Falls Church residents won’t have to go far when looking for new restaurants to sample this year. They’ll be able to walk, bike, run or stroll to the four new places on tap to open at Founders Row.
The restaurants currently revealed will range from fine dining to “fast casual” and will offer foods from pineapple buns to gator bites, “healthy Asian street foods,” upscale Asian and “elegant modern American” cuisine.
Three of the restaurants are part of the Happy Endings Hospitality (HEH) group and will share the same kitchen, although they are distinctively different concepts, says Joe Muffler, the managing director for the Mid-Atlantic region for Mill Creek Residential Trust LLC, Founders Row developers.
The trio are Chasin’ Tails Seafood Social, Roll Play Vietnamese Grill and Nue. The fourth restaurant is Ellie Bird, named after the owners’ youngest daughter who was born during the pandemic.
Chasin’ Tails “offers family-style dining that mimics a backyard boil, a traditional event occurring during crawfish season in Louisiana, but provides guests with a more elevated experience,” according to a Mill Creek press release. The restaurant will be moving to Falls Church from its North Arlington location just outside the City.
Muffler described Roll Play as a “grab and go” serving healthy food, with “exciting palettes from the streets of Vietnam” in a fast-casual style which, in restaurant parlance, is a hybrid of fast food and sit-down dining, lacking many frozen foods typically found at a fast-food.
Nue will be a full-service restaurant and bar specializing in Vietnamese fusion and cocktails.”The restaurant will provide customers an immersive dining experience featuring delicious, high-quality food in a setting that is an expression of Vietnamese art and imagery,” according to a press release.
Chasin’ Tails is looking to rebrand and “gloss up” its operations in its new Falls Church spot with a “more sophisticated bar,” Muffler said. It also has a location in Centreville.
Ellie Bird is the baby sister of the famed Rooster and Owl restaurant established three years ago in the 14th Street corridor in downtown Washington, named as one of five new 2021 D.C. winners of a Michelin star.
When the pandemic hit, Carey and Yuan Tang, Ellie’s parents, had to quickly change Rooster and Owl’s business model when they realized a fine dining concept was not appealing to all; they added takeout. Ellie Bird will focus on “contemporary, casual comfort,” according to a press release, and will have a child’s menu, too, for its dinner service Tuesday through Saturday and brunch on Saturdays.
Familiar dishes will be available like Rooster and Owl’s signature pineapple buns, “a subtly sweet and fluffy bun served with housemade cultured butter, a more savory take on one of Chef Yuan’s favorite pastries from Hong Kong,” the owners emailed. Other popular dishes are the miso Caesar salad, pork chops with roasted peaches and fried chicken in miso honey with pickles. Prices will vary from $17 to $38 for dinner and $15 to $25 for brunch.
“We’re excited to bring New American, chef-driven cuisine to Falls Church,” Carey Tang wrote. And, yes, with two girls and a family restaurant, “we’re anticipating a lot of multi-tasking, but “we’re pretty used to doing more than one thing at once!”
The Tangs grew up in Falls Church and attended Falls Church schools.
The Tangs emailed: “Our ties to the area are deep. We held our first hospitality jobs as teens on Broad Street [at Applebee’s and Red Lobster].” Their parents live nearby, and the Tangs will shortly be moving back to Falls Church, having recently bought property here.
Chasin’ Tails says it is “the casual but full-service Louisiana crawfish chain” which has been open more than ten years. “We sincerely hope that we have delivered on our goal of offering the most-authentic best-tasting drinks from Bourbon Street and the highest quality Cajun seafood always served with Southern Hospitality level service,” writes the owner, Di Dang, on its website. All its dishes are made from scratch with seafood cooked live, made to order, and never pre-cooked.
Financing for Chasin’ Tails came from the $8 million Dang and his brother, Hac, won in poker over the years. Dang was an engineering major at the University of Virginia when he realized he could make a lot more money in poker, but he did graduate.
If Chasin’ Tails replicates its website menu at Founders Row, it will include combinations ranging from $82.99 for one to two persons up to $219.69 to feed up to five with two pounds of crawfish, two pounds of shrimp, four clusters of snow crab legs, one pound of king crab, six pieces of corn, six potatoes, a half-pound of sausage, and garlic noodles.
Roll Play has a Vienna location and Muffler wrote the Falls Church spot will have a similar menu with prices starting at $2.69 for a fried veggie roll up to a fully loaded bowl of jumbo garlic shrimp for $15.99.
A popular choice at Roll Play is the “banh mi,” a Vietnamese sandwich or French baguette with choice of meat or tofu ($10.99 to $14.98) or no meat ($8.99) and two fried eggs plus other toppings. Most of its pho is priced at $9.99 and comes with a choice of toppings.
It’s been “a tough time for retailers” battling Covid, chain supply problems and labor shortages, Muffler noted. With the restaurants, “we took a ‘leap of faith’” over the last nine months to move ahead and plan openings.
Founders Row’s appeal to retailers is “a testament to the city of Falls Church,” Muffler emailed, which has “proximity to major employment, unparalleled accessibility, [and] high quality of life. The only thing lacking was a true destination retail environment which is what Phase I is creating.” For those who’ve avoided Broad for the last three years, the project is on Broad at North West Street.
“I can tell you this is nine years in the making,” Muffler sighed. “At least, one person at the office has been working on this for nine years.” He is an Arlington resident who, he says, wishes he lived in Falls Church.
Cars, not needed. Ride public transportation. Help fight climate change and walk off that seafood boil and fried cheesecake. The W and OD Trail is nearby for the running.