Few traces of “Little Saigon” remain in Clarendon — that neighborhood’s moniker after the Vietnam War when Vietnamese immigrants settled there. In the past decade and a half, Clarendon has seen a steady influx of hip eateries, high-rise condo buildings and happy 20-somethings in search of organic quinoa.
A favored nighttime haunt among Arlington’s young and restless, the meeting-space-cum-nightclub was built to be a Woolworth’s. These days, the art deco building is host several times a week to corporate events or bat mitzvahs. But when the roof deck is open and the pace of the flirting is quickened by liquid courage, the Ballroom is the site of many budding romances among the nonprofit staffers and lobbyists of the decades to come.
After earning a master’s degree in international business and working as a marketing executive, owner Carolina Garcia, 30, chucked it all to apprentice under Parisian baker Arnaud Delmontel. The move was professional and personal: “When I arrived, I was so frustrated with the bread in D.C.” She opened the shop in 2011, naming it for her mother and aunt who taught her to bake. The baking for the day’s pain au chocolat or salted-caramel vanilla cakes begins at 4 a.m.
Owner Cristian Velasco has phased in a few of his warm-weather flavors, including pineapple basil. While about 200 flavors rotate annually, he keeps 24 in the case at any given time. A native of Lima, Peru, Velasco, 51, cops to a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in his home freezer, but says gelato “has a romance associated with it. You have to go out of your way to find it.”
Back in 1938, Russian emigre Samuel “Big Sam” Friedman opened at 3154 Wilson Blvd. this footwear store, now at 3137 Wilson. His son, 80-year-old Sholom “Doc” Friedman, trained as a podiatrist at his father’s urging and still fits customers six days a week. Some of his middle-aged customers were once tykes perched in the child-size turquoise leather seats, still in use.
Iota is enjoying its 20th year. Local musician Michael Dunkley recalls a night at the club when Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary, “showed up after their show at Wolf Trap and performed with Last Train Home,” the D.C.-born roots-rock outfit that formed in DC in the late ’90s and is now based in Nashville. “Wow, wow and double wow.”
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