"Warhol's factory with coffee and computers"

"Warhol's factory with coffee and computers"

Correction Appended

Derek Breen has no shortage of snappy descriptions for the business he plans to open in January in a blue house on Elliewood Avenue. There’s the phrase that headlines this column—a come-hither to artsy, collaboration-minded patrons. There’s his metaphor “MySpace live,” which gets at the particular mode of networking he’d like to foster: tech-savvy, but face-to-face. And there are his references to classic European salons like the Bloomsbury Group: the tradition of artists and writers basically hanging out together with canon-worthy results.

If you’re artsy, you can loiter all you want at Derek Breen’s Bohemia: the new Mod Grill opening in January.

In the end, maybe “modular business” is Breen’s best designation for the ambitiously experimental café he calls, appropriately, Mod Grill. “It can change over time,” he explains. If patrons want to replace the huge beanbag chairs in the front room with tables for laptops, he’s game. “Maybe there are people that like to bake,” he muses, “and they could bring scones here to sell.” Groups can use Mod Grill for meetings; a citizens’ philosopher group called Socrates Café has already gathered here in the still-unfinished space (a former bike shop), or local filmmakers might organize screenings upstairs. Breen will teach workshops on 3D animation and Web design. If the place is anything like Breen himself, a constant flow of ideas will keep it lively indeed. Free wifi aside, this is not your mama’s cybercafé.

Breen spent some time living at Twin Oaks in Louisa, and that decades-old commune’s, well, communal ideals are stamped all over his project. He talks about what he doesn’t want Mod Grill to be: the kind of café where you feel pressured to leave after emptying your mug. Nor, although it will keep late hours, will it be a stop on the undergrad pub-crawl that dominates Elliewood. Instead, picture smart folks drinking organic free-trade coffee while working on their novels or brainstorming concepts for a short digital film. They might be sitting around an octagonal (and free) computer lab that lets them face each other and chat—out loud, that is—as they blog or design a website. Oh—and they’re eating takeout from another restaurant. (Breen’s cool with that.)

Which gets us to the food—in this café, more like a sideshow than a main attraction. “Light snack fare” is how Breen puts it: pastries, maybe some granola, organic sodas. He’s thinking of having Twin Oaks supply the grub, along with some hammock chairs to line the wall outside.

It’s enough to make Restaurantarama, for one, start hatching all sorts of schemes for brainy late-night collaborations. Put your thinking caps on in time for Mod Grill’s opening in January.


Restaurantarama notices things. Like the fact that Pizza Bolli on W. Main Street now serves halal gyros. And the fact that there’s a coffeeshop and ice-cream parlor called Hoo’s Brew and More soon to open just behind Dürty Nelly’s out there on JPA. (It’s cute as can be! White with orange and blue trim. Get it? And there’s a fireplace. When we peeked past the “Coming Soon” sign and through the window, the place looked cheerful and nearly ready to go. Keep your eyes peeled for an opening.)

We must admit, however, that we utterly failed to notice Vinny’s Grill and Pizzeria, which has apparently been operating for no less than six months in Hollymead Town Center. Sheesh! A lot of you must already know about this place, a small regional chain with a menu full of pies and other Olde Italian Standbys. It serves lunch and dinner and its menu features something called the “Pot o’ Gold,” a collection of deep-fried apps served in a “crispy dough shell” that sounds to us like it would make a rhinoceros feel he’d overeaten.
If you hadn’t already made Vinny’s acquaintance, remember: You heard it here first.

Flown south

Breaking news: The last day of business at Blue Bird Café, on W. Main Street, was November 30. Partners Chuck Hancher and Brent Pye are keeping mum about why, but we’ll stay on the story.

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

Correction: Dec. 12, 2006

Last week, Restaurantarama incorrectly identified a soon-to-open business. The correct name is Mod, not Mod Grill.