The owners of Charlottesville’s favorite beer-themed restaurant, Beer Run, are about to face some serious competition from an unlikely source. Themselves. The Beer Run team is opening a second beer-themed restaurant less than two miles away from the original. Kardinal Hall, as it will be called, will join Timbercreek Market and The Juice Laundry as yet another food tenant in the suddenly hot Coca-Cola building on Preston Avenue.
While it may seem daring to open a beer restaurant so nearby, the new project is completely different from Beer Run – in fact, it is nothing like Charlottesville has ever seen before. Kardinal Hall, says co-owner Josh Hunt, will be a “modern American beer hall and garden with European influence.” With more than 100 seats inside, another 100 outside, and two bocce ball courts, it will be a beer hall and garden all in one.
The overriding theme is “social,” says opening chef Thomas Leroy. A French native, Leroy came to Charlottesville in the early 90s to work at the legendary Metropolitain before helping to open first Bizou and then Zinc (now closed). As indicia of the social vibe, Leroy points to large communal tables both inside and outside, shareable plates of food, and an ordering system where guests place their order at a central kiosk and then return to their tables to wait for their food. “It’s a pretty typical beer hall concept that allows patrons to sit wherever they like and is less formal than your standard sit-down restaurant,” says Hunt.
As for the food, expect Alpine-influenced fare from locally-sourced ingredients. It’s a beer hall, so naturally there will be sausages, and lots of them. Traditional varieties include Bratwurst, Kielbasa, and Kasekrainer. Unorthadox options may include the Foghorn (all-natural chicken with apples and herbs), and, for vegetarians, “Beet It”, made of yellow and red beets, blended with goat cheese and walnuts. All will be hand-crafted, some made in-house and others from The Rock Barn and Sausage Craft. Charcuterie platters will feature a rotating selection of rillettes, pates, saucisson, head cheese, Landjaeger, smoked meats and terrines, served with bread, preserves and house pickled vegetables.
Leroy also touts real, house-made soft pretzels, served either with house mustard or Obatzda, a Bavarian cheese spread of cheese, mustard, spices, and pickled onions. Other beer-friendly menu highlights include burgers with short ribs from Timbercreek Farm, Belgian frites with traditional accompaniments, and sandwiches like the “Das boot” – pork schnitzel on a roll with pickles, red onion, and creamy horseradish sauce.
For the front of the house, a team of Beer Run veterans is in charge. Longtime Beer Run bartender and shift manager Malcolm Dyson will run the bar, where he plans familiar cocktails with a “playful twist.” Case in point: the Die Biewagen, German for Sidecar, featuring Asbach Uralt brandy. Like Leroy, Dyson is enamored with the social aspect of the beer hall. “Personally, I have longed for an atmosphere that encourages customers to interact with each other and their environment,” Dyson said.
Another Beer Run vet, Chelsea Hoyt, is heading the wine program, bringing eight years of experience as a buyer and sommelier. Hoyt’s wine travels have taken her to France, Spain, Chile, Argentina, California, and Oregon, among other places, and her wide-ranging (and under-appreciated) selection at Beer Run has always reflected that diversity. At Kardinal, though, she plans a narrower focus: Alpine wines. Wines from higher-elevation regions of France, Italy, Austria and Germany, says Hoyt, will pair well with Leroy’s cuisine. She also expects the relaxed, community atmosphere to encourage guests to sample wines with which they may not be familiar, including lesser known varietals such as Silvaner, Lagrein and Jacquere. “”One of the things I love most about wine is that it is a living, changing thing,” says Hoyt. “It’s exciting to pair wines with the cuisine from the same region and see what happens.”
Last but not least: the beer, which will be in the hands of Charlie Toder, again of Beer Run. A passionate beer aficionado who spent years managing a bar and bottle shop in North Carolina, Toder has recently been certified as a Cicerone. His 24 taps will be split three ways between German/Belgian imports, national crafts, and local beers. Beer geeks will be happy to know that there will also be a nitro tap (for stouts and creamier ales) and two slow pour lines for highly carbonated Belgian and German beers. Also, there will be exclusive beers from collaborations between Kardinal and local breweries including, count ’em, four for the opening: with Champion, a peach Berliner Weiss called Tart Deco; with Devil’s Backbone, a lime IPA using Simcoe, Chinook, and Nelson Sauvin hops; with Three Notch’d, a pale wheat ale with herbs from Fifth Season called Preston Avenue Wheat; and, with Blue Mountain, a French Saison. The twenty bottled and canned options will include gluten-free options, ciders, and low ABV sessionable beers. And, there will also be two draft wines, one draft cider, and one draft kombucha. Beers will be served in three sizes: 10 oz, 16 oz, and, in keeping with the German theme, 1 liter (33.8 oz).
Look for Kardinal Hall to start pouring liters of beer within the next week or two.