Food explosion: Stonefield's six restaurants aim to draw diners

"It looks like it's almost open!" squeals a caller to the Hook office this week, and without asking, we knew she could only be referring to one thing: Trader Joe's at The Shops at Stonefield, the 256,000-square foot upscale development that's nearing completion and will soon be home to a Regal stadium-seating megaplex, a variety of upscale shops, and no less than six new restaurants ranging from Tex Mex to burgers to Mediterranean food.

Indeed, a stealthy trip to the development at the corner of Hydraulic Road and Seminole Trail reveals the lights are on, the signs are up, and Trader Joe's employees are already on site. While the bargain grocery chain offers the most obvious evidence of the imminence of Stonefield's opening, beyond what is visible to passing cars is further proof, as dozens of hard-hat-wearing construction workers work like a Lego scene to put the finishing touches on the new center that will change the face of shopping in Charlottesville more than anything, perhaps, since the opening of Fashion Square mall in 1980.

Already, Stonefield has had an impact on the competition as the Giant grocery store chain closed its former flagship Charlottesville store in the Seminole Square Shopping Center in August, and several stores including Barracks Road staple Blue Ridge Mountain Sports have committed to moving to Stonefield.

Indeed, last September, developer Richard Spurzem speculated that Barracks would be hardest hit and might have to reinvent itself in order to survive. But one big unknown is how Stonefield will affect the Downtown Mall, the shopping center with which it arguably has most in common, thanks to the mix of restaurants, retail, housing and, of course, movies.

"We expect if it has an impact, it may be short term," says Bob Stroh, co-chair of the Downtown Business Assocation. "Charlottesville," Stroh notes, "is a market that likes to see what's new." But Stroh says he's not too worried. 

"Lots of other places have opened up in the past almost 40 years since the Mall opened," he says, "and people always come back downtown cause we're the real deal– the authentic Charlottesville community experience."

In addition to the history of the Mall, Stroh cites the entertainment options– the Paramount and Jefferson theaters, the nTelos Wireless Pavilion, as well as smaller music venues including the Southern, and theater at Live Arts.

"In terms of entertainment options," he says, "we're incomparable."

The true test, of course, will come after Stonefield opens, and the first stores are expected to welcome customers in the next couple of weeks.

While most of the Stonefield spaces are still unfinished, three of the center's anchors– Trader Joe's, the Regal Theater, and Pier One, which is relocating from its former 29 North location near the Carmike Theater, appear nearly ready, with exterior signs up and lights on. At Trader Joe's on a recent afternoon, shopping carts are already present in the entryway, and a sign on the door promises a November 13 opening day.

But while Trader Joe's will certainly inspire creative cooking at home, those looking for a new culinary adventure for a night out will also find a rich assortment. Here's the lowdown.

Pasture: Award-winning Richmond Chef Jason Alley will open a second location of his popular tapas restaurant, Pasture, which serves small dishes with southern flair, using as many local foods as possible. When he first announced Pasture's commitment to Stonefield back in September, Alley, who opened his first Richmond restaurant, Comfort, 10 years ago, revealed he wouldn't be doing the actual cooking at the 3,500-square-foot Charlottesville location. The new chef, he promised, would be free to experiment and present dishes that reflect seasonal foods from Central Virginia.

Black & Orange: Named, according to its website, for the "orange flame heating up a black steel grill," this appears to be a place for serious burger lovers. In fact, the Washington, D.C.-based burger establishment won The City Paper's "Best Burger" 2012 Award beating out Five Guys, which took second place. The D.C. menu features burgers with clever names including "Curried Away," with a house curry blend, onion, cilantro and hot chilies, and "Pardon my French," with black truffle oil and thyme. There's also a portabello burger and a grilled chicken sandwich.

Cyclone Anaya's Mexican Kitchen: Named for the Mexican wrestling champion of the 1940s and 50s who left the sport after a serious injury and launched a career as a restaurateur in Houston in 1960, Cyclone Anaya's has been a Texas secret– with four Houston locations and two Dallas locations– until recently, with the opening of an outpost in Fairfax and, soon, at The Shops at Stonefield. Menu offerings range from soups, salads and sandwiches with a Tex-Mex flair to more standard sounding dinner offerings including fajitas, enchiladas and tacos, many of them, the website promises, inspired by Cyclone's beloved wife, Carolina, who helped him launch the original business.

Parallel 38: While the other five restaurants opening at Stonefield have locations elsewhere, Mediterranean wine bar Parallel 38 is brand new and is the brainchild of Chef Justin Ross, who, according to a Stonefield press release, took his inspiration from "the temperate latitude of the 38th parallel, along which the world’s most iconic wine regions sit like Alicante in Spain, Italy’s Calabria and the Greek Ionian Islands." The new restaurant will offer 38 wines by the glass (and more than double that by the bottle) and will offer a "Mediterranean focused menu" featuring full-size entrees and smaller dishes of spreads, cheeses and meats from the Mediterranean region.

Travinia Italian Kitchen: Yes, it's Italian fare, but don't expect plain old spaghetti and meatballs (unless you request it...) According to its website, Travinia already has nine locations in the southeast, from Woodbridge, Virginia down to Aiken, South Carolina, and it's spreading further, with a location in Destin, Florida opening along with the Stonefield location. In addition to standard upscale Italian American cuisine, Travinia offers something increasingly sought after in health conscious times: an extensive selection of gluten-free offerings.

Burtons Grill: This Massachusetts-based chain offers everything from salads, sandwiches and burgers to a wide assortment of seafood entrees. Like Travinia, Burtons offers gluten-free selections, and is geared towards family dining with a sophisticated children's menu dubbed "{B} Choosy." The color-coded kiddie menu separates offerings into the various food groups and encourages kids to venture outside the typical kids' menu comfort zone with "protein" choices including salmon and fresh fish in addition to chicken and steak, and various veggies, fruits, cheeses and frozen yogurt.

Hungry yet? With Regal's 14 screens, it seems Stonefield is poised to become a top choice shopping center for first dates and family outings.

Read more on: stonefield


Downtown is doomed. Between this and the increase in begging on the downtown mall, no one will want to go downtown to eat or shop anymore. The city really needs to rethink where they locate The Haven. Caring for the poor is essential for any community, but not at the expense of everyone else. What happens when the shops go out of business downtown? Won't that increase the homeless population when all the wait staff and cooks lose their jobs? Seems to me the better place for The Haven would be closer to rapid transit. Somewhere between the train and bus stations.

Downtown is -- in fact -- thriving. These are corporate restaurants moving into the 29 corridor... it's apples and oranges. Everyone will try them... the people who make Downtown great and happening will conclude that while it's nice not to have to drive to Short Pump for certain things, this stuff is no substitute for a locally owned, community-driven, individualized Downtown culture.

Long live Downtown.

Yay! Inauthentic restaurant chains! This is so exciting.

I feel sorry for the downtown between the BAR and their ridiculous fretting over tents, the homeless and the lack of a place to sit and enjoy a sandwich without getting asked to move on, they have little hope. Wake up BAR and Haven - you are killing it off slowly but surely

I agree with Mtn, girl. I went to Hamilton's for lunch with a friend last week and, yes, the restaurant with customers, but walking from where I parked to the restaurant was daunting. I had to bypass a gauntlet of beggars. As a woman, walking alone downtown and being constantly approached by strangers for handouts is frightening. I would never go downtown at night without a companion, and that's shame. It wasn't like this a few years ago.

Woud everyone please stop thinking that Trader Joe's is a "bargain grocery chain"
Yes, many of their products are good values, but they're not about cheap prices or even wide choices. They have some good brand products, some very nice specialty items, but if you want more than the basics, or any variety of products you're out of luck. Unless you have very limited needs, you're still going to need a regular grocery store to round out your shopping, so I'm not worried for Giant, Harris Teeter, Kroger or even Whole Foods.
As to the potential demise of downtown - fuggetaboutit!

Would we really call Trader Joe's a "bargain grocery store?"

IGA, maybe, but not Trader Joe's.

Andy beat me to it.

Downtown is not thriving for retail...

I think there will be plenty of people who will frequent Stonefield, just as there are plenty of people who shop at Hollymead and Walmart. But for people who want to patronize the businesses that represent true Charlottesville, which is getting more and more encroached on, Stonefield does not appeal. I for one may go to Trader Joe's once or twice a month, but would never go out for dinner in a mall setting. The fact that there is so much parking is actually a turn-off for me when choosing a me it means that the restaurant caters to people with a Northern Va., suburban mindset and aesthetic. I live my life within City limits and view Hydraulic as a line of demarcation.

Traffic at that place will make downtown parking and driving seem relaxing.

Alicante, Calabria, and the Greek Ionian Islands are not considered the world's most iconic wine regions.

I predict all three - Barraks, Stonefields, and Downtown will survive and thrive . The region is growing and each will appeal to a different demographic . Just look at the concentration of UVa housing around Barracks Rd.
and the new hotels planned for downtown. Stonefields wll be hot for awhile, but if any area faces challenges I
predict over time it is here. Getting there is a challenge and will only get worse in time .

@MtnGirl @CJones

Without the BAR, the entire Downtown Mail could like Stonefield -- rather than just the Regal Cinema and Omni (and some others) looking like a strip mall.

But I agree with you on the vagrants. (Don't call them homeless because some have homes, or could afford them, because some make good money asking others to subsidize their sloth, addictions, and other pathologies.) They've made it a place I don't like to take my wife at night for dinner, and not a place I like to bring my kids except on the most rare of occasions. Police presence at the nearby parks is abysmal; there's nothing like chaperoning your pre-schooler on a field trip to Downtown and having to pick up needles so they can play. The downtown library is a no-go zone.

Presumably Stonefield will be able to control this plague.

This is great for downtown really. I've avoided it for the last few years since it seems to have been flooded with a lot of the NOVA types who've moved here and want to turn this town into a copy of the place they left. Getting them out of downtown and out into their natural element, the corporate owned shopping mall means I'll be back out downtown.

Typical comment from the type I refer to: "I would never go downtown at night without a companion, and that's shame. It wasn't like this a few years ago." I've been hearing that constantly for the last 30 years by the way and have never once had anything frightening happen to me despite have spent LOTS of time downtown as late as 5-6 AM some nights back when you used to be able to have fun that late if you knew where to knock. It was just a couple of years ago that there was lots of hype about kids in white shirts ruling the mall. I guess cjones moved from the suburbs after that?

I guess this is Albemarle's answer to Short Pump. Nothing truly sounds engaging there, at least for me. It is not pedestrian-friendly nor did the developer make it public-transit friendly. Although it will be a destination for many people, I will still go to my locally-owned stores.

BOOO NoVA strip malls. I wish they would just knock down half of 29 and make it forest again instead of crappy stores no one shops at. I love authentic, locally owned stores and restaurants downtown, but agree with everyone else about the vagrant problem.

I can't wait to shop and eat there.

More elitism flowing forth. Downtown is really quite typical of most cities' shopping areas. City fathers long ago thought closing streets and making pedestrian malls of brick would somehow create a different, shall we say in hipper-than-thou Charlottesville parlance, "vibe." So, we have The Downtown Mall; quite common, nothing unique, but enough to whet the appetites of supposedly "local" people who disdain suburban America.

So, now, everyone is a food critic and a wine expert, and I am being chastised for considering wines from "less than iconic" wine regions, versus just enjoying a nice glass of white with my mahi-mahi.

Downtown will not see a demise; just continued mediocrity.

R.I.P.: Joseph Mellor

Lord, save us all from Northern Virginia. Amen.

The downtown has it's charms, no argument there. Great place to vagrant watch over a bloody mary at Miller's on a Sunday, but that's about it. Over the summer I spent a weekend in Asheville, there's a downtown! We parked on Friday evening and never started the car again until Monday morning. There were scores of restaurants, galleries and whatnot within a mile radius. Charlottesville has something to learn about hospitality.

Maybe it wil just be the death of "Fashist Square mall"? Or "Barack's road"?

And BTW. Whoever called squealing about Trader Joes= Silly loser.

Please. Get. A. Life.

Prediction!......Trader Joe's will be torn down within two years to make way for a sensible interchange.

@Stroid in re interchanges: one can only hope that the various interests align to make that happen sooner rather than later.

Fortunately, a requirement of the design of the development was that it would allow for a sensible interchange. Crossing fingers!

Wow I think the best years of this town have been had. Even if you like strip malls the traffic is and will be even more unbearable. Ohh and why do you think the vagrants go dtown? The same reason they will go to Sfield. $$$$$$$

For everyone decrying Northern Virginia, have you ever heard of Old Town Alexandria? That place blows away the downtown mall and actually has a history. Not all of NoVa is like the 29 corridor...

For every one of the restaurants opening at the Shops on the former 7 Eleven there is a better local restaurant downtown. This town is full of people not enamored by chain restaurants in that parking lot is going to be the epicenter of driver rage. For the people so afraid to say, 'No thank you' when a person on the downtown mall asks for money - GROW UP.

I'll continue to frequent the Mall, but I like being panhandled, robbed, beaten & towed.

How about a story about the traffic and roads in that area? I live down the street and the Hydraulic/29 intersection is already a mess. When you're crossing 29 heading towards Trader Joe's, you now have to swerve to the right to stay in your lane. The remaining traffic cones make all the lanes super tight and I've almost been hit several times by people who swerved out of their lanes. It's especially hard to see at night. Add to this scenario dozens of cars trying to get in and out of the shopping center, and I can see lots of fender benders and delays happening.

Parrot patron - note that while old town alexandria is charming, historical, etc. parking is worse than on the downtown mall, and crime is worse

The city of Alexandria has recorded one murder in the last year, and that was last October. How's the city of Charlottesville doing during that same time period? Old town also has plenty of (paid) parking garages and Metro access...

Yeah this is NoVa, Hampton, or Short Pump. Why do we need it in Cville?

All downtown needs is a bit more parking.

I think Stonefields is going to be a much safer place to be. And a much better enviornment for those with young children. The county cops aren't going to tolerate or cater to the vagrants, panhandlers and homeless like the city police and Dave Norris does.

Another great feature is the fact the county police can actually ride through and patrol the area without parking the car and having to walk all night. I'm sorry, but this does make a BIG difference whether it should or not.

Good `cess to them, every one - I do wish there could be a face lift or whatever to the eyesores at Pantops shopping area (whatever it`s called).

I love the downtown mall with all its unique restaurants and shops. But I don't feel that comfortable going there with my wife and even less so with my parents because of begging and raucous behavior. I think the downtown mall is facing the beginning of a death spiral, where first customers leave, then the stores move and follow the customers, then tax revenue for the city goes down and the area becomes dirtier and less maintained, causing even more customers to leave, etc. This has happened time and again in many other cities, but it isn't inevitable. Charlottesville has got to do something to change the atmosphere of the downtown mall. Make it feel safer.

There is a LOT of development planned for Albemarle north of the city over the next 20 years. Charlottesville has GOT to start doing things now to make sure its tax base does not slide away into the county.

I know nothing of the tax sharing agreement between the city and the county, and if the county funnels some of its tax money back to the city that might help arrest the vicious circle of decline I mentioned earlier.

I am downtown all the time. I have never been panhandled or harassed and I feel perfectly safe. Far safer than at the often deserted parking lot at Fashion Square, where I would never go alone after dark.

I find the one gentleman, presumably homeless, who can often be seen carrying around a very large stick, to contribute to a slightly less than family friendly atmosphere. . . just as one example.

Yeah, the police should help the "stick man" put his stick away. He's had it for years.

Charlottesville as a whole needs to face it. In the 21st century, our motto has to be "change or die." If we don't modernize and step up our game, we're going to fall behind. To me, I see Stonefield as the first step. I've been to the new Regal theater and it's really an out of this world experience. I don't feel like I'm in little old Charlottesville anymore. I hate how everything in Charlottesville needs the approval of Thomas Jefferson from the grave before it gets the go ahead. The fact of the matter is a town looses it's quaintness when it grows into a city. Charlottesville's current slogan is "A World Class City." I can tell you that I've never felt this way about our city and I feel developments (really enhancements) like Stonefield can really make that slogan true.

I'm sorry, but Art in Place here and there does not a world class city make...

In all this we need to remember that Charlottesville as a city has a population under 45,000, which was the size of the town in NJ where I lived as a child - which was officially a village. Adding in UVA students, assuming they're not counted in the census just moves that up above 65,000, and all of Albemarle County only has another 100,000. For comparison, the city of Richmond has over 200,000 residents. So we're not really a city, no matter how important we think we are. We're just a nice place to live, which should be enough.