FOOD- THE DISH- Sí arrives: Brings 'Is' con tapas y music on Main

Mr. Is and Mr. Sí: Stew Hartman-Mart delivers the music, and Josh Hutter delivers the tapas.

Under questioning from the grand jury about his involvement with Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton rationalized having said there was nothing going on between them by uttering the famous line, " It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is." Clinton went on, "If the– if he– if 'is' means is and never has been, that is not– that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement."


Fortunately, the meaning of "Is" on West Main is a little more straight forward–it's a new music venue above the new tapas restaurant , both of which opened this week in the old Starr Hill Restaurant & Brewery space on West Main. 

"Sí's owners asked me what they should put in the space upstairs," says Stew Hartman-Mart, who'll be managing the music venue. "I suggested a music venue to fill the gap left by the closing of places like the Starr Hill Music Hall and the Satellite Ballroom. We were having trouble coming up with a name, so we just decided to switch "Sí" around."

Hartman-Mart said the music venue was scheduled to be open on Thursday, October 2, the day after the restaurant opens, and would feature Sweetbriar, the Sometime Favorites, and others. On Saturday, Hartman-Mart says, Trees on Fire will headline and Bird Lips will open.

The venue will feature mostly regional music, says Hartman-Mart, but there will also be international dance nights, and they will occasionally bring in DJs from New York. He also says the upstairs space will be available to anyone who wants to rent it out. 

As for the restaurant downstairs, Sí manager Chris Dunbar says it won't be much different than the Sí in Richmond– opened about a year ago by restauranteur Mo Roman, who also owns Bank in Richmond and three other places in Fredericksburg. Those spots serve up tapas in contemporary Latin style and host a pretty hopping late-night scene. In fact, Dunbar says, that style will be what makes Si somewhat different than Mas. The menu will be slightly different as well (though you'll be able to get bacon-wrapped dates at both places), offering small plate delights like pan-roasted mussels, lamb meatballs, roasted asparagus, and stuffed squid.

"We really like Mas," says Dunbar, "but we're going to have more contemporary platings, and of course, the music venue upstairs."

Still, Sí will have its work cut out for it going head-to-head with Mas, whose own late night scene, exceptional food (see the Hook's review in our August 28 issue online), and unique Belmont vibe is hard to beat.

To head the kitchen, Dunbar says they've hired ex-X lounge chef Josh Hutter, who has been busy for the last few months learning the ropes in Richmond. 

Earlier in the week, we had a chance to look inside the new venue, which has been completely renovated in bright Latin style– deep reds, aqua blues, jet black, and chrome bar stools. 

Who knows? This might be the shot in the arm that strip of West Main has been waiting for. But, of course, that will all depend on what the meaning of "Is" is after we've had a chance to get to know it, that is. 

Wine wisdom

We've known that Oakencroft Vineyard and Winery is closing its doors on December 31, but on a recent wine tasting afternoon on a Sunny day (one of the few we've had lately), I learned that cases are selling at a 30 percent discount. Cheers to owner Felicia Rogan for doing more than her part to put Virginia on the map as a wine producing state.

Case in point: the Monticello region welcomed a new winery to the trail this summer. Pollak Vineyards is located off 250 West, near Route 151 to Wintergreen. They've already received a number of inquiries about weddings, and it's not surprising when you arrive at the tasting room, easily mistakable for a country home with its huge windows and wrap-around patio, set against our idyllic Blue Ridge backdrop. 

I did a full tasting, and despite how young their vines are (relatively), the wines they're producing are really nicely rounded. It's rare to have the pleasure of tasting two wines of the same vines– Chardonnay grapes, in this case– one fermented in steel and aged in oak, the other vice versa, both fantastic. And the finishing touch? A bowl of ripe merlot grapes to try, fresh off the vine.– Kate Malay

Secrets of great soups

Let chef and caterer Erik Speer teach you how to become a soup Nazi! You'll prepare Five Onion Soup au Gratin, Chesapeake Bay Crab and Corn Chowder, and Butternut Squash Bisque with Candied Pecans. You'll also learn knife skills, caramelization, and soup presentation techniques. It all takes place at the Charlottesville Cooking School on Saturday, October 4 from 10am to 2pm. Cost: $65. Call 434-963-COOK to grab a spot.

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


1 comment

Man, those are some sweet-looking accents.