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News & Press, February 12, 2016

The old diatribe goes, there’s no high quality food in the suburbs; that’s the land of chain restaurants and fast food strip malls. Those who have perpetuated this idea are either living in the past or in an alternative universe. Restaurants like Taco Bamba, Maple Avenue, and the multitudes of authentic ethnic options from Vietnamese to Indian in Fairfax County show that the suburbs can incubate great restaurants.

Other new comers like America Eats, Earls, and Founding Farmers have shown that the suburban/urban areas like Tysons can be successful despite being outside of the traditional downtown. However, no one has done what Mike Isabella, of Top Chef and several DC restaurants fame, is planning to do in Tysons, and the idea shows what makes Tysons special in more than just cuisine.

Word came out this past week from EaterDC that Mike Isabella plans to open an experimental space in Tysons Galleria which will act as one part testing kitchen, and one part promotion for his already popular brand. The upscale food court will include 10 different concepts surrounding a central dining space.

What is striking about this news is the scale and unorthodox nature of the plans. An experiment like this would have trouble in DC for several reasons, most notably the cost of lease space for a ground level restaurant big enough to house ten restaurants and a dining hall. This same attractant applies to businesses as well, there is a reason why so many tech startups have been popping up in town.

The future could be bright for this concept, the smaller restaurants are toes in the water in the Tysons market and it would not be shocking if one or more of the experimental spaces becomes a full sized traditional brick and mortar here in town. What would be really extraordinary is if this space could adapt in the future to not only house Isabella’s concepts but act as an incubator for the huge contingent of food trucks and startup restaurateurs who call Tysons home.

Navid Roshan-Afshar, February 12, 2016

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