Tucker Yoder checks out of Clifton Inn, Slice abruptly shuts down and more local restaurant news

Tucker Yoder wraps up his tenure at Clifton Inn on Christmas day. Photo: Justin Ide. Tucker Yoder wraps up his tenure at Clifton Inn on Christmas day. Photo: Justin Ide.

Inn and out

Tis the season for accoladed executive chefs to make some big changes, apparently. Not long after Melissa Close-Hart left her 14-year gig at Palladio to strike out on her own in Belmont, her culinary school classmate Tucker Yoder announced his plan to step down from his post as executive chef at Clifton Inn on Christmas day.

“I’ve been here for four years, and I think it was just time to go,” Yoder said. “All the folks that have been working with me will still be there, so it’ll be the same kitchen, just without me.”

Yoder, who honeymooned at Clifton Inn with his wife “many years ago,” came back to work as a sous chef under the now executive chef of Maya Christian Kelly, and stepped up as executive chef four years ago. Other predecessors as head of the kitchen include The Barbeque Exchange’s Craig Hartman and C&O’s Dean Maupin. The restaurant has maintained its fine dining identity through all iterations, and Yoder put heavy emphasis on the property’s expansive garden.

“They gave me a lot of freedom to do what I wanted,” he said. “I got to expand the existing vegetable garden, make it bigger, with more interesting things. I discovered all the crazy things that already grow on the property that they weren’t utilizing before.”

Yoder said he’s not sure what Clifton Inn’s plan is in terms of replacing him permanently, but in the meantime, sous chef Jared Adams is taking over. Clifton management did not return our call for comment.

As for Yoder’s next endeavor? He said he’s still working on that.

“I’ll more than likely stay in Charlottesville,” he said. “I’m doing some holiday parties for friends, and I’m fielding all offers.”

Cut out

Slice owner Chris Herring alluded to some rent pressure at the Barracks Road Shopping Center in an October interview, but the pizza joint’s closure announcement in early December was still abrupt. The store was completely empty within two weeks, and neighboring businesses reported they were surprised by Slice’s swift departure.

Herring and his wife Cassie did not respond to a message requesting comment, but according to the Slice website and Facebook page, the pizzeria closed “due to circumstances beyond our control,” and the husband and wife team “plan to open at a new location as soon as possible.” Slice isn’t the first mom-and-pop to depart Barracks Road in recent memory. Locally owned Lloyd’s Hallmark, Peace Frogs, Shenanigans, Lynne Goldman Studio and Blue Ridge Mountain Sports all have left the center in the past several years.

Despite Herring’s concerns about rent and foodstuffs pricing in October, he was upbeat about his restaurant’s prospects. Slice had recently expanded its hours to offer frittatas and breakfast pizza in the morning and was planning to launch a line of sweet and savory pies to widen the notion of a “slice.” Herring suggested at the time there might be another Slice in the works but was reluctant to offer details. Perhaps the new location will be coming sooner than anyone expected.

Fell flat?

Some local parents may be pleased to find out that there is one less frozen yogurt option in town. Less than a year after CUPS Frozen Yogurt made its Charlottesville debut next to Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar, the vibrantly decorated self-serve ice cream shop that’s been compared in the media to Hooters quietly closed its Barracks Road Shopping Center location.

Representatives from The Briad Group, the New Jersey-based company that operates CUPS and its Barracks Road neighbor Zinburger, didn’t return call for comment. But Tom Beyer from The Briad Group’s PR firm DFPR kept it short and sweet.

“They made a business decision to shut down that location,” Beyer said, declining to offer any more details.

Build-your-own froyo sundae spots have been our jam for several years now, so we all know the drill. CUPS stores feature a row of soft-serve frozen yogurt in flavors ranging from classic chocolate and vanilla to seasonal options like eggnog and salted caramel popcorn, plus more than 40 toppings, like chocolate chip cookie dough bites, jelly beans and fresh fruit.

With your dessert, though, comes what some parents consider an unhealthy helping of sexual innuendo. Catch-phrases like “Size matters…fill up your cup” and “Don’t go topless…sprinkle on your favorite toppings” are posted on the walls alongside 1960s-style beach posters featuring men and women in skimpy bathing suits. Teenage and young adult girls with plunging pink and purple necklines work behind the counter, and top 40 music thumps from the speakers. Parents who contacted C-VILLE earlier this year were “disgusted that Barracks Road would consider opening such a shop,” and said the “combination of the sexual innuendo and ice cream” was not something they wanted to explain to their kids.

Beyer declined to respond when asked if the media-hyped portrayal of the froyo shop as a dessert version of Hooters has contributed to the closing of CUPS. According to Yelp reviews and local news reporters, CUPS locations in Bridgewater and Morristown, New Jersey, have also closed since 2013.