Double-take: AJ's opens two Elliewood doors
After an eight-month slumber, a pair of historic buildings on Elliewood Avenue are coming back to life in full force this month. Readers and Corner regulars might recall that the former inhabitant of 12 Elliewood, Buffalo Wild Wing Factory and Pub, closed suddenly one night in February. After months of planning and construction, property/restaurant owner Art Conroy is getting ready to open not just one, but two buildings as the Corner's newest venue: AJ's.
The larger building (#12), which underwent extensive renovations prior to the opening of the Wing Factory, received further upgrades in the form of a brand new downstairs kitchen, a fully enclosed rear dining room and bar (formerly a deck), and a potentially pleasant fenced-in back alley that will soon be enhanced by student artwork and windows allowing views of passing trains.
In charge of AJ's kitchen is the restaurant's head chef, Kevin Pugh, who says he specializes in "normal fare with a twist." The "twist" may include one of his signature sauces which include a bourbon honey mustard glaze for chicken and cilantro-lime butter for grilled halibut.
AJ's menu features loads of appetizers (wings, nachos, fresh-baked pretzels) and classics sandwiches like French Dip, grilled cheese, reubens, burgers, and a grilled portobello mushroom for a vegetarian option. Many sandwiches come on fresh focaccia rolls from Baker's Palette.
Soups include "Kevin's blue ribbon chili" and a "soup of the hour," and there are also several salads Cobb, Caesar, and "triple play" (homemade tuna, chicken, and pasta salads). Star entrees include filet mignon, chicken cordon bleu, and fettuccine Alfredo.
The little house next door (#17) seems larger now with its new front patio dressed with potted plants and umbrellas. This patio– built by AJ's versatile general manager (and former bodyguard of the late Malcom Forbes), Robert Berns– will serve as extra seating for AJ's as well as for the separate deli that will operate out of one side of the ground-floor interior (beer will be served out of the other).
Partners Kerry Bryant and Renne Van Riper are hoping to compliment AJ's with their take-out deli, which will be open for lunch, dinner, and late-night until 3 or 4am on weekends for Corner carousers and hungry insomniacs.
AJ's will likely open by the time these words hit the red boxes about town, but a definite date had not been set by press time.
The Return of the Hot Dog Stand
Humble hot dogs have been celebrated, in one form or another, since the 9th century B.C., when Homer first mentioned them in his Odyssey "As when a man besides a great fire has filled a sausage with fat and blood and turns it this way and that and is very eager to get it quickly roasted...." Supposedly invented in Frankfurt, Germany in the 15th century, the hot dog didn't hit the stands until 1867, when a German butcher named Charles Feltman opened up the first hot dog stand on Coney Island. In 1916, one of Feltman's employees, Nathan Handwerker, started his own stand, Nathan's Famous which is now one of the world's largest wienee wielders.
Hot dogs stands can be found on every block in New York City, but for a while this summer, Charlottesville mourned the disappearance of Mark Deaton's beloved Downtown Mall institution. Dish has good news: the hot dog stand is back.
Together with Ford Childress, Richard Dryer, a downtown businessman and a big fan of these affordable "meals on wheels," purchased Mark's Hot Dog Stand, and it's already up and running Monday through Friday, with plans to expand to weekend hours.
"What could be more fun than operating a hot dog stand?" Dryer rightly asks. Manning the stand is Matt Perry, who gladly accepts tips!
Dogs are back on the Mall with Matt Perry serving them up
PHOTO BY CHRISTINA BALL