Workers at Amazon’s HQ2 can now duck outside their offices to grab egg sandwiches, falafel, and pizza slices across a green space that’s been transformed into an outdoor food hall of sorts.
Officially opening today, JBG Smith’s Water Park (1601 Crystal Drive, Arlington, Virginia) lets diners choose between nine different food kiosks and two sit-down dining establishments — all located within lush green landscaping dotted with picnic tables, benches, and an outdoor stage.
Construction on the anticipated project began last March, and the most memorable part of the park’s previous incarnation — a fountain water wall — remains. Now that same wall is wrapped into a larger water feature with a kids’ sprayground below and a sleek cocktail bar called Water Bar perched atop the fountain.
Water Bar and the sit-down Crush Pizza are operated by Atlanta-based STHRN Hospitality, and are meant to be permanent fixtures of Water Park. The food kiosks with in the park can act as incubators for local food businesses, with a focus on locally-owned and minority- and women-led businesses. Kai Reynolds, chief development officer at JBG Smith, imagines businesses might eventually move up and out in the neighborhood. “We hope you become so successful you open a brick and mortar,” he tells Eater.
Here are the nine opening kiosks at Water Park:
- Brij: Order a cup of coffee at this café and wine bar from owner Skyler Kelley, who plans to use proceeds from her business to benefit single mothers, the LGBTQ+ community, and the un-housed.
- Bubbie’s Plant Burger: Chef and vegan cheese innovator Margaux Riccio and general manager Shaun Sharkey bring their Dupont Circle’s soda shop to Virginia, churning out plant-based burgers and fried “chicken” sandwiches.
- Cracked Eggery: Egg sandwiches on challah bread are topped with everything from fried green tomatoes to corned beef hash at this fast-growing local breakfast chain. This is the first location outside of D.C., joining Cleveland Park and newish Shaw outposts.
- DC Dosa: This long-running Union Market stand from Bombay-born Priya Ammu adds a second location, offering South Indian lentil crepes filled with roasted vegetables.
- Dolci Gelati: Gianluigi and Anastasia Dellaccio’s gelato shop goes the extra mile, including whipping up vegan gelato with made-in-house oat milk. This is its fourth area storefront.
- Falafel Inc.: This fast-casual falafel shop from Ahmad Ashkar with a charitable focus adds a new location, serving $4 sandwiches and $5 bowls.
- PhoWheels: The popular D.C. food truck launches its first more permanent location, where Tuan and Jennifer Vo’s family-owned business will serve dishes like Vietnamese noodle soup, tacos, and banh mi sandwiches.
- Tiki Thai: This spin-off of a spot in Reston gives equal weight to fruity drinks like Mai Thais and dishes like “Volcano Shrimp” and panang curry from chef Porntipa “Pat” Pattanamekar.
- Queen Mother’s, James Beard Award semifinalist chef Rahman “Rock” Harper’s found a new location for his popular fried chicken sandwiches, which can be slathered in buttermilk ranch or spicy mambo sauce.
Of the two permanent fixtures at Water Park, Crush Pizza is the more casual option. The foldable, New York-style slices are topped with pepperoni or more unique combinations like roasted mushroom with a white wine lemon cream sauce or a white garlic akin to cheesy bread. Each slice is $5, and whole pies range from $26 to $30. Salads round out the menu, while the drinks range from wines by the glass or the bottle to sangria, canned cocktails or agua frescas with or without a shot of alcohol. (The park is part of the neighborhood’s Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority-approved consumption zone, so patrons of businesses here can “sip and stroll” throughout the park with booze.)
To locate Water Bar, follow the sidewalk to the top of the fountain to find a glowing, open-air bar. (Heaters and window coverings will make this habitable during inclement weather.) The cocktail and oyster bar’s tight menu is all about the sea, with sharable dishes like Green Goddess mussels, smoked trout dip, and nicoise salad. Those who aren’t craving seafood can order dishes like a farro risotto with blistered cherry tomatoes and earthy fried oyster mushrooms or a barbecue chicken sandwich. The list of $15 cocktails includes a “Martini Bar” with four different varieties, from cucumber to coffee-infused.
The park will be open to the public daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., but vendor hours may vary, and each Water Park vendor will decide on whether to do its own pick-up or delivery options via Toast. The plan is to bring in heaters for outdoor dining as the fall weather turns chillier.
The National Landing BID also plans to begin events at the park, beginning with bringing back its “Fridays at the Fountain” programming with a slate of performances (October 13 to November 3).
Water Park is just part of Crystal City-turned-National Landing’s makeover since landing Amazon HQ2 in 2018. In June, Amazon officially opened the first phase of HQ2, its 2.1 million-square-foot headquarters that will house the more than 8,000 local employees it has hired to date in the region. JBG Smith is all in on redeveloping National Landing, expecting to deliver more than 5,000 new multifamily units, with 1,583 already under construction. In addition to new residents, there’s a huge influx of new shops and restaurants too: 55 new retailers that will be open by the end of 2024. Still to come this fall is JBG Smith’s Dining in the Park, where prolific Seven Reason chef Enrique Limardo will place a restaurant called Surreal among more than an acre of greenery.