DISH- Dinner theater: Barhoppers acting up again

Once a year, hookville restaurant-goers get more than mood music and surly wait people (just kidding) to go with their meals– they get theater!

That's right, the annual Barhoppers Series is upon us, which means diners' next meals could be served with a side of theatrics by area writers, actors, and directors.

"The beauty of this year's production is the diverse mix of the cast and artistic staff," says series spokesperson Jen Hoffman, who'll also perform in the shows. "We have UVA students, local seniors, your basic working stiffs, members of the so-called professional set, and the restaurant crowd."

Patrons will also get to see two plays by local bard Joel Jones, who's presently trying to make a name for himself in NYC, as well as directing efforts from up-and-comers Sean Thomas, Jill Antonishak, and Mark Valahovic.

All shows are staged at Rapture on the Downtown Mall at 7:30pm February 19-21, 26-28, and March 5-7. Monday shows are non-smoking. Dish suggests an early arrival, as the $8 tickets sell out fast. Info: 293-1169.

Lucky lunch spot

Although Dish doesn't recommend lunching at Lucky Seven– unless, of course, a craving for microwaved hamburgers and Twinkies sets in (okay, Dish admits there's nothing better than junk food on a road trip!)– we do recommend checking out the lunch spot inside the Lucky Seven on Market Street.

On the wings of a humble flyer ad campaign, Chickpea made its debut Friday, February 10 in the 24-hour convience store. Proprietor Mário Rodrigues, who has been cooking for over 20 years at places like Tip-Top Restaurant on Pantops and Sal's Pizza in Crozet, has finally decided to light out on his own, serving up sandwiches on fresh-baked pitas, souvlaki, falafels, chickpeas, and an assortment of salads.

So why the name? "I like chickpeas myself," says Rodrigues, "and it was a dish my grandmother used to make. So it seemed like a good name to me."

Chickpea is open 11am-9pm Monday through Saturday, but Rodrigues tells Dish that starting in April he'll be open until 3am on Fridays and Saturdays. Now that's what the Downtown Mall has been missing– an after-hours eatery for those post-bar-closing munchies.

Teacher's pet

Dish loves far-flung food destinations! On our ever-widening restaurant radar, we recently pick up a signal from out Lovingston way– in Colleen, to be exact.

Colleen Deli on Rt. 29 South, just five miles from Lovingston in the Colleen Exxon Station, is a gem of a breakfast and lunch spot. That would be thanks to owner-manager Jane Bibb, who taught occupational food services in the Nelson County School system for 35 years before opening Colleen Deli in 2004.

"So many of her students have gone on to successful careers, " says Michele Mays, Bibb's daughter and co-owner. "In fact, one of our employees and our main baker, Brandy Stratton, is a former student of Mom's."

Colleen Deli serves up traditional breakfast items and lunch favorites like Reubens, Philly steaks, and homemade chicken salad. In addition, there's fried chicken everyday and delicious homemade desserts. Colleen Deli also offers a catering service. In fact, Bibb provides cakes for Frankee Love of Blue Ridge Weddings, who was recently a Facetime feature in the Hook ["First comes Love: Wedding celebrant aptly named," January 26, 2006].

Barhoppers on parade: once a year, this brazen band of local thespians make restaurants their stage