Aromas Café returns to its beginnings

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Hassan Kaisoum has often thought about the space where Aromas Café first opened 20 years ago. This week, his restaurant returns to its roots, and reopens in the Virginia Department of Forestry Building at the Fontaine Research Park. Photo by Eze Amos Hassan Kaisoum has often thought about the space where Aromas Café first opened 20 years ago. This week, his restaurant returns to its roots, and reopens in the Virginia Department of Forestry Building at the Fontaine Research Park. Photo by Eze Amos

When Hassan Kaisoum moved Aromas Café from its original location in the Virginia Department of Forestry building to Barracks Road Shopping Center in 2007, he returned often to Fontaine Research Park to walk the nature trails he’d come to know well since first opening the restaurant in 1998.

On those walks, he thought about the loyal customers who’d followed him from one spot to the next, and he also thought about the Red Cross fundraiser for the families of 9/11 victims he hosted on the lawn in front of the building—how customers showed up to enjoy a meal, music and dancing while raising tens of thousands of dollars for the charity.

After leaving Barracks Road Shopping Center in October, Kaisoum will reopen Aromas Café in the Forestry Building at 900 Natural Resources Dr. this week.

Kaisoum is eager to wish customers a happy new year, and he’s especially excited to continue serving the same flavorful Moroccan and Mediterranean food he’s become known for—and at a lower price. Last Wednesday, two of Kaisoum’s longtime customers stopped by to see the new (well, new-old) space, and when Kaisoum handed them menus, they were shocked: The chicken shawarma sandwich, previously priced at $11.95, is now $7.95, and other menu items have dropped in price as well. (Lower rent means lower prices, Kaisoum implied.)

Before hugging Kaisoum goodbye, the men said they’d be among the first in line on reopening day.

In addition to the salads, sandwiches, entrées, appetizers and sides that have been Aromas’ menu mainstays for years, the café will now serve breakfast. Aromas Café will be open 7:30am to 4:30pm Monday through Friday, with extended hours in the spring.

Pausing for a moment in the dining room filled with orchids and brightly colored paintings of Moroccan doorways by local artist Eli Frenzen, Kaisoum reflects on what it feels like to be back in the place where it all began 20 years ago: “Here, where it is, is very sentimental to me.”

Another 2017 closing

After dinner service on New Year’s Eve, Threepenny Café permanently closed its doors at 420 W. Main St. The farm-to-table restaurant, which owners Merope Pavlides and Peter Emch opened in spring 2014, announced its closing in a Facebook post the morning of December 29. “While we are saddened to end the work we’ve done at Threepenny Café, we are excited to discover what comes next for us as we continue our commitment to changing our country’s food system. We urge you to follow the work of Chef Jeff Deloff as he continues to make his mark as part of the Real Food movement,” the note read.

To market we go

Beginning on Saturday, January 13, and running through March 24, IX Art Park will host an indoor/outdoor winter farmers market from 9am to 1pm every Saturday. Food vendors and a number of artisans such as Free Union Grass Farm, Natural Roots Farm, Halo Apothecary, Twenty Paces and Carpe Donut have signed up to hold us over until the City Market returns April 7. Plus, Market Central will be on-site to accept SNAP and EBT cards.

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