The Local owners announce plans to overhaul Belmont BBQ and more local restaurant news

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In April, Matthew Hart and his wife, Melissa Close-Hart, plan to open The Local Smokehouse in Belmont, with a focus on products from the area. Photo: Amy Jackson In April, Matthew Hart and his wife, Melissa Close-Hart, plan to open The Local Smokehouse in Belmont, with a focus on products from the area. Photo: Amy Jackson

The Local owners announce plans to overhaul Belmont BBQ

The bad news is, Belmont BBQ has officially closed. The good news is, it won’t be too long before the space once again emits aromas of hickory-smoked meats into the neighborhood. Culinary power couple Matthew Hart (of The Local) and Melissa Close-Hart (of the soon-to-be nearby Junction) recently announced their plans to revamp the space* and open it as The Local Smokehouse. Hart will partner with The Local owner Adam Frazier to open the new restaurant, and when she’s not busy with preparations for Junction, Close-Hart will consult on the menu and recipes.

“The menu is going to be pretty straightforward barbecue,” Hart says, adding that while the restaurant will still serve barbecue, it will have no affiliation with the old business. “We’re going to be using as many local products as we can, like local pork butts and sausages from Double H Farm.”

Hart is still working on The Local Smokehouse’s menu, but expect to see some overlap with The Local, such as renditions of both the creamy macaroni and cheese and collard greens. And though his culinary resume up to this point does not include a barbecue restaurant, his upbringing in the Charlottesville area combined with Close-Hart’s Alabama heritage certainly puts the down-home cuisine in their wheelhouse. Plus, given his experience preparing meats and hearty sides for catered events (The Local catered roughly 30 weddings with barbecue spreads last year), it’s clear Hart knows his way around a smoker.

Despite the apparent contrast between an upscale restaurant with table service and an order-at-the-counter barbecue joint, Hart intends to put just as much soul into one as the other.

At both restaurants, our bread and butter is the same thing: just really delicious food,” he says. “Good food is good food. So while obviously the presentation aspect is very different from a restaurant like The Local or Junction, the basics are the same as far as just putting out food that people enjoy.”

The plan is for the new barbecue joint to be up and running in April. We’ll keep you posted.

Breadwinners

It’s been about five years since Matt Monson and his wife, Kath Younger, introduced Charlottesville to Great Harvest Bread Company, a franchise bakery with locations all over the country specializing in whole-wheat products. And even if you’ve never been in the shop itself, you’ve probably seen them selling loaves under a tent at farmers markets around town. The bakery’s menu includes a lengthy list of breads, pastries and freshly made sandwiches, plus coffee from Shenandoah Joe. Not on the menu, though, is Monson’s real passion, and where he wants to focus his career moving forward—beer.

Last month, Monson put Great Harvest Charlottesville on the market, and until a new buyer comes along it’ll be business as usual. When he and Younger opened their “freedom franchise” (which gives owners more flexibility and room for creativity than a traditional franchise) in 2011, their intention was to own a retail bakery that primarily sold breads and sweets.

“The café and catering have grown to be a huge part of the business,” he says. “I didn’t really get into this to own a restaurant, and I think the business would be better served by someone who embraces those changes.”

He expects it will continue to operate “fairly similarly” in the beginning of a new ownership, but does anticipate some changes. For instance, sandwich options other franchise locations offer, such as the baja chipotle turkey or portobello bahn mi, could make their way onto the local menu.

Cooking with kids

Getting kids and teenagers excited about eating vegetables and being physically active is a challenge for parents everywhere. And let’s be honest—it can be hard for adults, too. The good news is, it’s almost time for Kids in the Kitchen, the Junior League’s annual initiative to address the ever-growing problems associated with childhood obesity and poor nutrition by empowering young people to make healthy life choices. Held at the Cherry Avenue Boys & Girls Club location on Saturday, March 12, the expo-style event will feature more than 20 interactive stations with the goal of making healthy eating and exercising fun and appealing to kids (and grownups).

The event begins at 9am and is free and open to the public. For more information visit jlcville.org/?nd=kids_kitchen.

*An earlier version of this story stated that Hart and Close-Hart bought the building. Adam Frazier has leased the property for the new venture.