FOOD- THE DISH- </span>Tea Bazaar tempts Staunton: and openings galore! <span class="s1">

Coming soon to Staunton: an assortment of beverages and an unbridled passion for eclectic indie rock. Well, maybe slightly bridled.

Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar founder Matteus Frankovich says that the satellite location he's fixin' to open on the far side of the mountain will feature much less live music than its Charlottesville counterpart. Instead, he intends to resume his pursuit of the epicurean mission that initially led him to set up shop on the eastern end of the Downtown Mall in 2002.

"The place that I'm doing over there will be more tea-centric, devoted to the tea arts," he says. It will also feature a sake selection and a revolving set of decor and furnishings.

Frankovich has spent two and a half months working on converting the space, part of the old the Stonewall Jackson School on West Beverley Street, and he hopes to launch by the end of January.

"I'm doing it all myself, the construction and everything," he says. "We built [the Charlottesville location] ourselves; when we came in, it was all office cubicles."

He also forsees a symbiosis between the Staunton tea house and other downtown businesses. Immediate neighbors include massage therapists and a yoga and dance studio.

"The basic idea is for the clientele to cross-pollinate," he explains.

The new tea house doesn't yet have a name, though Frankovich says that it will be a "Tea Bazaar" of some sort, since that is the legal name of the business.

"It might divulge a more poetic name as its personality emerges," he says.

Already arrived in Staunton

On January 2, Staunton food-lovers– and Staunton lovers who like food– enjoyed the opening of a new restaurant on West Beverly Street: the Staunton Grocery.

According to chef/owner Ian Boden, the restaurant with the store-like name features high-end contemporary American cuisine with a Virginia twist. "About eighty percent of our products," he says, "are from the Shenandoah Valley and central Virginia."

Ironically, Boden, a Virginia native who trained at the New England Culinary Institute, adopted his "farm-to-table" philosophy while working in New York City. After stints at Payard Pâtisserie and the Judson Grill, Boden wound up at Home, a small place on Cornelia Street in Greenwich Village that earned a reputation for serving up seasonal, locally grown food. 

Big city creds...Virginia roots... beautiful downtown Staunton... who's driving?

Seeing green on Grady

Dishers may have noticed that Sharky's in the old Monticello Dairy building is no more. Now there's a big green and gold sign out front that says "McGrady's Irish Pub."

According to manager Carl Lawson, Pennsylvania-based owners Scott Roth and JD Pfile were skeptical about the  Grady Avenue at first, but after a few visits to town, he says, "they decided to go for it." 

Lawson says the duo began gutting the space in September, putting in new seating, Irish decor, and– get this beer lovers– 24 taps! The pub made its debut on December 19 with its 5pm $5 Happy Hour, a tradition they intend to continue.

"For five bucks at our happy hour you can get enough for a meal," Lawson promises. 

In addition, they've got two big pool tables and the obligatory big-screen TV. And Lawson says they also plan to build a big deck on the side of the building in March.

Sounds like...?

According to Marianne Bechtle, who, along with partner Ann Gayhart, opened a sandwich and burger place in Crozet (across from Blue Ridge Builders) called Otto's on December 16, she doesn't know anyone named Otto. Bechtle, who operated a private cooking business for years, says the name came to her in the form a constant refrain. "For years, everyone kept saying 'you oughta open a restaurant,'" she says.

Dish loved that little story. With so many new restaurant owners breaking out foreign language dictionaries, or choosing names that sound like rock bands or entries in a Best Marketing award, Bechtle and Gayhart's whimsical selection suggests a more laid-back approach to serving up food. Indeed, Bechtle has the relaxed manner of someone who has run a restaurant for years, rattling off the unpretentious menu– burgers, salads, wraps, veggie pannini, homemade potato chips– like a favorite aunt telling you what's for lunch. 

So, next time you're cruising up 250 West, Dish suggests you 'oughta' slow down and be on the look-out for a lunch time treat.

Matteus Frankovich, pictured here with former kettle master El Duce, will bring his "tea arts" to Staunton at the end of January.