Brix...ah, Terrace Cafe on Pantops has closed

dish-laetare"It's time to downsize," says Brix Terrace Cafe owner Karen Laetare. FILE PHOTO BY WILL WALKER

Restaurant owners tend to preen like cats when they first open, but when they close the

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 Cafe 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 Cafe @ 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


Thank you AC, well said. We are all fine and thank you for your kindness.

here is my opinion of your opinions: if you would just leave your opinion of the restaurant that would be great! brix was meant to be great. too bad what happened.

Why don't you all just wish Karen and the employees well and cease with all the other unnecessary hurtful comments. I'm sure this is hard enough for those associated with Brix. The last thing they need to see are hurtful comments that will serve no purpose or benefit now. Karen, to you and your staff: I wish you the best in your new endeavors and hope things work out for the best for you all.

Dem brownies at Brixx be da bomb yo!

The Pantops restaurant name is spelled "Brix," whereas the newfangled pizza joint at Barracks spells it "Brixx." Despite the spelling difference, the pizza joint still managed to make Brix change its name to "The Terrace Cafe."

I'm normally all for the little guy, but finding fault with the company that registered its name BEFORE the local one is pretty silly. The Hook's own article acknowledges that Brixx registered their name a year before Karen. Why is Brixx in the wrong?

By the way, I always wanted to like Brix, but it always took soooo long to get anything out of their kitchen. Even when the place looked empty, it would take at least 20 minutes to get a sandwich from them. I only went there three times before I couldn't stand the wait anymore.

Food was poor and overpriced! Good riddens

We went just once. The wait was awful! The food was OK. The acoustics and glare were terrible. I'm surprised it lasted as long as it has. When we get over that side of town, it's Tip Top for us!

I love Brix's food and am always looking for good places to eat on Pantops. Sadly, my several visits to Brix restaurant in Pantops left me frustrated with the very long waits for a sandwich and frequent order mistakes. The newer Terrace Cafe in the hospital is just as slow and disorganized! I have had to wait for 15 minutes to have a sandwich made at MJH when there were no other customers in the cafe! I finally stopped going to both places. It makes me sad, but I don't see a successful future for this business because of the ongoing problem of extremely slow service!

we'll really miss Brix - our favorite stop for a really good lunch outside with the dog after play time at Darden Towe, without needing to go downtown
and I've always loved the way a few changed made the whole environment different for dinner
so sorry to see you go!

we'll really miss Brix - our favorite stop for a really good lunch outside with the dog after play time at Darden Towe, without needing to go downtown
and I've always loved the way a few changes made the whole environment different for dinner
so sorry to see you go!

I do feel it was very expensive to eat there. The menu selection was limited as well.


I can agree with you that this place never seemed to me, to bring out the best in Lataer's line up. I am not sure why, but the events I ate at she catered always felt more zesty, and her little shop always felt more friendly.

However, Steve has a valid point about the location. A place like Brix relies on a good deal of casual walk in client, looking for a bite to eat after doing a degree of shopping. The folks that shopped there, as a whole, were not likely able to afford her fare, or necessarily value it. I don't look down my nose at the patrons of the area, but that is the way it is.

Additionally, it was located in a way that those who might like it, would not want to drive there to simple get a quick bite. She might have found it much easier to cater out of, but with catering in the area certain to be way down, and establishment in that location is just going to struggle.

I am a fan of Brixx and find it sad they are closing. I think any restaurant owner faces challenges in this economic climate. But to be fair and put things in perspective, Chef Laetare is an excellent chef and she always held herself to a high degree of integrity in her business as well as creativity in her cooking. She is the type of small business owner we need in our community.... always held in mind the highest good of the customer and the employees. Brixx was an excellent restaurant and the owner a wonderful, talented cook and person. I'm very glad that Martha Jefferson Hospital has such a high degree talent in their midst. Kudo's to Brixx, Karen Laetare and MJH...... I hope Brixx Cafe reincarnates at some time in the future with their wonderful menu, food, ambiance, creativity and fun atmosphere. I can't say enough wonderful things about Brixx Cafe.

Brix' food is excellent and the restaurant interior was comfortable and inviting. They out-classed a significant portion of the pantops shopping area clientelle, as evidenced by some of the comments.

When Brix used to be over on 53 across from Jefferson Vineyards, it was the best place around for sandwiches, cookies, and brownies. The ambiance was great too. Moving to a location hidden back in a shopping center was the death knell for me. I made the trip a few times but the location was a real problem.

All very true, David. I only felt compelled to comment in reply to Steve's outright snobbery. However, I did experience what I experienced. If others' experiences were similar, no amount of "class" would persuade them to return.

Steve, don't try to spin business mistakes by the owner of this restaurant into some snobbish statement about the people that shop at pantops.

If the restaurant were as good as you say, the people would come. Regardless, the location WAS awful.

I went there once and spent over $7 for admittedly tasty slivers of meat and spread in some airy bread. It was not markedly better than more satisfying sandwiches I could get elsewhere in far more convenient locations and for a lower price. It did, however, arrive quickly, no doubt due to the fact that no one else was in the restaurant.

The reason this business failed is not due to the "pantops shopping area clientelle [sic]" but due to a failed business plan and a failure to execute a successful business plan.

You may resent the people that shop in the other businesses at pantops all you want, but that resentment will only continue to fuel your delusions regarding the failure of a restaurant you claim to have enjoyed. I feel sorry for you.

Jeeze, tough crowd. While everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion, I feel I should mention that making such strong public comments based on single visit is something a professional restaurant reviewer would never do. It would be like someone randomly coming into your place of employment and passing judgment on your work performance based on a few hours of observation. Just something to consider.

Many fine restaurants have closed in the last year, including Cassis, Ventana, and Wild Greens to name a few. From what I've observed its tough for most restaurants out there, as its been for alot of different businesses, no matter what their business plan. Again, just something to consider.

Dave McNair


The fact that you call my stories "drivel" while complaining about negative comments on the blog aside, I think you're being a bit myopic here. Yes, people write negative comments, but they also write intelligent, passionate, positive, and insightful comments as well, just as they have here. Go down and look at the free speech wall on the Mall. Free speech is messy.

How do they benefit advertisers or readers? Well, I'm a reporter so I'm not really thinking about how advertisers might feel (I write about restaurant openings and closings all the time), and as for readers, well, I would hope the comments might get them fired up to offer their own opinion and perspective...just as you have.

Dave McNair

Dave, How do these negative comments benefit your advertisers or the readers of this blog? What is the purpose of allowing such negative comments regularly on this site? I understand that there is freedom of expression in America, but what did you think was going to happen when you write this drivel about a failed business? And the Arby's Slonaker story, too?

Very sad to see Chef Laetare loose yet another presence of her creative culinary delights in the C’ville area. Brix Market on 53 was a comestible oasis next to the vineyard, and a fantastic beginning or end to visiting Monticello, where, at the time, there was virtually a nonexistent eating establishment of note. Her stint at the newly renovated Monticello was a godsend for me and my family. Many tourists with whom I have spoken in the last two years throughout my travels in the US have told me of their experiences at Mr. Jefferson’s estate, mostly commenting on how they enjoyed a coffee, a sweet, Panini or wine and beer from Chef Laetare. It’s a crying shame that the Monticello Foundation politics may have played her a bad hand in her demise from there, as I hear they are known to do. Sorry Mr. Jefferson, for they know not what they did. As for BRIX MARKETPLACE AT PANTOPS, another culinary oasis in a desert of fast food chains and regular fare will be missed (don’t get me wrong, ââ?¬Å?ain’t nothing bad” about the local eateries). Surely the current economy, with all its social and cultural ramifications played a role. Chef Laetare deserves better. Charlottesville deserves her talent. I am confident that Chef Laetare will rise from the ashes of our broke down palace, as the economy improves.

Huh, I'm sorry to learn that Brix is closing. I'm glad she didn't just 'slink away!' I've only eaten there twice but I would have loved to go back again and again. It did feel a little big/cavernous --- I'd vote for a smaller cozier space for her next venue. Loved the food, and the desserts were divine. This is a loss for this part of town. It sure was tucked away in there; I'm don't doubt that the location contributed to the slow traffic. Thanks to Dave for keeping the community up to date on restaurant comings and goings. Good article, the opening sentence grabbed me and I thought you said a lot, concisely. Thanks!

I didn't know you were a cat person Dave,How many do you have?

Dave has only a few cats, Tom. They are good cats. Why do you ask?

In reply to Dave...Dude, you only have one chance to make a first impression. That's especially true in the restaurant business. All the folks who have judged and commented on Brix per one visit, rock on! No restaurant can claim to be a everyone's fav, that's why we have such variety.

In reply to CheckPlease...yes, but how reliable are first impressions? Nothing wrong with going with your first impression, if that's what you choose to do, but like those who voted for Nixon, first thought the Tea Party was a fringe movement, or invested their money with Bernie Madoff, you do so at your own risk. Again, just something to consider.

Dave McNair

Give the woman a break! Being one of the original BRIX chicks, I know how much time, energy, hard work, blood, sweat, tears, heart, soul and love Karen put into her business. Karen gave her all to provide this town with her culinary delights. Anyone who critisizes her accomplishments, obviously has none of their own. The only mistake she made was believing that folks knew what good food was. Rock on, Mamasita!

I am not sorry to see it close. I felt the sandwiches were just fair for all the fancy names....and the help were NOT helpful. I am handicapped and originally, my first time there, the gal who took the order said they would be happy to bring my order to the table if they were not busy. The next time I went there, they were NOT busy at all and the girl refused to bring my sandwich to the table.. I felt foolish and rather sorry I ever came there. When another waitress felt sorry for me, she brought me my coffee and left the cream and sugar back on the table/bar for me to get up and was far from our table. I never went back to the restaurant..........................service was terrible!! They were NOT nice!!

When a small business is forced to grow, problems do arise. Trusting your employees to deliver your product is a very delicate situtation. The bigger you get sometimes product is compromised. The owner then, who is also the product has to make a decision and that is what Karen has done. She needed to bring back her quality and down size. Finding employees who have the same vision and that care about their jobs is very difficult. Karen's food style is by far the best that I have ever seen and I will respect her and follow her. She has cooked in my home and I will have her return. I think before anyone can judge a small business they should own one. Dealing with employee theft, financial devistation and a location that did not fullfil their promise is just one layer of difficulties that small business faces. There could have been many variables behind the scene causing delays in food service but Karen is the fastest sandwich maker that I have ever seen. I have just spoken to her and she is asking if anyone had a problem with wait time to come to the Terrace Cafe @ MJ and she will deliver to you her perfect product they way it should have been. If there is a line out the door, one can only prepare so fast so please keep that it mind or call ahead. Please do not let C'vill become a chain resturant city. If you love your small business then keep them open by going there. The phone number to the Terrace Cafe at the MJ Pantops complex is 654-8592 they are open 7am-4pm Mon-Fri. Karen's breakfast savory rolls are off the chart delicious. I used to buy them at the 53 store and crave them and you will not have to wait 20 minutes to be served.

Thank you Karen for your support to C'vill and all the donations to charities that you support. You will always be my number one BRIX Chix (yes one X)and I look forward to you catering my Christmas party.

Our family LOVED Brix out next to Jefferson Vineyards....then we loved it on Pantops....never thought the location was a good one for Karen...but I know one thing for sure--the folks at Martha Jefferson are brilliant to have her!! And...I for one have already booked her for catering a private party. We look forward to Karen's talent for a long time to come!!

BRIX did not fail, the shopping center failed her. Homeless people do not want to buy panini's or lemoncello cake. When you are the fanciest house on the block it doesn't work. Good luck Karen and the Terrace Cafe at MJ.

I wish the best to any small business in this day. But sometimes things aren't the way they seem.

I am not sad at all to see brixx go. i feel it was over priced and dinners were extremely overpriced!!!I feel karen put on a front to the customers and they never really saw the real karen latare. She had her ways im sure, i guess its all smoke and mirrors!!!

I am not usually one to speak out and make comments, I do not believe that too many people care what I have to say and that is usually true for me about others. When I read all the negative comments about Brix, I was compelled to say my piece. My wife and I have been going there since it opened and it wasn't due to proximity, it was because Brix supplied the most unique and wide selection of food, not the typical crap you can find on any street corner in this crowded town. I may be different than most of these jerks but my life is not so terribly busy that I have to complain when it takes a bit longer to get really good food and enjoy it in an atmosphere that's relaxing and pleasant. I will miss the atmosphere but not the food because I will make the trip a bit further up the road to keep on enjoying her food! Megan is the best and always had a beautiful smile and kind words to greet us with, she will go far and if Karen, who is equally beautiful and kind, knows what's good for her she will keep hold of Megan, they make a wonderful team! You guys hang in there and don't listen to these jerks, you have always been wonderful, a pleasure to see, chat with and I love your food! Maybe these other people didn't have a good experience because they are all too self involved and selfish to truly enjoy the smaller joys in life! Congrats to you Karen, you are an amazing woman with great passion and strength. I know bunches of people that feel like I do and will miss you tons! Best wishes to you in your new endeavor!! I look forward to seeing you and Megan at Martha Jefferson while eating the same great food!

"we are closing in a week, sorry employees" - Guess Who.
That is wrong.

My wife and I were truly saddened last Friday when we went to our favorite restaurant, the best in town in our opinion, to learn from Karen that she was closing and this was the last night that Brix would be open. We have always enjoyed the friendly staff, the pleasant open atmosphere and chatting with Karen when time permitted. The food was always excellent, the service warm and friendly and the space itself very relaxing. While I understand that opinions will vary, the sheer meanness of some of the posts in this thread is appalling. Running a small business is never easy, but in the present economic environment it's especially tough. I think that trashing the small business person for trying hard is pretty harsh. In the end my wife and I were the last customers served at Brix, but we intend to go to the Terrace Cafe at MJH. We wish Karen success and hope that she is able to reopen Brix in another location in the very near future. We look forward to being the first customers served there.

Wow!!Dave was right when he said that free speech was messy! True dat!

I went to Brix three times and each time came away wondering how this restaurant survived. The menu was adequate and the food adequate as well, nothing special. The wait for food was way too long. I am surprised that so many felt the food was beyond the locals' expectations. I'm not a local, but do business in the area. Do you have inferior locals here? Some of the comments seem to imply they wouldn't know a good meal from a burger--interesting.
Usually when I enter a "high end" establishment for a meal I do not have to order at the counter, nor do I have to carry my own food, and most especially I do not have to clean my own table.
If you want to have a quality establishment, then you must also have quality service. I ate there three times because I did not want fast food, my comments are consistent for each visit.
That said, I am sorry to see any business go under. Perhaps lessons learned, if they are, will lead to a greater success in the future.

Food was basically good, service was great, as long as you didnt see the occasional drunken vagrant passing by towards the woods then the view was great. Karen is a sweet woman. always took the time to speak to each customer , and answer questions about anything. tragic loss....who says charlottesville craves class anyway