Local restaurant closings leave us feeling empty

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Perhaps the biggest food loss of the year—or at least the one with the largest community outcry—was the closing of Spudnuts this month after close to 50 years of providing us with potato flour donuts. Photo by Eze Amos Perhaps the biggest food loss of the year—or at least the one with the largest community outcry—was the closing of Spudnuts this month after close to 50 years of providing us with potato flour donuts. Photo by Eze Amos

The end of 2016 has us eating our feelings. We’ve scrambled to get one more box of Spudnuts, wolfed down our last Brookville baked egg and toast points and devoured a final bowl of Mican noodles. Here’s a look back at the restaurants we said good-bye to this year, plus a rundown of new ones to look forward to in 2017.

Although we said so long to Just Curry on the Downtown Mall, in its stead we have Draft Taphouse, a serve-yourself-style bar with 60 taps.

Mican may have closed its York Place location on the mall, but it didn’t completely disappear from our lives—it now offers a smaller menu in the Lemongrass space on the Corner.

We’re whining about Mountfair Vineyards closing to the public—only club members can sip and savor there now.

The bad news is: Belmont BBQ officially closed. The good news is: The Local Smokehouse (the team behind The Local) fired up a barbecue joint in its place.

Harrison Keevil’s Brookville restaurant served its last meal this month, but you can still enjoy Keevil’s cooking at Keevil & Keevil Grocery and Kitchen in Belmont, which opened this summer.

Keeping pace with the changing times, Tempo on the corner of Water Street and Fifth Street SE is now fittingly home to Water Street restaurant.

After 10 years of pints, Tuesday trivia nights and St. Paddy’s Day celebrations, McGrady’s Irish Pub said farewell with a final party in September. Cho’s Nachos and Beer is slated to cater to McGrady’s former regulars.

West Main Street saw some change of spaces as well: C’Ville-ian Brewing Company closed in October, and Snowing in Space nitro coffee has set up shop in its place. And the former Horse & Hound Gastropub space finally has new tenants with Los Jarochos Mexican restaurant dishing out Veracruz food.

Speaking of Mexican food, Yearbook Taco on the Downtown Mall is no more, but owner Hamooda Shami has big plans for the space: A restaurant pop-up concept called 11 Months that changes—you guessed it—every 11 months.

We’re also not ready to say au revoir to Rock Barn, which is selling its remaining inventory through the end of this month. Founder Ben Thompson says we’ll have to wait and see what his next steps will be.

And perhaps the saddest closing of all is Spudnuts, the beloved donut palace on Avon Street. The store has been run by the Fitzgerald family for close to 50 years, and current owners Mike and Lori Fitzgerald said the time had come for an end of an era. The couple still owns the building, so we’re hoping to have more good food news to report soon.

And we would be remiss not to note the departure of one of the greatest culinary masters in this town: Jose De Brito, former executive chef at The Alley Light, joined Patrick McConnell’s staff at The Inn at Little Washington in May.

Full plates in 2017

But as we lament the loss of some of our favorite spots, we’re starting to get excited for new ones that are slated to appear in 2017.

Hardywood, a Richmond-based brewery twice voted Virginia’s top brewery by ratebeer.com users, is on track to open a Charlottesville location at 1000 W. Main St. in the Uncommon building.

In other brewery news, Hunter Smith, of Champion Brewing Co., is teaming up with restaurateur mastermind Will Richey to open Brasserie Saison in the former Jean Theory spot on the mall, where Benelux cuisine will be served, along with exclusive specialty beers brewed on-site by Smith and the Champion team.

Piedmont Place, which recently opened in Crozet, has a whole bunch of food options in the Piedmont Market, inspired by NYC’s Chelsea Market: a brick-and-mortar spot for Morsel Compass’ food truck noshes; homemade, small-batch ice cream at Crozet Creamery and Smojo smoothies and juice. In addition, there’s Smoked Kitchen and Tap (an extension of offerings from the Smoked BBQ food cart that left the Downtown Mall in August) on the lower terrace, and several floors up you’ll find, The RoofTop (also run by the Smoked team), offering pizzas, flatbreads and a Blue Ridge Mountain vista feast for the eyes.

We’re crossing our fingers that James Beard semi-finalist Melissa Close-Hart will finally open Junction, her much-anticipated “Mexican meets Old West” Southwestern saloon/steakhouse-style restaurant in Belmont.

We’re also eager to experience the perks of an expanded Shenandoah Joe on Preston Avenue and a larger Three Notch’d Brewing Co. location at IX Art Park, scheduled to open in November 2017.

And to end the column on a sweet note, we’ve heard Charlottesville is getting a Sugar Shack Donuts and that Sweethaus is moving to a bigger location.

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