Food cart owner to open restaurants in Crozet

Justin van der Linde (right), owner of Smoked BBQ Co. food cart and Smoked Kitchen and Tap in Crozet, says requests from customers to bring his barbecue back to the Downtown Mall solidified his decision to return. Photo by Rammelkamp Foto Justin van der Linde (right), owner of Smoked BBQ Co. food cart and Smoked Kitchen and Tap in Crozet, says requests from customers to bring his barbecue back to the Downtown Mall solidified his decision to return. Photo by Rammelkamp Foto

On Thursday, August 25, Smoked BBQ Co. served its last bite of barbecue to a long queue of hungry lunch-goers.

At least for the time being.

Smoked fans can pencil in late October for when they’ll be able to dig in to a plate of barbecue and other Southern comfort food made by Smoked owner Justin van der Linde and his sous chef, Kent Morris.

They’ll have to head to Crozet to get their fix, but the drive is as long as the wait in line to get lunch from the food cart used to be—about 20 minutes.

Smoked Kitchen and Tap will open on the ground floor of the Piedmont Place building in downtown Crozet and will offer Smoked BBQ’s signature dishes—brisket, ribs, pulled pork (dry-rubbed and sauced) and some new items, such as fried chicken, burgers, sandwiches and salads. They’ll also serve hush puppies and fries, and will have 10 local beers in rotation on tap, all highlighting the 151 trail, van der Linde says.

“It’s a massive scale-up…and I hope it’s big enough,” he says, his blue eyes wide beneath the brim of his hat. “The crowd made it happen,” he says, noting that with lines 30 to 50 people deep, the Smoked cart ran out of food almost every day by 1pm; it was a late day when they were still serving at 1:15.

The Smoked duo will also have a space on the fourth floor of the building, to be called The Rooftop, which will open a few weeks after the ground-floor restaurant and offer items like wood-fired pizzas topped with house-cured meats, plus local beers and craft cocktails well-suited to Southern food. No word yet on who will be behind the bar.

Van der Linde says they’ll get a little more experimental with The Rooftop (which has spectacular views of the mountains) but you won’t see any avocado foam here. “I like simple food,” he says. He believes there’s a movement toward simple food on the horizon, and he’s excited about it. Van der Linde plans on continuing Smoked BBQ Co. as a catering arm of the new restaurant. It’ll be a lot to manage, he says, but he’ll still wake up in the wee hours of the morning to light the coals and cook with the same motivation he’s always had—that everybody deserves good food.

Fellini’s reopens

After just more than a year away, Jacie Dunkle is back at the helm of Fellini’s #9.

Fellini’s was closed for about 10 days at the end of August while Dunkle and her husband, Gary, scrubbed tables, rehung the mirrors and pendant lamps they took down not long ago and applied for ABC and business licenses, which cannot be transferred between owners.

“I’m excited to give it back to the community the way we all remember it,” Dunkle says of the restaurant she ran for more than 10 years and sold to another family in June 2015. Former co-owner Melissa Ragland says the hand-off back to Dunkle was due to her wanting to spend more time with her family.

Fellini’s re-opened on Wednesday, August 31, but there’s still work to be done to return that former Fellini’s flair, Dunkle says. She plans on painting the walls a darker color to reintroduce a soft-lit, romantic atmosphere to the restaurant. She’s also looking for a new executive chef to add fresh, seasonal dishes to the menu. Right now is the perfect time to have a caprese salad with fresh heirloom tomatoes, and a pasta-free lasagna, where grilled squash and zucchini take the place of the wide, flat lasagna noodles, Dunkle says.

Fellini’s will continue to have its signature piano music, plus live music late on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Dunkle also plans to host First Fridays art openings, likely starting in October.

Dunkle, who also owns Tin Whistle Irish Pub, has plans to open her third restaurant on Market Street—The Salad Maker—this fall. It’ll be a grab-n-go place with a few tables, open six days a week for lunch and early dinner, so stay tuned for more on that.

But, for now, Dunkle promises that even though she’ll be zipping up and down Market Street, running Fellini’s and Tin Whistle while opening The Salad Maker, Fellini’s is “in good hands. It’ll be fine.”

Tasty Tidbits

Goes together like beer and cookies…Taste for yourself at Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint on Thursday, September 8. After 6pm, buy a flight of Allagash brews and get four small bite-sized cookies to pair with each beer. Revamped happy hour…Red Pump Kitchen is changing up its happy hour specials at the bar and alfresco café from 5-7pm Wednesday through Sunday. Look for beer, select wine and cocktail specials ($4-8) and small plates such as blistered shishito peppers with spicy aioli, antipasto and flatbread, for $7 or less. Trading places…Chef John Shanesy, most recently of Parallel 38, has taken over the kitchen at Petit Pois. Extra shot… This fall, Grit Café will open a fourth location at The Shops at Stonefield, in the former Press Coffee space. Mucho Mexican…Like free guac? You’re in luck. Last week, Qdoba Mexican Eats, which serves free guacamole with its entrées, opened on Lenox Avenue, near Costco and behind The Shops at Stonefield. The fast-casual chain also features loaded tortilla soup, queso nachos, burritos, burrito bowls and more.

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