No closure: More late-hour options

Let's face it. People aren't exactly flocking to Charlottesville for its vibrant and varied after-hours scene. Yet recent activities– like the closure of Espresso Royale blamed on a dearth of morning business, and the fact that new eateries like Belmont's Mas are buzzing into the wee hours most nights– suggest we're more nocturnal than we realize.

Maybe it's all that tea. In case you hadn't noticed, the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar, which used to be open for lunch, is now exclusively an evening venue. Last month owners Matteus Frankovich and El Duce, who instead of operating on a rigid timetable are allowing their young business to evolve organically, opted to favor the night. Current hours-­ which could shift as suddenly as the desert sands– are 5pm-midnight.

"It became clear to us over time that the tea house really wants to rock out in the evening," El Duce tells Dish. "We decided to nurture its strong points by staying open later and by stressing entertainment."

From underground L.A. hip hop to klezmer and classical mandolin, there's now a live performance– or a DJ– at the tea house just about every night of the week (Tues-Sat).

So you can sip your tea and nibble on pita and hummus or strawberry-basil nori while listening to music by the light of the moon-­ or a flickering candle. There's usually no cover. "We're really into passing the hat here," Duce says. Why doesn't that surprise us?

Even Revolutionary Soup, one of the hottest lunch spots on the Downtown Mall, is edging closer to the moon. Owner Alison Campbell applied for an ABC license a few months ago and plans to soon start quenching the thirst of Fridays After Fivers with a few wines and beers.

The soup, sandwich, and salad place currently stays open 'til 7pm, but we wouldn't be surprised if the new beverage selection eventually keeps the doors unlocked even after the summer sun sets.

For night owls who prefer a pulsating laser-lit dance floor and a full-service bar to the more tranquil vibes of a tea or soup house, there's also Club Rio, a new private nightclub that opened on Saturday, May 3-­ thus bringing the grand total of Charlottesville clubs to two, the other being Club 216 on Water Street.

Owned by Allen Powell, who also owns the adjacent restaurant, Wolfie's Hickory Smoked BBQ (formerly Boudreau's), Club Rio is a more upscale, dignified reincarnation of the former inhabitant, The French Quarter.

Actually, we're told the two have little in common besides the ground beneath them, the exterior walls, and a few well behaved customers. Although it's humble on the outside, the interior is sleek and swanky, with red and gray walls, high ceiling, and a bird's-eye, wraparound balcony.

Powell hopes that the new look, the sensible new hours (9pm-1:30am), and the new members-only policy will ensure a fun, safe time for everyone, and also serve to eradicate some of the more negative issues generally associated with club-going in this town (fights in the parking lot, etc.).

Even for the big bad smokin' wolf, living next door to a nightclub can be rather intimidating. But Powell and the management team he pulled in specifically to facilitate the transition-transformation of his businesses believe that the two can coexist harmoniously, without huffs or puffs.

You see, by moving most of the entertainment to Club Rio, he'll be able to emphasize the family-friendly virtues of Wolfie's. And thanks to a kitchen shared with the restaurant, the club can now double as a formidable banquet facility. That's something to howl about.

 

QUIZNOS

Is it just us, or does fast food seem to be going upscale, too? Even when time's crunched, are diners demanding more quality, variety, and healthfulness?

If you don't mind waiting in line, you can test this theory at Quiznos Subs. The new franchise, owned by Minal and Harshil Shah, opened on Monday, April 28, next to Greenberry's in the Barracks Road Shopping Center.

Giving Subway a run for its money, Quiznos features toasted subs (smoked turkey on roasted parmesan bread, mesquite chicken with bacon), salads, and soups in an upbeat, modern setting.