The Charlottesville 29

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

Category: Introductions

Introducing Peloton Station


Remember The Sandwich Lab? Every month or two, Hamiltons’ on First & Main would post a social media announcement about a new creation from the Hamiltons’ kitchen team. There would be only about a dozen available, and to claim one, you would need to to see the announcement as soon as it was posted, and call immediately. The sandwiches would sell out in minutes. And, they were worth the fuss. Like this one. Or this. “Better living through better sandwiches,” was the lab’s motto. Those who were lucky enough to snag one will be very happy about the latest restaurant news.

The man behind Sandwich Lab, Hamiltons’ chef Curtis Shaver, is opening what he is calling a “cycle-centric tavern and bike kitchen that celebrates the culture of a good ride, cold beer and righteous sandwiches.” In partnership with Hamiltons’ Greg Vogler and Bill Hamilton, Peloton Station will be at 114 10th Street NW, formerly home to Cville Classic Cars.


A Chef and His Sandwiches

Once named one of Charlottesville’s Rising Star Chefs, Shaver was first lured to town by Craig Hartman, to help launch Fossett’s at Keswick Hall. He then served as sous chef of Duner’s for several years before becoming Chef de Cuisine of Hamiltons’ in 2013. But, as adept as he is at white-table-cloth cuisine, he has always had a passion for sandwiches.

If The Sandwich Lab was an occasional outlet for that passion, Peloton Station will be its permanent home. This is Sandwich Lab level stuff. Shaver’s two favorites are named after his parents. Big Mike is grilled mortadella, salami, capicola, provolone, mozzarella, cherry pepper olive salad, and pico de lettuce on a pressed baguette. The Peg is smoked house pastrami, gruyere cheese, pickled cabbage, and comeback sauce, on toasted rye.


The Peg

But, it’s not just about carnivores. Vogler’s favorite, for example, is the Rivanna Trail: green pea kofta with minted cucumber radish salad, green harissa, feta labneh, and pickled carrot on a baguette. And for Hamilton, it’s the Coyote: beer battered catfish, chili honey glaze, jicama slaw, cilantro lime tartar Sauce, on an Albemarle Baking Co. bun.

Shaver also has a passion for beer, and the focus at Peloton Station is “tall boys and drafts.” The opening list includes favorites like Founders All Day IPA, Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin, and Stiegl Grapefruit Radler.

Peloton beer

Why Cycling? 

One other passion of Shaver’s is cycling, and the theme pervades the space, with bikes hanging from the ceilings and bike route maps on the walls. Having seen cycling hangouts in other cities, Shaver thought Charlottesville could use one, too. And the Charlottesville cycling community is already embracing it, with a group of cyclists having already dropped in this week after a long ride.  There is even an onsite bike shop, where your bike can get a tune-up while you enjoy a beer and a bite. Sit at the shop-side bar and watch the mechanic at work.


Peloton Station is open this weekend, August 10-11, Friday and Saturday 11-11. Then, it will reopen Tuesday, with hours Monday through Friday 11-11, Saturday 10-12, and Sunday 10-9.


Introducing Patisserie Torres


One of Charlottesville’s most accomplished pastry chefs is opening a French patisserie on the downtown mall. Born and trained in France, Fleurie’s Serge Torres first came to the US in 1993, as assistant pastry chef at Le Cirque under his cousin Jacques Torres, aka “Mr. Chocolate.” Next was another Manhattan three-star restaurant, Le Perigord, where he oversaw all breads, pastries, and specialty desserts. Eventually, Torres was lured to Charlottesville to work with Kluge Estate Winery and Fuel, before finding his way to Fleurie in 2015.

Patisserie Torres is a joint venture with Fleurie founder Brian Helleberg, who sees it as a chance to give Torres more space to shine – both figuratively and literally. Torres has been underutilized, Helleberg says, in his 16 square feet portion of Fleurie’s tiny kitchen, and the driving idea behind the new patisserie “was to get Serge and his 15 different of types of sugar out of the Fleurie kitchen so that the rest of us had a little space.”

This could be a win-win-win. For Fleurie, more space. For Torres, his own place. And, for Charlottesville diners, a Torres showcase. Patisserie Torres will be a carryout breakfast and lunch pastry shop serving sweet and savory French pastries along with salads, soups, and sandwiches. The new space is just across 3rd St. NE from Fleurie, once home to Cappellino’s Crazy Cakes.

The emphasis is a quick experience for diners on the run, with plenty of prepared-ahead items. French pastries lend themselves well to the concept. For breakfast, there are croissants, cramique, house-made granola and egg sandwiches. For lunch, savory tarts, often enjoyed at room temperature, make for an ideal grab-and-go meal. Pissaladierre, for example, is a classic Provencal tart of anchovy paste, caramelized onions, and black olives. Quiche likewise rests well, and Torres will offer both Quiche Lorraine, with bacon and Gruyere cheese, and Quiche Salmon, with potatoes and chives. Of the savory items, Helleberg’s favorite is the sausage friand – house made sausage and bechamel, wrapped in puff pastry.  There will also be gougeres (cheese puffs by the dozen) and roulés feuilletés – puff pastry rolled with fillings like cheese and sausage.

And there of course will be the sweets for which Torres is known: pastries, confisseries, truffles, cakes, petit fours, clafouti, and more. The “Passion Chocolate,” for example, is coconut dacquoise with passion fruit and banana cremeux, and dark bittersweet chocolate mousse. Torres’ Napoleon meanwhile is caramelized puff pastry with almond biscuit, raspberry-ginger coulis and vanilla mousseline cream. But, Helleberg’s favorites are Torres’ macarons, particularly the coffee-flavored ones.

Patisserie Torres opens Wednesday, August 1, from 7:30 am – 3 pm.

Introducing North American Sake Brewery


Charlottesville is strong on adult beverages. We’ve got great wine. And cider. And beer. And spirits.

And, soon we will have sake. One of the nation’s first sake breweries, North American Sake Brewery, opens this month in IX Art Park. Popular in Japan, sake is rice wine made by fermenting rice that has been polished to remove the bran.

The project is the brainchild of two Certified Sake Professionals: award-winning filmmaker Jeremy Goldstein and longtime home brewer Andrew Centofante. “Sake was an instant love affair for us,” says Goldstein. “Once we had our first few glasses of good cold sake, the obsession couldn’t be stopped.” Centofante agrees: “The more I learned, the more my passion grew, and the deeper I wanted to go.” And so, after years of research and practice, that obsession has manifest itself in North American Sake Brewery.

Centofante will do the brewing. Having traveled the country and world to learn from master sake brewers, Centafonte’s focus at NAS is twofold: traditional sakes and modern riffs. “We aim to honor the tremendous Japanese lineage before us with our flagship filtered and unfiltered brews,” says Goldstein. But, he says, they also plan to “push boundaries,” with tasty experiments like fruit and herb infusions, exotic yeasts, and collaborations with local beer makers, cideries, and distilleries.


Among the initial releases, Centafonte’s favorite is “Big Baby” a “brewer’s style” sake, meaning it emerges straight from a fresh batch, raw and unrefined, and, in this case, at a whopping 18% ABV. Goldstein’s favorite, meanwhile, is Rosaké – a rosé blend sake to which unsweetened fruit and fresh farmed herbs are added during the final days of fermentation. “Notes of citrus zest, honeydew, and a young rose petal come together in a perfectly dry, alcohol-forward sake,” Goldstein says.”

Chef Peter Robertson

The huge brewery will have seating inside and out, including a bar and an elevated patio from which guests can enjoy Ix Art Park, with tasting flights, glasses, bottles, and food from a full-service kitchen. In fact, for food lovers, this may be a case of burying the lede, as the brewery has snagged one heck of a chef.

With wife Merrill, Culinary Institute of America graduate Chef Peter Robertson runs Côte-Rôtie, two time winner of Charlottesville’s Best Food Truck of the Year.  His food is outstanding. (Don’t worry, Côte-Rôtie fans, the truck isn’t going away, thanks to Merrill.) 

Goldstein says Robertson sealed the job with duck, of all things. “The first time Chef Peter had us over for dinner he made Peking Duck,” said Goldstein. “Who does that?” he said, recalling the fatty, rich, tender meat and delicate, crispy skin. “I’m just realizing it right now. We were totally seduced. And gladly complicit, at that.” 

While the brewery’s initial vision for food was modest, that changed with Robertson. “He opened our eyes to what the food could be,” Goldstein said. Just as Brasserie Saison features food suited for beer, Robertson describes his food as “sake cuisine” – dishes and flavors designed to pair with sake. This includes traditional Japanese pairings, like sushi-style items. 

Salmon sashimi

Salmon sashimi, carrot vinaigrette. and cucumber

But, it also includes new pairings from other cultures as well. In a 330 gallon smoker, for example, Robertson plans a rotating schedule of different smoked meats, like duck marinated in shio koji and then set to dry before being rubbed with szechuan and black peppercorns.

What is koji? A natural product in sake brewing, koji is a mold treasured for its transformative powers that is essential to making classic, umami-rich Japanese foods like soy sauce and miso. Used in Asian foods for thousands of years, it has seen a surge in popularity among American chefs. (Lampo’s Ian Redshaw recently made a koji-marinated steak that was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had.) 

North American Sake Brewery will have its own cedar-lined culinary laboratory for producing koji, which it plans not only to use for sake making, but also to make available to select chefs across the country. Best of all, Robertson and other Charlottesville chefs will have access to it for one-off food experiments right here in Charlottesville.


North American Sake Brewery plans to open by late July or early August. Follow along their Facebook page for details.