FOOD- DISH- New Nook look:<span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span>Mall fixture changes hands
It was one of the Downtown Mall's first four restaurants. In its early days, Model-T Fords were parked along the curb and a trolley track ran along Main Street.
The Nook– open under that name for more than 50 years– joins Miller's, The Hardware Store, and Sal's as one of the Mall's sacred cows of dining, exempt from both outside seating regulations and comparisons to the haute cuisine that has materialized around it because...well, because it was The Nook!
In fact, as a testament to the inexpensive-breakfast-and-lunch spot's institutional stature, Gov. Tim Kaine chose The Nook to kick off his bid for the state's top spot in 2005.
Still, it appeared The Nook had become another casualty of the Mall's success when long-time owner Terry Shotwell, who bought the restaurant in 1988 from Kathy Dowd– who had bought it from even longer-time owners John and Mary Williams (they opened it in 1951!)– announced she was selling the place earlier this year. However, according to Shotwell, who lives above The Nook, she was simply looking for an heir.
"I was wanted to sell it to someone who would continue the tradition of The Nook," she says. "Stu needed a restaurant like he needed a hole in the head, but he wanted to keep it The Nook."
'Stu' would be realtor Stu Rifkin, who, along with Mark Mascotte, bought the restaurant from Shotwell last month.
"It's still going to be The Nook," says Rifkin, "but twenty-four-seven." Well, not really 24 hours a day, but it will be open for all three meals.
The two also plan to re-do the kitchen, rebuild the lunch counter, and add two new bars. But they won't be abandoning The Nook's unpretentious atmosphere and prices.
"No affected waiters need apply," quips Rifkin. "And you won't need to take out a second mortgage to eat here."
Rifkin also promises the "coldest beer in town," the "tallest piece of lemon meringue pie," and comfort food like meatloaf with homemade gravy.
Although there have been reports that the new Nook would open September 6, that may have been wishful thinking.
"It's an old building," says Rifkin, "and lots of things need to be brought up to code."
When will the new Nook open?
"After Labor Day," Rifkin says almost helpfully.
Chocolate lovers in for a sweet treat
The next step in Lindsay Watts' career path wouldn't necessarily seem to be opening an imported-chocolate shop. Nevertheless, the 25-year-old former Capital Assets manager at SNL Financial and designer for Crate & Barrel now plans to open L'Chocolateer in Fashion Square Mall this fall.
"I always wanted to open my own store," says the 1999 Albemarle High School grad. "Fine chocolate is something I love, and I noticed that Charlottesville didn't have a source for it." While places like Gearharts in the West Main Market make their own premier chocolates, Watts says she wants to be able to offer the best chocolates from around the world.
Watts says she's toured factories in Belgium and France, and one in Vermont, to find the best imported chocolates. "I had so much fun touring the factories," she says. "You just can't find chocolate like this in Charlottesville."
Watts says she's trying to find the "perfect location" for her small chocolaterie, but in the meantime she'll use a kiosk in the Mall for the holiday season.
The Nook through the ages....
The "Downtown Mall" circa 1929. Future Nook spot is in the second building down on the right. Notice the ornate windows on the second floor.
PHOTO COURTESTY STU RIFKIN. HOLSINGER STUDIO
The Nook circa 1972. Note the parking meter.
PHOTO COURTESTY STU RIFKIN/RIP PAYNE PHOTOS
The new pedestrian mall in less prosperous times. Circa 1980? What has been done to the ornate windows and brickwork on the second floor?
PHOTO COURTESTY STU RIFKIN.
Future Gov. Tim Kaine (with Mayor David Brown) launches his 2005 election bid at The Nook.
PHOTO COURTESTY GEORGE LOPER