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Must visit Restaurants in Loudoun County
Picture a beer hall, and your first thought may not be of Vietnamese fare, but the trio of successful restaurateurs from Arlington has set out to marry the two, with their innovative concept, Saigon Outcast.
Drawing on their respective strengths and years-long friendship established via the Arlington business community, owners Anthony Catselides, Hoa Lai, and Jason Fisher, partnered up to realize the vision of a beer hall that offers extraordinary and surprising fare. No strangers to creating an inviting atmosphere and offering excellent food, Catselides, and Four Sisters’ former Executive Chef (yes, of the Four Sisters’ family!) Lai teamed up with a well-established Arlington restaurant/bar owner, Fisher, for his marketing expertise and extensive experience with building and operating large establishments.
And where better than Ashburn to run such a venture? Even with a COVID-19 related delayed opening, Saigon Outcast’s team have received an outpouring of support from the local community, allowing them a strong opening in early September with a welltrained staff, perfected dishes, and the largest self-serving tap system in Northern Virginia, which has 39 different taps, offering local and domestic beers, wine, and saki. The recently popular system allows clientele to pay by the ounce, encouraging taste tests to help identify personal favorites.
While other owners may have been concerned about having to wait six months to open their doors, Saigon Outcast’s team focuses on the silver lining. “That was one of the benefits,” Castelides said, “When we were doing training, a lot of people came by, and we got to engage with potential customers during off-hours, establishing relationships in the community. The community was actually actively checking in on us as we were going through the building process, and they would come in and check to see if we were still going to open, and what the opening date was going to be.”
Diners who want to experience the vibrant, lounge-like atmosphere indoors are able to do so, and the extensive outdoor patio provides an open-air option for those looking for a different dining feel. Having already established themselves with dine-in and carryout options, especially for such fan favorites as their tornado potatoes and hot mess fries, a Vietnamese take on traditional bar food, Saigon’s owners hope that diners will also take advantage of their extensive local beers on tap.
“We have a wide array of beers, and we carry all the main taps. We have ciders, porters, stouts; we have everything.” Fisher highlighted, “Going forward, we are going to have the distributors come in and do tasting events.
“We also have two menus,” Castelides added. “A traditional menu with the main entrees and we also have a great appetizer menu that features a lot of fusion style finger foods. About 80% of our food is cooked on the grill, and only about 20% is really fried, so the dishes pair well with the beers we have on tap.”
And maybe that’s why the team chose Saigon Outcast as the name of the restaurant, as “an ode to our Vietnamese culture and roots crossed with growing up in America,” Lai shared, “and bucking the trend of traditional mom and pop Vietnamese restaurants.” And they certainly do that.
44921 George Washington Blvd
Ashburn, VA 20147
Sterling resident, Regina Alvir, who first began The Cornichon as a lifestyle blog to share her recipes and elegant presentations, has taken the name for her first big venture, reinventing the classic charcuterie and cheese boards into appetizing feasts, not only for the palette but also for the eyes. Alvir’s cheese board and catering service business was born out of her recognition of her untapped talent.
“Actually, I started doing some catering, working for a catering company,” Alvir explained. “Last November, I assisted a hostess in setting up a whole grazing table, and as soon as I did that, I found myself really excited. I always liked boards and cheeses, making them for myself. This opportunity was taking it to the next level. I got really excited about it and thought I should try it. ” Alvir, currently on sabbatical from her work for a major airline to focus on her business, always wanted to do something where she could use her imagination and artistic side.
“The charcuterie boards I made fit really nicely with that because it helps develop the other side of me. I have worked at the airport for a long while, but now I am taking a bit of leave to develop the business. I am hoping to go back because I love to travel, and that was the appeal initially.”
With bright yellow and purple violas grown in her own patio garden, and an unbeatable variety of specialty cheeses, in just a short amount of time, Alvir has created quite a reputation for herself locally with her vibrant and tastefully presented boards.
Alvir differentiates herself from other competing small businesses by using artisanal cheeses and searching out local products to use on her boards. One example of this is her collaboration with the Conche, using their specialty chocolates to upgrade the boards, thereby accentuating their unique visual and taste appeal. “I think things taste better when they look beautiful,” Alvir noted. “I also add herbs and flowers. When I add herbs, and you have the fragrance from them, and you have the flowers… I’m trying basically to get all of the senses involved.
Charcuterie boards, versatile in their use, offer a popular option for entertaining. Particularly with COVID, Alvir offers aesthetically pleasing individual charcuterie boxes so that guests can safely partake in small gatherings. Clients have also ordered the boards for wedding parties as they prepare for their special event, allowing them to graze on a beautiful, fresh fare with convenience. Alvir also loves creating grazing tables and hopes that once larger gatherings can occur safely, that her clientele will engage her for such presentations.
Ordering options include boxes that can feed 2-3 people or boards that can feed 4-6 up to 15-16 people. Options, such as individual boxes or grazing tables, are priced per person. Currently, Alvir’s boards can be ordered via the Cornichon’s Facebook page (and soon via her new website, thecornichon.com), and her small business also offers additional catering services such as set up, clean up, and event support.
Locals Tacos and Tequila
James Speros, the CEO and President of The Velocity Restaurant and Hospitality Group, known for local favorites Velocity Five, Velocity Wings, and Social House, brings his enthusiasm for new restaurant ventures in Northern Virginia to Sterling, where he recently opened Locals Tacos and Tequila.
Speros’ planned to open his first Locals Tacos and Tequila in Haymarket and worked for a year and a half on the concept, training staff, working with an Executive Chef to establish the menu, and developing relationships in the community, when the opening was delayed significantly due to the COVID-19 related lockdown. Somehow, with luck on his side, an opportunity arose late spring that he couldn’t refuse, allowing him to accelerate his opening of Locals in Sterling, VA, in the same shopping center as his locally popular Velocity Five while leveraging the already well-trained staff from the Haymarket location and fully developed menu.
But why tacos, one might ask. “I have seen a lot of concepts, barbecue, sushi, all kinds of opportunities. But I have always liked tacos. I was looking to do a taqueria… and wanted something authentic.”
“I am very proud of our menu,” Speros added. “We have come up with some unique dishes. We have ten specialty tacos, and then we have our traditional, such as the barbacoa and carnitas.”
Of these, Speros recommended giving their signature taco, the Birria, a try, which showcases shredded short rib, or the Outlaw with skirt steak. He also suggested “the Chesapeake, boiled shrimp with Old Bay, the Firecracker Shrimp, fried shrimp with hot sauce, and we have great desserts like the chocolate taco and churros.”
And if there wasn’t enough to choose from, Locals also offers ten specialty margaritas and a selection of 30 different tequilas, mostly upscale and very fashionable, per Speros.
Vivid and colorful sugar skulls figure heavily in the décor at the Sterling facility, which offers about 60 seats total, with 20 seats on the outside patio and a garage door installation in the works so that the dining room can also be opened to fresh air.
Speros, well known as a local restaurateur and business developer, grew up in Potomac, MD, deeply rooted in the restaurant business. His grandparents and parents owned and operated Normandie Farms, a family restaurant, for nearly 32 years. Is it any wonder, then, that Speros excels at what he knows best?
“A lot of people ask, why are you doing this?” Speros explained, referring to his thirst for continually growing local restaurants and exploring new options to provide to the community. “I mean, it’s something in my blood. I learned the restaurant business from my grandparents and my mom and dad. It gets under your skin, and you just know how to do it. Inventory, food sizes, and costs. All of it.”
With thoughts of ever-expanding, Speros looks “to be a cornerstone and a rock to the community. But one thing I always look for,” he continues, “is an anchor tenant and it just makes it easier to become (a part of) the fabric of the community.”
“It’s the people we have in our company also, who make us successful,” Speros added. “I have been able to find really good people.”
Locals Tacos and Tequila
167 Great Falls Plaza
Sterling, VA 20165
Photos By Traci Medlock | The Lock & Co.
SAEMA KHAN is a burgeoning freelance writer with a background in communication who finds most joy in profiling people with interesting stories. Raised in Arlington, she considers herself a native Virginian and has seen NOVA go through tremendous growth and change. Saema currently resides in Loudoun County with her two sons, Ashal and Aryan, and her cat Jebby.