Species shift

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People like naming restaurants after animals almost as much as they like eating animals inside those restaurants. Also, lately, they like the word “gastropub.” The first time we heard it applied to a Charlottesville eatery was a couple of months ago when Zinc was coming online; it refers to a current trend across the pond, where the traditional British pub décor—something people like—is married to tasty, innovative food. This is considered an improvement, since traditional British pub food is something people do not like.

Brooke and Luther Fedora throw their hats in the dining-out ring with The Horse & Hound, a “gastropub” they’ll open in the former Blue Bird space on W. Main Street.

But back to the animal thing: The Blue Bird Café, which closed last November after a relatively long history by restaurant standards (going on two decades), has changed hands and, evolving toward the mammalian, will henceforth be known as the Horse & Hound. The Horse & Hound, in turn, will be a gastropub. (Did you catch that wee whiff of Britain in the name?)

Though the former owners of the Blue Bird told us last year they were having some trouble keeping up with the burgeoning Downtown scene, the place’s new stewards are full of excitement and confidence. They’re a married couple, Brooke and Luther Fedora, and though they have plenty of restaurant cred—he’s a chef who worked in London’s Savoy Hotel, she’s a pastry chef with Fleurie and the Boar’s Head Inn on her resume—they’ve never had their own place before.

“We want to create the feel of an English pub,” says Brooke—“an atmosphere where everyone wants to hang out.” To welcome patrons, she promises first of all 12 beers on tap, plus wine and a full bar. Second of all, there will be “a nice combination of casual food, and nicer entrées.” So if you’re feeling lazy, you can get a burger and homemade French fries and loll about on the patio with your buds and a brew. Or if it’s more of a meet-your-boyfriend’s-parents situation, you could go for something classy: duck breast with black currant beer sauce, or pecan-encrusted sole with fingerling potato salad. There’ll be brunch on both Saturday and Sunday, and a price point, says Brooke, where everything’s under $20.

As for the old Blue Bird space, there’s no major construction slated—just painting and switching out of furniture. The Fedoras have already removed the trademark lattices from the patio and planted dozens of holly trees, to “create a biergarten feel out there,” Brooke says. In general, look for the kind of atmosphere that will make you feel like referring to your fries as “chips” and your friends as “mates.”

It seems the Fedoras have wide-ranging food interests; he worked as a sommelier, says Brooke, but is also a beer connoisseur, and though they’re both grads of the Culinary Institute of America, Brooke declares, “We love French fries.” We think that bodes well for their ability, when they open sometime in June, to strike a balance between the upscale (we guess that would be the horse) and the relaxed (the hound). And we’re glad to see the W. Main Street corridor picking up some steam, what with Maya coming along in the former Southern Culture spot, and Zinc underway in what used to be White Orchid.

Another try at wine

Vavino, Downtown’s so-called Virginia wine bar that eventually had to add international vintages to its list, has always seemed to us a mite unsteady, even though the very-well-funded Coran Capshaw bought it last year. Now it’s closed, and an out-
going message on the phone promises it will reopen in late May or early June as
Enoteca, an Italian wine bar. Stay tuned for its next incarnation.

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

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