Papering the problem: Project H2o's a go

In September, when the City of Charlottesville and the Albemarle County Service Authority ordered all car washes to close, the news seemed to many restaurant owners like a shot fired over the bow.

It's no secret that restaurants use a lot of water, and when word came that nearby Richmond might require its eating establishments to close several days a week, Charlottesville restaurateurs decided they didn't need any more hints.

Rather than sitting around waiting for eat-onomic disaster, some clever owners of Dish's favorite industry got together to form "Project H20," a collective of environment-oriented restaurateurs bent on self-regulation.

Participating restaurants include Oxo, Blue Light Grill, Rapture, Starr Hill, Mudhouse, Orbit, The Ivy Inn, and Wild Greens. Also jumping on the bandwagon are Farmington, Boar's Head, and Keswick country clubs, as well as UVA's catering service.

Dish dropped in for the meeting upstairs at the Mudhouse on Monday, September 30, to hear how the plans of the participating businesses are developing.

About 45 people showed up, including Jim Palmborg, public utilities manager for the city, City Councilor Kevin Lynch, and representatives from Virginia Linen.

The conference table was covered with an array of plastic plates, ranging from clear to opaque to faux china. The mood was serious.

"Project H20 wants to do everything possible to keep our restaurants open and profitable," explains Alice Kim, co-owner of Oxo restaurant on Water Street.

The fear, Kim says, is that if restaurants' response to the drought isn't universal, some will end up suffering more than others. If a customer is served a meal on fine china at one downtown establishment, she wonders, will they feel slighted when they're served on a plastic plate at another? Or will they be grateful the restaurant is making an effort to conserve?

"We want to show en masse we're doing this to help the community," she says, "not to rip you off."

If all restaurants follow the guidelines devised by Project H20 which include serving only bottled water, supplying hand sanitizer in customer bathrooms, using disposable plates, and not offering refills on fountain drinks– no restaurant will be cutting too little or too much, and each will know exactly what other restaurants are doing.

"We don't feel that the ambience will be compromised," says Kim. "The service, food, glasses– everything else will be the same," she promises.

The group hoped to have restaurants and other food-related businesses signed up by Friday, October 4. Cardboard plaques will be displayed in the windows of participating establishments so conservation minded patrons will know where to go.


Lunch with comrades

 Lunch may soon be the opiate of the masses, at least if Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar has its way. The newest (and only) teahouse in Charlottesville launched its "Communist Lunch" last week, promising "food for the working class" on flyers posted all around downtown.

For the eminently affordable price of $5, patrons may select from four options: Indian dal and rice with raita and flatbread, Morrocan tagine on basmati with plum chutney and flatbread; herb roasted vegetable sandwich with avocado aoli and cheddar; and mixed salad with rice noodles and green tea vinaigrette.

Served Tuesday to Friday, from 11am to 2pm, the Communist Lunch adds a whole new dimension to lunchtime dining at the east end of the Downtown Mall. And best of all, bourgeois or prol, everyone will get the same service.