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Opening soon

Sweet Frog, the Downtown self-serve frozen yogurt bar with 28 stores in Virginia and North Carolina (and plans to expand to Maryland, Tennessee, Louisiana and South Carolina), is growing faster than a tadpole. In our little pond, it’s jumping uptown to a second location in the old Maggie Moo’s space in Hollymead, and a third spot in Barracks Road Shopping Center is in the works. There’s a dish of sweet success—complete with toppings. 

Hollymead will also be the local home for another rapidly growing chain—Which Wich Superior Sandwiches. Offering more than 50 varieties of customizable “wiches” (along with signature house chips, hand-dipped shakes and just-out-of-the-oven cookies), customers get to specify their size, bread, cheese, spread and veggies by marking up the pre-printed brown bag with a red Sharpie. Oh, the possibilities!

Foodies need to know

Want to know if there’s anything Anthony Bourdain won’t eat (or drink)? Or, which fish is Eric Ripert’s favorite? Submit your own questions for the two chefs to answer during their appearance at the Paramount on Sunday, October 30, by e-mailing info@theparamount.net.

 



Scoop up some nostalgia with these old-fashioned candies appetizingly displayed on the shelves of Sweethaus, next to Random Row Bookstore at 315 W. Main St. Photo by Cramer Photo.

 

 

 

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The Commonwealth’s Commonwealth

Come Friday, Charlottesville will have its own skybar! It’s not the original one planned for the now-defunct Landmark Hotel, but Commonwealth Restaurant’s Skybar is a bar under the sky—and open as of September 23. With 16 beers on tap, a menu of upscale bar favorites blessed with Chef Alex George’s Caribbean/Latin American flourishes and space for close to 200 people, the Skybar spells al fresco merriment for 10 months of the year (thanks to heaters and retractable awnings).

The 30-seat, street-level patio and 80-seat dining area offers the Skybar menu during the 3-5:30pm void, and after that it’s dishes like sautéed chick peas, mustard greens, Roma tomatoes, fresh curry leaves over fragrant rice and grilled natural lamb chops with lavender honey sauce and minted mushy peas cooked in a shiny kitchen that’s visible from a giant picture window along Fifth Street. Specialty cocktails and a unique wine program that includes 15 half bottles will make this new addition to the restaurant scene popular with crowds on the Downtown Mall.

Little shop of sweets

Sweethaus, a cupcake and candy shop at 315 W. Main St., has opened to the delight of sweet tooths everywhere. Specializing in small batch, homemade cupcakes and retro candies like Fun Dip and candy cigarettes, Sweethaus (open Thursdays through Sundays) will also offer customized candy buffets for weddings and special occasions. How sweet it is!

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Up goes Tempo

We’ve been keeping our eye on Tempo, the restaurant due to open by March in the former Ventana space, but typical of most openings, there was a delay. Last we’d heard, the space was ready, but owner Stuart Cunningham was still looking for his chef.

Casting a wide net, Cunningham posted ads on Craigslists as far flung as Chicago, which is where he ultimately found chef Mark Henrich.

While Tempo originally billed itself as Asian-fusion, the menu seemed continental but with an Asian flourish here and there. The foie gras, for example, has a candied ginger and nashi pear compote, and the ubiquitous beet salad goes Far East with the addition of “wasabi pudding.”

No theme prevailed with the wines (we chose a Spanish Txakoli) or the cocktails (the Tempotini adds a cardoon-derived Italian amaro to a classic gin martini). The décor was one part Turkish den, one part boudoir and one part taxidermist (a Buffalo head mounted over the bar greets guests upon arrival and the high-backed circular banquettes sport cowhide-like upholstery). But whatever the ethnicity, Stuart hopes his European view of restaurant work as a profession rather than just a job will rub off on his staff—and that we eaters will sense it too.

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 Know your farm, know your food

The third annual “Meet Yer Eats” Farm Tour is Labor Day Monday, September 5 from 10am-4pm. This is your chance to visit three to five (that’s about all you’ll be likely to manage in a day, figuring in travel times) of 19 participating area farms. Buy a car pass for $15 (it’s $25 if you dilly-dally until after September 1) from the Market Central booth at Saturday’s City Market, or online at www.marketcentralonline.org. Pack a picnic, stop by the ATM for cash, strap on some muck-resistant shoes, and go meet your pigs, chickens, goats, honey bees and farmers! 

Say, ‘Cheese classes’

One of the stops on the tour, Caromont Farm, whose owner Gail Hobbs-Page is responsible for raising happy goats and making happy, creamy cheese from their milk, is teaching a series of cheese classes at Blenheim Vineyards on four Thursday evenings in September, October and November. Students will taste the best cheeses from Virginia, Vermont and the South as well as get tips on which cheeses to feature on their holiday tables. Classes run from 6-8pm and cost $30 per person. Visit www.blenheim vineyards.com for more information.

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Easy as ABC

In the category of “News you may have missed last week,” Boylan Heights issued a “self-imposed” dry week after Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control concluded the restaurant had served underage patrons, according to media sources. ABC said the Corner burger joint could shut down for 30 days or pay a fine and shut down for a week. Owner J.R. Hadley chose the latter, hoping to turn lemons into lemonade.

During the dry week, Hadley planned to offer free soda in exchange for donations to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. But, come the end of the seven-day period, MADD issued a statement explaining it would not accept the money. The folks at Boylan still plan to make the donation, albeit anonymously. Stay tuned for updates.

Caribbean dreams

Coming soon to Emmet Street: Calypso, a Caribbean restaurant, bakery and —get this!—drive-thru coffee spot. The eatery, which is located next to Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers on 29N, is shooting for an early October opening.

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New developments

A change is gonna come to the Downtown Mudhouse. The java spot—best in town, according to readers—shut its doors for an estimated three weeks to give the space a makeover. Says Julia Minnerly of the Crozet shop, the red wall behind the bar will be removed to open things up. “A big goal,” she says, “was to be able to interact more with the customers.”

Formworks Architecture is heading up the redesign. Minnerly says they’ll reopen at the end of the month. Until then, grab your joe from the Mudhouse cart parked on the Mall.

Pizza me

Adding to an already robust list of accolades from national media, Crozet Pizza gains recognition in the September issue of Food Network Magazine. The grub rag named CP’s white mushroom pie the best in the state in its “50 States, 50 Pizzas” feature. The 34-year-old ’za joint has also been recognized in National Geographic, The Washington Post and Fodor’s Travel Guide.

 

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New developments

The local restaurant pool just keeps getting bigger, foodies. Welcome, Burger Oasis. The Woodbrook Shopping Center spot serves, as you’d expect, burgers and fries, plus tasty desserts like strawberry shortcake.

Across the street, The Brick Oven in Rio Hill Shopping Center recently reopened its doors under new ownership and down the road in Barracks Road Shopping Center, Slice now delivers.

Further south on Route 151 in Afton, The Blue Toad Pub hops into the former D’Ambola’s space with a funny name and promises of a pub to come in early September. Find burgers, hot dogs and a corn dog on the menu, plus sides like sweet potato wedges and french fries.

’Mater delicious

You say “tomato,” we say, “when and where?” That was the case last week, when we attended Rapture’s latest in a string of prix fixe meals. The Tomato Dinner, prepared by chef Chris Humphrey, featured five courses highlighting the summer fruit. The braised pork shoulder over gruyere grits was a particular stand-out, but each plate was a pleasant surprise. A special thanks to the restaurant for the invitation.

 

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We’re no strangers to good barbeque. In fact, we dedicated an entire issue of C-VILLE to finding the best in town. Unfortunately, we overlooked a contender: Two J’s Smokehouse in Palmyra, from Joshua Ball, offers hickory- and fruitwood-smoked meats and homecooked sides (“everything but the French fries,” Ball says).

Ball knows good ’cue. Before opening Two J’s, he cut his culinary teeth with fine-dining establishments in Washington, D.C., Charleston, South Carolina and even at Keswick Hall as the saucier back in 1994. Four years ago, Ball moved to Richmond and began work with Tuffy Stone, whose award-winning barbeque team, Cool Smoke, eventually led to the opening of Q Barbeque in Midlothian.

You’ll find pork, chicken and sausage BBQ sammies on the menu at Two J’s, plus platters and homemade sides like sweet onion hush puppies, local creamed corn and smoked peaches with cinnamon and sugar.

Needless to say, we may have missed out on some tough competition with this new eatery on the Thomas Jefferson Parkway. Guess we’ll just have to hold the contest again. Darn!

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Price check

As National Hot Dog Month comes to a close, the Downtown Hotdog Company is offering another reason to celebrate: lower prices. Gourmet dogs (the kind with lots of specialty toppings like peanut butter, mac-n-cheese or pineapple) are now $3.95 (veggie dogs, too!). Custom dogs start at $2.95. Throw in a side of tater tots, finish with some funnel cake and you’ve got yourself a party.

Stay tuned

Patience, foodies. Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar, says owner Alex George, is still looking at a much-anticipated August opening. Whether that means the Downtown Mall spot will open early, middle or late August, still isn’t clear.

“The date’s kind of a moving target at this point,” he says. George will have a better idea once permits start to come in, which he says will happen this week. The restaurant was also awaiting a verdict on its certificate of appropriateness, which the Board of Architectural Review approved last week.

As for the actual restaurant (which passers-by will notice still looks unfinished), George says, “You just gotta be positive and stay strong.” We’ll know more next week after a walk-through. Check back for more info.

 

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New season for Monsoon

At the end of 2009, we reported that Monsoon owner Lu-Mei Chang had sort of put her E. Market Street restaurant up for sale. By “sort of,” we mean that she said she’d be happy to sell it, but that she wasn’t hammering a “For Sale” sign in the front yard quite yet.

Nevertheless, a recent sale has been made—new owner Kitty Ashi took over the space a few weeks ago and renamed the joint Monsoon Siam. Ashi tells us she’s changed the menu and completed a few renovations inside the space, too. The restaurant offers lunch and dinner. Stay tuned for updates.

Veggies tale

A bit further toward the Mall, Marco & Luca owner Dragana Katalina-Sun has altered her Nicola’s Veggies space on Second Street NW. Now named Nicola’s Chicken Kebob Store, the mini-restaurant, we’d imagine, offers chicken on a stick. Katalina-Sun did not return calls by press time.

 

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And everything nice
Now open up 29N: Yoder’s Sugar & Spice, an ingredient and snack shop straight from Amish Country. Owner Glenn Yoder and his family relocated from Ohio to open Sugar & Spice located next to Arby’s in Forest Lakes.
 
Look for deli meats and cheeses (and fresh sandwiches made while you wait), homemade baked goods, spices and seasonings, jellies and jams…shall we go on? (Try the milk chocolate-covered banana chips!)
 
Ready for a snack?
Following summer break, the folks at Brookville Restaurant will be offering a lunch and snack menu. The Downtown eatery prides itself on using local ingredients, which it’ll incorporate into artisan sandwiches—like roast beef and pulled pork—plus salads and other entrées.
 
“Snack time” means no-cook appetizer-type dishes. Begining August 9, you’ll find a local cheese plate, charcuterie plate and even classic deviled eggs.
 
Opening and shut
Last week we mentioned a soon-to-open deli on the Downtown Mall. Here are more details:
 
George Hedges (son of Bill Hedges, who owns Carmello’s), tells us that, while he hasn’t yet set foot in the space (it’s more his dad’s project), Bill and a silent partner plan to turn the former Salad Creations spot into a New York-style delicatessen, serving all Boar’s Head meats.
 
Further north Downtown, Carlton’s, which opened in early May in the former Asia Specialty spot, has closed its doors. A message left on the restaurant’s answering machine says, “Sorry for the inconvenience.”
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One local bakery is preparing to change hands. According to Craigslist, a spot with “growing retail sales as well as established wholesale accounts” is on the market for $130,000. Trouble is, it’s unclear which bakery it is. Here are the context clues:

The ad mentions nearby soon-to-open professional offices and retail spaces, and says the bakery “also operates in a very popular seasonal city market.” With the Gleason well underway, could it be The Baker’s Palette on Garrett Street, which also sells (and is nominated in C-VILLE’s Best of 2011 contest for) its donuts at the City Market on Saturdays? Says owner Sheila Cervelloni, it’s not BP. Stay tuned for updates as we investigate other possibilities.

Coming soon

Two upcoming spots to watch for, foodies: Bill Davies, a recent transplant from Napa, California, will open a small market (to be called The Farm) in the space next to The Bridge/Progressive Arts Initiative.

To the west on the Downtown Mall, it looks like Tony G’s (and Carmello’s)* owner Bill Hedges is expanding to Charlottesville. His Ruckersville restaurant (which he started with former Northern Exposure chef Tony Bonanno) opened a little over a year ago and, if the Tony G’s menu in the window is any indication, he’s extending the concept to the Downtown Deli—his new eatery in the former Salad Creations spot on Fifth Street SE.

*This article was corrected Tuesday, July 5. It originally stated Tony Bonanno as the owner of Ruckersville restaurant Tony G’s. 

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’Round these parts, we foodies aren’t strangers to waiting a while for a restaurant opening. (We’re looking at you, Semolina, Fry’s Spring Station and, ahem, Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar.) Historically, it’s been worth the wait. Balkan Bistro & Bar, which opened June 21, is hardly an exception.

The new West Main restaurant from Anja Cetic has been in the works since last fall, when her family’s Water Street joint, Balkan Bakery, closed up shop to make way for Bill Atwood’s Waterhouse project. (The tasty Balkan creations can still be found at the City Market.)

Last week, Cetic opened the doors to her new place, located in the building that formerly housed Under the Roof. After attending the opening, we’re Balkan believers. The restaurant has a few kinks to work out (halfway into our evening, we were informed the chef didn’t have the ingredients to make what we ordered), but the food more than makes up for the (presumably temporary) snafus. We received a plate of perfectly smoked meats with a side of fresh ricotta cheese and eggplant dipping sauce. As a fellow diner said, “I could bathe in this cheese.” (Though we wouldn’t recommend it.)

As for the rest of the experience, service was great (especially for a packed opening night) and the wine selection was impressive. Expect to see traditional American fare mixed with a few southeastern European surprises on the menu.

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Happy birthday!

Keeping a restaurant afloat in this town ain’t easy. It takes more than good service and a bangin’ menu to keep a customer in. You need a good reputation, too.

Enter Sticks. The Preston Avenue kebob shop has served up tasty (and healthy!) food on a stick for 10 years as of this month. In the restaurant biz, that’s cause for celebration.

For 10 consecutive nights beginning Thursday, June 23, both the Preston and Pantops locations will donate 10 percent of their revenue to 10 local nonprofits. “Over these 10 years, we have supported countless causes,” says co-owner Bill Hamilton, “but we wanted to do something more significant to celebrate our 10th anniversary.”

Byebye, Batesville

Last week, the beloved Batesville Store announced its immediate closing. State representatives arrived earlier this month and informed store owners Cid and Liza Scallet that they’d need to convert the store into a restaurant in order to operate legally. But, with limitations of the building itself and legalities concerning its historic status, they’re unable to make the change.

Do go changin’

We stopped into The Box for dinner the other night and noticed something different: The Second Street eatery has a new menu. Expanded to a three-fold pamphlet, the restaurant’s offerings are plenty. We recommend the savory miso soup, cold sesame noodles and spicy Viet Beef for your entrée. Wash it down with the signature Aloerita for good measure.

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Whoever said “the bigger, the better” had the new location of Whole Foods in mind. Situated on Hydraulic Road and boasting an additional 15,000 square feet, the new Whole Foods is an impressive fixture. During a special tour before the official June 7 opening, we got a little taste of what’s, er, in store.

Each main section of WF has swollen in size, and contains new features like pre-packaged cuts of fish, a pasta station and a tasting bar. With the new store also comes a brand-new Cooking Charlottesville section to continue the company’s emphasis on healthy eating. The section features a full-time cooking coach on-hand to help shoppers plan and prepare meals.

You’ll notice a few shout-outs to local establishments, too. Chiles Peach Orchard, Shenandoah Joe and Linden Vineyards are just a few names we heard mentioned during the tour. And that local appreciation extends past the shopping cart. You’ll notice some familiar flooring in the snack aisle, where the builders inlaid a portion of University Hall’s hardwoods into the floor.

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 Hello, goodbye

Say hello to your little friend. Little Caesars, that is. A new location of the $5 pizza chain is now open in the Albemarle Square Shopping Center. Locally owned and operated by Charlottesville residents Matt and Laurel Eberl, the new location isn’t affiliated with the city’s other Caesars in Kmart on Hydraulic Road.

Speaking of Hydraulic Road, the new Whole Foods location officially opens this week. Check back next week for details on the new facility.

Last week, West Main gourmet sandwich shop Penne Lane, which opened in the spring of 2010, closed its doors. But not for long. The restaurant’s Facebook page says they’ve relocated to Fluvanna. Stay tuned for updates.

Tasty too

Permit us, for a moment, to drop some praise on three local flavors we had recently. First, folks in the C-VILLE office picked up some Buttz BBQ for lunch last week and, not having tried the Corner joint’s pulled pork yet, we were so hooked we went back for seconds. Try the Texas sauce and a side of potato salad.

At Downtown Hotdog Company, Eric Saunders and his wife, Jenny, recently added funnel cakes to the menu. They’re delicious—not too greasy, sprinkled with powdered sugar, just the right size. Saunders tells us, if all goes according to plan, he’ll be adding other toppings in the future, like chocolate syrup or fresh fruit.

And finally, Sara Teaster of Black Sheep Bakery, a new home-based business, dropped off some of her treats last week. We were especially fond of the French toast cake (topped with Virginia maple sugar bacon strips!), but Teaster has more than 25 cupcakes on the menu—not to mention more than 30 macarons.

 

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 Star turns

West Main restaurant L’étoile welcomes a new chef this week. Jonathon Gariepy joins the restaurant from Florida, where he worked at The Rivers Inn and under the master chef at the Gasparilla Inn. The former Earlysville resident’s adventures down south, says L’etoile head chef and owner Mark Gresge, instilled in Gariepy a love of cooking seafood, but “he is excited about our relationships we have built…with the farmers, purveyors and citizens of Charlottesville.”

Brian Wilkinson, who held the reins in the kitchen for more than four years, will be moving to Charleston, South Carolina.

Fire update

 

Bell hoppers will love this news: Formerly crispy Taco Bell on 29N near Rio Road is open for business. The building accidentally burned down in early December 2010 after sparks turned to flames during a roof repair. Just shy of seven months later (and an estimated $1 million in damages), the Bell is back with a new “stone” facade and a bright, hot sauce-inspired exterior paint job. Chow down!

 

 

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 Baldi hacked?

Imagine our surprise last week when, after nearly a year with nary a word, once-local restaurateur and now-infamous runaway Jim Baldi accepted our Facebook friend request, along with 21 others.

We suspect it wasn’t the former Bel Rio owner himself who logged on, but at least one of his new friends left a friendly comment for the fugitive: Says Roberto Lucas, “i hope ur guys doing well!!!!!! kiko lucas.” Attempts to contact Lucas were unsuccessful.

Dinner and a movie

Are you looking to be stuffed, culturally speaking? On June 5, C-VILLE Weekly and The Paramount Theater are hosting Taste 434, a local food, wine and film event.

Enjoy a tasting discussion with Joel Salatin’s son, Daniel Salatin, The Rock Barn owner Ben Thompson, Brookville Restaurant owner Harrison Keevil, Richard Bean of Double H Farm and Emily Manley of the Local Food Hub. Afterward, watch Food, Inc. and devour a locally sourced dinner at Keevil’s Downtown eatery.

The event, which begins at 3:30pm, costs $12 for the tasting and film, plus $55 for the benefit dinner. Visit theparamount.net for more info or stop by the box office for tickets.

Eat REDD

Who says fashion and food don’t mix? Local polo purveyor Robert Redd earned a spot on the menu at Littlejohn’s New York Deli. What’s more, the Robert Redd Sandwich has its own Twitter feed. Follow @REDDSandwich to get all the updates.

 

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Rich history

Ready folks? This story might get hectic. Back in 1971, Margarita and Nick Vlavianos opened Expresso International Restaurant on West Main. They followed that up with The Italian Villa, which they sold in 2004 to new owners, who renamed it The Villa five years later.

Meanwhile, Margarita and Nick came out of retirement in Greece to take over Sam’s Kitchen, which they renamed the Cavalier Diner. In 2010, they handed the reins to their daughter, Risty Vlavianos, who’s been running the restaurant since.

Now, the Vlavianos are coming out of retirement again, this time taking over Aunt Sarah’s Pancake House on Pantops. Their new restaurant, which they’ve renamed Expresso Italian Restaurant & Pancake House, will offer many dishes from the menu at the couple’s original restaurant, minus pizza. Whew!

Box in

They grow up so fast, don’t they? Roving eatery The Lunchbox, from Daniel Heilberg and Josef Young, is expanding. Not the 18’x8′ trailer, mind you, but the business itself. The Charlottesville natives recently nabbed a parking spot between KFC and Raising Cane’s on Emmet Street, where they’ll be open Monday-Friday 11am-2pm.

But that’s not all. They plan to take over the former El Paso Grocery Store space at the corner of Market Street and Meade Avenue. The partners hope to be open in July.

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Fresh idea

Far too often, the fruits and veggies you see on the shelves of a chain supermarket are shipped in from miles beyond what’s reasonably considered “local.” But, Mark Seale (with partner Jim Epstein) is hoping to change that. Together, they’ve founded Culpeper-based Blue Ridge Produce Company, a wholesaling operation on a 450-acre farm that will help local growers market their crops.

“Farmers want to be farmers,” Seale says. “These are magnificent people—fantastic growers—that don’t want to spend time marketing. We take that part out for them.”

After conducting a feasibility study two years ago, Seale and Epstein found that $16.8 billion are spent on produce annually, but less than 7 percent of that is local. Themselves passionate local food advocates (Seale owns Charlottesville-based Simply Fresh Produce), the partners developed the idea for two years before opening the business this month.

They recently finished construction on a 136,000-cubic-foot cooler to store produce from local growers. “We’ll be both aggregators and distributors,” Seale says, explaining that the company will purchase goods from farms and wholesale them to east coast groceries. Currently, for example, Seale is working on a strawberry deal with Whole Foods —but don’t let that big name throw you off. “It doesn’t matter if you’re one acre or 1,000 acres,” Seale says. “We want to work with local growers.”
 

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Now open

Hungry tummies rejoice! As if this fair city wasn’t already overwhelming you with its many spots for good eats, three more were added to the mix last week. Here’s a breakdown.

Carlton’s, in the former Asia Specialty (and even more former Bohéme) spot at 609 E. Market St., had a soft opening last week and is now officially open. The restaurant, from Bernard Dukes, features American-fusion cuisine and a few vintage details to add ambience.

On the Downtown Mall, Enoteca reopened as Positively Fourth Street. A more laid-back version of its former self, the new restaurant offers gourmet burgers and the like, plus eight beers on tap and specialty cocktails.

For Semolina on the Corner, which shuttered in early December, the rumored closing was simply a false alarm. Raif Antar’s restaurant has reopened under new management with a pared-down menu. Don’t worry —there are still 19 pizza choices, ranging from four cheese (“Quatro formaggi”) to sweet sausage (“Salsiccia dolci”). Plus, you’ll find a few pasta dishes that look slightly tweaked from the menu at Antar’s other Corner restaurant, Basil Mediterranean Bistro. 

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Pizza the action

Just call us “Pie Town.” A new pizza joint—this time in Belmont—is slated to open this week. Called Belmont Pizza & Pub, Harry Horner’s new restaurant will have outdoor seating and —good news, Belmont-dwellers!—delivery to folks in the neighborhood and Downtown.

The new pizza spot’s home is 221 Carlton Rd. in Kathy’s Shopping Center, formerly Two Sides Restaurant. Two Sides closed in early March, indicating that it would soon reopen.
But what’s on the menu at Belmont P&P? Obviously, you’ll find hand-tossed pizzas (with appropo names like “The Carlton” and “The Avon”), but also specialty subs, salads and a full bar.

Choco mama

Mama may have said, “Life is like a box of chocolates,” but perhaps what she really meant was “I’d sure like a box of chocolates.” If that was the case, this week, Gearharts Chocolates in the Main Street Market has what she’s looking for.

The chocolate gurus there enlisted an art class at St. Catherine’s School in Richmond (the home of another Gearharts outpost) to produce original Mother’s Day-themed designs, which were then transferred to the Raspberry Zin delicacies.

The eight-piece box of chocolates (priced at $13) comes with a special note to Mom.
 

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Nice is pie

For Christopher Herring, “only” is a very important word. As the general manager points out, new pizza restaurant Slice is the only ’za spot in town to use Boar’s Head meats and cheeses, the only totally eco-friendly pie operation (everything they use, down to the forks, is biodegradable) and the only locally owned pizza place in the Barracks Road Shopping Center.

The brainchild of Vinny Mastellone, of Vinny’s New York Pizza & Pasta in Ruckersville, Slice opened earlier this month and aims to bring a fresh (both creatively and culinarily) take to the by-the-slice concept. It serves salads with locally grown ingredients, gourmet sandwiches and, of course, pizza. We thought the BBQ looked especially delicious (“We smoke our own butts,” Mastellone says). Roasted veggie, says Herring, has been the crowd favorite thus far.

Beyond pizza, Slice offers fresh cannoli (we tried one—they’re made in-house and are delicious), authentic New York cheesecake (with a graham cracker crust) and a Piña Colada cake. Says Herring, “You’ll have to show your ID for that one.” (We’re pretty sure he’s kidding.)

Tavern to close

Multiple news sources have reported that Emmet Street eatery The Tavern will likely close at the end of the year, following the end of its lease in December. A Charlottesville mainstay for more than 50 years, The Tavern is noted for its serious pancake selection and comfortable atmosphere for “students, tourists and townspeople.” 

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Java University?

Local brewru (see what we did there?) and Mudhouse Director of Operations Dan Pabst took his coffee smarts to the street last week, opening up a “coffee education popup” near the Saturday City Market. Pabst says the idea was borne out of at-home lessons he’d been giving his friends on brewing a great cup of coffee. “I thought, ‘We should take this to the next level,’” he says.

Pabst will brew two different coffees each week for “students.” Buy a custom-printed mug for $2, enjoy a cup of hot joe, then return the cup and get your $2 back (or take the mug home and leave your two bucks). Pabst says his low-key event isn’t about making money, “it’s more about creating a sort of coffee community.”

The event, which runs Saturday mornings near the Market at the Pink Building, runs from 7am-noon.

Laboring lemon

Downtown cupcake spot Cappellino’s Crazy Cakes made national news last week after word got out that the shop’s Lemon Drop Cupcake supposedly helps induce labor for overdue moms. At the time of the reports—from CBS19, “Good Morning America” and “FOX & Friends”—19 “Lemon Drop babies” had been born. As of press time, the count had risen to 23. Says the shop’s Twitter feed, “Go Lemon Drop!!!!” 

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Benvenuto!

As you read this, Carmello’s—an Emmet Street staple for nearly 20 years—is settling into its new spot on Fontaine Avenue in the former Ludwig’s Schnitzelhouse space. Owner Bill Hedges relocated the Italian restaurant last month and told us the new space would be “bigger and better.”

Speaking of bigger and better, we wonder if that Euro-inspired corner —with Italian mainstay Anna’s Pizza No. 5, newly opened espresso bar Atlas Coffee and still-new joint Fry’s Spring Station—warrants a fresh moniker. Our own Little Italy, perhaps?

Meanwhile, a sign for Kabob Palace is posted at the former Carmello’s spot, next to the Econo Lodge. Stay tuned for more.

Raw talk

When it comes to food, Barbeque Exchange chef Craig Hartman wants you to use all five of your senses. He’s already got touch, taste, sight and smell covered at his Gordonsville joint, and Hartman tells us he’s working on sound.

Every Sunday, Hartman will post an interview with a local foodie for his new podcast, “Chew the Fat with Chef Craig.” As of press time, he’d spoken with Palladio chef and James Beard Award nominee Melissa Close Hart, and says his chats with food folks “will change the way that you look at your next meal.” Visit cvillepodcast.com to have a listen. 

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Familiar territory

Second verse, same as the first? The new tenant in the former Rise Pizzaworks space is giving us déja vu. Slice, from the folks behind Vinny’s New York Pizza & Pasta, is bringing pie-by-the, er, slice back to Barracks Road.

Local pie fans still feel the sting from the loss of Rise, which closed in January after a menu revamp failed to drum up more business. Originally conceived as a custom slice spot, Rise switched to premade slices to make the ordering process more straightforward.

Slice will continue that same business model, but the similarities stop there. The new eatery will serve sandwiches, too. Plus, we hear they’ll offer a stuffed pizza. Stay tuned for more information.

Atlas open

It’s official: Pint-sized espresso bar Atlas Coffee is open for business. The owners of the Fontaine Avenue coffee spot began renovations to the former Jackson-Hewitt Tax Service space late last year and, after much construction and renovation, poured their first official cup last week.

The itty-bitty business, open Monday-Saturday from 6:30am-2pm, brews Shenandoah Joe coffee and offers locally made donuts and pastries. 

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Semolina closed?

Following its shuttering in early December, we were hopeful Raif Antar’s pizza spot, Semolina, was simply closed for Christmas break. But, after it was closed for Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s Day break, too, we contacted the restaurant’s former manager, Rebecca Deeds, who confirmed that she split in early December. Calls to Antar have not been returned, and the restaurant has been dark for three months—almost as long as it had been open for business. Stay tuned for updates in the coming weeks.

You’ll get your fish

Smell that? A new CSA of sorts, a Community Supported Fishery, kicks off April 2 with a City Market drop-off spot. The brainchild of UVA architecture school grad students Jack Cochran and Doug Dickerson, the Cville CSF offers five share options beginning at $66 each, including catfish, large shrimp, rainbow trout and the like, from Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Virginia Aqua-Farmers Network. Visit cvillecsf.com to learn more.

Funds for farms

Protect your right to bear farms. Visit Cville Coffee Tuesday, March 29 for a Chapter 6 networking event and fundraiser to support the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, which is interested in the rights of family farms and their customers. Nosh on food from Rapture, Baja Bean Co. and Harrisonburg’s Earth & Tea Cafe and enjoy music from local jazz singer Veronica Swift.

That’s not all. Polyface farmer and über food activist Joel Salatin will provide the keynote speech.

Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door. Visit forwardvirginia.com to learn more and register for the event. 

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Trader up soon?

Your wildest dreams are coming true. No, not an Olive Garden. But, real estate company Edens & Avant confirmed last week the impending arrival of a 12,500 square foot Trader Joe’s at upcoming Hydraulic Road shopping center The Shops at Stonefield. That project used to be known as Albemarle Place. The groundbreaking is slated for later this spring.

Even smaller bites

A few things happening in the restaurant world: Aromas Café owner Hassan Kaisoum has concocted a Habiba spicy sauce. The 11.85 oz. jars are currently sold in 11 stores—like Breadworks, Foods of All Nations and The Happy Cook—and, after an in-office taste test, we say it has a pleasant, tomatoey kick. (No doubt that’s the cayenne pepper we’re tasting.) Kaisoum says the sauce is his mom’s own special recipe.

Revolutionary Soup’s Corner location now delivers. The service, which costs $2.50 extra, is available 11:30am-2:30pm. There’s no minimum, but you must be within a one-mile radius of the eatery to get the goods. Check the website for menus and call to place your order.

Two Sides Restaurant on Carlton Road will soon reopen as Belmont Pizza and Pub. Calls to the restaurant’s owner were not returned by press time, but we can confirm that the new eatery has applied for an ABC license and Two Sides is officially closed.
 

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Open for business

In a word, the invite-only opening dinner last week at chef Peter Chang’s new Barracks Road restaurant, Peter Chang China Grill, was delicious. Seventeen menu items arrived at the table from the elusive chef himself, including tofu skin rolls, shrimp and mushroom hot pots and a bevy of dishes for meat lovers. Our favorite was the dessert: a red bean and rice ball covered in sesame seeds. Local realtor and restaurant mogul Stu Rifkin, who was in attendance, called it “a Chinese jelly donut.”

Just before the last dish—a whole fish cooked in such a manner that it pops open and forms small bon-bon-sized lumps—Chang emerged to a standing ovation from happy guests of his new eatery and stated his goal to bring traditional Chinese cuisine to Charlottesville.

The restaurant is officially open to the public for lunch and dinner.

Noodle scoot

Popular pasta spot Carmello’s is on the move. The Emmet Street location officially closed Monday, February 28, but, says owner Bill Hedges, the new location on Fontaine Avenue (in the former Arirang Restaurant and Ludwig Schnitzelhouse space) will be “bigger and better.”

Hedges says the 19-year-old restaurant wasn’t given the opportunity to renew the lease on its former spot, owned by the UVA Real Estate Foundation, but that the new free-standing location will allow for more parking and better access. Other than that, Hedges says the Italian eatery will be exactly the same, menu and all.

Expect the restaurant to open no later than March 20, if not sooner.

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Padow’s out

By the time you read this, much-loved Barracks Road sandwich spot Padow’s Hams & Deli will be closed for good. Other news sources have reported that Federal Realty, which owns Barracks Road Shopping Center, served the owners of the 14-year-old establishment an eviction notice a few weeks ago. The restaurant closed Tuesday.

Chang watch

Elusive chef Peter Chang’s new Barracks Road restaurant, Peter Chang’s China Grill, opens Wednesday, March 2, for lunch and dinner. Fans of the Szechuan chef have been awaiting this moment for nearly a year, since Chang left his Albemarle Square restaurant, Taste of China, in March of 2010. The invite-only grand opening dinner is Tuesday, March 1, at the restaurant, in the former Wild Greens space. Check back next week for a recap of the event.

Beer me

Is beer the new wine? Next week at Rapture, that’s the case. The Downtown restaurant will host the Dogfish Head Beer Dinner, during which chef Chris Humphrey will serve a five-course meal, each paired with a different Dogfish brew. For $50 per person, choose from three meaty entrées plus apps and dessert. Call 293-9536 for reservations to the March 9 event.

Bread perks

Matt Monson and Katherine Younger, owners of Great Harvest Bread Company, stopped by C-VILLE a few weeks ago with some loaves from their upcoming bakery, plus a few chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. The slices were moist, the crust was crispy and our car smelled delightfully of yeast the entire way home.

Younger says demo on their McIntire Plaza space has begun. Expect a mid-April opening.

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Eye to the Skybar

Already generating a lot of media buzz, a new Downtown restaurant from Alex George (formerly of Just Curry and Cinema Taco fame) is poised to be one of the most anticipated openings of 2011. In fact, he says, “This is the most exciting event [of my career].”

Last week, the city’s Board of Architectural Review approved plans for the Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar—currently the home of JohnSarahJohn and owned by Allan Cadgene and Gabe Silverman—that gave George (and his design-build team, Marthe Rowen and Alloy Workshop) the go-ahead to knock through a few of the 100′-long building’s exterior walls to make room for pocket windows and to, uh, raise the roof. George has plans to include a 25′ bar atop the restaurant (in addition to the one on the main floor) for dining en plein air. As for the menu, expect “new American cuisine with a South American influence,” sourced as locally as possible.

He’s thought of everything, from the position of the bathroom doors in relation to patrons to the patio surface’s convenience for ladies in heels. “It’s all about customer service and making it comfortable,” he says. “Everybody will give you one shot, but will they come back?”

George says he hopes construction on the space will begin this month and that he’s “seriously shooting for” a mid- to late-June opening.

New old-fashioned

Attention, hungry Belmonters: The renovation of Gibson’s Grocery, at the corner of Hinton Avenue and Avon Street, is nearly complete. The store, which entered renovation mode November 2009, will re-open Saturday, February 26. Chris Gibson, whose dad started the shop in 1977, says, “It still has an old country store feeling, even though it’s been remodeled.”

Gibson’s will offer Lovingston-based Trager Brothers coffee, subs, deli meats, salads and ice cream. Hours are Monday-Saturday, 8am-8pm.

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Ultimate news
For those of you still full from the recent opening of 29 North’s Hibachi Grill and Supreme Buffet, don’t put away those drawstring pants just yet. A sign next door, at the former Charlottesville Power Equipment building, promises the Ultimate Buffet is coming soon. No word on who owns that business, but judging by the sign’s chopsticks font, we can only assume the buffet will be Asian in flavor.

In related news, Charlottesville Power Equipment has relocated to the former Rivals space on Rio Road.

Stable beginnings
Back in September, we reported on a new restaurant coming to the basement of the building that houses Artful Lodger and Ananda Wellness Center. The Livery Stable, at the time, was awaiting approval from the city’s Board of Architectural Review before proceeding with some hefty renovations. Says the project’s leader, John McIlhenny (grandson of the building’s owner), the BAR gave the O.K. and the team has hired a contractor. “We’re hammering out the statement of work now,” he says. Stay tuned.

Mystery solved
Just as we suspected! The former Ventana space, which we reported in January had been leased to Savoir Vivre LLC, will open as Tempo, an Asian-fusion restaurant. The spot is the brainchild of Stewart Cunningham, whose son, Brice, is a co-owner of Downtown French eateries Fleurie and Petit Pois. Calls to Brice Cunningham were not returned by press time, but sources say Tempo is aiming for a March opening.

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