Tapas is Tops: Two Downtown area restaurants make one special list

Okay, now here is one of those “lists” that really matter. While doing the research to write their book Food Lovers’ Guide to Virginia, Lorraine Eaton and Jim Haag of The Virginian-Pilot came up with a list of 30 Places To Eat In Virginia Before You Die. Way to go MAS Tapas and Bang Tapas! (and shouts out to Crozet Pizza and Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, also in Crozet. )

MAS Tapas: “U.Va. students crowd this industrial-looking tapas bar on Friday and Saturday nights, when even the outdoor patio fills up if the weather’s nice. The restaurant’s moniker is a play on the first name of chef-owner Tomas Rahal, who showcases local ingredients. Try the Brussels sprouts and parsnips, which have a sweet, carmelized sear that contrasts nicely with the garlic and pine nuts. Or the gambas al’ parilla, jumbo shrimp grilled in the shell and set off with garlic aioli and gray salt. Finish with the chocolate torte – a true one, no flour here – flavored by dark bittersweet Guanaja cacao.”

BANG Tapas: “You’ll understand this tapas bar’s name when you take a bite of the sesame tuna with wasabi cream– bang! – or the cilantro wontons with chile sauce – bang! The menu includes many offerings for vegetarians and even more choices for carnivores, and portions are generous and easy to share with friends. The martini list is lengthy, and we’re partial to the Sin City, a wallop of berry vodka, pomegranate liqueur and blackberry puree. For the guys, there’s the Mr. Big, a cosmo made with white cranberry juice that won’t make you look as though you’re sipping a girlie cocktail.”


Bang! is Charlottesville’s “go to” spot for Asian inspired tapas and inventive Martinis. We encourage our customers to relax, share plates, and enjoy the fusion of flavors our kitchen creates.


At Mas, you’ll find traditional, regional and seasonal Spanish cuisine with an emphasis on tapas. Offering wines from small production, bio-dynamic and traditional bodegas in a modern setting in the lovely Belmont neighborhood of Charlottesville. Wood-fired brick oven breads, desserts and flatbreads with an eclectic full bar, espresso service and after-dinner drinks. in warm weather Charlottesville’s premier outdoor seating.



Island Creamery

6243 Maddox Blvd., Chincoteague, 757-336-6236, islandcreamery.net

There are 36 reasons that the line at this ice cream shop sometimes stretches out the door and into the parking lot during summer tourist season. That’s the number of ice creams, sorbets and frozen yogurts tempting visitors. If you’re indecisive, go with the house speciality, Marsh Mud, a double chocolate decadence that resembles chilled brownie batter. Pair it with Iced Nirvana, which smacks of a house-brewed espresso. As you pay, grab a bag of waffle-cone pieces near the register. They’re sweet and crunchy and reason enough to stop.


Terrapin Restaurant

3102 Holly Road, Suite 514, Virginia Beach, 757-321-6688, terrapinvirginiabeach.com, $$$$

This intimate spot, just a few blocks from the Oceanfront, is an adventure. It’s a blast to see what executive chef Rodney Einhorn has cooked up on a menu that changes seasonally. Local and regional products get center stage, and a favorite dish is one of his varieties of oysters on the half shell. He uses Pleasure House oysters, topped with impossibly tiny bits of pickled apples. The bivalve explodes in your mouth with a saltiness that is at once sweet and tart. But everything done here is done well.


Eat, An American Bistro

4005 Atlantic Ave., Virginia Beach, 757-965-2472; eatbistro.net; on Facebook, $$-$$$

We’re so glad that Eat is close to home. At every visit, big flavors and a wisp of whimsy emerge from the kitchen. Case in point: The chalkboard menu recently listed “Ants on a Log.” You know, that kiddie snack of celery topped with peanut butter and a sprinkling of raisins? Chef-owner Erick Heilig’s grown-up version starts with a split, roasted bone and marrow topped with basil-fed escargot (instead of raisins!) and garlic, parsley and pieces of butter-grilled baguette. The Hasselhoff Burger is made with brisket and chuck and topped with truffle mayo and a fried egg. A stop at the bar is mandatory, where the list of house drinks always intrigues.


Som Bao Cafe

2476 Nimmo Pkwy., Virginia Beach, 757-430-1066, sombaocafe.com, $$

Here, the air is filled with the scent of kaffir leaves, basil and spice, and the dishes’ bold flavors leave no question that you’ve left the Western Hemisphere. The cafe is named for Somdee and Bao Phoutasen, who secreted their family out of Communist Laos nearly 40 years ago, and is their children’s way of honoring them. First-timers might want to start with Thom Khem – pork, chicken or beef with a hard-boiled egg in a broth with the cuisine’s signature combination of tang, sweet and spice. Or experience the Lao Platter, a stunning feast for two featuring whole tilapia in a salty-savory broth. To go totally Laotian, pinch off a walnut-sized hunk of rice from the accompanying woven basket, dip it into Bao’s sauce and use it as a utensil to eat the rest of the meal.


Stove, the restaurant

2622 Detroit St., Portsmouth, 757-397-0900; stoverestaurant.com, $$$

This quirky, 32-seat restaurant in the heart of a historic Port Norfolk is the daily obsession of chef-owner Sydney Meers, one of the area’s best-known restaurateurs. From his own Southern folk artwork on the walls to a menu filled with house-made sausage and hams, it’s clear that the chef and restaurant have become one. The ever-changing menu combines flavors from Meers’ Mississippi roots with the finest Tidewater foodstuffs and adds a shot of Creole here and there. His lowcountry shrimp and grits won top honors in our 2013 Taste Test. Most every neo-Southern meal comes with a side of Syd, who intermittently cooks behind the tiled half-wall of his open kitchen and repairs to the dining room to sip whiskey, neat, alongside dinner guests.


Vintage Tavern

1900 Governor’s Pointe Drive, Suffolk, 757-238-8808, vintagetavernvirginia.com, $$$$

This rustic charmer is located in a stone structure that looks like a welcoming home. Its interior is accented with wood and a large fireplace, but your eyes keep going to the ample windows, where you see a backyard patio complete with a stream and a backdrop of trees. There’s no better way to start than with A Taste of Southern Goodness, featuring a pile of salty Virginia ham, sausage crafted on the premises, deviled eggs, house-made preserves and buttermilk biscuits. Pork, raised on nearby farms, is the centerpiece of many dishes, including the often-changing Route 17 Plate, where pig lovers can find pork belly, pork loin or pulled pork. The high-ceilinged, spacious bar isn’t a bad place to dine either, and the creative take on the classic ginger-and-bourbon Virginia Highball will make you want to


Blue Talon Bistro

420 Prince George St., Williamsburg, 757-476-2583, bluetalonbistro.com, $$$

You can’t go wrong at this restaurant in the heart of historic Merchants Square. Executive chef-owner David Everett loves comfort food and Virginia products, and you’ll find such rare treats as pig’s feet and an ever-changing, house-made pate. Save room for a cocktail, whipped up by one of the most inventive mixologist staffs around. We’ve been hooked on Sidecars – a blend of cognac, cointreau and lemon juice – since one of the Blue Talon bartenders turned us on to them.


Dudley’s Bistro

4904 Courthouse St., Williamsburg, 757-566-1157, on Facebook, $$$$

Talk about a shock. When we drove to the circa 1905 farmhouse in Toano where we’d always found chef Jim Kennedy, we discovered a pizza joint instead. Still in mourning, we happened upon Dudley’s Bistro in the New Town section of Williamsburg. Could it be? One look at the menu and we knew Kennedy was back in the kitchen – herb crepes topped with wild boar bacon, duck confit and tomato jam, goat cheesecake for dessert. Then, he appeared in the nine-table dining room chatting with guests as he always did at the old place. Kennedy’s an ardent locavore (lover of all things local), which he combines with a “simple is best” philosophy. This is a not-to-be-missed experience.


Buffalo and More

4041 Riner Road, Riner, 540-381-9764, buffaloandmore.com, $

You must question your status as a committed carnivore if this 4-mile detour off Interstate 81 seems like too far to go for a restaurant that serves everything buffalo. And talk about locavores. Chef-owner Connie Hale and her partner, Carla George, actually raise the buffalo in pastures about 15 miles from the restaurant. They make buffalo-chili nachos, buffalo burgers, buffalo barbecue, buffalo Philly cheesesteak, buffalo brisket, buffalo hot dogs – you get the idea. Get some to go from the freezer case, where rib-eyes, roasts, short ribs and such are sold by the pound. Connie’s mom, Reba, makes the desserts. If she’s had a notion to bake chocolate chess pie, just go for it.


Coles Point Tavern

850 Salisbury Park Road, Coles Point, 804-472-3856, colespointtavern.com, $

This circa 1954 tavern is a ramshackle affair perched over the Potomac River. People who like eating on old fishing piers, where locals pass time at the bar, will like this spot. Oddly, the parking lot is in Virginia, while the tavern is just past the line in Maryland, making certain types of gambling legal. Plus, it houses a full-on, carry-out liquor store, another no-no in the commonwealth. The menu is standard bar fare – burgers, big old salads and subs

– but there’s also some mighty fine seafood. When we ordered a crabcake sandwich, the cook formed it, smashed it on a flattop grill and served it up slightly browned. The barman said, “That crab was swimming this morning.”



784 Locklies Road, Topping, 804-758-2871, facebook.com/ merroir, $$

We like a spot where the oysters are offered by the name of the creek that they came from. That’s because we know that “merroir,” like terroir, affects the flavor. We like it even better when you can order a dozen raw, mixed oysters, and even better still when the bivalves are paired with select craft beers and wine. Check all three boxes at this chic little “artisanal tasting room” in a retro-fitted bait shack right on the Rappahannock River. The menu is short, but oh-so-tempting. Try a sampler platter of a dozen shucked oysters (no shell, fully detached, liquor intact), raw or roasted. If it’s not blowing, relax out back and take in a grand view of the “rivah.” That’s what they call it round here.


Aziza’s on Main

2110 E. Main St., Richmond, 804-344-1523, azizasrichmond.com, $$

We almost didn’t find this place but, after we did, we couldn’t stop thinking about it. The restaurant is Lebanese by day, Mediterranean by night and charming always. With only 10 tables and a small bar tucked into an unassuming storefront, you could easily pass it by. Don’t you dare. We had the veal shortbreads – gamey and cooked perfectly – and octopus with house-made chitarra pasta topped with a vodka sauce. Stunning. We sometimes wake up at 2:30 in the morning and want a second helping. It’s that good. And there’s more. A pizza oven in the back offers some of the best pie around.


The Roosevelt

623 N. 25th St., Richmond, 804-658-1935, rooseveltrva.com, $$-$$$

The food here is the kind your Southern grandma would serve if she were a hip lady who concocted dishes like sausage corn dogs. The Roosevelt is a locals’ favorite for Sunday brunch, but the 14 tables fill up quickly so arrive early. And order the corn dogs, which come wrapped in corn batter and are served with a heated maple syrup in a small cast-iron skillet. Chase them with a Bloody Mary garnished with a slice of green tomato. While you’re stuffing your face, enjoy the historical photos on the walls and check out the detailed map of our state’s capital circa 1865, just as the Civil War was ending.


Edo’s Squid

411 N. Harrison St., Richmond, 804-864-5488, $$$$

You won’t find a website for Edo’s Squid, nor will you find it on Facebook. In fact, at night, it’s pretty hard to find when you’re standing right in front of the downtrodden building it shares with a sub shop. Entering the door at the left corner of the building and ascending a narrow and steep staircase seems like a good bet. The steps end abruptly at a cache of paper towels and cleaning supplies. Open the door to the right and there it is, a Richmond favorite where a marble bust of Petronius, the ancient Roman judge of elegance, guards the copper-topped bar. Seafood offerings might include branzino and skatewing; land offerings, quail or lamb porterhouse. The squid with arugula and beans, perfectly seasoned with garlic and olive oil, is in itself worth the drive. So what if the food you paid top dollar for comes on a chipped plate. Petronius approves.


Kuba Kuba

1601 Park Ave., Richmond, 804-355-8817, kubakuba.info, $$

Outside the front door of Kuba Kuba, it’s all shady streets and chirping birds. Inside – bam! – it’s like being shot straight into the Caribbean, with an explosion of colors, artwork, pots, pans, music and flavor. Order a beer, and it comes in a can. Salads look like confetti on a plate. The bread on the side, with the palm leaf baked into the top, certifies the authenticity of the family-owned, 15-year-old establishment. Said bread forms the base of the Cuban sandwich, made with slow-roasted pork and Smithfield ham, a taste of Havana, right in the city’s Fan District.



101 W. Franklin St., Richmond, 804-649-4629; lemairerestaurant.com, $$$$

Traveling to Richmond and bypassing The Jefferson Hotel would be like going to Paris and skipping the Eiffel Tower. The opulence – massive marble columns, fountains, a staircase that may or may not be the inspiration for the one that Scarlett O’Hara tumbled down

– is a must-see. Better yet, make reservations for dinner at Lemaire, the hotel’s award-winning restaurant that combines a staunch Southern bent with an unwavering farm-to-fork philosophy. Chef Walter Bundy, a Richmond native, dreams up dishes such as Rooftop Honey Glazed Pork Loin Chop, served with spoon bread, roasted apricots, “all day” turnip greens and bourbon jus. After dinner, head to the lobby bar and have a drink where Elvis drank.


Belmont Butchery

15 N. Belmont Ave., Richmond, 804-422-8519, belmontbutchery.com

You’ll often find owner Tanya Cauthen behind the register, where she can chat with everyone who comes through the door. But you’ll also find her behind the counter, especially on days when the master butcher and her crew are breaking down slabs of meat. She stocks grass-fed beef from nearby sources, and steaks are cut to order. House-made bacon can be tinged with rosemary. “I believe in feeding Richmond well,” Cauthen says, “and I like to do that with lots of local stuff.” And check out her one earring. Yup, it’s the shape of a meat cleaver.


Our Lady of the Angels Monastery

3365 Monastery Drive, Crozet, 434-823-1452, olamonastery.org

You can find the 2-pound wheels of Gouda made by the Cistercian nuns at speciality shops throughout the state and online, but it’s worth the effort to go straight to the source. You’ll travel a winding, back-country road, and be convinced you’re lost, before you finally see the imposing brick structure in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Once there, make your way down a hall and enter a small room, where one of the nuns will take and fill your order – and offer a kind word or two. Make sure you have a knife in the car, because you’ll want to dig in immediately. The cheese, made by cooking cultured milk until the whey separates from the curd, is heavenly.


Crozet Pizza

5794 Three Notch’d Road, Crozet, 434-823-2132, crozetpizza.net, $$-$$$

It’s tough to get a seat in this two-room joint, where loyals crowd well-worn booths. On the chalkboard menu, there’s only pizza, the dish that put this place on the map after Bob and Karen Crum opened the doors in 1977. Now run by their daughter and her husband, Colleen and Mike Alexander, the restaurant still is all about pies. They come in three sizes but endless variations. Order one of the specialties or create your own. And leave a business card on the wall, which is packed with similar mementos from satisfied customers.


Red Truck Bakery & Market

22 Waterloo St. at Courthouse Square, Warrenton, 540-347-2224, redtruckbakery.com

You’re in luck at this bakery if you find the savory ham-and-cheese scones – made only a couple days a week – because they sell out quickly. But the temptations are many in this converted gas station, where locals often gather around a communal table in what used to be a garage bay. You’ll find a double-chocolate cake flavored with local hooch, a bourbon variety made with root beer and cherries, and sugar cookies shaped like a pickup and decorated in red icing. You can stop in the parking lot and admire the real thing – the namesake 1954 Ford F-100 that gives this place its identity.


MAS Tapas

904 Monticello Road, Charlottesville, 434-979-0990, mastapas.com, $-$$

U.Va. students crowd this industrial-looking tapas bar on Friday and Saturday nights, when even the outdoor patio fills up if the weather’s nice. The restaurant’s moniker is a play on the first name of chef-owner Tomas Rahal, who showcases local ingredients. Try the Brussels sprouts and parsnips, which have a sweet, carmelized sear that contrasts nicely with the garlic and pine nuts. Or the gambas al’ parilla, jumbo shrimp grilled in the shell and set off with garlic aioli and gray salt. Finish with the chocolate torte – a true one, no flour here – flavored by dark bittersweet Guanaja cacao.


Sam Snead’s Tavern

7696 Sam Snead Hwy. , Hot Springs, 540-839-7666, thehomestead.com, $$$-$$$$

This bar is a great place to watch a game, grab an adventurous meal or celebrate one of the country’s greatest golfers, Sam “Slammin’ Sammy” Snead. He grew up near here and began caddying at a young age at the Omni Homestead resort, which this restaurant is part of. The pub is a mini-Snead museum, with photos and memorabilia, including the golf balls he used to record 35 holes-in-one. Then there’s the food. The pimento cheese is some of the best around, bursting with four local cheeses and peppadew chiles. Entrees, which change seasonally, might include duck braised in cider or aged sirloin steak. End with the bread pudding made with cinnamon doughnuts and topped with a bananas Foster sauce. It’s been a Homestead specialty for more than 70 years.



213 2nd St. SW, Charlottesville, 434-984-2264, bangrestaurant.net, $

You’ll understand this tapas bar’s name when you take a bite of the sesame tuna with wasabi cream

– bang! – or the cilantro wontons with chile sauce – bang! The menu includes many offerings for vegetarians and even more choices for carnivores, and portions are generous and easy to share with friends. The martini list is lengthy, and we’re partial to the Sin City, a wallop of berry vodka, pomegranate liqueur and blackberry puree. For the guys, there’s the Mr. Big, a cosmo made with white cranberry juice that won’t make you look as though you’re sipping a girlie cocktail.


Sisters at The Martha

At The Martha Washington Inn, 150 W. Main St., Abingdon, 276-628-3161, themartha.com, $$$$

We rolled into town late one afternoon, top down on the roadster, road-weary and parched. We gazed longingly across the manicured lawn and onto the expansive front porch of The Martha Washington Inn, where cocktails were being served. Turns out, you needn’t be a guest of the venerable inn, or be wearing a sundress or sport coat, to partake of its dining delights. Anyone can settle into a wide, white wicker porch chair and order a libation and even an appetizer. This is one of the state’s finest settings for a 5 o’clock refreshment.


Molasses Grill

63 S. Main St., Halifax, 434-476-6265; molassesgrill.com, $$$

In the vast expanse of central Virginia, towns are like islands surrounded by rolling farmland. It’s impossible to guess where gourmets gather. That’s the case in Halifax. Across from the pillared courthouse, circa 1777, the Molasses Grill has been pleasing refined palates since 2005. That’s when chef Steven Schopen, an English chap with worldly roots, and his wife, Karen, opened this restaurant. Inside, brick walls and burnished pine lend a sense of calm, but opening the menu causes palpitations. Schopen pairs Southern staples with locally sourced ingredients and turns out house-made sausages, breads and dishes such as grilled pork tenderloin with a shellac of bourbon and molasses. Or how about fried chicken and some pimento mac and cheese? Worth the 5-mile or so detour from the straightaway.


Foti’s Restaurant

219 E. Davis St., Culpeper, 540-829-8400; fotisrestaurant.com, $$$

This storefront eatery – with a tin ceiling, wood-plank floor and exposed brick walls – has been earning accolades from elite critics since it opened in 2005. Owners Frank and Sue Maragos earned their chops 25 miles up the road at the prestigious Inn at Little Washington, where Frank rose to the rank of executive sous chef, Sue to senior server. Their rarefied background is evident in the service and menus. Leg of lamb is braised with cinnamon and tomato and presented over cardamom-scented jasmine rice. The chocolate brulee is served with a bacon spoon. Around town, you might hear Foti’s referred to as the “poor man’s Inn at Little Washington.” Rest assured, there’s nothing poor about it.


Exmore Diner

4264 Main St., Exmore, 757-442-2313; exmorediner.com, $

This is a diner, a real one, opened in 1954 and dishing blue-plate specials ever since. There’s a row of booths along the front and a row of barstools at the Formica counter. If it’s spring and the culinary gods are smiling upon you, the specials board will list “drum ribs,” meaty swords from the mighty fish – breaded, fried and flaking right off the bone. Don’t think of getting anything else. Other times of the year, savor what might be the last, honest $5 crabcake sandwich on the planet. Wash it all down with a giant tumbler of Southern-style sweet, sweet tea.


Nottoway Restaurant

At the intersection of U.S. 1 and Interstate 85, Warfield, 804-478-7875, $$

So there’s Campbell’s soup on the menu. Put that out of your mind. Instead, listen for the gurgling grease coming from the pans in the kitchen where the chicken is a-fryin’. Bite through the blistered, seasoned skin and into thigh meat, and you just might hear the angels sing. It’s an entirely different experience than chicken from a deep-fat fryer. This nearly 90-year-old restaurant also dishes chicken-fried steak, ham rolls and fried catfish, all delivered by motherly waitresses with just-so hair and spotless tennies. A note of caution: Many websites and search engines put the restaurant in McKenney. It’s actually south of there.


Zynodoa Restaurant

115 E. Beverley St., Staunton, 540-885-7775, zynodoa.com, $$$$

On the outside, this restaurant looks historic, but inside the feel is totally urban. Chic wooden tables and cozy booths provide seating, but you’ll be tempted to gather at the sleek bar, with its illuminated liquor supply and funky, low-backed stools. The place gets its name from the ancient word for “Shenandoah,” and that’s appropriate for a restaurant that celebrates products grown in the nearby Valley, as well as the Piedmont. The menu is Southern with a modern twist, and it changes often. But order this one if you see it: the pan-seared scallops perched atop a ham-and-bean stew with cranberry orange chutney. You won’t forget it.


Lake View Restaurant

In Douthat State Park, 14239 Douthat State Park Road, Millboro, 540-862-8100, $-$$

This restaurant overlooks Lake Douthat, the centerpiece of a state park that opened in 1936. Take a seat in the enclosed porch or open-air deck and enjoy the tree-covered Allegheny Mountains, which blaze with reds, bronzes and golds in autumn. The food is standard – burgers and sandwiches for lunch, and trout, quail and fried chicken for dinner

– but you won’t mind. You come here for the view. After eating, walk off some of those calories with a relatively level hike around the lake. For those staying at the park, the restaurant is one of the few places with reliable Wi-Fi, though we’re not sure why you’d want to connect to the outside world in such a breathtaking spot.



City Market opens this Saturday, April 5

Get your shopping bags and walking shoes ready. The City Market opens this Saturday April 5 on the DTM (in the parking lot on Water Street), and market manager Stephanie Anderegg-Maloy reports that there are a slew of new and returning vendors this year, including Little Hat Creek Farm, Bellair Farm, Liberty Farm, Small Pond Farm, Breadworks, trout and from Madison Rainbow.  Albemarle Cider Works and Stevie G’s Gluten-free Bakery will be back, plus Sweet Jane’s Kitchen will be serving up its homemade crabcakes, and Got Dumpling will be serving pork, curry chicken, and shrimp and chives dumplings, as well as cold sesame noodles. Market opens and 7am and coleus at 12 Noon.

City Market

Instant Karma: Shine On at Fellini’s Live Band Karoke

fellini-karaoke“Who in the hell d’you think you are/ A super star/Well, right you are” – John Lennon

Live Band Karaoke is starting up again at Fellini’s # 9 Restaurant every Thursday now starting next week, April 3, with the introduction of Tanya and the Rockstars, featuring guitarist Tanya Manwill, Nate West on drums, and Thomas Gunn on bass.

“Fellini’s owner Jacie Dunkle’s idea is to create a user-friendly, interactive evening with an emphasis on fun,” says Manwill. “Karoke Thursdays are geared for locals and out-of-towners who want to get together over food, drink, and song.”

Manwill says the band is developing a song list to accommodate various musical leanings and to provide a “rock star for an evening” type of experience.

“Beyond the basic Karoke list, we will be building song selections based on requests from both the audience and the vocalists,” says Manwill. ” So please come by and put a title in the suggestion box.”

Better yet, bring your talent, or mere enthusiasm, to Fellini’s on April 3. And remember, this is fun, and if you’ve ever been to one these things at Fellini’s before, you know you can get up there and belt one out and everyone will be cheering you on.

Here’s a sampling of some songs/artists: “Wagon Wheel” – Old Crow Medicine Show; “Rolling In the Deep” – Adele; “Hot Stuff” – Donna Summer; “American Girl” – Tom Petty; “Crazy Love” – Van Morrison; “Blister in the Sun” – Violent Femmes; “Evil Ways” – Santana; “Born to be Wild” – Steppenwolf; “Ain’t No Sunshine” – Bill Withers. “Gimme Three Steps” – Lynard Skynard; “Bad Moon on the Rise”- CCR; “Brick House” – Commodores; “Arms of the Angels” – Sara MacLauchlan; “Get It While You Can” – Janis Joplin; “Creep” – RadioHead

Warning: The Alley Light’s Happy Hour could actually, well, make you happy

Happy-2In an alley on Second Street, right between Rev Soup and Downtown Thai, there’s an amber light over a low-hung door that’s on in the evenings from Wednesday through Sunday. The alley certainly doesn’t look like much. And it’s a dead end. You may have seen The Alley Light as you walked by. You may have wondered what it was. You may have asked yourself, “I should check that place out.”

Well, now, here’s a good reason to: $2 drafts and apéritifs from 4:30 to 6:30pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. It all kicks off this Wednesday, March 26.

Kind of like a secret club, The Alley Light, which opened in February,  is not exactly your typical happy hour spot. So, of course, it won’t be your typical happy hour. This is a happy hour for people interested in a creative, interesting list of apéritifs, who like relaxing stylishly in some big, comfy chairs and couches, and who would like to end their day, or start their evening, with a civilized buzz on.

After that, well, there’s no telling what could happen. 😉

Is the Continental Divide Going to Join Christian’s Pizza in Richmond?

continental divideThe Continental Divide occupies a sliver of a room on a nearly desolate corner of W. Main Street right before the bridge that crosses in front of the Amtrak station. It’s next to another restaurant, the exquisite L’Etoile, and close to a pawn shop, and easy to miss if not for the neon sign that whispers Get In Here from the front window.

It’s also frequently packed with folks lined up to and beyond the entrance. It’s first come, first serve for the Tex-Mex inspired cuisine—the flank steak has always been a personal favorite, and on a recent visit the fried tomatillo salad really hit the spot—and a place that seems unique to Charlottesville. There’s only one location and you better get there early if you want one of the high seated booths or the rectangle cocktail tables near the front or, if you’re fortunate, a seat at the bar.

Unlike other Charlottesville food staples like Bodos, Christian’s, Sticks (which already has a Richmond site), or Marco and Luca’s, the Divide has never replicated, and that’s always been part of its appeal. Even though it’s a favorite of so many residents, the Divide still has a way of feeling like a personal secret, so it was surprising to read in Richmond’s Style Weekly that they are opening a branch in RVA at 2501 W. Main St.

The reaction from Charlottesville expatriates must have overwhelmed because the Divide felt compelled to temper the news on their Facebook page: “Ok ok ok ok! Hold the phones! While no deal has been signed in Richmond as of now, we are very excited to see what the future may hold, and appreciate the enthusiasm of the Richmond community!”

Reached by phone, a representative of the restaurant said much the same, that the news was mere “word of mouth” and that “nothing has been signed.” To be clear, the Divide has not denied they are opening a new place, and contacted by e-mail, Style Weekly reports that an official announcement is expected in the next two weeks.

Meanwhile, the weekly’s short piece also mentioned that a Christian’s Pizza is opening in the west end of Richmond. First reported in Richmond BizSense, the restaurant is set to debut sometime this spring at 7003-A Three Chopt Road inside the Village Shopping Center. “The beginning of next month is the most likely scenario,” said Andrew Vaughn by phone in Richmond where he is currently spending much of his time trying to pull everything together.

The founder and still co-owner of Rapture said he was “looking for something to sink his teeth into” when he decided to open a Christian’s in Richmond, seemingly the next logical step not only for him but a franchise that already has four locations in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Vaughn hopes that the pizzeria’s ornate and diversely topped pizza by the slice will captivate west end RVA as it did downtown Charlottesville more than a decade ago. To that end, the new Christian’s will be offering a few new types of pizza (and salads), as well as resurrecting the Sicilian, a thick-crusted former feature at the original downtown location.

That task will fall to Christian Tamm, the founder and owner of the downtown Christian’s (the others are privately owned), and Vaughn’s business associate in this newest chapter of the popular pizza place. In the mid-2000s, the two opened the Christian’s on UVA’s corner before selling it in 2009, and have decided to partner once again. “I missed the fun of it and the whole concept,” Vaughn explained. “I love Christian’s.”

Updated 3/12/2014

Bean Buzz: Mudhouse one of 10 best coffeehouses in the country

WMudhouse carte remember Lynelle and John wheeling out their coffee cart on to the DTM in late 1993. You’ve come a long way, Guys. Congrats!

USAToday–It takes more than beans to serve a great cup of coffee. The country’s best coffeehouses also specialize in hospitality, says David Heilbrunn, who runs Coffee Fest, a trade show that promotes specialty coffee: “They know their customers. You feel like family when you walk in the door.” He works with industry expert Chris Deferio on an annual competition to find the country’s top coffeehouses. They share some of their favorite spots with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.

Mudhouse Coffee
Charlottesville, Va.: “
It’s not surprising to find a busy shop in a university town, but it’s much rarer to find good coffee, Deferio says. “Mudhouse has both. It has the local art and the quintessential coffeehouse feel — and they have amazing coffee.”

Photo from Mudhouse website

Music heads up! Eight new shows, events at the Jefferson and the Southern just announced


WHAT: Kap Slap
WHERE: The Jefferson Theater
WHEN: Saturday, March 22, 2014 – Doors 8:00 PM, Show 9:00 PM
TICKET PRICE: $17 Advance / $20 Day Of Show
ON SALE: On Sale Now

Jared Lucas is a 24 year old DJ/Producer based outside of New York City. Initially recognized for his signature EDM/top 40 bootlegs that tailor to the college scene, Kap Slap now begins a new chapter of his career. Now that he has graduated from Lehigh University, Jared has the time and resources needed to pursue his dream and create his own original productions. His substantial fan base gained through mashups anxiously await his debut single, which is sure to exceed expectations.

WHAT: Monticello Cup Awards
WHERE: The Jefferson Theater
WHEN: Thursday, April 10, 2014 – Doors 6:00 PM
TICKET PRICE: $90 Advance/ $90 Day Of Show
ON SALE: Friday, February 28 at 10 AM

As a part of The Taste of Monticello Wine Trail Wine Festival, the Jefferson Theater is proud to host the Monticello Cup Awards. This exclusive event honors the best wines of Central Virginia. Come and enjoy wine and food pairing at various stations throughout the Jefferson along with music and mingling. Tickets are limited for this black-tie optional event.

Vineyards participating in the Monticello Cup Awards Ceremony:

Afton Mountain Vineyards, Barboursville Winery, Delfosse Vineyards & Winery, Democracy Vineyards, First Colony Winery, Flying Fox Vineyards, Grace Estate Winery, Glass House Winery, Jefferson Vineyards, Keswick Vineyards, King Family Winery, Pippin Hill Winery, Pollak Vineyards, Reynard Florence Vineyard, Stinson Vineyards, Stone Mountain Winery, Trump Winery, Veritas Vineyards, Virginia Wineworks/Michael Shaps and White Hall Vineyards.

WHAT: Easy Star All-Stars ‘Dub Side Of The Moon’ Anniversary Tour with Cas Haley & Big Hope
WHERE: The Jefferson Theater
WHEN: Saturday, May 3, 2014 – Doors: 8:00 PM, Show 9:00 PM
TICKET PRICE: $18 Advance / $20 Day Of Show
ON SALE: On Sale Now

The Easy Star All-Stars have established themselves as one of the top international reggae acts since their live debut in 2003. Thanks to their best-selling tribute album releases, Dub Side of the Moon (2003), Radiodread (2006), Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band (2009), Dubber Side of the Moon (2010), and Easy Star’s Thrillah (2012), as well as original albums First Light (2011) and Until That Day (2008), the Easy Star All-Stars have built a growing, dedicated fan base throughout the world, bringing together fans of reggae, classic rock, dub and indie rock into one big family. Since 2009, the All-Stars have played over 350 shows in over 30 different countries on 6 different continents, truly establishing themselves as one of the top reggae touring acts in the world.

WHAT: Charlottesville Jazz Society 2014 Fundraiser
WHERE: The Southern Café & Music Hall
WHEN: Sunday, March 9, 2014 – Dinner Service 5:00 PM, Show 6:15 PM
TICKET PRICE: $20 Advance / $20 Day Of Show
ON SALE: On Sale Now

A fundraiser for the Charlottesville Jazz Society’s master class and education funds!

5:30 – Peter Richardson’s Alegria Latin Combo (Bar Set)
6:15 – The Charlottesville Allstar Guitar Sextet
6:50 – Alderson, Jospe, Owens, Larrabee and Taylor
7:40 – CHARST!
8:20 – The Erin Lunsford Group featuring Charles Owens and John D’earth
9:00 – Jim Wray’s FUSE (Bar Set)

WHAT: Future Islands
WHERE: The Southern Café & Music Hall
WHEN: Sunday, March 23, 2014 – Dinner Service 5:00 PM, Show 8:30 PM
TICKET PRICE: $13 Advance / $15 Day Of Show
ON SALE: Wednesday, February 26 at 2 PM

Future Islands believe in true love, you can tell that because their songs speak through our lives. It’s as if their music has always been with us, soundtracking every great hope, dawning realization and broken promise. Every fond embrace, each leap of faith. Over the last eight years Baltimore’s most quixotic and emotionally involving trio have maintained an admirable level of skill and pace, never slowing down for the corners. It’s vocalist Samuel T. Herring, William Cashion (bass, guitars), and Gerrit Welmers (keyboards, programming, guitars) who find themselves responsible. Their sound is at once beguiling and irresistible. It’s one part melancholic, one part euphoric; full of animated bass lines, robust drum machines and questing keyboards, all set off by Sam’s remarkably distinct, soaring vocals.

WHAT: The Judy Chops & Sally Rose Band with Lost Indian
WHERE: The Southern Café & Music Hall
WHEN: Saturday, March 29, 2014 – Dinner Service 5:00 PM, Show 7:45 PM
TICKET PRICE: $6 Advance / $8 Day Of Show
ON SALE: Friday, February 28 at 10 AM

More About The Judy Chops: The Judy Chops have been an indomitable force in the VA music scene since 2008. Averaging over 150 shows a year, this high-energy Americana group has been wowing audiences throughout the Mid-Atlantic, and beyond. From their numerous festival appearances, to their opening spots for acts like Lake Street Dive, Miss Tess & the Talkbacks, David Mayfield Parade,  and J.P. Harris & the Tough Choices the Chops have proven themselves to be consummate musicians, and performers. The band’s sound is built around strong three part harmony vocals, acoustic guitar and banjolele, searing electric guitar and fiddle solos, and a unique rhythm section featuring upright bass, and cocktail drums, with the occasional horn player to round out the mix.

More About Sally Rose Band: The Sally Rose band is a duop, honky-tonk music machine. Led by vivacious front woman Sally Rose, the family band tells stories. Catherine “Shootin Moon” Monnes sews in colorful textures with cello and electric fiddle. Sweet Pete Stallings adds undeniable funk/punk undertones on electric guitar and co writes a handful of the songs. Benjamin Jensen and Chris Dammann tighten the mix with a jazz influenced rhythm section. Together, mother and daughter sing haunting, blood harmonies that intertwine seamlessly.

WHAT: Guerilla Tactics – Guerillas do Gorillaz with The Beetnix
WHERE: The Southern Café & Music Hall
WHEN: Saturday, April 5, 2014 – Dinner Service 5:00 PM, Show 9:00 PM
TICKET PRICE: $6 Advance / $8 Day Of Show
ON SALE: Friday, February 28 at 10 AM

Armed with a desire to leave a large impact with a small footprint, Guerilla Tactics initiated their current musical project in the depths of space. Their highly improvisational music uses live sampling informed by good musicianship and the raw nature of the Blues and the Guitar to make music that resonates and moves. Ranging from pop up funk party to lounge experience, this duo tries to keep it fresh and fun.

April 1st, 2013, Guerillas Do Gorillaz performed the cartoon band’s debut album. Wielding kazoos and combining acoustic and electronic instruments with beautiful results, the eight piece band packed the house and put on a nearly perfect show with inspired takes on the seminal body of work. The duo will reprise their ongoing tribute to the vast eclectic musical landscape created by the Gorillaz, collaborating again with a large cast of local talent on the Southern’s stage on April 5th and calling upon local hip hop visionaries, the Beetnix, to add their energy and take this exploration to a different level.

WHAT: Ki: Theory
WHERE: The Southern Café & Music Hall
WHEN: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 – Dinner Service 5:00 PM, Show 9:00 PM
TICKET PRICE: $10 Advance / $12 Day Of Show
ON SALE: Friday, February 28 at 10 AM

Ki:Theory (pronounced “Key Theory”) is the alias for American recording artist and producer, Joel Burleson, who specializes in alternative rock and electronic. He and his band have toured nationwide US, Canada, Japan and Korea.

Ki:Theory has done commissioned remixes for Daft Punk/Tron: Legacy, Kings of Leon, Queens of the Stone Age, Cypress Hill, Rob Zombie, ODESZA, UNKLE, Rodrigo y Gabriela with Hans Zimmer, Brazilian Girls, Kasabian and MuteMath amongst others. Ki:Theory’s remix for Daft Punk’s “The Son Of Flynn” for Tron: Legacy was featured on the official remix album, Tron Legacy R3C0NF1GUR3D.