FOOD- THE DISH- Scottsville revival? River town may be down, but not out

The former Magnolia space (above), which was extensively renovated to become the Horseshoe Bend Tavern, is now for sale as a turn-key operation. Also, the former Dew Drop Inn, below, of  Walton's fame (also for sale) awaits a reprisal.

First of all, our heartfelt apologies to John Keaton, owner of 330 Valley Street in Scottsville, for reporting in a recent column ["Shipwrecked? Kluge's Fuel Co. still looking for crew," December 18, 2008] that his restaurant was up for sale. It's not. We mistakenly assumed that 330 Valley Street occupied the former Magnolia space, which is up for sale as a turn-key operation. The real estate at 330 Valley was up for sale late last year, and Keaton says he purchased the property in December from his former partner in the business, Stephan Hawranke.  

At one time, he and Hawranke had planned to open The Horseshoe Bend Tavern in the old Magnolia space, which Hawranke owns, and they made extensive renovations. But Keaton says his decision to purchase 330 Valley put the kibosh on opening the Tavern. So now, he says, Hawranke is putting the business up for sale. Sorry for the confusion, but the way Scottsville restaurants have been coming and going, it's been hard to keep track.

At press time, it appears there are two restaurants besides 330 Valley Street regularly holding down the fort in Scottsville: Pee Wee's Pit Barbeque and Donna's Place.

In addition, some folks have been raving about Country Blessings, a deli and grocery store run by Nathan Blessings with a focus on local and exotic foods. While the newly opened Food Lion has added competition for the smaller grocer, some say the deli at Country Blessings is the real blessing.

"Recently, me and my family ordered up some gyro sandwhiches and one of the best oyster po' boys this side of the Chesapeake," says resident Meri Jane Smith. "They also have ABC on and off, and The Country Vintner is providing their wines."

Keaton says that 330 Valley provides Scottsville with a great non-smoking, kid-friendly restaurant as well as a smoking sports lounge and musical entertainment on the weekends after 9pm.

"I can't think of one restaurant in Charlottesville that is able to provide as much of a variety as I do for the Scottsville residents in one location," he says. 

Years ago, Scottsville had a certain cachet among Charlottesvillians in the know– it was home to the Dew Drop Inn of Walton's fame (330 Valley has the old Dew Drop sign on their wall), for crying out loud, and was seen as kind of exotic destination. But over the last 10 or 15 years some of that allure has been replaced with business closings and for-sale signs. Can Keaton and company create a revival?

Certainly, the foundation is there. The would-be Horseshoe Bend Tavern space, with its classic two-story porch and recent renovation, is awaiting a buyer, and the nearby Dew Drop Inn space, also for sale, would be an opportunity for a savvy entrepreneur who understands the significance of name recognition in this river town. And those already there appear to be committed.

 "We are trying really hard," says Keaton, "to get it back to a destination people want to come see."

Starlight shines bright 

It's been over a year since we checked in with the Starlight Café down in Lynchburg, the funky coffee house, music venue, and eatery that C'ville transplants Caroline Rawls Sickmen and Julie Kotowski purchased from developer Oliver Kuttner, who appears to be trying to single-handedly revive the city's downtown area. 

Well, apparently things are going pretty well. Sickman says there are major renovations going on at its Fifth Street location (when we visited last year, there were alot of unoccupied spaces) and the entire 500 block where the café is located is open for business. In addition, as the Lynchburg News & Advance recently reported, ACAC has partnered with Lynchburger and former UVA basketball star Curtis Staples to open one of its fitness & wellness centers, closing recently on a 14-acre site at the corner of Lakeside Drive and the Jefferson Ridge Parkway. 

"We've been very busy, and we are happy to have several old Charlottesville people living in downtown Lynchburg," says Sickmen.  "I got an ABC license back in the spring, and I carry all of the Blue Mountain Brewery Beer, and just got some excellent sake in."

Sickmen also reports that local coffee roaster Doug Escalera, who created the 50 and 90 blends for the original Higher Grounds, moved his operation from Charlottesville to Lynchburg last year. "We're very happy to have his excellent coffee roasts available to us, excellent freshness," she says.

Young entrepreneurs, funky cafés, downtown renovations, and big plans for the why does that sound so familiar?

The return of Big Jim's BBQ

It looks like the name "Big Jim's" will remain synonymous with local BBQ...

Back in October, Juanita "Winky" Hunt took over the former Big Jim's space on Angus Road and renamed it Winky's. As part of the business agreement she made with Brent Lunnen, who bought the restaurant and catering business on 10th Street from the estate of Patricia Hope (she and her husband, Jim Hope, ran the place for close to 30 years, until she followed her husband and passed away in 2007), she could run the restaurant exactly as it was– same famous burger platter, same BBQ– as long as Lunnen got to keep the Big Jim's name.

Well, now it appears Lunnen's operation at 202 10th Street is operational. Indeed, a new website reads:  Big Jim's BAR-B-QUE: Best in Town Since 1981... with Big Jim's own special herbs and spices. While it's mainly a catering operation, chef Angela Forth informs us there is also pick-up and delivery service.

And as Hunt informed us recently, you can also get the goods at Winky's.