Five alarm news

 Say goodbye to CJ's Bomb Shelter and hello to Earl's. Earl's Firehouse Bar & Grill, that is. Earl Smith and his wife, Ellen, took over the space in the former Monticello Dairy Building on Grady Avenue on July 1, and are already in the thick of things. The duo last worked at Boudreau's, and Earl gained some degree of local infamy posing as the tiny "Uncle Boudreau" in the goofy television ads for the restaurant.

Smith says they'll be renovating the Earl's space as well as the menu, and will serve "classic American fare," including burgers, steaks, barbeque, macaroni salad, hot dogs, pork chops, liver, and Smith's specialty, chili.

Smith says Earl's will be more of a sports bar in the tradition of BW3, but he'll also offer live music, karaoke, an open mike night, pool tables, and a dance night. As for décor, Smith says think Ruby Tuesday with a firehouse theme. "We'll put all the knickknacks and whatnots up," he says.

Since the new recording studio Crystalphonics is opening up right next door, Smith says there's a possibility that his restaurant will host live recording sessions for bands using the studio.

"If Dave Matthews wants to do an 'Unplugged,'" he laughs, "that's fine with me."


Teppanyaki trouble?

 It's been more than four months since the Chiang House went up in flames, leaving nothing but the burnt-out shell of the blue building and the aroma of rotting fish lingering over the area for weeks.

When Dish first spoke with Chiang House co-owner Jong Chiang back in late March, he was having difficulty securing insurance reimbursement for the estimated $800,000 damage because all the documents had burned with the building. But once complaints regarding the powerful "seaside" odor started flooding county offices, the insurance money came through and the clean up got rolling.

Since the site has been cleared for quite some time now, however, Dish has been wondering when we might see a new Chiang House rising from the ashes.

"Two more months," says Chiang, who also owns Chiang Houses in Harrisonburg and in Sevierville, Tennessee. He explains that the county is meeting to consider his site plan this week. If the plan is approved, Chiang says, he will immediately begin work on blueprints for the new restaurant; he should be able to start construction early this fall.

Chiang's vision for the new Chiang House calls for micro-brew tanks as well as Teppanyaki tables. Whether a koi pond will be included has not yet been determined.

Chiang tells Dish the the exterior of the building will be modeled after a Japanese restaurant he admires in Norfolk, with a blue roof and walls of white stucco and stone. Customers can be dropped off under a huge awning that will adorn the front of the building.

So what does Chiang think of Super Buffet, the Teppanyaki restaurant slated for the former Wood Grill space next door?

"I'm not worried," he insists, citing a different customer base. "They'll have a buffet kind of customer; I'll have a restaurant kind of customer."

As for what the representatives of Super Buffet think about their prospective neighbor, Dish can't say. A representative of the leasing company, Brownfield Realty & Investment, tells us the owner of Super Buffet is out of the country and does not want any information regarding the restaurant or his/her identity revealed. Ooooh, Dish loves international intrigue!



Earl and Ellen Smith, owners of Earl's Firehouse Café

–Jen Fariello