He\’s number one

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This week, Restaurantarama is here to pass on a message. If you’re one of the C-VILLE readers who voted Ted Norris “Best Bartender” in our recent Best Of C-VILLE contest, Norris would like to thank you. “It makes me feel really good,” he says. 
    Aww!
    If you are a Norris devotee, you probably already know that he’s left Zocalo, where he spent the last two and a half years making an impression on the thirsty voters of Charlottesville. (His decade-long bartending career also includes stints at Michael’s Bistro and now-defunct Boudreau’s, which is known as Wolfie’s these days.) “I love Zocalo, and I miss it very much,” says Norris. But Bryan Emperor, the chef at soon-to-open Japanese restaurant Ten, made Norris an offer he couldn’t refuse, so he’s off on a new—and sake-infused—adventure as Ten’s bar manager and head bartender.
    “The only thing people know about Ten is that it’s a sushi place,” says Norris, “and it’s so much more than that.” Namely, a late-night hangout spot and a small-plate (don’t say “tapas”!) Japanese-modern eatery. These days, Norris is busy learning all about sake and inventing some specialty cocktails. These may, he says, involve exotic garnishes: “a small peach that looks like an olive and tastes like a peeled grape,” for one. Whoa.
    How does a guy earn “Best Bartender” props? “There’s more than being friendly,” says Norris; “you have to be able to move.” And you better stay cool under pressure. “I don’t know any other job where you have 50 people staring at you and all want your attention right now. That can get hairy,” he says. Personally, we’ll stay on the drinkers’ side of the bar, and leave the pouring to the guy who apparently does it better than anyone.

It means “the best”
A quick update on the former Rivanna Grill on Route 29N, which owner Christian Trendel recently tried to reinvent as Dickie’s Smokehouse and Barbecue before running into a wee copyright problem. Trendel tells us he’s settled on the name Acme Smokehouse & Barbecue Company instead, and will open in late August. Coyotes and roadrunners, take note.

The great northern Bean
It used to be Pupusa Crazy. Then it became Caribbean Malecon. Now the space on Route 29N will become a second branch of the Corner Mexican standby Baja Bean. We’re not sure why this particular spot seems to serve as a home exclusively for varieties of tropical cuisine, but no matter. Ron Morse, the Bean’s owner, says he’ll open the new place in early September.
    You might think the Baja formula would demand some adjustment for a location that will be fairly devoid of students. But Morse actually owns Beans in Staunton and Richmond, as well, so he knows how to play to different crowds. The newest location will be karaoke-free, and will close a bit earlier than its collegiate sister.
    Morse says he also negotiated to buy the Woodbrook branch of Amigos, which closed in April, but the Malecon spot came through first. According to Morse, Malecon owners Tony and Daisy Polanco became more eager to sell as their business’ finances faltered. In fact, Morse ended up buying the place from Marvin Herrera, Pupusa Crazy owner and Farmington Country Club chef, not from the Polancos.
    We wouldn’t go so far as to call this a cursed spot, but it does seem like Morse has his work cut out for him. He says he expects a steadier business from the new bedroom-community surroundings compared to the fickle presence of Hoos. If you want to prove him right, stop by for a burrito and savor that grown-up flavor.

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