The Charlottesville 29

If there were just 29 restaurants in Charlottesville, what would be the ideal 29?

Five Finds on Friday: Amber Cohen


Photo by Bethany Bandera.

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Amber Cohen, the former chef of Continental Divide and sous chef of Hamiltons’, who will be Melissa Close-Hart’s sous chef at Junction, set to open this summer.  “I have had a professional crush on Melissa since I met her when I first moved to town,” says Cohen, who has cooked in Charlottesville for 14 years. “I feel like I got asked to prom in a John Hughes flick.”  On March 15, Cohen will join Close-Hart for a special Junction preview dinner, benefiting the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and The International School of Charlottesville.  Check back here Monday at 10 am for an announcement on how to get tickets, which will be sure to go fast.  Cohen’s picks:

1) Canelés at MarieBette Cafe and Bakery.  “I am seduced into stopping and getting those decadent, evil, irresistible mini canelés every time I drive by MarieBette.”

2) Red Hot Blues at Continental Divide.  “It’s been a short two months since I gave up my kitchen residency at the Divide and I have already started missing and daydreaming (and sometimes actual night dreaming) of the Blues. Accompanied, of course, by a margarita.”

3) Prosciutto Pizza at Lampo.  “I’ve always felt that pizza is a perfect food, in this case, made somehow more sublime by cured meat and lightly dressed arugula.”

4) Pork Star Taco at Brazos Tacos.  “Perhaps just the words ‘pork belly’ make me giddy, but I have to have it on every visit.”

5) Absolutely Anything at Café 88.  “Their crispy tofu is perfectly seasoned, their veggies are never overcooked, the wonderful chicken is as advertised in the name (wonderful), and I would happily marry the hot sour soup.”


Preview Dinner of Junction


The most anticipated opening of 2016 must be Junction, the first Charlottesville restaurant ever to open with a chef who is a four-time James Beard semi-finalist, Melissa Close-Hart.  After a few unexpected delays, the restaurant should open this summer.

But you don’t have to wait that long. On March 15, The Local is hosting a preview dinner of the Junction, with all proceeds to benefit The Local Food Bank and The International School.  Close-Hart will compete against her husband Matthew Hart, chef of The Local, in a course-by-course showdown, paired with cocktails.  Charlottesville legend Craig Hartman will be on hand to emcee.  Given the anticipation for the restaurant, and the fact that proceeds go to charity, tickets are sure to go quickly. Just $60 each, tickets go one sale Monday, February 15.  Check back here next Monday.


Five Finds on Friday: Josh Skinner


Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Josh Skinner, Lead Brewer of Champion Brewing Company.  Today is a big day at the brewery, with the 2016 release of the coveted Fruitbasket Double IPA, a limited release which some have called the best beer made in Virginia.  Skinner and crew use extravagant amounts of Mosaic hops, and add grapefruit juice, orange juice, and citrus zest.  Previously just available on draft and in large bottles, this year Fruitbasket will be available in cans, starting today at 1 pm at the brewery.  Skinner’s picks:

1)  Abruzzo Pizza at Lampo.  “While I love a classic Margherita pizza, this to me is the ultimate pie.  The addition of pork meatballs take a classic pizza to an entirely new level of satisfaction.  Just fold it up ‘wallet style,’ grab a pilsner, and enjoy.”

2) Mosaic Hop Cider from Potter’s Craft Cider.  “I’m a huge fan of what Potters is doing, be it the wild fermentation ciders they have recently released or their line of hopped ciders. The combo of refreshingly dry cider with a huge, pungent nose of Mosaic hops makes for an extremely dangerous combo.  This could easily be my official non-beer drink of the summer.”

3)  GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) Ramen with Crispy Brussels Sprouts and Pickled Vegetables at Miso Sweet.  “This, for me, is comfort food at its best.  Some people like mac’n’cheese, but give me a spicy bowl of noodles in pork broth loaded with kimchi and let me shamelessly slurp away.  The addition of crispy Brussels sprouts and pickled veg lend both interesting flavor and texture contrasts to the mounds of pork belly and shredded pork hiding in the piping hot broth.  It goes perfectly with an IPA.”

4)  Torta Ahogada at La Michoacana.  “Before I was a brewer, I was an archaeologist and spent some time excavating in Mexico.  During that time I fell in love with the regional cuisine and am always in search of dishes that take me back to the wind-battered coasts and solitary deserts of Central Baja.  This dish does just that.  This simple, unpretentious sandwich drenched in chili pepper broth is about as authentic as you can get.”

5)  Everything from Côte-Rôtie. “I really can’t say enough about the work that Pete and Merrill are doing.  With a constantly rotating menu ranging from fresh takes on French classics to Japanese yakitori inspired dishes, they crank out what is hands down some of the best food in town.  And all out of a food truck!  The crispy pig’s ear snack may be the ultimate bar food and they’re doing God’s work when it comes to lamb and duck dishes.  They come to the Champion tap room every Sunday and I refuse to miss them.”



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