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As local golfers know, ever since Rion Summers took over as head pro and manager of Meadowcreek Golf Course a few years ago, Charlottesville's only 18-hole public course has improved by leaps and bounds–or pars and birdies, if you prefer. Not only are the greens consistently smooth, the bunkers now have actual sand in them, the course has new carts and resurfaced paths, and the pro shop got a fancy new renovation. As a result, 40,000 rounds were played on the course last year. That's a lot of golfers–a lot of hungry golfers.

Last June, the course chose 15-year veteran chef Steve Wilkerson to open the Meadowcreek Grill restaurant attached to the clubhouse, and in October the Grill began serving dinner. The idea was to improve the experience for golfers, says Wilkerson, but it was also an attempt to lure non-golfers to the course to dine.

"We're definitely getting a lot of non-golfers now," says Wilkerson, although he admits it's been hard to get the word out, considering most non-golfers aren't inclined to go to a clubhouse for dinner. Still, he hopes the spectacular view–the course sports a 180-degree view that includes Monticello and Brown's Mountain–and the good food will draw folks to the Pen Park location.

Indeed, a walk in front of the outdoor dinning area reveals a beautiful blend of golf course design and nature–a practice green to the left, the sixth tee box straight ahead, the ninth hole green to the right, all framed against a distant mountain view. 

"We've got the best crab cakes in town, at least that's what people tell me," says Wilkerson, a tall, soft-spoken man who makes the boast sound more like a matter of fact. "Very little cake, lots of crab," he adds.

The Grill also starts serving breakfast at 8am, a perfect time to catch a glimpse of the early morning mist on the mountains, or maybe try out that new putting stroke before work. 

East End buzz...

Look out Mudhouse, another Internet enabled coffee lounge landed on the Downtown Mall on January 8. Featuring organic, fair-trade coffees, 1,800 square feet of space with wooden tables, comfy chairs, and a long, roomy coffee bar, the new Java Java on the Mall is set to corner the East End java junky market. Located in the old Glaze and Blaze spot right next to The Nook, Java Java is the Downtown version of its already popular Townside East Shopping Center location on Ivy Road (two doors down from Zazu's).

Apparently, Downtown Java Java owner/manager Ervin Santiago cut a local franchising deal of sorts with Ivy location owner John Leschke, a plan that's been in the works for awhile.

"About a year ago, we decided to branch out," says Santiago, who worked for Leschke for two years and is originally from Florida. "It's something I've always wanted to do."

 Santiago says it took six months to find the right location, but as soon as he saw the Glaze and Blaze spot, he knew it was the right location. "We've left the original woodwork and tried to preserve the character of the existing building," he says. 

After Santiago gave Dish a small tour of the space only days before the opening, it was hard to believe he'd have the space finished. However, Java Java opened right on schedule. 

In dumpling news...

Dragana Katalina-Sun and Sun Da, owners of Marco & Luca in York Place on the Downtown Mall say they plan to take over Cafe Cubano's former storage/office space directly behind their small kitchen area in a couple months, add more seating, and perhaps–gasp!–expand the menu beyond dumplings and noodles. 

Katalina-Sun says she also plans to open Nicolas' Veggie's,  an organic juice bar and salad place this spring in the little space where it all started–the little window on Second Street in the Hook's building. (That's especially good news for juice loving Hook staffers!) In keeping with the duo's tradition of naming restaurants after their children, Katalina-Sun says the little juice bar was named for her youngest son, Nicolas. Now, Dish can't wait for the three boys to grow up and light out on their own. Could Marco, Luca & Nicolas' be in our future?

"I don't know," says Katalina-Sun, "but that sounds like a great idea." 

A view of the 9th hole green at Meadowcreek Golf Course, home of the new Meadowcreek Grill.