  Uncle Julio's has survived the test of time.  The Willow space has gone through a LOT of tenancies in the same time period.  The building has to be about 30-35 years old.  I used to lease retail/restaurant space and did it over a couple of decades.  With doing that one adds the characterization of "real estate expert". 

I haven't the faintest idea why Uncle Julio's has done so well and Willow and the prior tenants didn't cut it.  When Willow closed among comments were that the vacancy in nearby office buildings had a damming effect on lunch and HH business.  It had to have impacted Uncle Julio's similarly. 

Those who figure out how to "meet the market" get gold stars.....

 

oh yeah, background from above:

On 9/4/2018 at 1:15 PM, dcs said:

 

3 hours ago, dcs said:

Willow space remains empty now 4 years and running.  Given the center of gravity in the neighborhood is shifting towards Ballston Quarter, I'd say this is a condition not likely to change anytime soon.

 

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I helped open the Bistro Bistro that was there in the late 90's. It was a Schlotski's deli prior. The factors I always contributed to Uncle Julio's success and demise of other restaurants across the way were this.

A. Parking. While both restaurants have a sheer lack of street parking, Uncle Julio's had the garage on its side. As well the way traffic flows at night, the majority of dinner business saw Uncle Julio's first and could turn in quickly. Whereas everyone else by the time they noticed the other restaurant, they had already passed it, therefore making it a bitch to turn back around. Drive Fairfax Drive at 5-7 pm at night going towards I-66. You will see what I mean.

B. Tex-Mex. For whatever reason people love it and that demographic in that area is primed for it.

C. i was really hoping Willow would have been the one to outlast Uncle Julio's but I guess again the demographic just didn't support it because of prices. While Uncle Julio's is not cheap by any standard it gives off this vibe that its just 'chips, salsa and margarita's' so how could that be expensive?

My two cents are this- I think if you put in a mix use store for that Willow space you might make it. Something like a Wine/Beer shop with sandwiches in the back, big bar for tasting flights of wine/beer and some limited seating- no more than 50 for L/D- it could work, possibly. 

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On 10/2/2020 at 1:09 PM, captcourt said:

Thankfully we have Tracy O'Grady's magic at Green Pig Bistro.  

That being said...we live walking distance from the old Willow location, whereas GPB is in the heart of Parking Hell.

Anything go into the old Willow space yet?

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