The Charlottesville 29

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

Five Finds on Friday: Trish Dombrauskas

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Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Trish Dombrauskas, chef of Riverbirch Restaurant, which opens this month in The Shops at Riverside Village, on Stony Point Road. Cooking has been in Dombrauskas’ family all of her life, which may be why she attended the Culinary Institute of Virginia before a career in a wide range of restaurants and other food service jobs, the most impactful being chef at senior living communities. “Senior living taught me patience, and that a person developing a memory from an item you served them is the most superior gift that can be given to a chef,” says Dombrauskas. Riverbirch’s menu will feature gussied-up American comfort food, with a focus on local sources like The Local Food Hub, Cavalier Produce, Albemarle Baking Company, The Spice Diva, and Blue Ridge Coffee Crafters. Dombrauskas’ favorite is local ribeye, hand cut in house, finished with whole butter. She also likes the Riverbirch signature burger with local beef, topped with a local egg, house made farmer’s cheese, and onion jam. Dombrauskas’ picks:

1) Pupusas Revueltas at Mi Canton. “I discovered Mi Canton a year or so ago and have made it a regular stop of mine. There are so many delicious items on their menu, it is difficult to go wrong. But I always go back to the very first dish I had at Mi Canton, the pupusas revueltas. They are thick, Salvadorian tortillas stuffed with cheese, pork, and beans and served with a delicious fresh salad called cortido, a vinegary cabbage slaw that makes the dish perfection. The owners always make you feel welcome and you can tell they are proud of their products.”

2) Sicilian Style Pizza at Fabio’s in Gordonsville. “I moved to Gordonsville three years ago this past September and the first place I ate was Fabio’s pizza. Their pizza is phenomenal. My father grew up in New Jersey and as a kid I ate great pizza. Fabio’s in Gordonsville has great pizza, but I feel like the hidden gem is their Sicilian style pizza. The crust is thick, and they top it with the best cheese and toppings around. They even slice their sausage for their pizzas which is just the way I remember it as a kid. I love to chat with the owners, old school guys who know the importance of old school pizza. I always have a laugh while I’m there, because they remind me of my uncles back in New Jersey.”

3) The Fat and Sassy at Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie. “Indulgent is the best word to describe this flatbread/cheese bread crossover. It is covered with full cloves of roasted garlic and served with the best house made ranch dressing around. Every time I visit it is a must for me to purchase a jar of their ranch dressing to take home. Dr. Ho’s has a fabulous menu, but every time I am drawn into the Fat and Sassy and it never fails how delicious it is.”

4) Potato Salad at Mel’s Cafe. “Mel’s potato salad is a simple mayonnaise, mustard, onion-based potato salad. It is simple, but delicious. It is the perfect side for any of their sandwiches or burgers. Mel’s potato salad reminds me of the potato salad my mom’s best friend makes, and ultimately it reminds me of home.”

5) The Black Beauty at Livery Stable. “The cocktails at the Livery Stable are well thought out and quite delicious. The ambience of the Livery Stable is what makes it an interesting spot to hang out. The Black Beauty is my favorite with raspberry vodka, cassis, and topped with ginger beer. It is bright and delicious. Be sure to sit at the bar and chat with the bartenders. They make the experience interesting to say the least.”

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Five Finds on Friday: Jess Martin

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This week brings the annual Thanksgiving drawing for a reader to participate in Five Finds on Friday. Though Jess Martin no longer lives in the Charlottesville area, the longtime resident says she still enjoys remaining a regular source for where to eat around town. Martin’s picks:

1) Pad See Ew + Chicken Wings + Wonton Soup at Chimm. “When I heard Jay Pun was going to be a part of another restaurant venture (with Thai Cuisine and Noodle House), I was already sold. Pad See Ew lately has been my go to Thai dish but this is the best I’ve ever had. Next time I’m in town I need to try something else on the menu, but this is my favorite killer combo.”

2) Nasty Chicken Biscuit at Miller’s Downtown. “If you know me, then you know this may have a little bias. But it doesn’t. Okay, maybe a little. Miller’s has a kitchen the size of your bedroom but is one of the largest and busiest spots, pumping out food on the downtown mall. All of their food is made fresh – soups, dressings, chicken, etc. This dish is a stunner and filler whether it’s for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or late night. It’s also totally shareable.”

3) Dry Fried Eggplant at Peter Chang China Grill. “When it comes to snacks and appetizers I typically go for meats. This dish is also made with pork belly but I really dig the eggplant because it’s a nice light flavorful start to your meal and allows space for more of the delicious food there.”

4) Mac n’ Cheese with potato cake at The Virginian. “I often drove to Charlottesville from Nelson County or Harrisonburg when I was a teenager until my late 20’s and then I finally moved there. Any rainy day (or any excuse really) I’d go to The Virginian for this dish. Total comfort food, filling, and cheap. It’s top of my list on my next trip back to Cville.”

5) Porchetta Panuozzo at Lampo. “You don’t need to be a giant shiny restaurant to execute the best food ever. Lampo is top notch, and Charlottesville is lucky to have a place like it. The atmosphere is comfortable and the menu is easily shareable among two people. With this sandwich, you get your protein and delicious veggies. Can’t go wrong.”‘

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Five Finds on Friday: Nathan Hatfield

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Would you like to do Five Finds on Friday? As part of a Thanksgiving tradition, next week’s picks will come from a reader chosen at random. Enter here.

Meanwhile, today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Nathan Hatfield, Executive Chef of the Tasting Room & Taphouse at Mount Ida Reserve. From Cookies with Santa to a Wreath Workshop to a Fireside Wine Dinner, Mount Ida’s holiday events calendar is stuffed. On December 8, Mount Ida will host more than twenty local artisans for a Holiday Artisan Market, where visitors can shop while sipping wine, drinking beer, and enjoying the stunning views. Details here. Hatfield’s picks:

1) Cortado at Lone Light Coffee. “Wonderful locally roasted espresso, milk steamed just right. Not to mention the staff is great too (at both locations). We used to live right around the corner from the High Street location and were there several mornings a week.”

2) Vongole Pizza at Lampo. “It’s hard for me not to order this every time we go to Lampo, and we go too often. Lampo is awesome, everyone knows, but if you haven’t gotten this pie, go on, now’s the time.”

3) Kale Caesar at Greenwood Gourmet Grocery. “One of our favorite go-to spots on days off. Some of the best sandwiches in town and an awesome wine and beer selection. Their super lemony kale salad hits all the right notes and will keep me going out of my way to come here.”

4) Sazerac at The Alley Light. “Most Sundays after work you can find me and my wife at the bar. It might be my first drink, it might be my last; either way, there’s a good chance I’ll have a Sazerac. The version Andrea makes in one of the best I’ve had.”

5) Beef Back Ribs at Little Star. “We’ve been going to Little Star since they opened and this dish we find ourselves ordering again and again. The rib meat is cooked just right, the sauce is bright and spicy, and there’s a fresh herb salad to balance it all out. It’s good. Get it.”

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