FOOD- THE DISH- Para nosotros: Coffee mission opens on Elliewood


Para Coffee owner Eric Kelley was to serve fresh brew and the community.
PHOTO BY DAVE MCNAIR

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Para Coffee owner Eric Kelley was to serve fresh brew and the community.
PHOTO BY DAVE MCNAIR
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Three weeks ago, Para Coffee on Elliewood Avenue joined the ranks of local coffee houses, and we finally had a chance to stop by and chat with owner Eric Kelley. Located in the former Blue Wheel Bicycle and MOD building (what was that place, anyway?), the newly renovated space is light-filled and cozy, complete with living-room-like nooks occupied by coffee tables strewn with newspapers and magazines, stylish lamps, and old comfy chairs and sofas. For a small space– it only has room for 49 people– it has the feel of a much larger space, thanks in large part, we imagine, to Kelley's composition skills as a professional photographer.

Which prompts the question: why did a professional photographer decide to open a coffee shop?

As Kelley points out, he was already working for Holland Photo Arts, was doing work for C-Ville Weekly and other publications, and started his own wedding photography business in January that had him shooting 31 weddings this year. In addition, he admits he was never much of a coffee drinker.

For Kelley and his partner and fiancée Lora Keady, however, opening Para appears to be part of a larger mission.

To explain, Kelley describes a bike trip he had planned to make two years ago, from Alaska to Argentina, and how he had asked the pastor at his church about the idea of soliciting donations for the trip. Instead of endorsing the trip, his pastor suggested he stay here in town and find a way to help the community, such as by working with the homeless, etc. So one day Kelley was walking by the MOD space– his office was on Elliewood– and saw that it was closing and thought, why not open a coffee shop as a way to do something for the community, with some of the money going to various charities?

The name Para, Kelley explains, is Spanish for "for," as in "this is for you," though the Spanish meaning indicates purpose or intent, such as es hecho para niños (It is made for children. It is made to be used by children). "It means something for an intended purpose," Kelley explains, which in Para's case, he hopes, will be directing some of the cafe's profits back into the community.

Clearly, Kelley is trying to differentiate himself from the Starbucks at the other end of the street, a symbol of for some of corporate coffee greed, and he's hoping Para might be a guilt-free alternative.

Looking forward, Kelley says, he plans to host local acoustic music acts and art shows, and wants to eventually be open to midnight or 1am, since most coffee houses, including Starbucks, only stay open until 11pm.

As for the coffee, that comes from Shenandoah Joe's, where Kelley trained as a barristo over the summer, and he's also offering tasty goods from the Albemarle Baking Company.

While we await Para Coffee's future good deeds, there's another very important way they're serving the community now: offering Corner-goers that Belmont treasure, Spudnuts doughnuts.

"We pick them up every morning," Kelley says.


Schnitzelhouse now LA galbihouse

A few weeks ago, a new restaurant finally opened up in the old Ludwig's Schnitzelhouse space on Fontaine Avenue, and it couldn't be any farther removed from schnitzel and bratwurst; it's a Korean and Japanese joint called Arirang Restaurant, named after a popular Korean folk song about the nature of love. According to general manager Ho Lee, a native Korean who moved here from Harrisonburg, Arirang will be more than just another Asian restaurant.

"We are trying to bring our culture here," he says. "Most people think Asian restaurants don't have bars, or places to watch sports... but we have a lounge where you can have a saki and watch a soccer game."

In addition, Lee says, the food at Arirang might come out a little slower because they don't start cooking until your order is placed. "Nothing is pre-cooked," he says.

Lee says they make a sensational LA galbi, a name Korean's use to describe American beef ribs cooked Korean-style, a method that originated in the Korean kitchens of Los Angeles. "They're very good, very tender," says Lee.

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

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2 comments

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