FOOD- THE DISH- Upstairs downstairs: Al Dente moves out, Escafé folks move up

Al Dente is moving out and over to Ix, and the Escafé folks are moving up.

It looks like Ristorante Al Dente on the Mall above Escafé isn't gone–they're just moving. Dish has learned that chef/owner Karim Sellam is setting up shop in the Ix Building, right near Blue Wheel Bicycles, and will try to be open for business by May 1. Despite the more remote location, he says he's excited about the new address.

"We were on the Mall, but we were still hidden, still kind of out of sight," says Sellam. "At the Ix building we will have a beautiful patio and plenty of parking." He also plans on being open more for lunch.

In addition, Sellam says he eventually plans to open a Moroccan restaurant in the Ix . While he worked for years for some of Piazza San Marco's finest restaurants, he is Moroccan, and it appears he is going to return to his roots. 

That's exciting news for foodies, considering we have precious few Moroccan restaurants in town. (We count one, Aromas. Unbelievable, considering we have, what? 300 restaurants?) And traditional Moroccan restaurants can be a real treat, what with the exotic decor, powerful spices, and the guilty pleasure of using bread as a utensil.

Meanwhile, the owners of Escafé have wasted no time moving into Al Dente's old space–they plan to open an upscale restaurant upstairs called, well, The Upstairs. Apparently, it's going to be pretty swanky. Dish left several messages with the owners of Escafé, but we had not heard back by press time. Stay tuned.

Aroma's now open at Barrack's Road

Yes, it's true. Chef-owner Hassan Kaisoum has finally realized the dream he's had since at least 2005: open a new, grander Aroma's. Even though he's been tucked away in the Fontaine Research Park for years, he's managed to charm taste buds all over town. Now he has a new location in the Barrack's Road Shopping Center, right across the way from Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Alas, office workers over on Fontaine will have to shlep across town now, as Kaisoum plans to close the location. Race you over there....

Be Irish at McGrady's

Looks like McGrady's Irish Pub on Grady Avenue is going green. No, they're not putting sedum on the roof or installing solar-powered beer taps– they're celebrating St. Patrick's Day all weekend starting March 14! In particular, they're serving up Guinness pancakes on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday morning, plus music from Travis Elliot on Saturday, the Scruffy Murphy Band and the Johnson County Sheriffs on Monday, and Trivia on Sunday at 8pm benefiting and hosted by the Human Rights Study Project at UVA. The owners also report that the deck will be covered, heated, and non-smoking all weekend. Info: 293-3473.

The following night, the 15th, there's  a St. Patty's Day Pub Crawl to benefit the AIDS/HIV Services Group. Basically, it involves showing up at Zinc around 7pm to buy a special green hat at the door for $20 and then moving on to Oxo, Mono Loco, Zocalo, and the X-Lounge.

The Dish blog is here

Dish's fledgling blog is now up and running (, and we hope it becomes a place for food news, events, and commentary 24/7. 

Restaurant owners and mangers can use it as a place to get word out about offerings, no matter what day it is. Got a last-minute lunch special you want to crow about? Or maybe a fresh shipment of sea bass came in Friday morning and you want to alert the night's diners? Send the Dish an email.

Of course, we can't guarantee that every tidbit of info we receive will make it into cyber-print, but with posts changing daily, you know it won't be for a lack of space and a print deadline. Basically, it's an all-news-all-the-time blog that we hope area restaurants and food lovers will take atvantage of.

And you Dish readers– oh, you dear Dish readers– now you're in for a special treat. Not only do you get more Dish dishing, you can dish yourself in our comment section. Got a hot tip? A contrary opinion? A dining experience you'd like to share? A rumor you'd like to quash or ignite? 

As long as you adhere to the guidelines in the Dish Online Decorum Manual (over 3,650 pages and available for only $109.95), feel free to weigh in with impunity! 

Contact: or 434-295-8700, ext. 231

Kudos to Panera!

Thanks to the folks over at Panera Bread in the Barracks Road Shopping Center for finally deciding to offer the Hook in the bakery-café franchise. Since opening in 2004, they've been offering customers only one local weekly. And as local weekly readers seem to have decided, one is simply not enough! 

Personally, it was sad to think of all those nice folks eating their stone-decked oven-baked bread without access to the Dish. So, if you're sitting in Panera's while you're reading this, welcome. And... ah... are you going to finish that?