If you weren’t looking closely, you probably missed the opening of the Tin Whistle, an upstart Irish pub that’s moved quietly into the former Caffe Bocce space on Market Street across from the parking garage. Jacie Dunkle, who also owns Fellini’s #9 just a few blocks west, purchased the restaurant from the former owners on September 4 and wasted no time flinging the doors open.
The Tin Whistle isn’t likely to keep things quiet going forward. Dunkle is taking the former white tablecloth and hushed tones space and injecting it with nightly live music. Dunkle said she wants the Tin Whistle to feel like a place where Irish and other traditional musicians “just show up with their instruments.” She’s also looking forward to using her new outdoor space, a tree-covered patio that never seemed to get the love it deserved when it was part of Caffe Bocce.
“We have this beautiful courtyard, and I’ll be able to do some live music outside, some small outdoor concerts on Sunday afternoons,” she said.
As for the menu? Traditional Irish straight down the line. The beer list is dominated by Emerald Isle suds, with Three Notch’d Hydraulian (Irish) Red thrown in for a wee bit of good measure, and the grub will include soda bread with whipped butter and Irish cheddar soaked in porter, scotch eggs, shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash, corned beef and cabbage, and fish and chips.
Let’s taco ’bout it
What’s the best part of fried chicken? The skin, obviously. At Yearbook Taco, the new Mexican joint between Sweet Frog and The Whiskey Jar on the Downtown Mall that opened for lunch and dinner last week, they take that greasy, crispy skin, stick it on a tortilla with some toppings, and call it a taco. It’s one of the rotating specials, though, so you may have to go a few times before you get a chance to try it.
The good news is, there are 12 other taco fillers to choose from, including pulled chicken, chorizo, fried potatoes, seared cod, tofu, and beans. We can’t yet vouch for all of them, but the fried chicken skin is just as decadent as it sounds, and even a die-hard carnivore will not miss the meat, what with all the roasted poblano peppers and mushrooms.
Each taco comes on either a corn or flour tortilla, with red or green salsa (or both). Gringo style includes cheese, sour cream, and lettuce, and the traditional style offers a different take with cilantro, red onion, and lime.
So far Yearbook Taco has only been open for lunch, but keep an eye on its Facebook page for updates about evening hours. Oh, and did we mention the extensive tequila list and house made margarita mix?
An apple a day
Beer and wine get plenty of attention in this town, what with all the festivals, tasting events, collaborative dinners, and so forth. But what about hard cider, the apple-based booze that’s been getting increasingly more popular since the first local cidery opened six years ago? For the third year in a row, the Commonwealth will recognize one week in November as Cider Week Virginia. Starting Friday, November 14, restaurants, grocery stores, and cideries across the state will host events to promote Virginia-made cider. Local events include an all-day music and cider festival at Castle Hill Cider on Saturday, November 15, a cider tap takeover at Sedona Taphouse on Monday, and a home cider-making workshop at Fifth Season Gardening Company on Wednesday. And for something a little different, Fleurie, Petit Pois, and Hamiltons’ will serve up specialty cider cocktails all week.
The quirky space on West Main that once housed Moto Pho Co. has a new tenant, Oakhart Social, a not-quite-so-quirky modern American joint. First time restaurateur Ben Clore has teamed up with chef Tristan Wraight to open the new shareable plates spot, and the childhood friends expect to start welcoming customers by the second week of November.
How does Oakhart plan to distinguish itself in the large and growing Charlottesville restaurant scene? “I think we’re going to be a little more rock ‘n’ roll,” Clore said.
Clore’s certainly assembled a kitchen staff with rocking chops. Before moving to C’ville nearly site-unseen two months ago, Wraight was working with Chicago-based restaurant group the Land and Sea Dept., which has had success updating classic restaurant concepts, as with its renowned gastropub Longman and Eagle. Sous chef Jake Nesmith, who also up and left the Windy City when Clore invited him down, recently worked as sous chef at Little Goat, celebrity chef Stephanie Izard’s down-market companion to the critically acclaimed Girl and the Goat.
“We want to do pretty opulent service and high-end food at a reasonable price,” Clore said.