The Charlottesville 29

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

Area Restaurants Create 315K+ Meals for Hungry


Even if you’re not a money manager, you may have heard of ROI, a business term creeping into everyday conversation. Short for “return on investment,” it’s a simple metric to evaluate the efficacy of an investment – comparing the value of what you put in to the value of what you get out.

Over the past two months, in McGuireWoods’ The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions, area restaurants have offered thirty-one separate once-in-a-lifetime experiences to entice donations to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. Those 31 restaurant experiences yielded more than 315,000 meals for the hungry. How’s that for ROI?

The Auctions’ Heroes

Of course, many others have contributed to the cause as well. McGuireWoods LLP underwrote the entire thing, with a donation to cover residual expenses. The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank provided indispensable help. Elite University of Virginia coaches joined auction experiences as special guests. And, vendor, after vendor, after vendor came forward with generous donations of time, products, and services. One vendor donated coaster and poster design services and even threw in cash to pay for production.

Then there are the bidders. In some cases, an auction was won by a single individual with the resources and passion to make an enormous difference. In other cases, groups of friends pooled their funds to win restaurant auction experiences. In all, more than sixty bidders were among the winning donors.

It’s not just winners that helped, though. The unsung heroes of the auction were the runners-up, whose generosity and interest was essential to drive up winning bids, thereby creating more meals for the hungry.

The Right Thing at the Right Time: Moments of Kindness

At times I have wondered whether The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions did not belong in a year as unsettling as 2016. But when I thought about it more, I realized the auctions could not have been timed better. To combat the year’s repeated attacks on our confidence in human decency, the auctions have countered with reminders that, at their core, people are fundamentally good. There were too many heart-warming moments of kindness to document them all, so here are just a few.

After UVa’s second leading tackler in history won a fiercely competitive auction to have dinner at with UVa Football Coach Bronco Mendenhall, the runner-up insisted on making a generous donation anyway. When one food business owner learned she had outbid another food business owner to win a restaurant’s auction, she invited him to join her for the experience she won. A group of husbands won an auction for their wives as a ladies night out. A chef postponed a career move so that a bidder could surprise his wife with a birthday dinner. The two largest donors in all of the auctions – $8,150 for The Ivy Inn and $6,500 for Fleurie – asked not to be identified, choosing generosity over notoriety. A restaurant owner sparked a bidding war for his auction after vowing to volunteer one hour of service at the food bank for every 100 meals it yielded. And, even after the auctions ended, a restaurant not in the auctions created a dinner to reward a multi-time runner-up, creating even more meals for the hungry.

A Special Food Community

Earlier this year, I asked the restaurants of The Charlottesville 29 if they would be willing to create a VIP experience to auction off to the highest bidder, in support of the food bank. They all said yes. A few months later, we have more than 315,000 meals for the hungry.

How is that possible? It is possible when you have a food community as special and compassionate as Charlottesville’s. Entering the auctions, my goal for total donations was $29,000. Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of the restaurants, the total amount raised, including supplements to the winning donations, is $79,730. This is because each restaurant created an amazing experience that would never be available to a typical customer, and donated the entire thing, allowing every dollar bid to go directly to the food bank. I first arrived in Charlottesville nearly twenty five years ago, and I’ve never seen a greater outpouring of generosity by our food community.

If you’re like me, you may be wondering how you can show your appreciation for the food community’s generosity. The greatest tribute would be to enhance the fruits of their labor, and create even more meals for the area’s hungry. In short, you can thank the restaurants for their efforts by improving their already amazing ROI. Below is how to make a donation to the food bank in gratitude for our food community’s amazing work.

Thank you in advance for your support. Let’s help the restaurants feed even more of the area’s hungry.

  • Online (3% fee): On the Donate page. To show your appreciation for the food community’s efforts, you may “dedicate” your donation to “The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions.”
  • By Phone: (540) 213-8406. To show your appreciation for the food community’s efforts, you may state that your donation relates to The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions.
  • By Check: Payable to “Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.” BRAFB, PO Box 937, Verona, VA 24482. Again, please note on your check that it relates to The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions.

Introducing Draft Taproom


Where can you find the largest draft selection of Virginia beers in the state?

Starting this week, right here in Charlottesville. That’s the claim of a new taproom from the ownership team behind Commonwealth Restaurant & SkybarDraft Taproom will be across the mall from Commonwealth, and will mark a lot of “firsts” for Charlottesville’s downtown mall. First sports bar. First bar with more than 30 Virginia beers on tap. And, the first bar to use a pour-your-own beer system.

Customers purchase a plastic card which they then take to any of the sixty taps along the walls to insert their card. A sensor system records what tap you pour from and how much, deducting the price from your card. All beers are priced by the ounce. Pour an ounce of several . . . or sixteen ounces of your favorite. There’s also wine and cider on tap for non beer-lovers.

HDTVs are everywhere, with a TV package that includes every NFL game, and soccer and rugby from around the world, among other sports. For food, order at the counter from a beer-friendly menu of mussels, brats, and burgers, overseen by Commonwealth chef Reggie Calhoun.

On both food and beverage, there are no gratuities, unless you want to leave one, in which case Draft will donate 100% of it to a local charity.

Look for Draft to open this week. And, if it’s the largest draft selection of Virginia beers in the state, might that not make it the largest Virginia draft selection in the world? Or, the universe?



Five Finds on Friday: Brian Geiger


Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Brian Geiger, co-founder and Head Judge of the Cville Pie Fest, which takes place next Sunday, October 9 at Mudhouse Crozet. It’s not too late to enter your pie to vie for first prize. Details here. For more details and background, Brian will join co-founder Marijean Oldham on an Edacious podcast being released this Monday, October 3. Geiger’s picks:

1) Porchetta Panuozzo at Lampo. “This is a rich sandwich that you’re going to want to either split with a friend or save half to eat cold the next morning, but it’s incredibly flavorful and worth the temptation. Wood fired bread, delicious pork, and bitter broccoli rabe to balance.”

2) Dealer’s Choice at The Alley Light. “Let’s face it: making decisions is a lot of work, and not having to make them is awesome. Especially when there are so many possibilities for tasty drinks that you don’t even know about. Skip the hard work and let the bartenders at The Alley Light choose for you. They give you the opportunity to choose gin or whiskey, but I just put it all in their hands, and I have never been disappointed.”

3) Sour Cream Doughnut at Chaps. “If you’re looking for a cake doughnut that’s perfect in its simplicity, drop by Chaps and hope they have some available.”

4) Financiers at MarieBette Cafe & Bakery. “Almond pastry is one of my favorites, and MarieBette’s version is consistently great. While I’m there I might occasionally pick up another $30 or so of assorted pastry, if I’m being honest.”

5) Peach and Pork Pie from The Pie Chest. “Just had one of these for the first time last week and it’s everything I want from a savory pie. Loaded with flavor, just a tiny bit sweet, and all of the skill that The Pie Chest brings.”

Five Finds on Friday: Jeff Deloff


Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Jeff Deloff, chef of Threepenny Cafe, which has recently partnered with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, assuring that all seafood it serves is approved for sustainability by Seafood Watch. Deloff’s picks:

1) Berkabaw from Autumn Olive Farms. “With an excellent ratio of meat to fat, it offers meat with lots of intramuscular fat. The fat is a meal in itself, either render it down for cooking or leaving it on to give the pork a succulent flavor.”

2) Beef from Wolf Creek Farm. “What more is there to say about grass fed beef that’s raised humanely, and sustainably? Nothing. Wolf Creek is an excellent example of farm stewardship, which offers a superior product to corn fed beef.”

3) Ducks from Free Union Grass Farm. “Pastured raised ducks that offer crispy skin and beautifully rendered fat, as well as hearty breast meat and flavorful leg meat.”

4) Bone Marrow from The Alley Light. “With everyone’s desire for high priced steaks it’s nice to see a place offer bone marrow. And to top it off, it comes with braised snails! A rarity in itself to see on a menu, but prepared beautifully.” (Note: this was the 2014 Dish of the Year.)

5) Skate Wing from Fleurie. “It’s not everyday you see skate. So when I read it was on their menu, I was more than excited to have it!”