FOOD- THE DISH- Release the hounds! Brit-inspired pub takes Blue Bird spot

Horse and Hound owners Luther and Brooke Fedora hope to open up in the old Blue Bird Café space in mid-June.

The renaissance on West Main we wrote about two weeks ago when we announced the opening of Maya in the old Southern Culture space will receive another shot in the arm– or kick in the pants, as the case may be–when Horse and Hound opens in the old Blue Bird Café space sometime in mid June.

As passersby have noticed, Horse and Hound owners– and Culinary Institute of America graduates– Luther and Brooke Fedora have been busy sprucing up the space for some time.

Brooke Fedora says their new place– like newcomer Zinc, just down the street in the old Station/White Orchid space– was inspired by the popular "gastropubs" of Europe. According to Zinc co-owner Vu Nguyen, gastropubs embody the best of the British pub atmosphere with the best of French bistro food. 

 "The term 'gastropub' has only scratched the surface of the American vernacular," Nguyen told Dish, "but we're hoping to make it a household name in Charlottesville." 

Indeed, Fedora confirms it's a popular culinary trend that has swept Europe but is still relatively unknown in America. Now it appears we'll have two "gastropubs" within a stone's throw of each other– how continental, eh wot? However, Fedora promises that Horse and Hound will be very different from Zinc.

"The definition of 'gastropub' is very broad," she says. 

As we understand it, Zinc may be emphasizing the French, given the fact that co-owner Thomas Leroy is himself a Frenchman and Nguyen previously worked at Cassis. Horse and Hound, on the other hand, may be focusing on tally-ho, pip-pip, and other items of Empire. 

Indeed, Fedora says the idea for their restaurant was inspired by the places her husband Luther loved when he lived and worked in London. Hence the traditional fish and chips on the menu– and 12 taps of beer. Still, they're not going totally Brit, as Fedora says they'll have plenty of hamburgers and homemade french fries. In addition, they plan to serve brunch on Saturday and Sunday, and are planning to create a "beer garden feel" on the front patio.  

"We wanted to create a place where we wanted to hang out," says Fedora, "a place that feels a little upscale, but is affordable and casual– a place where everybody will feel comfortable."

So will Horse and Hound try to revive West Main's nightlife as Maya has promised to do?

"We'll feel the situation out," says Fedora. "But for now we're not planning to be a late-night place."

However, sandwiched as they are between new hotspots Maya and Zinc (and only a small block way from Starr Hill), Horse and Hound may have to be careful what they don't wish for.

Dawg days coming soon

With restaurant space getting so expensive (a typical lease can run well over $100 a day), it appears more new restaurateurs are deciding to go mobile. Recently, Dish profiled two nomadic eateries, Austin Yount and Noelle Parent's Curbside Catering Company, a 16-foot restaurant on wheels, and Patrick Critzer's Downtown Mall cart, Hamdingers. In addition, last week we ran a news story on Diane Welsh's Mobile Munchies ice cream truck, which encountered a roadblock when some fearful parents worried the roving snack wagon might run over their kids. 

Now another roaming restaurant is scheduled to hit the road. According to Mr. Dawg owner Trey Wilkerson, his mobile hot-dog cart should be cruising the streets around mid-June. But, as Wilkerson is quick to mention, this is no ordinary wienermobile.

"It's like a hot-dog cart on steroids," he says. 

Built from scratch with the help of his grandfather, Calvin Wilkerson, whom the younger Wilkerson describes as a "mad scientist" who once helped the Navy build submarines, the rig has a roof atop a full-service restaurant and is powered by a three-wheeled pick-up truck. 

Wilkerson, who was born and raised in Charlottesville, says the custom vehicle is too big for the Downtown Mall, but will begin locating itself "around the Frank Ix building and other properties that Gabe Silverman owns" until he works out more possible locations with the City. 

Wilkerson also mentions that he'll be joining vendors in the West Main Market when they begin their "street days" on Sundays. For now, Wilkerson is working out of the kitchen at Mel's Café, maintaining a catering business, and gearing up for Mr. Dawg's launch. 

Of course, Wilkerson says he'll have more than just hot dogs at his three-wheeled restaurant, but it's clear the emphasis is on the "dawg." Asked about his ambitions for Mr. Dawg, he keeps it simple and to the point.

"I'm going to try to get everybody to eat some hot dogs," he says.