Bashir's, bigger and better

 When Bashir's, the Mediterranean spot in the Downtown Mini Mall, closed its doors three months ago to prepare for its move across the bricks to the Post Office building, it left a gaping hole in many lunchers' lives.

After all, it wasn't just the sandwiches and side dishes that made customers loyal; the smiling faces of owner Bashir Khelafa and his wife, Kathy, were high on the list of amenities.

The good news: the wait for the brand new Bashir's is nearly over Bashir, who's on a first-name basis with many customers, says the opening should come no later than Labor Day.

Even better news: the interior of the new spot captures the charm of the old space while, at 2,100 square feet, it triples the dimensions. The walls are a mix of a bright, squash orange and sky blue; dark wood tables and chairs give an old world feel, while canapes (firm North African sofas) offer a plusher seating option. Sunbow Trading Company will be lending carpets to hang on the walls to further liven things up.

While the new menu has not been finalized, Bashir promises it will retain some old favorites while offering a slew of new sandwiches and entrees, as well as a falafel bar, sure to thrill vegetarians all over the city.

"This will be Charlottesville's first authentic Mediterranean restaurant," says Bashir, explaining that it'll be the only local place to feature dishes from every country bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

As if the expansion and new lunch menu weren't enough, there's a new name: Bashir's Taverna. And it will offer dinner Thursday to Saturday nights, and brunch on Saturday and Sunday, as well as live music those evenings it is open. Bring on the couscous!


Wrapping it up

 Life's anything but the pits for the Canada-born Richmond-based Stewart brothers, Chris, Mike, and Dan. The trio, along with Chris' wife, Maddie, have been hard at work down on the Corner preparing to open the Pita Pit, a 14th Street lunch-to-late-night eatery that will feature, you guessed it, pitas! Actually, these pitas are a little more like wraps, Dan recently explained, and aren't as likely to fall apart as their deep-pocket relatives.

If all went as planned, the Pit should have opened Wednesday, August 21 (a day after Hook presstime), so perhaps now's the time to make a Corner Pit stop.


Tea spree

 Matteus Frankovich and El Duce have been hard at work since March, creating a tea haven like no other, The Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar.

Frankovich seems optimistic that Twisted Branch, which is taking the old Bashir's space (see above item), will unleash its leaves on the unsuspecting public Saturday, August 24.

However, this tentative date depends on more than a few remaining inspections. In fact, more important in determining an opening date are "certain planetary factors" which must "align and announce the cosmic birth date of Lu Yu, the patron saint of tea," a sign out front announces. We have "only one chance to open and need it to coincide with this event," Frankovich says.

And we thought the health department was a big hurdle!

In the meantime, El Duce explains that the duo is busy "catching their breath" and working on a food menu. They hope to offer an affordable "hearty, but healthy" daily lunch special. If the stars approve, apparently.