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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 The website for Cville Inflatables is also no longer active.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.

Supreme feast: New Route 29 buffet delivers size, size, size

by Dave McNair

dish-flames-webGet your meal cooked the Hibachi way!

Dish recently had a chance to check out the spread at Hibachi Grill & Supreme Buffet, the all-you-can-eat Chinese-American restaurant that took over the Golden Corral space on 29 North in the fall. What a spread it is.

The owners claim it’s the biggest restaurant in Charlottesville. Indeed, we’re talking nearly 12,000 square feet of space transformed to look nothing like the old Golden Corral. It’s really just one big room right now with the massive buffet spread, grill, and sushi bar right in the middle under an elaborate crystal chandelier. And there are 250 items to choose from!

According to owner/manager Leon Chen, the six-year old restaurant group already has 38 restaurants in the Southeast and plans to open several more in the near future. And you can see why. The lunch buffet is only $6.99 for adults, $3.75 for kids 6 to 10, and $2.45 for kids 3 to 6. And dinner is only $9.99, $5.75, and $4.55. We’re talking an all-you-can-eat dinner for a family of four for under $30. Plus, there’s a $1 discount for seniors and college students.

Now, Dish isn’t saying that Hibachi Grill Supreme Buffet is on the cutting-edge of the local cuisine scene, but with economic times being what they are, the abundance before us at such a reasonable price was indeed a spectacle. And, of course, it all depends on what you choose at these giant buffets.

Choose wisely at Hibachi Grill Supreme Buffet, and you may be rewarded. Go light with some sushi and a salad, or feed the beast with ribs, steak, and General Tao’s chicken. There’s a grill area where you can select the raw materials for your meal and watch it being cooked for you, right next to a sushi chef at work. There’s a small raw bar with octopus and shell fish, there’s a fruit bar, salad bar, all the familiar Chinese dishes, spaghetti and meal balls, pizza, enchiladas, rib-eye steak, seafood selections, veggies galore, and a dessert and ice cream bar with a chocolate fountain.

Service is paramount at the place, too, and your empty plates and drinks won’t linger on the table for long. The folks are busy in there, hustling around to clear tables, refilling buffet items, grilling up dinners while flames shoot in the air. Of course, one of the challenges of eating at Hibachi Grill & Supreme Buffet, or any big buffet where you strap on the feed bag, is knowing when you’ve had enough. So be cautious, foodies.

Marco & Luca now serving at Seminole Square

by Dave McNair

Hooray! Now you can get em’ on Route 29!

They’ve conquered the Mall and the Corner (and even have their own theme song), and now Marco & Luca’s dumplings have landed in the Seminole Square Shopping Center on Route 29.

Located in the former Aesthetic Associates day spa space at 176 Zan Road, it will be the biggest of their three locations, and according to Dragana Katalina-Sun— one half of the husband and wife team whose children’s names have become synonymous with cheap, tasty, and piping hot dumplings— her husband, Sun Da, has plans to add a little musical entertainment to the mix and perhaps even some Dim Sum. Yum!

For now, says Katalina-Sun, the place is open on a sparse schedule as they iron a few things out, but as soon as the new year begins, they’ll be on a regular schedule.

Hole in the Walmart: Osaka delights in Waynesboro

by Dave McNair

dish-sushiDish recently got a hot tip from a reader about a new Japanese fusion restaurant in Waynesboro called Osaka III. Apparently, it’s a little tricky to find as it’s tucked away on the tire-changing side of the Waynesboro Walmart shopping center on Lucy Lane, but according to local foodie Dori Hoffman-Latter the place has “phenomenal food at great prices.”

“If you go at night, the sign you will see is not the right sign,” says Hoffman-Latter. “It’s a sign for the restaurant that was there for a month before this one opened up, but if you go when it’s light you will see the Osaka sign.”

Unfortunately, Dish wasn’t able to find a listing for Osaka III, but Hoffman-Latter says that the family that owns the place has two other restaurants in different states, but says it isn’t a “chain” per se.

“The food was really fantastically fresh and definitely worth the trip,” she says.

Anyone for a Waynesboro road trip?

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)

Boneless ‘Wings’ takes off on Ivy Road

by Lisa Provence

dish-wings-over-cvilleWings Over Charlottesville delivers.

For over a year, the former University Grille/former Hardee’s on Ivy Road has sat empty, tempting passersby with the signs heralding gyros and souvlakis. The restaurant is empty no longer. The Greek enticements are gone from the windows and a sign out front announces Wings Over Charlottesville.

Owner Manny Moreira is just frying some chicken when Dish calls, so when he gets back to us, he explains the small franchise’s concept: 23 different flavors of “boneless” wings.

Dish knows wings are phenomenally popular and a couple of restaurants in town already carry “wings” in their monikers, but what’s with “boneless” wings? They’re really chicken tenders, and if you call them that, everyone expects those processed nuggets, explains Moreira. “We use the term ‘boneless’ wings.”

Along with the 23 flavors of chicken, Wings Over Charlottesville offers up sandwiches, wraps, burgers, pork ribs, and free delivery in the university area.

“We picked one thing and we do it well,” Moreira assures.

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)

Yogurt taps: Sweet Frog leaps into town

by Dave McNair

dish-sweetfrog-webSweet Frog owners Robert Lupica and Giovanni Sestito on opening day.

Sweet Frog, the new frozen yogurt place beside the Mudhouse on the Downtown Mall, officially opened today just in time for Fridays after Five.

Owners Giovanni Sestito and Robert Lupica were out pinning up the “now open” sign on the awning and fretting a bit about having to open on such a busy evening.

However, Dish had a chance to sample the goods yesterday and we don’t think the duo has much to worry about.

The blueberry, peanut butter, and mango yogurts we sampled tasted remarkably fresh, plus there’s an impressive array of toppings to choose from. It’s also self-serve. Grab a cup, belly up to one of the yogurt machines (which look like those soft-serve ice cream machines ) dispensing your chosen flavor, place your cup under the nozzle, and pull the tap down. Then go over to the toppings bar and add what you like. At checkout they’ll weight your cup and charge you 39 cents an ounce.

As Lupica emphasizes, all the yogurt is non-fat, rich in calcium, high in vitamin B12, and gluten free.

Ironically, there wouldn’t be a Sweet Frog if it weren’t for Joe Gieck, the Downtown property owner who (more)

100-mile chef: Brookville’s lunch a taste of things to come

by Dave McNair

dish-brookville-kitchen-webChef Harrison Keevil hard at work in Brookville’s kitchen today.

If you like locally sourced food cooked exquisitely, Dish suggests you wander down to Brookville Restaurant on the Downtown Mall (above Escafe) and check out their lunch menu. Chef/owner Harrison Keevil says he’ll start serving dinner around mid-August, when he hopes to get his ABC license, but a visit for lunch now is a great way to get a taste of  what this passionate chef has in store for us.

“Ingredients are everything,” says Keevil. “I buy great local food, and just try not to screw it up.”

Of course, you’ll pay for this lunch—about $13 or $20 per person if you get a starter—but you’ll get what you pay for: a seductive zucchini fritter that’s both smooth and lightly-crispy, bold thin-cut house-made potato chips, and a frittata with  goat cheese, greens, and grated carrots doing a slow dance on your palate you don’t want to end.  They also have a tangy house mixed burger blended with hanger steak and bacon. They even bake their own buns for those burger. Dish wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a cow and goat in the kitchen.

Sure, plenty of local restaurants source local food, but none that Dish knows of are going at it like Keevil wants to.

If he can keep up this kind of quality control, locals foodies could be in for a treat. What’s more, Keevil appears willing to do what it takes.

“I consider myself a 100-mile chef,” he says, meaning the emphasis is on using ingredients grown or raised within a 100-mile radius of Charlottesville. So don’t expect to see the same thing on the menu every week, as Keevil only plans to cook what he can source.

Indeed, during the winter months, when local farms aren’t producing anything, Keevil says he’ll turn to jamming, pickling, salt-curing, and smoking to create many of his dishes—the same thing folks did in Mr. Jefferson’s day during the winter months. Using more modern technology, Kevil says he plans to work with local producers who use polytunnels, a system used to grow plants in the off-season.

“I’m hoping Cville will accept the fact that they will see new things on the menu they didn’t see the week before,” he says. “It’s time to revert our eating habits to the way they used to be, because it’s the right way to do things.”

Tony G’s opens in Ruckersville

by Dave McNair

Chef Tony Bonanno fires it up at Tony G’s Grill in Ruckersville.

Former Northern Exposure chef Tony Bonanno and Carmello’s George Hatzigeorgio have teamed up to create Tony G’s Grill in Ruckersville, which opened right next to Boot’vil in the old 29 Truck Stop space on June 27. Hence the “Tony” and the “G.”

“Tony has always been a good friend of ours,” says Hatzigeorgio, “so we decided to go into business together. It will be like a more affordable sister restaurant of Carmello’s.”

Hatzigeorgio says they’ll be open for lunch and dinner, serving up burgers, steaks, seafood, Italian dishes, and cuisine from the rest of the European continent as well.

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