FOOD- THE DISH- Savour on Emmet: Coming very, very, <i>very</i> soon

Savour back when it was merely (but not really) "soon."

Some thought the handmade sign for Savour on Emmet Street– the old Hong Kong Buffet spot– might have been a marketing ploy or a joke. First it said "Savour" on a banner, then "soon," then "very soon," then "very, very soon." 

Well, according to Savour's Egyptian-born owner, Ed Nafei, it wasn't so much a marketing ploy as it was a way to explain why it was taking him so long to open.

"When I bought the place in November of 2006 I thought I was going to open in a few months," he says. "But the building was old, and I decided to gut it, replace every pipe, every wire, everything. Now it is truly beautiful."

For Nafei, who says he's been in the restaurant business for 34 years and who owned three restaurants in California, this is the place where he hopes his experience will pay off.

"This will be my last big project," he says. "It's all I know how to do, and I want it to be a Charlottesville landmark."

Nafei refuses to characterize the menu, calling it "eclectic"– he hopes to have something for everyone. 

Oddly enough, Nafei says he actually worked in Charlottesville for a brief time 25 years ago, at an upscale French restaurant on the Mechum's River in Ivy called Galerie [No problem? Moldering Galerie site gets new owners, September 9, 2004]. After he decided to move back, he happened to meet the Galerie owner at Whole Foods. As it turned out, he still had the cooking equipment from the restaurant in his house and offered it to Nafei.

"I'll be using the same pans– good quality French cooking pans– that I used here 25 years ago," he says. 

So, after nearly 18 months, will Savour be opening very, very, very soon?

"I hope no one was getting bored by the signs," Nafei laughs. "Hopefully, we'll be opening before June." 

Move over France: Post tours local coffee bars

The Washington Post ran a story on Charlottesville coffee bars April 30, and writer Roger Piantadosi confirmed what we've known for some time:

"Charlottesville today has more restaurants per capita than any city in Virginia, or possibly France, and is home to the kind of insanely committed foodies who post photos on their blogs of (I'm not kidding) handwritten estimates of opening dates that the owners have taped to the doors of restaurants that are still under construction. And who then discuss it online for days."

Whoa! France? We're not sure if local foodies should slap themselves on the back or seek counseling.

Piantadosi's "coffee bar tour" covered The Mudhouse, Café Cubano, Shenandoah Joe, C'Ville Coffee, Milano, La Taza, The Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar, Fox Park Café, and Starbucks.

What?! No Greenberry's? For shame, Mr. Piantadosi. 

Wine Guild sets up downtown

There's a new wine-lovers institution in town– on Second Street SE, a few steps south of the Downtown Mall and next door to Bang. The Wine Guild of Charlottesville is a new wine-buying co-op with hopes to eventually create a temperature-controlled storage facility (i.e. a wine cellar) as well as something like a private club for wine aficionados. We caught two of the principals, Will Richey and Chad Zakaib, setting up their regular Wednesday afternoon barbecue. Check it out!

Pollak Vineyards opens in Greenwood

Five years after planting their first French vinifera vine, Pollak Vineyards is finally welcoming visitors. Located on a 98-acre piece of land in Greenwood, the winery corked its first bottles in 2005, a Bordeaux-style Meritage blend that recently won a slew of medals in the Monticello Wine Competition. Owners Margo and David Pollak, who was a partner in a Napa Valley winery, say it's been their "dream" to open a vineyard, and that their goal is "to make French-style wines from estate-grown grapes." To that end, they also offer a viognier, pinot gris, cabernet franc, merlot, and petit verdot. Later this summer, they'll release a chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon.

Starr Hill brings home the silver

Mark Thompson, Starr Hill Brewing Company's master brewer and president, tells us that the Crozet brewery's Dark Starr Stout won the Silver Medal in the Dry Irish Stout category at the 2008 World Beer Cup, held this year at the Town & Country Resort in San Diego on April 19. Considering that there were nearly 3,000 entries from 646 breweries in 58 countries, that's no small feat. 

According to Thompson, the Dark Starr is a "light bodied stout that has the flavor and aroma of coffee and unsweetened chocolate." This is the same stout that has wowed judges at the Great American Beer Festival, reports Thompson, where it won two gold, a silver, and a bronze medal. 

Big Jim's last day

After 27 years, the folks at Big Jim's on Angus Road served their last famous burger platter and mountain o' fries on April 30. Big Jim's was a certified local institution, and a favorite hangout of former Senator George Allen, civil rights attorney John Whitehead, and scores of others. Although in a bit of a decline the last fews years, due in large part to the passing of the original Big Jim, the closure elicited many fine memories from local customers.

"It's a sad day for burger lovers," wrote Whitehead in an email. He'd been in just last week with his wife, Carol. "We hadn't heard they were closing forever. Now I'm glad we ate there."

Eppie's offers sandwiches, dinner

A couple of weeks ago, Eppie's on the Downtown Mall, known for heaping plates of jerk chicken and steamed broccoli, began quietly serving up sandwiches such as an apple and brie, hummus and apple with sprouts, and chicken salad. Oh yeah, Eppie's is also serving dinner now, 5-9pm, Monday through Saturday. Still the same great food, only later.

What's up with Fuel Co.?

Since Fuel Co. closed its doors and pumps last July, it's been sitting there like an elaborate art installation. Indeed, it's been odd to see a gas station in the middle of town closed– aren't they the only folks making money these days? A For Sale sign has been parked on the curb, and according to Kluge Estate's Kristin Moses Murray (Fuel Co. was mother-in-law Patricia Kluge's creation), there have been some offers.

"We are conscious of its location," says Murray, "but in addition to being the right offer dollar-wise, it has to be the right offer for the town."

All this food news was first reported online. Check it out at

Beer run:
Mark Thompson, Starr Hill Brewing Company's master brewer and president, took home a silver medal at the 2008 World Beer Cup for the Crozet brewery's Dry Irish Stout.