High-water mark

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High-water mark

It’s not easy running a restaurant in Scottsville, but that doesn’t stop people from trying. We’ve been keeping tabs throughout the year on the culinary comings and goings down there, and it’s practically a full-time job given the nearly 100 percent turnover the little town’s eateries have undergone in the past 12 months. And now, with mere weeks left in old 2006, there is still more news to report—no fewer than three new restaurants are open or on the way. (See if you can find the common thread linking their names! Hint: It starts with “James River.”)

Stephan Hawranke, right, with manager John Keaton, is going all the way with is renovation of the former Magnolia space.

Everybody knows everybody in Scottsville, a town that couldn’t be any more classically “small.” Magnolia was, at one point, the fanciest option on the strip—not counting the High Meadows Inn. Both closed this year; right now, Stephan Hawranke, who owns the Magnolia building, is gutting it, and it will reopen next spring as the Horseshoe Bend Tavern. He also owns the former Brick Café space, which he’s leasing to Rose Farber (formerly of High Meadows), who’s recently opened Rivertown Rose there. Meanwhile, Willow Coffee (formerly run by Barbara Velie, mother of Magnolia mastermind Howie Velie) has a new look and a new moniker, Java on the James.

Confused? Not to worry—we’ll walk you through it. First stop is with Hawranke at the Horseshoe Bend. The place is getting an ambitious makeover: new kitchen, new cabin-style interior, a cigar lounge upstairs, a pub downstairs, and outdoor seating both in front and back. “It’s going to be rather exceptional,” Hawranke promises. The historic building was once a medical clinic, and the olden days of Virginia will shape the ambience—i.e., a tavern feel and perhaps some items on loan from the Scottsville Museum. Food? “Nothing out of the ordinary,” says Hawranke—steaks, seafood, “comfort food.” This place sounds, to us, like a rambling, well-financed neighborhood hangout that might actually stick around for a while. (But hey—this is Scottsville. No guarantees.)

Next up: Where once was Willow, now is Java by the James. John and Carol Carder have turned the multicolored, flora-filled breakfast spot into a sleeker café with a more sophisticated menu. Java has wifi, sweet potato pancakes, lots of veggie choices (a Granny Smith and Brie sandwich, for example), specialty coffees and a wall of artwork by AP students at Monticello High School. It’s been open about a month and has already earned, says Carol, a devoted following for its scones. In the morning, “people wait for them to come out of the oven,” she says.

And finally: Rivertown Rose, with its double storefront, aims to straddle the divide between the pressed-linen pedigree of Farber (not to mention her staff, largely High Meadows vets) and Scottsville’s essentially down-home vibe. Farber’s been serving only basics so far (pizza, subs, calzones) but by the time you read this, she will have rolled out entrées like jumbo-shrimp pasta, stuffed acorn squash and good ol’ spaghetti. She’s also bringing in bands and DJs to the brick-walled, checkered-floor place.

Farber sounds thrilled by the change from innkeeping life. Now, “when I lock the door and go home I don’t have to worry about it, and that was never so with High Meadows,” she says. “I love it.” We love all the activity down there in Scottsville—a full-blown River City renaissance.  

Risen

The Blue Moon Diner is open! We stuck our heads in and boy, what a change from the W. Main Street landmark’s crusty past. After renovation, it’s bigger and brighter, with a fireplace, a framed portrait of Willie Nelson, and organic eggs on the menu. We’re practically howling.

Got some restaurant scoop? Send your tips to restaurantarama@c-ville.com or call 817-2749, Ext. 48.

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