Eppie’s and Pasture both close and more local restaurant news

Jason Alley’s Southern-themed restaurant PastureQ has closed after less than two years at its Stonefield location. Photo: Cramer Photo Jason Alley’s Southern-themed restaurant PastureQ has closed after less than two years at its Stonefield location. Photo: Cramer Photo

Eppie’s, the humble lunch counter that’s become a Downtown Mall institution over the past decade, has closed its doors after one final service on May 30. Two new restaurateurs plan to open a ramen and donut shop, Miso Sweet, in its place in mid-August.

Rumors of Eppie’s closing had been swirling for months when owners Dan and Charles Epstein confirmed them on their website at the end of May. “Thanks for eating at Eppie’s for 10 years,” the note read. “We’ve enjoyed getting to know you and will miss seeing you and your families.”

Charles Epstein has been a silent partner since Eppie’s launched in 2006, and Dan Epstein’s run the place while working nearly full-time at the Legal Aid Justice Center. Named for the brothers’ father, Isaac “Eppie” Epstein, the restaurant has been embraced by the community for its family-style dinners and sides and rotating daily specials, which have included tamales and chicken and dumplings. Dan Epstein said he wanted to do daily specials because a favorite D.C. deli drew long lines for its “meatloaf Thursdays.”

Drawing lines never seemed to be a problem for Eppie’s, and Epstein said the closing was “nothing dramatic.”

“My brother Charles and I started talking at the turn of the year about doing something different with Eppie’s,” he said. “We thought about small changes, and we thought about changing the entire concept. After a lot of consideration, we decided that closing was the right move for us right now.”

Eppie’s had trimmed its hours to lunch-only this past winter, indicating something might be afoot, and for an article on its tamale special in November 2013, Epstein conceded if he struggled with anything, “it’s answering the question, ‘What kind of restaurant are we?’”

Still, the dishes outside Eppie’s bailiwick of Southern comfort food, like the tamales and fiesta bowl, were fan favorites.

Eppie’s isn’t the first small business to leave the Downtown Mall in recent months. On March 28, Frank Cappellino closed his renowned Cappellino’s Crazy Cakes. Cappellino didn’t mince words about the closure.

“It got to the point where my business, along with others on the mall, aren’t what they used to be, and we are struggling,” he told C-VILLE at the time. Cappellino said shrinking foot traffic, the proposed meal tax hike and an increase in panhandling have made it harder to thrive on the mall.

Frank and Heather Paris, who plan to open the ramen shop in Eppie’s place, will offer details in the coming weeks on how they’ll make it work. Epstein declined to indicate whether his family would continue in the food service business, but didn’t rule it out.

PastureQ quietly exits

When the Charlottesville outpost Pasture opened at The Shops at Stonefield in September 2013, locals were salivating for news about the venture and the cuisine from Richmond top chef Jason Alley. Unfortunately for Alley—and C’ville for that matter—the honeymoon didn’t last. The restaurant shifted its concept to BBQ, becoming PastureQ, in October 2014, and it vacated the space entirely on May 16.

Alley didn’t respond to requests for comment on the closure, and nearby businesses were likewise reticent.

Brad Dumont, VP of development for EDENS, the firm behind Stonefield, said at the time Pasture joined the complex’s lineup that it was the most unique dining option they’d land. That was before they had completed the current stable, which features Burtons Grill, Duck Donuts, Littlejohn’s, Noodles & Company, Parallel 38, Rocksalt, Spoon & Berry and Travinia Italian Kitchen.

Reviews of the food and atmosphere at Pasture weren’t always favorable, and the transition to PastureQ amounted to an admission the restaurant needed a new niche last year. But Alley said it was in line with his ambitions and skills.

Recent reports indicate Travis Milton, the chef at Alley’s successful Richmond restaurant Comfort, is moving on to open his own spot. With his C’ville location closing, Alley will be able to focus on Comfort and his other Richmond joint, the original Pasture.

Pop-up, all science-like

Can’t get enough guerrilla dining? Check out the latest series of events from local pop-up veterans (in relative terms) Forage. On June 6 and 7, the 3-year-old dinner series will treat nerdy diners to The Periodic (Dinner) Table: “Multiple courses of magnetic cuisine, a perfectly calibrated cocktail,” and “academically inspiring design.”

The hosts, founders Megan Kiernan of Feast! and Justin Stone, among others, suggest you dress in “your best geek chic attire (pocket protectors, lab-ready protective gear)” and bring a “flask or beaker of your own liquid solution to enjoy with dinner.” Seats are $65 per person and limited.

The dinner is a follow-on to two May nights of the same theme, and comes on the heels of previous events by Forage like Festa nel Campo and Moroccan Affair and Cleaver’s Cookout. When Kiernan and Stone introduced the series in 2012, they said their goal was to create “holistic occasions meant to be enjoyed by all the senses.” They hypothesize this time that the food, drinks, style and conversation will result in an “electrifying experience.” There’s only one way to test a hypothesis. E-mail forage.charlottesville@gmail.com for more information.