Gearharts moves into new space, introduces baked goods and coffee bar and more local restaurant news

Gearharts improves upon its chocolate experience with a move to a new shop where you can snack on candy, drink wine and enjoy a slice of seven-layer cake. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto Gearharts improves upon its chocolate experience with a move to a new shop where you can snack on candy, drink wine and enjoy a slice of seven-layer cake. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto

Gearharts moves into new space, introduces baked goods and coffee bar

For those of you who have passed the now-dark Gearharts Fine Chocolates shop in the Main Street Market, don’t panic—you can still get your hands on all your favorite chocolates, plus a whole new menu of baked goods and other treats. The production side of Gearharts moved to its new Ridge-McIntire location (next to Staples, across from the Omni hotel) several weeks ago, and last week the new larger shop officially opened for business.

Tim Gearhart quietly announced plans for the move back in September, and while he admitted at the time that he’s never been a big fan of change, he’s like a kid in a candy store in the new space. Months of design and construction went into the two-room kitchen (a hot area to make things like the ganache and caramel, and a chocolate room to dip, decorate and package), and he says the extra space will allow them to double or even triple their sales in the coming years.

The chocolate room looks (and smells) like a scene straight out of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, and now you can see it for yourself. Gearhart says customers have repeatedly asked if they could look at the kitchen since the shop opened in 2001, and giant windows into the chocolate room let you do exactly that.

The Gearharts menu has expanded to include items like a seven-layer chocolate cake, a chocolate tart featuring candied fruits and edible flowers, double-chocolate cookies and a flourless chocolate torte, with more additions coming soon. There’s also an extensive drink menu that contains “the most decadent hot chocolate in town,” Greenberry’s coffee and il bicerin, a layered chocolate-and-espresso drink that Gearhart promises is unlike anything you’ve had anywhere else in Charlottesville.

And if you’re not sold already, consider the beer and wine list. Wine-and-chocolate pairings are classic, but Gearhart recommends giving a creamy, heavy porter a try with a piece (or several pieces) of dark chocolate, or even a hefeweizen with some toffee. He says the shop will soon offer pairing events in a private space, but in the meantime you can order and enjoy a beverage in the dining room so you can see for yourself whether you prefer a glass of pinot or a pint of porter with your ganache-filled treats.

“The effervescence of beer, it really cleanses the palate,” Gearhart says. “I almost think beer and chocolate are more of a natural fit.”

West Main makeover

It’s been about a month since West Main, A Virginian Restaurant closed. Owner Andy McClure, who also owns Citizen Burger Bar, The Virginian and The Biltmore, said at the time that his plan was to breathe new life into the space and give it a different feel. It’s time for something else, he said, but he wasn’t entirely sure what that something was.

Now, McClure says he’s aiming for a mid-December opening. The building itself has been around since the 1800s, and his plan is to design and decorate in a way that honors its history. He hasn’t yet chosen a name for the space, but says he’s ordered some “cool custom chandeliers, which should help me narrow down the perfect name.” The downstairs area, which used to be stocked with ping-pong and pool tables, will be a speakeasy-style bar, and the upstairs will be “classic and cozy dining.”

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