Something to Grouse about

The Pink Grouse’s Chef de Cuisine Dennis Merritt says he was inspired to become a chef after watching a seed grow into a plant and became something nourishing. Publicity photo The Pink Grouse’s Chef de Cuisine Dennis Merritt says he was inspired to become a chef after watching a seed grow into a plant and became something nourishing. Publicity photo

Foodies rejoice! Charlottesville’s high-end dining circuit just got a little larger with the reopening of The Pink Grouse, the signature restaurant at the Quirk Hotel. Initially unveiled along with the hotel in March of 2020, The Pink Grouse’s launch was short-lived due to widespread shutdowns in April. The extra time was used to fine-tune the restaurant’s vision and bring on Chef de Cuisine Dennis Merritt. The result is a contemporary take on American food, driven home by a modern dining room, open kitchen, and creative platings.

Merritt got his start as sous chef at The Clifton, and has spent the last 10 years honing his craft at several of the country’s top restaurants, including Chicago’s Roister. When asked what he was most excited for, regarding his return to Charlottesville, Merritt says, “Being able to show my interpretations of both new and classic dishes.” One example that speaks to the avant-garde spirit of The Pink Grouse is the vivid White Stone oysters topped with coconut, passion fruit mousse, pickled mango, and calabrian chilis.

Keep the Kouign-amann coming

In August, MarieBette Café was awarded a $25,000 grant from Discover’s Eat It Forward program, which supports Black-owned businesses countrywide. It’s no secret that COVID-19 has put tremendous strain on the restaurant industry, especially in Black communities, and the Eat It Forward program aims to protect these “cornerstones of community” by offering awards based on customer nominations. On its Instagram, MarieBette writes, “To say that we are excited for how much this helps us in this difficult time would be an understatement. We are so proud to be part of the Charlottesville community.”

Meet me on the patio

Many of our iconic restaurants have begun to reopen after months of closure, adding or adjusting patio spaces, and dining outside never tasted so good.

Among them is Tavola,* now offering reservations (are pigs flying too?) for limited indoor, plus outdoor dining, where guests can enjoy a new patio along with the much-missed Italian food and wine. Paradox Pastry has repaved its patio into a larger and more accommodating space, and Little Star and Oakhart Social have both tented their spacious outdoor dining areas. Diners have also gained new appreciation for a long list of reopened al fresco spots on the Downtown Mall, including Rapture, The Fitzroy, Chap’s, and Fleurie (check out its beautifully appointed deck!).

New beginnings

Splendora’s, the Downtown Mall gelato café, closed its doors last month after 16 years of creating frozen masterpieces from imaginative ingredients. (We are still dreaming of the Strawberry Pink Peppercorn and the Miso Cherry.)

Owner PK Ross hopes to use this transition as an opportunity to focus on collaborating with other businesses, meaning we may see Splendora’s on some of our favorite menus in the near future. Splendy’s is still offering pickup and delivery through the rest of September, while Ross searches for a new location off the mall. More information can be found on Splendora’s Facebook page.

Bluegrass Grill & Bakery, a favorite brunch spot for locals in the know since 2001, was forced to vacate its downtown location when the pandemic struck. But never fear, the biscuit making will continue. Bluegrass recently partnered with Devils Backbone to operate a pop-up restaurant at The Summit, a repurposed train station on DB’s Roseland property. For the next three months, find BGB’s classic, Southern dishes served by familiar faces, now in the spectacular foothills of the Blue Ridge.

And sadly, BreadWorks Bakery & Deli, which has provided job training and employment to people with disabilities since 1967, will close its doors due to the economic fallout of the coronavirus.—Will Ham

*co-owned by C-VILLE’s Culture editor Tami Keaveny

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Kitchen(ette) is open again and has their amazing sandwiches for pick up at their new location on 91/2 Street NE.. Check them out.