FOOD- THE DISH- Wayback machine: How foodies will remember '07

For some restaurants, 2007 was a year of expanding horizons, as these lucky few opened new locations.

Fittingly, the year began with a tribute to Stan and Marilyn Epstein, who ran the Hardware Store Restaurant for over 30 years. Back in 1976, one passerby, noting there were almost no thriving businesses on the Mall, gave the Espteins "six months." Today, there are more than 50 restaurants in and around the Mall, and many of them might want to thank folks like the Epsteins for not giving up on downtown when it would have been easy to do so. 


"After 30 years, I can't think of one bad incident," Stan Epstein told Dish about a year ago. "You can't please everybody... someone's always going to like this or not like that. But it has been great. Our hunch about the Downtown Mall 30 years ago turned out to be correct."



Downtown Staunton made a few steps toward becoming a hip food destination, most notably when Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar founder Matteus Frankovich opened a satellite location with the same name on the far side of the mountain. Around the same time, the "farm-to-table"-inspired Staunton Grocery opened, followed by Zynodoa, Staunton's answer to Charlottesville's X-Lounge and Blue Light Grill. 


A renaissance on West Main?

It was a veritable West Main renaissance in 2007 with the opening of Maya, Zinc, and Horse & Hound– all within a stone's throw of each other. While the Starr Hill Brewery closed, established places like L'etoile, Continental Divide, Mel's, Blue Moon Diner, and Orzo have turned that strip of West Main into a dining mecca. 


UVA's $58 million restaurant tab!

UVA's Weldon Cooper Center issued a report on the University's economic impact on the area this year, and Dish couldn't help but notice the restaurant and bar tab the UVA crowd rang up. No wonder our dining culture is so rich– in 2005, faculty and staff spent over $10 million on food and drink, students spent $18 million in restaurants and bars, and folks coming to visit students, faculty, and staff spent over $30 million. That's $58 million a year fed to area eateries! And that's not counting input/takeout from the rest of us! 


Wagons circle the Double H

On October 20, the plight of Nelson County farmers Richard Bean, 62, and Jean Rinaldi, 60, who were arrested on September 21 for mislabeling their pork products, made page one of the Washington Post. Bean and Rinaldi found themselves in some deep pig slop when they violated several FDA regulations regarding the processing of their pigs, and used old labels that said "Certified Organic"  on their pork products even though the meat was not organic. While some people have expressed little sympathy for the couple– particularly organic farmers who believe that breaking the rules gives all small farmers a bad name- supporters of the local food movement have come to their support. In December, Bean and Rinaldi pleaded guilty to transporting uninspected meat and prosecutors dropped all the other charges on the condition that Double H follow the rules. According to Bean, the judge sympathized with their plight, suggesting that state regulations should be changed to make it easier for small farmers to operate. 


Parting wisdom

Before former La Cucina owners Franky and Meridith Benincasa closed their Water Street eatery this year, they offered a few parting words of wisdom that have grown more prescient as the year has progressed. "Unfortunately, it's going to be hard for small restaurants to make it in Charlottesville in the next few years," Meridith said. "Rents are so high, and buildings are so expensive that only chains or restaurant groups can afford to move in. It's going to be an interesting few years for restaurants in Charlottesville."


Fuel Co. future?

Since it closed in July, our very own designer gas station, courtesy of Pat Kluge, has been sitting idle on the corner of Avon and Market streets. So will the funky gas station remain? "We actually have a myriad of possibilities," spokesperson Kristin Moses told us over the summer, and the current refrain appears to be the same: "We're going to come up with a new concept for the space." 


City puts the kibosh on Artini, other events at Ix   

For those who have loved the last two incarnations of the Artini party, a big part of the allure was the venue– the old bombed-out-looking Frank Ix building that created a unique, other-worldly atmosphere for the event. However, until that space is brought up to code, city building officials say events like Artini and Shentai, an art extravaganza, will have to find another location. "I've been monitoring the floor for years and decided that it was time to stop public access to the space before someone was injured or killed," said city building code official Tom Elliot.


Smoking ban ash-canned

On April 4, Governor Tim Kaine's proposed amendment to this year's smoking legislation– which would have banned smoking in all Virginia restaurants– was extinguished in the House of Delegates by a 40-59 vote. The defeat was largely expected, given the fact that Richmond is home to tobacco giant Philip Morris (according to the Richmond-Times Dispatch, the company called smokers throughout Virginia asking them to contact legislators), but some say the close vote indicates that the legislation could rise from the ashes, and that a full ban on smoking in Virginia restaurants could be in our future. 


Expanding brands

This year was marked by expansion of some local brands. Christian's Pizza, Revolutionary Soup, Cocina del Sol, Brix Market Place, Shenandoah Joe's coffee, and the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar all expanded their empires in 2007. In fact, Christian's did more expanding in 12 months than most restaurants do in a lifetime, adding three locations around town simultaneously. 



Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar (Staunton)

Staunton Grocery (Staunton)

McGrady's Irish Pub (Midtown)

Otto's (Crozet)

Cafe Lajoi (Route 29 North)

Meadowcreek Grill restaurant (Pen Park)

Java Java on the Mall (Downtown)

Royal Indian Restaurant (Route 29 North)

Cocina del Sol ( Commonweath Drive)

Belmont Bar-B-Que (Belmont)

Hoo's Brew (Southside)

Zinc (West Main)

Pad Thai (Belmont)

three. a kitchen and lounge (the Corner)

Brix Terrace Café (Pantops)

Hamdingers (Downtown)

Maya (West Main)

New Christian's pizzas (The Corner, Route 29, Pantops)

Horse & Hound (West Main)

Enoteca (Downtown)

Shenandoah Joe Coffee Roasters & Espresso Bar (Midtown)

2 Sides Restaurant (Belmont)

Buck Island BBQ (Nelson County)

Brasserie Montiel & Coffee House (Commonwealth Drive)

Trager Brothers Inc. (Lovingston)

Blue Mountain Brewery (Afton)

Café 88 (Preston Plaza)

Fox Park (the Corner)

Siips (Downtown)

Sublime All-Natural Food & Juice Bar (the Corner)

New Rev Soup (on the Corner)

Pacino's Deli (the Corner)

Rivals (Route 29 North)

Spry's BBQ (West Main/the Corner)

First Place Grille (Route 29 North)

Zynodoa (Staunton)



Hong Kong (Emmet Street)

Superstars Pizza (Emmet Street)

Damons (at Holiday Inn on 29 North)

White Orchid (West Main)

Pizza Bella (Route 29 North)

Sweet Peas Bistro (Palmyra)

Jaberwoke (the Corner)

Ombras (Crozet)

Hong Kong Buffet (Emmet Street)

La Cucina (Downtown)

Starr Hill Brewery (West Main)

Fuel Co. (Downtown)

Dew Drop Inn (Scottsville) auctioned off

Maruthi (Midtown) 

Fat Daddy's (Albemarle Square)

Atomic Burrito (Downtown)

Andreas Gaynor's juice bar (Downtown, at Kiki Café during the day)

14th Street Amigos

Baggby's at Forrest Lakes