FOOD- THE DISH- Chaps appeal: After 22 years, a new look

Owner Tony LaBua in front of the old Chaps, and a glimpse of what the new Chaps will look like.

It has been nearly a year since Chaps Ice Cream owner Tony LaBua revealed his facade re-design plans, but it appears now he's finally jumped through the necessary Board of Architectural Review hoops. Work is under way on the new facade, and LaBua hopes to have it finished by June 1. 

Over time, the design he showed us last year has changed a bit. The awning and louvered glass doors with a take-out window are still there, but the brick exterior and red color scheme have been nixed in favor of stucco and a more subdued mix of light blue and brown. The square windows on the second floor will be more traditional than originally envisioned.

Chaps doesn't have a real second floor, but LaBua says he plans to put neon signs and other "funky" stuff in the windows. This will be the first major exterior redesign of the shop since LaBua opened in 1985.

Outdoor Mall seating to be corralled?

Last week the Board of Architectural Review discussed the proposed Downtown Mall renovation and touched on an issue that could be of interest to Mall diners and restaurant owners. MMM Design Group, the company contracted by the City to spearhead the proposed $7.5 million project scheduled to begin at the end of the year, wants to install permanent borders for outdoor café and restaurant seating. They suggested that current borders are too loosely defined, and they proposed installing "inserts" directly on the Mall's surface to accommodate removable bollards. They also suggested that three or four bollard designs could be ordered to give restaurant owners a choice.

Of course, that raised questions the BAR was neither prepared nor empowered to answer. How does one decide how much space a restaurant gets? Who would own and maintain the bollards? In addition, one BAR member reminded those present that Lawrence Halprin, who originally designed the Mall– and whose original design MMM has promised to honor-– was essentially an "old hippie" whose intent was to "preserve the spontaneity of the Mall."

New bar– nine stories up!

Oh, the BAR also approved some sort of "screen" for the penthouse to be built atop the 9-story Landmark Hotel, currently under construction on the Mall, a penthouse that will include a rooftop bar with views of the mountains. Now that's a B-A-R review we can get excited about!


Cruise in to Wright's Dairy-Rite

We had the pleasure of visiting Wright's Dairy-Rite in Staunton last week, an absolutely classic burger joint with the old drive-up service that opened in 1952– three years before Ray Kroc opened his first McDonald's franchise! All the booths and tables have phones for calling in your order– no waiting for that waitress! And we must say their original Superburger is one of the better burgers we've had in a while.

For the past 21 years they've also hosted two "Cruise-In" events on the Sunday before Memorial Day and the Sunday before Labor Day, which attract classic and antique car owners from around the area. Owner Jim Cash says that last year 210 cars registered for the event, and local police had to close off one lane on the street in front of Wright's to accommodate them. Last Sunday's Cruise-In was a rousing success.

"People just come and have a good ole' family day," says Cash, who runs a contest for the best cars and gives the winners special dash plaques. "It's just a really good time."

Farmer in the deli

Okay, we know that Charlottesville foodies are loco for local, but this must be a first. On June 10, the Piedmont Environmental Council (which founded the Buy Fresh Buy Local initiative) and the Toliver House are hosting a "Meet the Farmer" dinner at the Gordonsville restaurant. While you're munching on your locally grown and produced four-course meal, the folks who grew and produced it will be sitting in the wings to answer your questions– kinda like ingredients labels coming to life. Now all we need is for someone to sponsor a "meet the pig" dinner!

It's not surprising that the Toliver House is hosting. In November 2006, chef Jonathan Hayward made the decision to serve meat and poultry only from Central Virginia farms.

"While it may be more difficult to locate available sources of regionally raised meat and poultry than mass-produced foods," said Hayward, "if we can make our guests more aware of where and how their food is grown, then we've achieved our purpose."

Featured farms and producers will include Retreat Farm in Rapidan; Planet Earth Diversified in Stanardsville; Caromont Farm in Esmont; and Perfect Flavor Ice Cream in Waynesboro. Wines will be provided by Keswick Vineyards.

Dinner starts at 6:30pm on Tuesday, June 10. Tickets are $50 per person. Call the Piedmont Environmental Council at 434-977-2033 or visit the Buy Local website at to purchase tickets in advance. This is a fundraiser for the Council's Buy Fresh Buy Local campaign.

All this food news was first reported online. Check it out at