The Charlottesville 29

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

Category: Introductions

Otto Turkish Street Food Brings Doner Kebab to Charlottesville

A Turkish place just off the downtown mall owned by “Turkish natives . . . who . . . met while working at the Clifton Inn.” Sound familiar?

Well, now there’s another one. Otto Turkish Street Food opens today at 111 West Water Street, most recently home to Modern Nosh. With an outstanding Turkish restaurant just a stone’s throw away — also opened by Clifton Inn alum — some may wonder what sets Otto apart. In a word, doner.

Doner kebab is beloved in many parts of the world — Germany alone eats more than 2 million per day. Dating back two centuries to the Ottoman empire, the dish of meat cooked on a vertical spit is the ancestor of the gyro in Greece, shawarma in the Middle East, and tacos al pastor in Mexico.

Much to the dismay of fans of doner on a spit, though, there’s none in Charlottesville. With Otto, Turkish natives Ali Sevindi and Haldun Turgay seek to fill that void. (Sultan Kebab serves a doner kebab variation cooked on the grill.) Graduates of Hospitality and Business School, Sevindi and Turgay came to the United States in 2013 and met while working at Clifton Inn, where Sevindi was the Food and Beverage Manager. More recently, they worked together at Oakhurst Inn.

With a background in fine dining, Sevindi and Turgay had long imagined they would open a high end restaurant together. But, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they shifted to something more affordable. For that, they turned to Turkey’s beloved street food, doner kebab, which they thought would lend itself well to a fast casual concept. After months of research and practice, they seem to have it down.

They start with three cuts of beef – brisket, chuck, and sirloin – which they marinate in minced onions, salt, and pepper. Next, they stack slabs of the beef high on a vertical rotisserie, which chars the outer layer brown with flavor, while the interior stays moist. To serve, they shave off thin slices by cutting vertically down the exterior. There is also a chicken doner made from slabs of breast and thigh, shaved the same way.

The menu offers three ways to enjoy doner – wrap, bowl, or sandwich — along with a choice of Turkish toppings and sauces, like sumac onions, hummus, tzatziki, and esme, a Turkish red pepper paste. Sevindi’s favorite is a sandwich stuffed in fluffy, house-made pita bread.

There is also house-made falafel, likewise available as a sandwich, wrap or bowl.

So, what do Sultan Kebab’s owners think about the upstart down the street?

They are thrilled. Close friends of Sevindi and Turgay, Sultan Kebab’s owners even helped them launch their new restaurant. Who wouldn’t want doner kebab on a spit nearby?

Starting Friday December 4, Otto is open daily from 11am – 9pm.

 

 

Introducing The Milkman’s Bar: Ten Course Hospitality Cocktail Bar Coming to The Dairy Market

The Dairy Market continues to announce additions to its market hall opening this fall in the historic Monticello Dairy Building. The latest is The Milkman’s Bar, a cocktail bar from Will Richey and Ten Course Hospitality that pays homage to Americana drugstore soda fountains. The physical centerpiece of the market hall, The Milkman’s Bar will be flanked by the hall’s food artisans, allowing guests to sidle up to the bar with food from market vendors, or just drop by for drinks and people-watching.

Running the bar are two veterans of Ten Course Hospitality projects. River Hawkins has led the bar of The Bebedero since it opened. And, Mike Stewart launched the bar at Kama. At The Milkman’s Bar, the duo plan recreations of lost American classic cocktails, using modern techniques and presentations. Also featured will be adult non-alcoholic drinks, a cocktail program addition growing in demand.

For both Stewart and Hawkins, the foundation of the bar experience is engagement with guests. As the center of a community-gathering place, The Milkman’s Bar will allow them to take that engagement to a new level. “Something that is really important to me is fostering a sense of community and doing my part to be inclusive,” said Stewart. The new bar will also allow the duo to get “really creative,” said Hawkins, without taking themselves too seriously. Riffing on the soda fountain theme, for example, The Big Tickle is Hawkins’ grown-up version of an egg cream, using a base of bourbon and amaro.

The Milkman’s Bar will open upon The Dairy Market’s opening this fall.

Introducing Dumplin’: Chef Laura Fonner Has Left Duner’s to Launch a Food Truck and Catering Business

dumplin

It’s been quite a stretch for chef Laura Fonner. Last year, she won $20K in on the Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games. Next, in May, she won Best Chef in The Daily Progress’s Readers’ Choice awards. Then, just yesterday came news that she had been invited back to appear on a tournament of champions on Guy’s Grocery Games. And now, the longtime Duner’s chef has left the restaurant she helped build for a new chapter in her cooking career. Opening soon will be Dumplin’, a food truck launched by Fonner together with Champion Hospitality Group.

The truck’s specialty, of course, will be the same famous dumplings that helped her take the top prize on Guy’s Grocery Games and which one top Charlottesville chef once named the best thing he ate all year. But, she also plans riffs on other favorite dishes from over the years.

A huge supporter of the Charlottesville community, Fonner has been a long-time contributor to the nonprofit PACEM, which provides winter shelter to the Charlottesville-area homeless population, as well as founding a program that brings together chefs, farmers, and restaurants to help feed the homeless. Now, freed from the white-table-cloth restaurant where she cooked for more than a decade, Fonner looks forward to taking her food to a wider audience. “This idea is something I have spent years crafting and it makes my soul happy,” said Fonner. “A food truck allows me to bring my dumplings to the community in a way that is affordable and accessible, so everyone can come share my love of food.”

In addition to running the food truck, Fonner will be available for catering and private dinners. Stay tuned for details on how to book her.

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