FOOD-THE DISH- Dew Drop out? Old <i>Waltons</i> joint closes doors

Will Trager guides his beans through the roasting process in an antique roaster. Will and his brother Joe, of Higher Grounds fame, recently opened their own roastery in Lovingston.

Ah, nostalgia seems to be the theme of this week's Dish, as we say good-bye to a TV idol, hello to a new café hoping to revive the Charlottesville of yesteryear, and revisit an old caffeinated friend in Lovingston.

According to Deep Palate, our Scottsville dining informant, the new deli/bar/restaurant 330 Valley, which will occupy the short-lived Rivertown Rose space, is scheduled to open this Friday, August 31, although sans the pool tables they once had planned. In addition, Minor's Diner has apparently installed the town's first buffet bar. For now, it's just salad fixin's, but they plan to expand to include a hot food bar and Sunday brunch bar. 

However, the really big Scottsville dining news is that the venerable Dew Drop Inn has closed.  A Scottsville fixture for more than 60 years, and a regularly mentioned locale on the 1970's television show The Waltons (Jason had his first job playing piano at the Dew Drop), the Dew Drop went up for sale in 2003, and after being closed for several months, reopened under the same name. According to the previous owner, tourists visited the old bar from as far away as Europe, where– as they do here on the Hallmark Channel– episodes of The Waltons still air. 

According to Deep Palate, the Dew Drop had just started serving breakfast before the decision to close. "Perhaps they realized you need people to serve," says Deep, "and there were none." As Scottsville fans know, a problematic and long-delayed streetscape project has left the main thoroughfare nearly impassable.

A note on the front door of the Dew Drop offers a cell phone number, but despite numerous calls, a recording kept informing Dish that the owner of the number was unavailable. So, will the Dew Drop name continue to grace Valley Street?

As previous owner Jackie Lohr told the Dish when she put it up for sale in 2003, "I'd like to see it stay the same. It's very important to the town that it stay The Dew Drop Inn."

Starlight, star bright...

Although it may be along way to go for a cup of coffee, a visit to the Starlight Café in Lynchburg isn't a bad way to get a taste of the Hill City [see On Architecture, p. XX], as well as some of that old Higher Grounds coffee (see below).

Originally started by developer Oliver Kuttner, the Café is now under new ownership, and there seems to be a small movement under way to transplant Charlottesville's starving artist class to Lynchburg. 

Last Saturday, new owners Carri Sickmen and Julie Kotowski threw a party and invited a familiar crowd of local musicians: Jim Waive and the Young Divorcees, David Sickmen, Lauren Hoffman, Sarah White, and Robbie St. Ours. According to Sickmen, everyone was thrilled with the turnout and the idea that the Café might become a regular destination for Charlottesville's budding talent, seeing as it's getting increasingly hard, if not downright impossible, to survive here as a sophisticated pauper!

Kuttner says he's happy that Sickmen and Kotowski, who originally ran the Café for him, have been able to take over. He points out that it was always his intention to build the business and then find a buyer. Still, Kuttner says he guarantees he'll open another restaurant in Lynchburg, as soon as he finds the right space, because he thinks the Hill City is going to be the next Charlottesville– just better! 

Well, one thing's for sure: even if you think Kuttner's predictions are a bit of wishful thinking, developments down Rt. 29 sure are fun to watch!  

Higher Groundsmen

As mall mavens and historians know, Joe and Will Trager were the pioneers of Downtown coffee culture. They opened their first Higher Grounds kiosk on the Mall in 1993, and later opened a café in York Place where Café Cubano is now. They also maintained a number of kiosks around town. Never keen on the restaurant side of the business, the brothers decided to close the downtown café in '04 and perfect their kiosk businesses at Martha Jefferson Hospital, Plan 9 on the Corner, and in the UVA Medical Center. Of course, the kiosks have since spread to many other locations far and wide.

That strategy seems to have paid off, as the two just opened Trager Brothers Inc. in Lovingston, a gourmet coffee roastery and wholesale outlet where they roast up their own coffee the old fashioned way, using an antique roaster and time-tested European roasting methods. 

As Starlight's Sickmen told Dish, she'll being using the old familiar Higher Grounds brand, perhaps hoping to take the Lynchburg spot back to the days when Higher Grounds ruled, and when our own Downtown was a place to waste a little time dreaming in cafés.



Excuse me? The Tragers were the pioneers of the "Downtown coffee culture"? Not quite. It seems Dish must have missed Charlottesville during the early 1980s when the Roasted Bean on 4th St served up lattes and demi-tasses of espresso long before coffee was cool. Will Kerner's little enterprise was frothing steamed milk and selling beans by the pound long before the Trager brothers hit the downtown scene.

I had lunch at the Dew Drop this summer and it was nasty. A group of tourists said the same as we left together. What a dump! I don't think they should blame the repaving.