Last week we told you about the illegalities of forgoing the delicious fare at Buck Island BBQ. This week, we are disturbed to inform you about a straight-up culinary caper. L’étoile restaurant on W. Main Street was burglarized on Thursday, August 23. It all happened while the restaurant was closed for two weeks during the vacation of owners Mark and Vicki Gresge. Just what was the interloper seeking?  Locally grown wild mushrooms for resale on the black market? The secret recipe to l’étoile’s signature tarragon and walnut chicken salad? Nope, Restaurantarama admits we were slightly disappointed to discover it was nothing that interesting. No, this dope was looking for cash, Vicki Gresge tells us, and cash is something that anyone with half a brain knows restaurants of l’étoile’s ilk rarely have on hand—most of their receipts are of the credit card variety. But, apparently, le stupide didn’t know his fine dining establishment from his convenience store cash drawer, nor did he seem to notice he was in a world of pain and gushing blood after breaking into the l’étoile’s side window. Thanks to the numbing effects of some illicit substance, Gresge presumes, the trespasser soldiered on with his quest, bleeding and disoriented, and "made a mess of everything," she says. He broke the cash register and ransacked the upstairs office before he was apprehended by police on his way out of the building.

It was thanks to the restaurant’s security alarm that les gendarmes were waiting for the real hamburglar when he emerged from the building. And it was an alarm, Vicki says, that she’d asked to have disabled just a few days earlier because it kept going off falsely and interrupting her vacation each time the security company called. Unbeknownst to her, however, the security folks at ADT reset the alarm anyway.

This is a job for Inspector Clouseau: From left to right, employees Brian Wilkinson, Amity Elliot, Jess Tyler, and owner Mark Gresge, pose in front of l’étoile, where a break-in by a clueless criminal put a damper on eight years of peaceful French cooking.

It’s not surprising that the Gresges were a little complacent about crime—this month’s break-in was the first time they’d experienced any criminal activity in the eight years since they’ve been operating the restaurant at that location, and Vicki says she knows of no other restaurant break-ins on the street.

So was it a fluke occurrence or an indication that Charlottesville’s big-time restaurant scene is bringing with it big-time crime? Restaurantarama will leave those predictions to les autorites. All we know is that by the time you read this, l’étoile will have been cleaned of all the broken glass and will have reopened on schedule after the Gresge’s vacation. So when you stop in to dine on Mark Gresge’s signature locally grown, seasonal fare with the French flourish, we suggest that you think about how precious good food is and how local foodies are practically risking life and limb to bring it to you.

Loss of flavor

Remember how a few weeks ago we introduced you to Russel Smith and his Flavor’s Café that opened in June in the old Ombra’s space on Crozet Square? At the time of our writing, Flavor’s was just getting going and didn’t even have a sign out front yet. Well, Smith’s handmade wooden sign finally made it! The restaurant, however, did not. Flavor’s has closed its doors, and two signs indicate the business is for sale—one professional-looking sign from local restaurant broker, Stu Rifkin, and one pink poster board sign with a different contact number that indicates "owner financing available."  Curious about the state of affairs, Restaurantarama checked out Rifkin’s website (www.rifkinassociates.com) and discovered that Uncle Charlie’s Smokehouse, a few doors down from Flavor’s, is also listed for sale, as are 11 other dining establishments in the area, including Orbit Billiards & Café and Monsoon. Budding entrepreneurs, take note!

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

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