FOOD-THE DISH- Done deals! Aroma's to move, 2 Sides to open
FILE PHOTO BY CHRISTINA BALL
Despite being tucked away in the Fontaine Research Park (off Fontaine Ave), where it can display no sign in the state-owned building, Aroma's Café has become known as one of the city's fun restaurants. That has a lot to do with the Mediterranean-style food, of course, but it also has a lot to do with chef-owner Hassan Kaisoum.
As Christian Tamm, owner of Christian's Pizza, told Dish a while ago, "People come here for Hassan as much as for his food."
Born in Morocco and trained in France and San Francisco, Kaisoum moved to Charlottesville with his family 11 years ago. As anyone who frequents Aroma's can attest, he's as much a destination as his Moroccan chicken wraps, cous-cous, and falafel.
Almost since opening, Kaisoum has been talking about finding a new location, but the real estate gods have not been kind. Now it appears he has finally found a new spot.
"It's a done deal," he says. "I signed a 10-year lease for a spot in Barracks Road Shopping Center, right across the street from Five Guys and Panera Bread."
The new space is the current Alltel store, and Kaisoum says he expects to be open in November or December at the latest. Needless to say, he's excited about the move, but he's remaining tight-lipped about details until renovations are under way.
Meanwhile, lots of people are a little disappointed about the move: those who had hoped to keep the obscure Fontaine location all to themselves!
Flavor's shadows Ombra's
Folks calling Ombra's number in Crozet have been surprised to hear the greeting on the other end: "Hello, Flavor's Café." That would be new tenant Russell Smith, who took over the space from Ombra's owner Mehrzad Shahriari back in June.
Smith, who has been cooking in Charlottesville for over 25 years, with stints at UVA's dining halls, Boudreau's (the former Cajun restaurant on Rio Road), and at Ombra's with Shahriari, has brought his experience and education– he studied under Bill King and Alfred Payne at PVCC– to bear on southern cooking.
The former Western Albemarle High School grad says Flavor's will be a family-oriented, kid-friendly joint (coloring books!) that serves up food he'd gladly give his own kin.
We're talking meat and seafood– New York strip and rib-eye, oysters, crab, and shrimp– plus some good ole southern-fried catfish and herb-encrusted lamb chops. He's also thinking about offering brunch soon.
Smith says the café's name comes from a nickname he had while working at the UVA dining halls. Apparently his skills made an impression on the students, who could tell which dishes were his. So they took to calling him "Flavor."
In about two weeks, 2 Sides Restaurant will be open on Carlton Road in the parking lot next to C-Ville Market. The idea reflected in the name, says manager John Madtes, is that the place will literally have two sides: a family-oriented restaurant on one side and a more raucous sports bar on the other.
"The sports bar will have the works," says Madtes, "TVs, pool tables, video games, dart boards, a juke box.
"We're also putting a deck out front. It's going to be a nice family place where you can get breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus it will be a sports bar, but the two will be separate."
As for food, Madtes says to expect American grill fare– salads, wraps, burgers. He also says they'll be open at 6am for breakfast!
Out on Route 53, not far from the popular Brix Marketplace, the aptly named Bob Pitts has opened Buck Island BBQ. Actually, he's been open for about six months now, but now he's ready to start putting the word out. Although it's primarily a take-out operation, Pitts says he has a few tables as well as store goods including wine, beer, cigarettes, etc. In addition to his pulled pork, dry-rub ribs, and cajun baked chicken, Pitts says he's probably best known for his CCRider BBQ sauce.
"Clove to cayenne, plus 18 in between," says Pitts about the name. "I'd say we sell about 160 pounds of that stuff a week."