The Charlottesville 29

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

Five Finds on Friday: Kit Ashi

ashi

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Kit Ashi of Monsoon Siam, Monsoon Siam Togogo, and Urban Bowl, the downtown mall Thai/Vietnamese restaurant with a great weeknight deal on pho. Monday through Thursday night, Urban Bowl’s pho menu is just $7.99. Ashi’s picks:

1) Passion Fruit Cheesecake at The Alley Light by Chef Robin. “I like the softness and smoothness of the cream cheese, and the crust is perfect. The cream cheese is not too sweet, salty or sour. And, the lemon and orange zest on top goes well with the passion fruit aroma.”

2) Margarita Pizza at Lampo. “I love the thin pizza crust and the smoke from the charred dough. The sauce is perfect, too. I always have it with a spritz, which makes my lunch or dinner delightful. All of the chefs are so talented, and I can’t wait for their steakhouse to open.”

3) Lad Na at Thai Cuisine & Noodle House and Lemongrass. “This is a Thai’s dish. It is not a popular dish that people know here but it is one of my favorite dishes. I used to have it three time a week. We do not serve this at Monsoon Siam, but Thai Cuisine and Lemongrass are the places I go for it. It is wide noodles with bean gravy and Chinese broccoli. I love to order it with pork and add squid. The right way to eat it is to ask for the spice tray. Add one spoon of chili powder, three spoons of vinegar, mix it, and enjoy.”

4) Seafood Puttanesca at Bella’s. “I love seafood pasta in red sauce. The sauce here is not too thick, and its spicy and tart flavor goes really well with seafood. I can finish a family size by myself.”

5) Kao Mok Neua at Monsoon Siam. “It would be so wrong not to talk about this dish, my new favorite that I put on the menu. Meltingly tender braised beef in Thai southern style curry, rich in flavor and aroma. The sauce goes very well with jasmine rice stir fried in turmeric and curry powder. Crispy fried shallots add texture, while spicy mint sauce adds flavor contrast. It’s going to be the next best curry for Charlottesville.”

braise

Kao Mok Neua at Monsoon Siam

Introducing JBD

There’s a new soul food restaurant in Charlottesville, thanks to the persistence and passion of a determined local woman. JBD opened this month in Belmont, in the former location of The Local Smokehouse. An offshoot of Jeanetha Brown Douglas’s catering business, JBD Mobile Catering & Events, the restaurant gives a brick-and-mortar outlet to her client’s favorite dishes.

One is fried chicken. Douglas’ chicken first developed a following nearly a decade ago when, every Saturday, she would set up a stand in front of Sunshine Market on Cherry Avenue, and serve fried chicken. Word quickly spread, and her chicken soon had a loyal cadre of regulars who would return every week.

What’s her secret? “Love,” she says, without hesitation.

There’s also no shortage of love in her fried chicken livers and gizzards.

gizzards

Douglas’s stand outside Sunshine Market served fried fish, too. And, at JBD, both whiting and catfish are available either as a platter with sides or as a simple sandwich.

Fish

Sides include Douglas’s mac n cheese, cole slaw, mashed potatoes, and braised vegetable options like kale, collard greens, and cabbage.  And, on Saturdays, there are even chitterlings.

chitt

While chicken, fish, and mac n cheese are the most popular dishes, Douglas’ personal favorite is her cabbage. “I love my cabbage,” she says. “Cabbage for me is heartwarming.”

Douglas learned to cook from her grandmother, and that’s not the only lesson she took. “My grandmother used to cook for the whole neighborhood,” says Douglas. “She didn’t care who you were, you were welcome to sit at her dinner table.” Douglas wants to bring that warm hospitality to JBD.

Hours:
Closed Wednesdays
Monday and Tuesday 11-8
Thursday through Saturday 11-10
Sunday 12-8

Fighting Back

Not long ago, the prospect of Douglas opening a restaurant would have seemed remote. In 2009, after her marriage collapsed, Douglas, a mother of seven, found herself homeless, broke, and with two young children to care for.

Inspired by her love of her children, she fought back. “My baby girl and baby son are my heart,” says Douglas. “We went through some tough times, but I put in my mind that, one way or another, I was going to start my own business.” After 20 years working in food businesses, at places like Waffle House and University of Virginia, Douglas was determined to run her own.

So, she worked three jobs at a time and slowly lifted herself up, saving money with the help of Piedmont Housing Alliance and its VIDA program, which offers financial management counseling and a matched savings program to incentivize good habits. Douglas also enrolled in the program offered by CIC (Community Investment Collaborative), which equips budding Charlottesville entrepreneurs with tools to launch a successful business, including education, mentoring, micro-loans, and even co-working space. (Past CIC successes include businesses like Cakes by Rachel, Chef Tony Catering, Edacious, Eze Amos Photography, Mochiko, and No Bull Burger.)

In 2015, Douglas had saved enough to realize her dream. She launched JBD Mobile Catering & Events. Her catering business became such a success that, less than two years later, she now has a restaurant, too.

Douglas continues to cater, and, thanks to the Piedmont Housing Alliance, serves dinner twice a week to children at the downtown affordable housing community Friendship Court.

Never Give Up 

“Never give up,” Douglas says “Just keep trying.”

jeanetha

 

Five Finds on Friday: Julie Vu Whitaker

julie

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Julie Vu Whitaker of Vu Noodles, which has just added a stellar Papaya Salad to an already stellar menu. Vu Noodles is open M-F from 11 am – 2 pm at both The Jefferson School and The Spot. Whitaker’s picks:

1) Fish Tacos at The Bebedero. “While there are lots of fish tacos out in the world of Latin cuisines, I like The Bebedero’s. I just love the taste of corn tortilla and the simple balance of savory, sweet/tangy salsa and a zing of jalapeno tartar sauce. A plate of the fish tacos and a margarita is perfection!”

2) Creole Beans and Rice at Pearl Island Foods. “You may be surprised that being Asian growing up, I mostly skipped the rice. The best days were noodle days. However after having Chef Javier’s Creole Beans and Rice, oh my gosh! I can’t have enough! And, the tangy kale salad (with mushrooms and watermelon radish) brings excitement to the meal.”

3) Seared Scallops at Hamiltons’. “I can eat my weight on this starter. Simple quality ingredients and colors, this dish has it all for me. Perfectly seared caramelized sweet scallops, and geez, the divine combo of Greek yogurt and jalapeno oil! Not to mention the texture of nuts and seeds. It’s gone way too fast!”

4) Roasted Veggie Bowl at Grit Coffee. “You can find me at Grit almost daily. I get my dark roast there when I’m working at The Spot. When I have time, my favorite breakfast and lunch is the Roasted Veggie Bowl. Oh my! Sweetness you get from roasted vegetables and then my all time favorite protein, hands down the incredible edible egg! The egg here is fried, crispy white and soft yellow. It is exactly how I love my fried egg.”

5) Cumin Tofu at Taste of China. “The menu is pretty extensive, with hot pots and hardy soups. Most times when I have been there, it looked like a lot of Asian people eat here so I’m thinking that this might be the real deal. Outside from my own tofu that I make for Vu Noodles, this place has my favorite tofu. It is the Cumin tofu. Quite simple, but oh so so good! The tofu is deep fried with a layer of a cumin seasoning. Served with plain white rice. That’s it! Not much to it! Doesn’t require much to please me though.”