There is a glimmer of hope that Belmont will be getting gumbo after all. A few weeks ago, we told you that the City’s Planning Commission quashed Andrew Ewell and Hannah Pittard’s plans to open a New Orleans-style restaurant at their residence located next door to Belmont Bar-B-Que on Hinton Avenue. The Commission voted to deny the couple’s application to rezone the property from residential to commercial after many Belmont residents complained that the neighborhood’s other restaurants already are creating too much noise and traffic. Last week, though, the City Council gave its initial support to the applicants in direct opposition to the Planning Commission. The Council will take a final vote on the matter on June 15. You all know our position on this—the more restaurants for us to cover the better. Of course, we don’t have to stare at the dumpsters from our front porch.
With four restaurants under his belt, including now the Biltmore Grill, Andy McClure is practically the Mayor of the Corner.
Now, here’s more info on some less contentious news we shared last week. We told you that the Biltmore Grill has new owners who plan to revitalize the Corner bar and reopen just in time for the return of thirsty students in August. We sat down with one of those owners—Andy McClure—to find out exactly what he and his brother and partner, Patrick, plan for the place other than a very extensive mopping. When we met with McClure under the shade of the Biltmore’s vine-covered patio, he was a little sweaty from digging up dirt in the grassy area to the right of the patio where he plans to install a new deck. McClure gave Restaurantarama a tour of the entire exterior and told us he also plans to turn the side yard and accompanying shed into an outdoor bar and lounge area with ping pong tables, a bocce ball court and, possibly, an outdoor television screen. When it’s all done, McClure says the Biltmore will be known as the restaurant with “the largest outdoor space in Charlottesville.” He goes before Charlottesville’s Board of Architectural Review on June 16 to get all the plans approved.
Good luck, my friend! While it sounds like a significant improvement to us, it’s always hard to predict what the BAR will do. McClure assures us though, that other than necessary updates to the interior, he doesn’t plan to make many aesthetic changes to the building itself.
“This is an important part of history in the social life of UVA,” he says. “We’re not going to change the name, though we will get a new sign and drop the ‘Grill part.’” Turns out, the kitchen doesn’t even have one of those.
While McClure is giving the menu a significant overhaul—“We’re keeping the classics and changing most of the rest,”—he’s otherwise treading lightly on a site whose restaurant history dates back more than 20 years under the Biltmore moniker and decades under other names.
McClure has an obvious soft spot for the Corner’s vintage charm. He already owns the area’s most historic restaurant—The Virginian—as well as West Main and Three. And last month McClure became president of the Corner Business Association. In that role he’s overseeing the “Corner Rehab Project,” which will begin this summer and includes, among other things, new bricks along Elliewood and University avenues, the addition of lights to the trees along University and, eventually, more prominent signage to emphasize to tourists and townspeople alike that just like the Downtown Mall and Court Square, “the Historic Corner District is another living room of Charlottesville,” says McClure.