Willow Restaurant Will Close After 10 Years in Arlington

Chefs Tracy O'Grady and Kate Jansen will shut the doors on September 19.
Willow Restaurant Will Close After 10 Years in Arlington
Willow closes its doors after a decade in Arlington. Photograph by Chris Campbell.

Arlington will lose one of its finer dining stalwarts next week when Willow Restaurant permanently shutters. Brian Wolken, the restaurant’s Director of Operations, shared news of the September 19th closing via Facebook.

I wish I had a nice, concise answer as to why,” writes Wolken, who is a married to co-owner/chef Tracy O’Grady. “But, like a great many things in life, it is complicated. It is a confluence of events really: vastly increased competition, a commercial vacancy rate in Arlington that has more than doubled in the last few years, and a landlord who has unrealistic expectations about what the space is worth on a monthly basis. And don’t even get me started on what has happened to fine dining in the last ten years:).”

Washingtonian has reached out to the Willow team. In the meantime Wolken’s Facebook message is posted below. On a bittersweet note, the restaurant opened on September 2, 2005, with the marriage of Wolken and O’Grady, according Willow’s website.

From Brian Wolken:

“The vast majority of my family and friends understand how hard a struggle the restaurant business can be. One way I deal with the stress is to always TRY to remain positive and optimistic. It is because of this that I thought I would never have to write the following sentence: Willow Restaurant is closing on September 19th.

I wish I had a nice, concise answer as to why. But, like a great many things in life, it is complicated. It is a confluence of events really: vastly increased competition, a commercial vacancy rate in Arlington that has more than doubled in the last few years and a landlord who has unrealistic expectations about what the space is worth on a monthly basis. And don’t even get me started on what has happened to fine dining in the last ten years :).

But despite all the challenges, turmoil, and eventual failure, I am still very grateful! Mostly, I am grateful for the people, both those that dined here and those that worked here. Yes, I can be a grizzly bear, but I have realized that this business is really all about the people. Tracy, Kate & I have made a habit, for better or for worse, of putting the guests and the employees first. We wouldn’t have had it any other way. I am very proud to have worked with so many amazing people! In a cruel twist of fate our current crew contains some of the best employees we have ever had. I am going to miss them. They are straight up ROCK STARS!

And let’s not forget our guests, so many of whom have became a part of our family. They are kind, generous, prideful and loyal. And just so we are clear, without your support, encouragement and warm regards Tracy and I would have packed it up a long time ago.

I encourage everyone to get in one last visit; we would love to see you!

So a tip of the hat to all those who are a part of Willow, the last ten years were for you:).

Onward and upward!!!!!”

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Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.