Sail away: Fuel goes nautical

 If you've driven past the former Market Street Café and Chevron station in the past week, you've probably given yourself whiplash checking out the massive canopy frame covering the gas pumps out front.

"It almost looks like a bird swooping down," says Kristin Moses, spokesperson for Fuel, the up-upscale gas station, food mart and café that her step-mother, Patricia Kluge, is opening.

Though to Dish the frame resembles a carnival moonwalk, the final product promises to be quite a bit different. Architect Madison Spencer designed the frame to resemble a sail, and it will soon be covered with canvas.

A press release from Kluge boasts that the canopy is "destined to become a Charlottesville landmark." Perhaps. In this land of Jeffersonian design and red brick with dark green accents, how'd something like this get past the City?

"We thought it was an interesting concept," says Ron Higgins in the City's neighborhood planning department. The site is not in a historic district (it is in an entrance corridor), so the BAR didn't have to approve. Higgins says that while the canopy is unusual, it is in keeping with other canopies over gas pumps in both the City and the County.

But while the canopy may be stealing the limelight now, Fuel will be turning heads for other reasons when it opens on September 4.

Not only will Fuel offer full-service gas pumping, but gas pumpers will double as waiters, on hand to provide drivers with an array of goodies, "from first-class luxury snacks to a full gourmet lunch or dinner."

We can hear it now: "Fill'er up and while you're at it, I'll have some pommes frites with mayonnaise and homemade passion fruit coconut blondies." Only in Charlottesville...

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be served in the café, and a more formal restaurant will focus on "classic American cuisine" tempered by regional and ethnic influences that reflect America's diversity.

To bring her dream to life, Kluge called in the big boys. According to a recent press release, Tom Thornton, former CEO and co-owner of Dean & Deluca, was charged with creating a "distinct culinary and brand identity."

Meanwhile, executive chef Dan Shannon the man behind the delicacies at the recently opened Kluge Estate Farm Shop– and pastry chef Serge Torres, also from the Farm Shop, will keep the fine fare flowing.

Twenty-five American wines will be offered by the glass each day, featuring a variety made at Kluge's own winery.

How'd Kluge decide to enter the gas station fray? Interestingly, the inspiration for Fuel came from Kluge's own experiences road tripping.

"Faced with lukewarm, weak coffee and unhealthy fast-food breakfast options when on the road," the press release reveals, "Kluge decided that she couldn't be the only person to expect more from roadside service stations."

She certainly has pumped things up a notch...


Pointe taken

 With it's new restaurant, The Pointe, it looks like the Omni is getting serious about being a player on the downtown restaurant scene.

Aptly named after the architecture of its building and location at the apex of the Mall, this replacement for the previous restaurant inside the Omni Hotel, 235, differs radically from its predecessor.

For one, people have been spotted actually eating there. With a modern blue and silver interior and a more casual environment, The Pointe has been designed to attract everyday business people downtown for a casual meal, not just for special occasions.

Richard Butts, director of sales for the Omni, says the menu is more relaxed and focuses on starters fried calamari, onion rings, and roasted sweet corn and hickory smoked chicken soup– and draft beer, including several microbrews. There are also various sandwiches such as crab cake, barbecue, Italian vegetarian, and even Philly steak and cheese.

Dinner and lunch are served seven days a week. So if you head to the Omni, you can probably get The Pointe.



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