C&O alfresco

For over 25 years, the C&O has been a venerable downtown dining venue. And while patios multiplied just blocks away on the bricks of the Mall, diners didn’t seem to mind being ensconced in the C&O’s dark wood and antiquity.
Now they have a choice.
In the next couple of weeks, the C&O will officially unveil a diminutive but deluxe patio just beyond a door at the rear of the first floor dining room.
And what a door it is. Handcrafted by longtime C&O bartender Barry Umberger, the door and its stained glass panes look completely authentic in the early 20th century building.
Umberger, who built the original downstairs bar and stools, also built the new outside tables (covered with colorful tile by the Floor and Ceiling shop), and a graceful curved hand railing leading up the stairs to the patio’s rear exit. His wife, Dara, a waitress at the C&O, did the landscaping, and the hand-blown glass lamps over each table were created by Chip Hall, a glassblower at the McGuffey Art Center.
Though some lucky diners have already enjoyed dinner on the patio, the official opening will happen when an awning is erected over the 18-person seating area. Though it means you won’t see the stars, it will make one of downtown’s few rainproof al fresco dining areas.

Go crazy
Things are always a little wild up 29 North— especially at rush hour— but by this weekend they’ll get even crazier with the opening of Pupusa Crazy Restaurant and Bar, next to Dan’s Automart and across from Wal-Mart.
Marvin and Gloria Herrera and Felipe Mendoza, the brains behind the venture, have restaurant experience to spare.
Mendoza will be general manager of Pupusa Crazy, and he’s up to the task, having most recently served as floor manager of the 240-seat Grand Café at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C.
Marvin and Gloria were part owners of a restaurant chain, The Wave Age, on the Outer Banks about eight years ago (one in Hatteras, one in Kitty Hawk), and Marvin served as chef at the Outer Banks’ Sanderling Inn, where he met Mendoza. The Herreras came to Charlottesville so Marvin could serve as executive chef for the Doubletree, though he’s now executive chef at Farmington, a position he will retain after the opening of Pupusa.
Herrera will train Pupusa’s chef, whom he declines to name, and the new menu reflects Herrera’s sophisticated sensibilities. These are not Latin dishes you’ll find at other local restaurants: bacadito (appetizer) Yucca Con Chicharron, boiled or fried yucca root with pork carnitas and pickle cabbage; or sopa de pulla o menudo, traditional beef tripe soup with yucca, plantain, cabbage, and cilantro.
But it’s the namesake dish you won’t want to miss. Pupusas are an El Salvadorian dish– fresh corn tortillas stuffed with shredded pork and cheese, griddled and served with pickle cabbage and fire roasted tomato sauce. There are four types of pupusa on the menu, from the revueltas (pork and mozzarella cheese) to the vegetarian loroco y queso (Salvadorian edible blossom and low-fat mozzarella cheese). Then there are tamales and seafood, beef, and poultry entrees, as well as Latin deserts and a full ABC license.
The Herreras are also owners of Mercado foods, a local Latin food supply store. Herrera says he got the idea for opening Pupusa Crazy when he first added pupusa to his lunchtime offerings from Mercado: “Our sales went through the roof,” he says.
If that’s any indication, Charlottesvillians could be crazy for Pupusa Crazy before too long.

Bashir’s gets bigger
Though he closed his doors in the Downtown Mall’s “Mini Mall,” Bashir Khelafa and his wife, Kathy, co-owners of Bashir’s, will reopen a bigger and better eatery sometime in the coming weeks in a space just a few doors down from the downtown post office.
Bashir, already hard at work on the new location earlier this week, says he doesn’t want to reveal details of the new space just yet, but promises his faithful patrons they won’t be disappointed.

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