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UK-Born Wagamama Chooses Clarendon for Its Long-Awaited Area Debut

The global noodle shop founded 30 years ago in London will open in the old Oz space this summer

A black bowl of veggies and meats with chopsticks
Pan-Asian chain Wagamama will bring its quick-serve bowls to Clarendon.
Shu Han Lee Lifestyle/Wagamama
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

A decade after Wagamama scratched plans to enter the D.C. market, the iconic pan-Asian chain out of London will finally open its first local outpost this summer.

The 5,100-square-foot restaurant (2950 Clarendon Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia) will backfill the prime Clarendon corner most recently occupied by Oz, the Australian-themed restaurant from D.C. power couple and The Real Housewives of Potomac personalities Ashley Darby and Michael Darby.

People in a window
London’s fast-casual pioneer Wagamama maintains a devoted following in its home base.

Wagamama is best known for its ramen, like grilled duck and shirodashi pork, served in a lively, communal setting. The quick-serve menu also features a mix of other generously portioned dishes incorporating Japanese, Chinese, and Korean ingredients and cooking styles. Look for gyoza, donburi rice bowls, curries, salads, and teppanyaki, or sizzling noodles stir-fried on a flat griddle alongside proteins. A bar program will focus on hot teas, wine, cocktails, sake, and Asian beers, plus happy hour.

Wagamama got its start in London in 1992, back when sharable tables and open kitchen layouts were widely unheard of. The ballooned brand now has over 200 locations in 27 countries, but the U.S. has remained a relatively untapped market for the chain until recently. There’s two locations in Boston and three in New York City, and another is en route to Atlanta. Tampa’s getting a Wagamama this year, too.

People eating food with chopsticks at a booth
A sit-down scene at a Wagamama

Wagamama initially signed a deal for Penn Quarter way back in 2009, but that planned location ended up not panning out in 2012.

In early 2020, the brand kickstarted an aggressive U.S. expansion plan fueled by fresh capital, a new leadership team with ties to millennial-driven hangout Punch Bowl Social, and bigger focus on stateside bar programs, reported Nation’s Restaurant News.

The Clarendon restaurant will capitalize on its expansive patio and open for lunch and dinner daily. Final menus, operating hours, and design details will be revealed closer to opening, its team tells Eater.

Wagamama hopes to break the closure streak of its 221-seat Arlington address. Despite its desirable corner location in the heart of Clarendon, a string of other failed restaurants came before Oz. That quirky destination for emu and kangaroo sliders flopped in 2019 after a four-year run. Restaurant 3, from the team behind Whitlow’s on Wilson, closed in 2012 after five years. Italian spot La Tagliatella, which Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema called “a threat to our nation,” moved in after.

D.C. recently said goodbye to British fast-food chain Leon, which pulled the plug on its short-lived stateside locations during the pandemic.