Anyone who pays attention to Belmont will tell you the same thing: This has been a long time coming. Lucinda Ewell and her husband, Ian Day, first conceptualized Southern Crescent in 2009, when they started dreaming about turning their New Orleans garden-esque Hinton Avenue home into a restaurant. Seven years later, after successfully rezoning the property and undertaking an extensive remodel of the house, Ewell and Day officially opened the doors of Southern Crescent.
“It’s been a very slow, soft opening for us, which we’ve enjoyed,” says Ewell, adding that the space turned out exactly how she and her husband pictured it. “From the renovation to the opening, every step has been fun.”
Ewell, who grew up in New Orleans and spent several years with Day and their son on a 31-foot sailboat in the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, has worked in the food industry for years. So it made sense that her next business venture would be a restaurant inspired by the Cajun and island Creole flavors she knows and loves. Chef de cuisine Taylor Pitts helps Ewell in the kitchen, and Day runs the operational side of the business.
Ewell and Day finally received their ABC license last weekend, making the dinner menu and a selection of beer, wine and cider available. The menu started off small but mighty—oysters on the half-shell, gumbo and a selection of po’ boys, plus sides and starters like salad and heirloom tomato gazpacho.
All the seafood is from the U.S. and wild-caught, and Ewell says she uses local and regional purveyors to source the rest of the ingredients. She even handwrites the menu each morning based on what’s available that day, and dinner entrées like fresh fish, Bahamian fried chicken and New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp will rotate depending on what’s available locally.
A non-local exception on the menu is the bread they use for the po’ boys and muffulettas. Sourced from Leidenheimer Baking Company in the heart of New Orleans, the soft, pillowy French loaf is the only acceptable bread when it comes to po’ boys, Ewell says, and she swears even the most skeptical Louisianan will feel right at home with these sandwiches. The lightly battered catfish is tender and flaky with a little kick, and the housemade thinly cut purple potato chips round out the platter. Other po’ boy options include fried shrimp and fried oysters.
Lunch and dinner are both available now, along with a small selection of booze, on the garden-style brick patio. The inside dining room and full bar with cocktails aren’t up and running quite yet, but Ewell says the goal is to be fully operational in about a month.
Good food, good cause
The Charlottesville 29 blog writer and C-VILLE columnist C. Simon Davidson as well as the other guys at law firm McGuireWoods are collaborating with more than two dozen local restaurants to benefit the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. Each of the eateries on Davidson’s list of his top 29 restaurants in town is creating a signature dining experience to be auctioned off, and the proceeds will go directly to the food bank, which feeds an average of 118,000 people per month.
For more information about the restaurants and auctions, visit charlottesville29.com.
“You’ve got the best job in town.”
As a food and drink writer, I get that a lot. And I can’t say I disagree—yes, my job involves sampling dishes and cocktails on a pretty regular basis. But it also involves sitting down with chefs, farmers, restaurant owners and mixologists who have so much passion for what they do you can (literally) taste it.
When I moved here in 2011 and showed up at C-VILLE Weekly to pester then-editor Giles Morris for a freelance gig, Charlottesville was foreign to me. I couldn’t tell you the name of a single city councilor, where to find the best Sunday morning Bloody Mary or how to get to Monticello. Stonefield hadn’t opened yet, and I didn’t know the difference between Belmont and Fry’s Spring.
Four-and-a-half years later, I don’t claim to be a food expert by any stretch of the imagination—just a reporter who knocks on a lot of chefs’ doors and has a tendency to pepper friends and visitors with (mostly useless) knowledge about every restaurant we pass.
As I wind down at C-VILLE and prepare to move to Richmond, where I’ll take on the role of digital editor at Virginia Living magazine, I can’t help but reflect on how Charlottesville and I have both grown and evolved since 2011. I could prattle on for pages about the affection I have for this town and this paper, but I’ll spare you.
Thanks for reading, Charlottesville. If anyone needs me, I’ll be eating my way through Richmond.