Foodie musings

The authentic flatbread döner sandwiches at Otto Turkish Street Food set the tone for a new year of new foodie favorites. Image: Eze Amos The authentic flatbread döner sandwiches at Otto Turkish Street Food set the tone for a new year of new foodie favorites. Image: Eze Amos

We are all ready to leave 2020 behind, but as we close it out, let’s take a moment to remember dining experiences, both lost and gained, in this most unusual year.

Many well-known establishments shuttered their doors on the Downtown Mall during the pandemic, including Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar, a hub for upscale dining, music, and nightlife, and Tin Whistle Irish Pub, a spot for hearty Irish comfort food and a pint of Guinness. We saw a halt to business at upscale steakhouse Prime 109 and the much-loved Mediterranean restaurant Bashir’s Taverna. Our favorite minimalist crêperie, The Flat, and C’ville institution Fellini’s became lockdown casualties. The Downtown Grille, a go-to for white tablecloth fancy dining, couldn’t withstand the harsh realities of the past year.

On West Main Street, we mourn the loss of Parallel 38, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Sugar Shack Donuts. BreadWorks Bakery & Deli, Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar, and Crozet’s The Rooftop also joined the ranks of places we will miss.

Splendora’s is another beloved spot we are heartbroken to lose. However, owner PK Ross is searching for kitchen space, and plans to begin gelato delivery by February. Others that made changes in order to keep serving include Bluegrass Grill & Bakery, which took up temporary residence at the Devils Backbone in Nelson, and Red Pump Kitchen, which changed its focus to accommodate more private events as a rental-only venue. Modern Nosh isn’t gone for good either—owner Stephanie Levin hopes to continue her mission of giving back to local nonprofits through food.

The news is not all bad, though. A number of brave restaurateurs have given us new places to explore. Passiflora moved into the former Commonwealth space on the Downtown Mall, and is serving a colorful combination of Mediterranean and Tex-Mex fare. There is more authentic Mexican food at the family-owned Sombreros in York Place, and around the corner in Modern Nosh’s former home is Otto Turkish Street Food. Döner kebabs are new to C’ville, and we say yum to that, as well as Otto’s flatbread sandwiches, fully loaded with grilled eggplant, sumac onion, tzatziki, hummus, and your choice of kebab. Vu Noodles took up residence in The Flat’s old kitchen, and Tonic, a café and bar, is serving up local produce-forward food at the former Tin Whistle address. Guajiros Miami Eatery moved into the above-the-tracks space once occupied by Parallel 38, and Glaze Burger & Donut is baking in the shop vacated by Sugar Shack.

The Quirk Hotel introduced The Pink Grouse, which had difficulties opening just before the March lockdown, but its second take on a grand opening has us dreaming of oysters Rockefeller and charred octopus. Topping off the list of new offerings, Sabor Latino has upgraded from its humble beginnings as a family-owned food truck in C’ville to a brick-and-mortar establishment in Crozet.

The long-awaited Dairy Market opened on December 15, with six of its 11 merchants up and running seven days a week. The lineup includes Angelic Jenkins’ soul food eatery Angelic’s Kitchen, and Chimm, which expands on its 5th Street Station location, bringing more Thai street food to C’ville. Dino’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Rotisserie Chicken promises to satisfy our essential cravings with fresh and sustainable ingredients, and Take it Away Sandwich Shop, after 28 years on the Corner, is serving its secret house sauce on sammies at Dairy Market. And then there’s Moo Thru, a local outpost of the ice cream stop that sits halfway between Charlottesville and Washington, D.C., while New York-based Eleva Coffee brings a humanitarian mission and regionally sustainable coffees to the market.

In the new year, Dairy Market will welcome local eggs and produce from Bee Conscious Baking Company, Filipino fare from Manila Street, wines from Springhouse Sundries, creative ’60s cocktails at The Milkman’s Bar, and made-on-site brews from Starr Hill Brewery.

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