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New Lebanese Restaurant Is Empire Building in Ballston

Aspiring chain Badaro has multiple BYO meal outlets in mind

Rotisserie meats at Badaro.
Photo by Jay Zein

Having run a modest Middle Eastern cafe in Vienna, Virginia, for decades, restaurateur Jay Zein wants to shake things up at Badaro — a new quick-service Lebanese restaurant inspired by chain superstars like Chipotle and Cava.

“For Arlington I wanted to do a more contemporary model,” the owner of decades-old Al Nakheel Cafe tells Eater about his vision for the grab-and-go eatery.

His calling cards will be make-your-own meals including protein bowls and pita wraps filled with chicken or beef shawarma; marinated and grilled meats (chicken, beef, lamb); falafel; and 20 different toppings. Hummus, tabbouleh, stuffed grape leaves, and sambusa will round out the edible options, while a planned juice bars dispenses carrot-, pineapple-, and mango-flavored beverages.

A tipster sent ARLnow a photo of the first Badaro location (933 N. Quincy Street), but Zein says that’s only the beginning. He hopes to open the flagship spot, which replaces failed NKD Pizza, by December 1. From there he says he’ll install a second location around Arlington, Virginia, by summer 2018 and “then expand beyond that.”

Zein says the initial plan is to operate seven days a week, functioning from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

“I’m hoping to attract the nightlife crowd,” he says.

A bold move. Then again, Badaro is Lebanese shorthand for “the hip, cool place to be.”