Warm up with ramen: Whole Foods offers the noodle soup on Fridays

Soups from Whole Foods Market’s ramen bar have been a hot commodity for two years. Photo: Amy Jackson Smith Soups from Whole Foods Market’s ramen bar have been a hot commodity for two years. Photo: Amy Jackson Smith

One of the worst-kept secrets in Charlottesville is Whole Foods Market’s excellent ramen soup bar, which is only open from 11am to 3pm Fridays during the winter months. Andre Susilo, district manager in Virginia for Genji, the contractor that also provides sushi to Whole Foods, says that the bar’s limited hours have not diminished its success since it opened two years ago.

Both the tonkotsu—a rich, slightly creamy pork-bone broth, served with slices of roasted pork belly—and vegetable broths are winners. Each soup comes with a generous helping of ramen, bean sprouts, scallions, pickled ginger, and shallots. You can eat in the store or take your soup to go, and Susilo says catering is in great demand. “Even during Thanksgiving, we had a lot of catering orders for the ramen,” he says.

New direction for Commonwealth

Ten Course Hospitality has been playing a bit of staffing Tetris at some of its high-profile restaurants on the Downtown Mall, as it rebrands Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar.

Chef John Shanesy, formerly of The Whiskey Jar, has taken over the top spot in the kitchen at Commonwealth. He is building on a fresh foundation created, in large part, by local stalwart chef Harrison Keevil, who had been working as a consultant on rebranding the restaurant, which has adopted the tagline “Modern Virginia Cuisine.”

“We have a good restaurant, and we want to make it bigger and better and bolder, to show how it fits in the community in Charlottesville and tighten down its focus,” says Will Richey of Ten Course Hospitality, which manages the restaurant. He credits Shanesy with taking Keevil’s consulting work in the kitchen “to the next level.”

Richey says Commonwealth’s offerings will reflect Virginia’s culinary history—with a nod to the classic 1824 cookbook The Virginia Housewife, by Mary Randolph—as well as current influences, such as the infusion of foods from both Vietnamese and Latino immigrant cultures.

Commonwealth is also touting a new cocktail program, under the direction of River Hawkins, formerly of The Bebedero. Hawkins recently returned from a stint in Mexico, where he immersed himself in all things mezcal. “He’s probably the leading guy in Virginia in mezcal education,” Richey says. “He’s known for theatrics at Bebedero, and we’re very excited to see what he’s launching for us here.”

Overseeing the management team at Commonwealth is general manager Rachel Snogles, who’d been with Ten Course’s Brasserie Saison and worked previously for renowned New York restaurateur Danny Meyer.

The ripple effect of the changes at Commonwealth include the promotion of David Helbling from sous chef to head chef at Whiskey Jar; a move up at the bar for Marah Ballard at Bebedero; and the appointment of Tres Pittard as head chef at Brasserie. “Tres is a young chef but very motivated,” Richey says. “We didn’t realize what he could bring to the table but he kept wowing us with special events. He is killing it.”

Some vino with your joe?

C’ville Coffee is now C’ville Coffee and Wine, thanks to owners Toan Nguyen and Betsy Patrick’s passion for the fruit of the vine. The shop is selling a moderately priced selection for taking home or drinking onsite (with an $8 corkage fee). “All of our wines are under $20, and we taste all of it to make sure it’s good,” Nguyen says. “We’ve received rave reviews from our customers who know they can always count on what’s in our portfolio.”

Nguyen grew up in Europe drinking wine, and led wine tours in Sonoma and Napa early in his career. “I’ve always loved wine, so it’s a dream to bring back the wine into our world,” he says.

Dining assistance

The Shops at Stonefield is participating in a program to help mitigate some stress for family and caretakers of loved ones with dementia, by giving them safe spots to dine out. Two restaurants in the shopping complex, Burtons Grill and Travinia, will offer a “memory cafe,” where people with dementia, their family, and caregivers can dine at the restaurants between 3 and 5pm. Those hours are typically quiet and suitable for, say, enjoying a meal with grandchildren.

Victoria Tremaglio, Stonefield’s general manager, says the program has been successful elsewhere, and it was recommended by Susan Friedman, President and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association. Staff members at both restaurants attended an afternoon of training before the program was implemented, learning to provide not just dining service but appropriate support. “It’s a socially safe environment for the family during our restaurant’s quietest hours,” Tremaglio says. “Dementia affects many families in the region. We hope to expand [the program] center-wide in the future.”