Back in February, Dish reported on the mysteriously sudden closing of the Buffalo Wing Factory and Pub at #12 Elliewood Avenue. Open for a mere six months, the place certainly wasn't hurting for business– or controversy. (As you may recall, assault charges were filed and later dismissed against him and football star Matt Schaub over an incident with a cell phone.)
In a recent phone conversation, franchise owner Osama El-Atari told Dish that conflicts with landlord Art Conroy provoked the abrupt closure. (Like says the infamous assault charges against
"It wasn't worth the headache," says El-Atari, who opened two new franchises in Chantilly and Reston this season and says he's looking into a Pantops location. "Charlottesville was very profitable for us, and we hope to be back."
El-Atari blames his landlord's failure to begin construction on the historic building next door at #17 Elliewood as the principal reason for getting out of the lease.
Conroy, however, recounts quite a different story, saying El-Atari failed to pay rent (among other monies owed), and denying that the lease stipulated anything about #17 Elliewood.
Conroy, an e-business professional who loved to play Monopoly as a kid, is currently focusing on the future of Elliewood. "Our priority is to get the street up to some state of normalcy."
On that note, Conroy has plans to transform both of these buildings into one new restaurant that'll likely be called PJ's Patio Grill.
Conroy expects to open #12 Elliewood in approximately six weeks for lunch and dinner. Former Buffalo Wing Factory manager Kipp Anderson will be the GM, and he's currently interviewing chefs.
Construction will begin on #17, Conroy says, in about six months. Pending BAR approval, the structure will get a new front patio as well as a back deck. PJ's will open for lunch and dinner with a varied menu (details to come...), and we can also expect breakfast to appear somewhere down the road.
Dish popped into Bashir's last week to see if the rumors were true that his Taverna was moving to Market Street. Nope, he's staying put, which is definitely a good thing for him since the east end of the Downtown Mall (Bashir's end) is undergoing major renovations.
Rumors aside, I'm glad I paid a visit. Local papers and websites are loaded with lists of cultural and culinary events around town, but it seems that word-of-mouth is the best– if not the only– way to find out about some of the special dinner events orchestrated by Bashir Khelafa himself.
Many readers might not know that the Taverna, a popular lunch spot Tuesday-Saturday, also opens for theme dinners on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. On most of these evenings, the spacious dining room, lit by Moroccan lanterns, transforms into a sort of cabaret.
On Thursdays, for instance, classical guitarist Vernon Fisher often plays, and Fridays are usually dedicated to Bashir's version of Spanish tapas. On Saturday, May 21, as on many other Saturdays, diners can nibble on Bashir's saffron chicken and mechoui (boneless leg of lamb flavored with rosemary, extra-virgin olive oil and North African spices) while belly-dancers perform their artful seduction.
But this week Bashir, together with a team of local musicians and scholars, is gearing up for a unique celebration of Judeo-Spanish Sephardic music and cuisine on Friday evening, May 14.
"I've been trying to organize an event like this for two years, and I finally found the right people," Bashir says. The native of Algiers will be cooking traditional spicy and aromatic Sephardic dishes from North Africa like coclo (large meatballs made with semolina and herbs), tafina (veal, chickpea and potato stew), and merguez sausages made with lamb and harissa (garlic, olive oil and red chili paste).
He may even break into song himself.
Bashir is staying put.
FILE PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO