The COVID-19 pandemic may be taking a toll on numerous businesses and industries across the nation, but the Columbia Pike business community has rallied together and continues to persevere, even seeing more than a dozen new businesses opening along the busy corridor since March.

One such business is Ruthie’s All-Day, a new “meat-and-three” style restaurant set to open this month in the Arlington Heights neighborhood. Ruthie’s is the first solo restaurant of two veterans of the local food scene: Matt Hill, formerly Executive Chef for Liberty Tavern Restaurant Group, and Todd Salvadore, formerly a general manager for Chef Robert Wiedmaier’s RW Restaurant Group.

Named for Hill’s grandmother, the restaurant’s menu is inspired by the wood-fired meats and barbecue the chef grew up enjoying in North Carolina and will even feature his grandmother’s mac-and-cheese recipe.

“All of our meats and seafood will be cooked over an open fire, either in one of our smokers or in the wood-burning hearth,” said Hill. “But we’ll have more than just the meat-and-three with our Counter Culture Coffee, sandwiches, and biscuits.”

While the primary concept may be that of southern cuisine, the menu will also feature several robust vegetarian dishes and sides, such as stewed chickpeas and smoked cauliflower with a spicy soy glaze.

“We’re going to be changing it a lot based on seasonality,” Hill says of the menu. “Every vegetable has got to be fantastic because it has to stand on its own.” One thing that will help: Hill is already growing all of the restaurant’s own herbs at his South Arlington community garden plot.

Hill and his wife, Jeanne Choi, are Arlington residents raising two boys. So for Hill, it was important to keep his new restaurant close to home and create an atmosphere that could serve as a casual breakfast spot with the kids as well as a go-to for romantic date nights. That guiding principle is reflected in every aspect of the restaurant, from the variety of service options, expansive menu, and even the price points.

“You can get barbecue for $15 to $16,” Hill says, “but we might also have Koji-aged rib-eye for $45-$55. I’m sensitive to prices and want to give great value to guests, but also offer the best ingredients.”

Also on the “wish list” for the perfect restaurant: a single-story stand-alone building (due to the ventilation needs for the smokers), a large area for outdoor dining, space to host outdoor events, and a convenient location that everyone can access “headache-free.”

The historic building at S. Glebe Rd. and 5th St. S. checked off all of the boxes. The building was once the home of Mr. W’s, a chocolate factory/ice cream shop in the 1950s before housing a Sherwin Williams paint store. It has a large surface lot with ample parking and sits along the three most heavily traversed thoroughfares in the county (Route 50, Glebe Rd., and Columbia Pike). Now the building will get new life as Ruthie’s All-Day with a unique interior aesthetic designed by Hill’s wife, in partnership with JC Schaub at 5th Edition Designs.

“The interior style is really a love letter to my grandfather,” says Choi. The vintage boutique aesthetic is an homage to her grandfather’s impeccable style as one of the first to manufacture American-style suits in Korea. The restaurant will include seating for 112 inside, including two private dining rooms that hold 10 and 20, respectively, and a patio that can accommodate 70.

While Hill and his business partner, Salvadore, are excited to see their dream of Ruthie’s All-Day become a reality, opening a restaurant in the middle of a global pandemic has not come without its fair share of new challenges.

From redesigning the air conditioning system to ensure fresh outside air is regularly circulated to altering their dining room layouts to provide social distancing, the pair has worked hard to safeguard the restaurant for patrons. They’ve also had to take a hard look at their original business model.

“While most restaurants open for indoor dining first and then build their take-out and delivery models, we’re going to be focusing on take-out and outdoor dining first. We’re working to ensure we meet every safety recommendation and CDC guideline and we’re even implementing some additional technologies that should also be fun for the customer,” says Hill.

One of the new technologies he references is in regard to their menu. Diners will be able to scan a QR code at their tables with their phone, pulling up the restaurant’s ever-evolving menu in the palm of their hands without having to touch a printed menu.

Ruthie’s is currently going through its final inspection process and is hoping for a soft opening around September 20. Both Hill and his wife, Choi, have said they are grateful to the community for all of its support.

“Everyone has been so encouraging,” says Choi. “Our landlord has just been incredible and so many residents in the area have responded with excitement and support at announcements and articles about the restaurant. We couldn’t be happier and more excited to open this month.”