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Alto Plaza - Pan-Latino Real-Estate Gamble on Route 28 and 29 in Centreville

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For those of you who drive through the 28/29 area, you know what I'm talking about. They've literally been constructing at that site for years. The only signs say "Cooley Electric." My wife called the Cooley phone number and they said it will be a mexican restaurant. I've heard a rumor that each level will be progressively higher scale than the one below (there are three levels). It's built to have views of the mountains in the far distance with balconies on level two and three on the west side. Is any of this even true? Any idea when it will open, what it will be called, if it's local or a chain, or anything at all about it?

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You know, I live less then a mile from that location in Centreville and its been taking so long to build, I figured it was a new firehouse or something.

At the very least, I've been looking for a sign that says "Future home of ____"

If they're taking all this time to build a Mexican restaurant, I pray that its good Mexican.

I haven't found a really good Mexican restaurant in this area.

buzzy

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For those of you who drive through the 28/29 area, you know what I'm talking about. They've literally been constructing at that site for years. The only signs say "Cooley Electric." My wife called the Cooley phone number and they said it will be a mexican restaurant. I've heard a rumor that each level will be progressively higher scale than the one below (there are three levels). It's built to have views of the mountains in the far distance with balconies on level two and three on the west side. Is any of this even true? Any idea when it will open, what it will be called, if it's local or a chain, or anything at all about it?

 
The mystery restaurant will be called Alto Plaza (www.altoplaza.net) and it is tentatively set to offer casual dining (think latin tapas) on the bottom two levels and more formal fare (live jazz, lobster) on the top floor. Balconies on all three levels for outdoor dining enthusiasts. Not a chain. Supposed to open in late December/early January.

For a more detailed preview, see my New to the Neighborhood column in the December issue of Northern Virginia magazine.

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The mystery restaurant will be called Alto Plaza (www.altoplaza.net) and it is tentatively set to offer casual dining (think latin tapas) on the bottom two levels and more formal fare (live jazz, lobster) on the top floor. Balconies on all three levels for outdoor dining enthusiasts. Not a chain. Supposed to open in late December/early January.

For a more detailed preview, see my New to the Neighborhood column in the December issue of Northern Virginia magazine.

Thanks for the info. Glad to see they're apparently as slow with launching a web page as they are with building their actual restaurant. smile.gif

The balconies will offer a nice view of the Blue Ridge Mountains on a clear day. Too bad it's opening in winter.

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Anyone try it yet?

Yep.

Gas up the ZipCars, Todd Kliman and Tom Sietsema. This restaurant will be a candidate for review, if for no other reason than it's an architectural and sociological outlier, not to mention a ballsy roll of the real-estate dice: an employee told me that $13-15 million went into this restaurant, and I believe it.

Driving up, you notice that the building is enormous, on three levels, and that they offer free valet parking. You walk in on the bottom floor of a circular, two-story restaurant, with tables running around the circumference. The hostess walked us up to the second floor, where we sat in a virtually empty restaurant, built to be family-friendly, with a remarkable number of young staff standing around, wondering what to do.

After a cursory glance, the wine list looked workable, but I was in the mood for a draft Widmer Hefeweizen (pushing it at $6.50) to complement the surprisingly modest Latin-American menu. Ceviche ($7.95) is well-worth ordering, with refreshingly ample pieces of fish and de-veined, split shrimp nestled inside a re-assembled tomato. The Guacamole ($7.95) is a very large portion, and not necessary if you order the Chicken Quesadilla ($7.95), a huge, overstuffed version with lots of gooey cheese, dryish chicken, and a scoop of, guacamole.

At this point, I was scratching my head wondering what all the fuss was about. The food was perfectly fine, but I didn't understand why anyone would build such an elaborate restaurant for this.

Skirt Steak ($18.95) comes in a semi-circle, cut into strips and topped with Chimichurri, the whole thing wrapped around a scoop of mashed potatoes.

During the meal, numerous people came up to see how things were going. Innocent service missteps abounded. We waited a long time for our appetizers, and when they finally arrived, our server told us, "your entrees are almost done too - they'll be ready in about five minutes." They arrived when we had eaten less than one-third of our appetizers. Portion sizes are huge - I took two bites of the skirt steak and got the rest to go. When one (friendly, well-meaning) server brought the carryout bag, he nervously asked, "Sir, would you like me to put this bag on a chair, or is it okay if I put it on the floor?" Everyone is eager to please, and they're just going to have to relax, take their lumps, do their time, and work out the kinks as the weeks go by. With seating for 600 people, they'll have plenty of opportunity to do so.

As I was paying the check, our server Dan mentioned that the third level was a fine-dining restaurant and lounge, and offered to give us a tour. We took an elevator up, and my jaw about dropped when the door opened: Before my eyes was a decidedly upscale restaurant, with a separate host stand, cigar vault, wine cellar, and large bar area in back. A completely separate menu had entrees up in the mid-$30s, and wines not on the list downstairs. Dressed like a rat, I felt uncomfortable even walking around here - I don't think I'd come in jeans. But come I will, because the top floor offers a completely different experience.

Will it be any good? I don't know, but I do know one thing: It certainly is ambitious.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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We went for an early dinner (4:30) Saturday. Other than 3 people in the bar and whoever may have been on the 3rd floor, we were the only people there at that time. Yet, there were probably at least 20 vehicles in the Self Park spots. Are the employees taking the good parking spaces?

We walk in and ask for a table for 5 and we're told they'll have our table ready in five minutes. That's a little odd considering the place is completely empty. We get upstairs and they have the table ready for too many people and then take the tables back apart for us. I noticed later another attempt to set up a table for a larger party. For some reason, this caused them difficulty. Now, I'm not is the business, but it seems pretty easy to me: slide the tables together and put the chairs around. I watched as two people talked it over and spent a good 5 minutes setting up a table for 6. Then they proceeded to take it back apart as nobody came to sit there. Maybe just practicing? They had a lot of staff just walking around, doing "something". I found that odd with so few customers.

The kids shared the Chicken Quesadilla appetizer. It was plenty for both of them; 4 large slices. I had a bite and it was good. The tortilla was just a tad crispy, just the way I like it. My wife had the Cuban sandwich. I don't remember what all was on it, and their web page still isn't up to find out, but it was pretty good. No wow factor or anything, but it was good. I had the tacos al something. They were simple steak tacos with grilled peppers and rice, black beans, and pico de gallo on the side. The meat was cooked as I asked (medium) and all our food came out hot.

The staff was certainly nice and helpful. Our waitress mentioned the 3rd level, but we didn't get the tour like Don. They also mentioned to us that they have a large banquet hall. I think she said it can seat up to 150-200.

By the time we left, there were maybe 30 or so people on the second level and I saw two couples at tables on the first level. For their sake, I hope they can attract more people.

All in all, everything went as expected. Nothing bad, but nothing great either. We'll probably go back, but we certainly didn't leave thinking we needed to tell all our friends about it. In an area like Centreville, I certainly welcome Alto Plaza. It's just nice to have another option.

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Ruh Ro

Please accept our apologies on behalf of Alto Plaza. Online reservations are not available on this date at this restaurant. The third floor of the restaurant is closed for renovations until mid-October.

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Ruh Ro

Trying to make reservations to go back to that den of deviltry? Are you a masochist?

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an employee told me that $13-15 million went into this restaurant, and I believe it.

This place just never looks busy. I hope these people didn't put all their money into this restaurant.

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We gave Alto a try for lunch a few weeks back... a Thursday at 12:30PM. It was only 3 of us and another table of 6.. the rest of the place was empty. Lot's of cars out front in the lot so we thought they would have a decent lunch crowd???? We waited at least 10 minutes after we were seated to get menu's, waiter disappeared for another 10-15 minutes before he took our order. A good 20 minutes before our food arrived... Salmon salad's, medium rare and a beef dish. Salmon was not edible it was so dry, beef was ok. Did not want food replaced as it was so poorly prepared and the service so poor we just decided to grab some Pho down the street. Asked for check.... at least 10 minutes before it came.... we left at 1:40 and didn't even eat....

I can't imagine how this place has survived to this point...

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Oof, you want to look at sad? Have a perusal of Alto Plaza's menu. Someone has lost a *lot* of money.

Does anyone remember the "steakhouse" on the top floor? Valet parking?

It makes me cringe to think someone lost this much on a restaurant investment.

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Every time I go to Centreville and I take the on-ramp to 28 North, I look to my left at Alto Plaza and am amazed that it's still open. Far better restaurants have come and gone in Western Fairfax.

There was a place over in Brambleton called Caliente Mex-Sea Grill that was another beautiful space, in a perfect location, right next to the movies. But the food was horrific, the service was as well, and it finally closed. So what is keeping Alto Plaza afloat?

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I thought this place had closed, but I was driving past it during a World Cup game and saw all the TV's on and a few people sitting at the bar. Parking lot was empty though and I assumed it was the owners or someone just having a party. Is this place open?

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I actually thought this was either a Tex Mex restaurant with motel rooms on the upper floor or a communal retreat with a soup kitchen on the lower floor.

Or a real estate office...of sorts.

Serious...if the Gulf of Mexico was on the far side of the parking lot I would feel differently. But it's not.  A major highway is.

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as up the ZipCars, Todd Kliman and Tom Sietsema. This restaurant will be a candidate for review, if for no other reason than it's an architectural and sociological outlier, not to mention a ballsy roll of the real-estate dice: an employee told me that $13-15 million went into this restaurant, and I believe it.

I actually thought this was either a Tex Mex restaurant with motel rooms on the upper floor or a communal retreat with a soup kitchen on the lower floor.

Or a real estate office...of sorts.

Serious...if the Gulf of Mexico was on the far side of the parking lot I would feel differently. But it's not.  A major highway is.

Joe, you do realize that $15 million has gone into this, right?

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We've never eaten there-it just looks seriously "awkward" in its location.  I was only partly facetious above-it really, to me, looks like something other than what it is.  In fact I probably drove by this a dozen times without realizing it was a restaurant.

I believe that Tom captured its overall impression quite accurately in his original review from 2008:

"FROM A DISTANCE, Alto Plaza looks like a budget motel on growth hormones. Up close, the sand-colored, three-story, hexagon-shaped, $16 million behemoth in Centreville looks like one of Saddam Hussein's gaudy palaces."

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We've never eaten there-it just looks seriously "awkward" in its location.  I was only partly facetious above-it really, to me, looks like something other than what it is.  In fact I probably drove by this a dozen times without realizing it was a restaurant.

I believe that Tom captured its overall impression quite accurately in his original review from 2008:

"FROM A DISTANCE, Alto Plaza looks like a budget motel on growth hormones. Up close, the sand-colored, three-story, hexagon-shaped, $16 million behemoth in Centreville looks like one of Saddam Hussein's gaudy palaces."

To think they once had valet parking - that is unbelievable.

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I've lived in Centreville for over 10 years.  They have been open since what, 2008?  I have never once gone but considering the cash that they sank into that joint, you have to be impressed that they are still open.  

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Reminds me of the now-closed Caliente Mex-Sea Grille in Brambleton. Beautiful, almost breathtaking, space, right next door to the movie theater. But the food absolutely sucked, and the bar was not enough to keep the place afloat. Space currently vacant.

On the other side of the theater is Blue Ridge Grill, which is a gold mine.

Several other joints have come and gone in the movie theater block as well.

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