Fast food: New to-go lunch spot doubles as event space

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Andy McClure is opening Penny Heart, a lunch spot and small event venue, in the former 11 Months space on the Downtown Mall. Photo courtesy of Eze Amos. Andy McClure is opening Penny Heart, a lunch spot and small event venue, in the former 11 Months space on the Downtown Mall. Photo courtesy of Eze Amos.

A quick to-go bite to eat on the Downtown Mall is sometimes hard find, but Andy McClure, owner of the Virginian Restaurant Company, is making it easier with the opening of Penny Heart, a new lunch spot and small event venue that’s going into the former 11 Months space.

“Our fast casual options [on the mall] are very limited,” says McClure when asked about his new eatery, which will serve bowls with fresh, local ingredients and grains. “[Penny Heart] comes from a need and it’s appropriate.”

Penny Heart also has room for about 100 guests, and it is fully equipped with audio and visual components for weddings, company meetings or friendly gatherings.

He describes the restaurant as a cross between Chipotle and Sweetgreen, which mixes produce, meats and grains into one bowl, adding that the goal is to use as many local ingredients as possible. The bowls are designed to be taken away, and Penny Heart will also have a bar. The space has room for about 100 guests, and it is fully equipped with audio and visual components for weddings, company meetings or other gatherings.

Small, affordable [event] venues are hard to come by, McClure says. “There’s a larger market for that than we realize,” he says, adding that since Penny Heart will only be open from 11am to 4pm, the space will be ready as a venue by 6pm.

The anticipated opening date is Aug. 10, and McClure says it will be a quiet, casual grand opening.

Frosting on the cupcake

Carpe Donut has gone beyond the cinnamon sugary, cakey confection it’s known for—all-organic maple, bourbon, vanilla, chocolate, sprinkles, thick-cut antibiotic-free bacon and a vanilla cake donut have been added to a sweet new menu that’s being rolled out for the company’s 10th anniversary.

Matt Rhodie, Carpe Donut CEO and founder, says the discovery of organic confectioners sugar allowed more experimentation.

“I’m trying to expand the identity of Carpe Donut,” Rhodie says. The team has been working on flavors for years, but had to find the right ingredients that align with their ideals. All of the new ingredients are organic and pure, including the sprinkles, which use vegetables for color.

“Everybody loves sprinkles, so I had to do it. Kids love them, an embarrassing number of grown-ups love them, so who am I to deny that?” Rhodie says.

Some of the new flavors are available at the Charlottesville City Market on Saturdays, Fridays After Five and at the Carpe Cafe in Studio IX. Rhodie plans to offer a few more flavors, including new combinations, at special events and festivals.

“I will not stop experimenting, and we may swap some out,” Rhodie says. “Some glazes may be less interesting than something that’s fruit infused, so I’m open to trying more flavor profiles.”

Trendy tea

You can thank UVA students for convincing the owners of Kung Fu Tea, a new bubble tea room, to open shop in Charlottesville. By the end of August, 1001 W. Main St. will be home to trendy Taiwanese tea elixirs with signature tapioca or fruit bubbles at the bottom.

Co-owners Kelly Cran and Owen Wang are from Northern Virginia, where bubble tea is everywhere, but they say their Charlottesville store will be the biggest in the world.

As for the shop’s offerings, “Passion fruit blew my mind…everything on the menu is mind-blowingly good,” Cran says. Among the other teas on Kung Fu’s top 10 list are strawberry lemon green tea, Kung Fu milk tea, honey green tea and taro slush. The bubbles, or bobas, are then added at the bottom for a chewy, squishy treat to be sucked through a massive straw.

Cran says he’s excited to join the Charlottesville community with Kung Fu Tea after multiple career changes.

“You have to dabble in everything,” he says.

Dessert beer

What pairs perfectly with a local craft beer? Chocolate. Gearharts Fine Chocolates has created unique truffles in collaboration with a handful of local breweries, including Devils Backbone Brewing Company, Champion Brewing Company, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery and Alexandria-based Port City Brewing Co., which have their signature beers infused into milk or dark chocolate, along with more delectable ingredients to make up The Virginia Brewers’ Collaboration.

“Wine and chocolate go great together, but I’ve always had a soft spot for beer and chocolate,” say Gearharts’ owner Tim Gearhart.

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