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Patriot’s displaced: Arby’s reclaims its name

by Dave McNair

dish-arbys-signArby’s has reclaimed its restaurant at Forest Lakes.

Forest Lake’s Arby’s owner Tom Slonaker has finally left the building. According to Emmet’s Street Arby’s manager Ginger Herdon, the same company that owns her restaurant has purchased the building from Slonaker, who recently renamed his Arby’s A Patriot’s Place after a dispute with the Arby’s franchise over what kind of food he could offer.

Slonaker, a flamboyant businessman with a Libertarian bent, had repeatedly defied a County zoning ordinance prohibiting commercial flags (an ordinance that has been in place since 1969) by hoisting an Arby’s flag in front of his restaurant, along with signs for another business he owns. Later, he claimed the sign ordinance was enforced unevenly against businesses along 29 North, and he filed a civil suit against the county with the help of the Rutherford Institute, which argued that Slonaker’s First Amendment rights were being trampled upon. But last year a judge ruled that Slonaker had violated the sign ordinance and slapped him with $1,000 fines for several violations.

After tearing the Arby’s signs off the side of his building in November, Slonaker replaced them with illuminated American flags and renamed the restaurant, claiming he wanted A Patriot’s Place to become a place to eat good American food and learn about the words and the ideals of the founding fathers.

“This country, this town is so divided,” said Slonaker, who organized a Tea Party event at the restaurant before the mid-term elections. “I hope this new concept conveys to people that we have to come together to fix the problems of this country.”

However, he may have also been struggling. “If I’m going to lose money,” he added, “I might as well do it on my own terms.”

Apparently, Slonaker decided to take care of his own problems instead. The businessman could not be immediately reached for comment, as the phone number for his other local business, Cville Inflatables, which rents festive backyard jump-and-play structures, simply cut off when we tried to call. The website for Cville Inflatables is also no longer active.

But Dish thinks this isn’t the last we’ve heard of Mr. Slonaker.

12th Street Taphouse tapped out

by Hawes Spencer

news-snap-taphouseThe restaurant was less than two years old.

Tara Wheeler of the Charlottesville Newsplex first reported that the restaurant/bar/comedy club known as the 12th Street Taphouse has shut its doors. Known for its 20-ounce “pints” of beer, it opened in early 2009 on West Main Street by former chef and part owner of nearby Michael’s Bistro, Chuck Adcock.

The building, now largely surrounded by the growing UVA Medical Center, long housed a string of familiar restaurants, including— in reverse chronological order— Spry’s BBQ, Northern Exposure, Zipper’s, and Expresso International (yes, ex-presso), which later became the Italian Villa on Emmet Street.

According to Adock, the four months of utility work in 2009 for the massive Barry and Bill Battle Building at UVA Children’s Hospital, which will rise on the temporary parking lot beside the 12th Street Taphouse, put the restaurant in too much debt.

“We just couldn’t recover,” he says.

If that was the case, the odds of building owner/music magnate Coran Capshaw— who financed the Taphouse’s renovation work— finding a new tenant doesn’t look promising, considering the fact that the next phase of hospital construction involves raising a $141 million, 7-story, 200,000 square-foot building right next door over the next four years.

Brix…ah, Terrace Café on Pantops has closed

by Dave McNair

dish-laetare“It’s time to downsize,” says Brix Terrace Café owner Karen Laetare.

Restaurant owners tend to preen like cats when they first open, but when they close they tend to slink away like them. So kudos to Brix… ah, Terrace Café owner Karen Laetare for contacting Dish to let us know that she’s decided to close her Pantops restaurant. Not an easy thing to do. The reason? Well, it’s clear that the economy hasn’t been helping any— almost any restaurant owner you talk to these day will tell you the same thing— and that trying to maintain a big, high volume establishment had become a challenge.

“It’s time to downsize,” Laetare admits. The restaurant closed on Friday, November 12.

Meanwhile, she wants to remind her customers that her decade-long Brix brand, which the newly opened franchise Brixx: Wood Fired Pizza in the Barracks Road Shopping Center forced her to change before they arrived, is still going strong on a much smaller scale at the Martha Jefferson Hospital outpatient facility on Pantops, where she has been operating the Terrace Café @ Martha J since April. Also, Laetare wants to assure folks that her decision to close had nothing to do with the Brixx pizza place trying to force her to change her name.

“It’s a little sad,” says Laetare, who admits that opening the big space on Pantops had been years in the making. “But I have to do what I have to do.”

Laetare knows of no plans for the Pantops space, which is owned by the shopping center, but she says her loss could be someone else’s opportunity. “It’s a great building, has a great kitchen set up,” she says. “And there’s a lota love in it.”

As for her decision to announce the closing, Laetare says it was a no-brainer.

“My customers deserve it,” she says, “because they’ve been phenomenal.”

–story last updated 10:21am, Tuesday, November 16

–original headline: Brix Terrace Cafe on Pantops to close

Soft jazz: Carlton’s coming to East Market

by Dave McNair
cover-bohemeBohème in its heyday. Now casual fine-dining is returning to the space.

Once again the restaurant space in the old Michie Company building at 609 East Market Street, across from the police station, has changed hands. This time former Hamilton’s pastry chef Bernard Dukes plans to open a fine dining restaurant with French and ethnic influences named Carlton’s, which will also feature a late night jazz club.

Since late 2008 the space had been home to Asia Specialty, known for serving up authentic Chinese food, including hot pot meals, a kind of the Chinese version of fondue. They’d also recently been staying open until 5am on the weekends (more)

Good-bye kabobs, hello meatballs

by Dave McNair

dish-meatballsThat little space on 29 North beside Pizza Hut, the former home to two Middle Eastern restaurants, Zandi’s, and more recently, Zam Zam Kabob, has yet another international tenant.

Hint: “Börk, börk, dee doo!”

However, unlike the Muppet’s Swedish chef, Little Sweden Café owner Eva Elm doesn’t speak gibberish, wear a toque blanche, or fling utensils. Plus, she really knows how to cook!

Originally from Mölndal, Sweden, and a graduate of one of the country’s top cooking schools, Elm moved to the States in 1992 and began work catering in Maryland. In 2003, she and her husband moved their family to Charlottesville and (more)

Where’s Baldi? Bel Rio closes, owner vanishes

by Dave McNair

dish-baldiBel Rio owner Jim Baldi.

Bel Rio, the Downtown Belmont restaurant and music venue that has sparked a passionate debate over noise-levels at night spots—which led to an amended City noise ordinance—appears to have disappeared, along with its owner, without a sound.

A sign on Bel Rio’s door last week announced that the venue would be closed for two weeks for vacation and kitchen renovations, but that was news to building owner Jeff Easter.

“I still haven’t heard from him,” says Easter of Bel Rio owner Jim Baldi. “I think he’s gone.”

Easter, a critic of the proposed 55db noise ordinance, which he believes is too low, nonetheless asked Baldi to tone it down following a July 3 incident after a private party at the restaurant during which there were altercations in the street, the police were called, and several people resisted arrest. Indeed, Tomas Rahal at MAS says that customers of his were afraid to leave the restaurant to go to their cars that night.

“When you have people screaming and yelling at 2:30 in the morning,” says Easter, “that’s a nuisance.”

Indeed, while musicians, Belmont residents, and City officials earnestly debated the noise ordinance, and whether or not Bel Rio’s late night music scene was a boon or bust for the neighborhood, Baldi seemed to be staking his success, at least in part, on late night parties.

“Jim said he couldn’t make it without the private parties,” says Easter. “I told him that’s not my problem.”

Baldi partnered with C&O’s Dave Simpson and Gareth Weldon to open Bel Rio in November 2008, but Simpson sold his interest in the restaurant to Baldi in October of last year after having second thoughts about the partnership.

Weldon, too, parted ways with Baldi, but he did not immediately respond to Dish’s call for comment by press time.

Meanwhile, no one seems to know where Baldi is— or when he’ll be back. Indeed, Dish spent most of last week trying to locate him with no success.

Local realtor Roger Voisinet, whom Baldi hired to sell his house at 900 Elliott Avenue, says Baldi contacted him last Tuesday via text message, saying he was going to Chicago and giving him his ex-wife’s phone number if anything came up concerning the house.

“I texted him back,” says Voisinet, “but I haven’t heard from him.”

When Dish called Baldi’s ex-wife, a family member answered (more)

Mall’s burrito cart owner bolts

by Dave McNair

Lyndon Larson has moved from the Mall to a yacht in the Mediterranean.

After less than a year, L’s Burrito and Juice Co. owner Lyndon Larson has decided to call it quits June 1. Larson, a New England Culinary Institute grad, operated the popular cart on the Downtown Mall serving up northern New Mexican burritos and tacos. According to his Facebook page, Larson has already boarded a plane for Spain where he’ll cook on a yacht for the summer.

“Charlottesville just isn’t my kinda of town,” writes Larson. “Thanks to all the people that made this chapter in my book/life possible. Good luck and do not accept mediocracy.”

In the meantime, if there’s anyone out there who wants to carry on the tradition, the burritoaire’s cart is for sale.

The cart has a 24-inch griddle, two standard steamtables, a giant soda cooler, and “plenty of storage,” writes Larson. It’s health code-inspected, and he also has commissary kitchen equipment. $11,500 takes all. “No tire kickers, please.”

The Upstairs will call it quits; Brookeville coming to town

by Dave McNair

The Upstairs, the steakhouse above Escafé will close in June.

If you’ve been meaning to eat at The Upstairs on the Downtown Mall, Dish suggests you make reservations soon, as the high-end steakhouse, which opened its doors in April two years ago, is planning to close its doors in June.

“It’s not because we’re going out of business or anything,” says chef/owner Jaison Burke. “It was just time to do something different.”

In the meantime, Burke says The Upstairs will continue to bring the passion. In fact, about a month ago Burke started serving a farm-to-table lunch that Burke is particularly proud of, featuring foods from all your favorite local farms.

“We’ve leaving on our own terms,” says the chef. “We’re proud of the amazing work we’ve done with this place, and we’re passing the torch to someone passionate.”

In fact, Burke was just about to meet with that passionate someone, one Harrison Keevil, a ’05 UVA grad who had planned on being an investment banker but went to cooking school instead, and who plans to open a place in The Upstairs space this summer.

Meanwhile, we suggest you make your reservations at The Upstairs before the crew heads downstairs and out the door and Brookeville comes to Cville.

As for Brookeville Restaurant, named for the town in Long Island, New York where Keevil’s parents and grandparents grew up, foodies can expect what the chef/owner characterizes as “new American cuisine” to arrive on the Mall August 1.

“It’s using local, seasonal foods,” he says, “that are approachable to a wide array of people. Eventually, we hope to source everything from the State of Virginia.”

After graduating from UVA, Keevil says he worked as a research assistant for a member of British Parliament in London, which was where he decided to become a chef.

“I fell in love with food there,” he says, “and decided I didn’t want to work a desk job.”

When he returned to the States, he enrolled at the French Culinary Institute in New York City and worked in San Francisco before returning east. Since last September, he’s been cooking at the Clifton Inn under Chef Dean Maupin.

Keevil plans on making a few changes to The Upstairs space, like putting in a large communal dining table— in addition to traditional two- and four-tops, and installing a bookshelf filled with all his cookbooks.

“It’s an opportunity to express my passion about cooking with my customers,” he says. “And make it a comfy atmosphere where people can enjoy a great meal together.”

Cassis has closed

by Courteney Stuart

The patio at Cassis during the first Restaurant Week.

Cassis, one of downtown Charlottesville’s poshest eateries and one of the original participants in Charlottesville Restaurant Week, has closed. According to owner and chef Sean Lawford, who opened Cassis in 2004 after stints as a chef at Tim Burgess and Vincent Derquennes-owned Bizou and Metropolitain, the restaurant’s last night was Saturday, April 3. He declined comment on the reason for the closure.

Arirang restaurant up for auction

by Dave McNair

dish-airang0903Arirang Restaurant, the Korean place that replaced Ludwig’s Schnitzelhouse on Fontaine Avenue in September 2008 has closed, and the owners are auctioning off all their restaurant stuff on January 23 at 10am. A viewing will be held on January 22 from 1pm to 3pm. Click here for a list of what’s available. Oh, it also looks like the building is for sale. $825,000 and it’s yours!

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Patriot’s displaced: Arby’s reclaims its name

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Patriot's displaced: Arby's reclaims its name

Arby’s has reclaimed its restaurant at Fo...

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