The Charlottesville 29

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

Category: Two for Tuesday

Two for Tuesday: Splendora’s, Just Curry and Mouth Wide Open

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1)  Honey, Goat Cheese, and Fig Gelato from Splendora’s with Plantains from Just Curry.  Few things make us happier than discovering new combinations of the wonderful foods of Charlottesville.  We can’t take credit for the latest, which we found in a Facebook post by Splendora’s, and is apparently the brainchild of the Charlottesville Derby Dames:  a side of plantains from Just Curry topped with gelato made of honey, goat cheese, and fig.  Wow.  We also tried the plantains with Spendora’s Chinese Five Spice gelato.  Both combinations were superb.

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2)  Short Ribs Slider from Mouth Wide Open.  At the bottom of this popular food truck’s new fall menu, released this week, appear the words “Yes, I [Heart] Onions.”  So do we.  Onions abound on the fall menu, appearing on four of the sliders.  You could always ask for them left off, but why would you want to do something like that?  A standout is the slider of braised tender short ribs topped with caramelized onions and cheese.  Fall food at its best.

Two for Tuesday: Albemarle Baking Co. and Smoked BBQ Co.

1) Butter Rolls at Albemarle Baking Company.  For some people, there is no higher praise for food than that it is “like butter.”  This compliment might seem strange to those of us who have ever actually been curious enough to taste butter on its own.  As essential an ingredient as butter can be, it’s not exactly delicious by itself.  In some cases, “like butter” is meant to refer to texture — as in a tender steak or fish filet.  In other cases, “like butter” refers to flavor.  As to this latter case, we think we have found the perfect embodiment of the flavor of butter.  Albemarle Baking Co.’s butter rolls taste like the Platonic Ideal of butter.  They are bite after bite of the essence of butter.  Sure, they do well as sandwich bread or with accompaniments.  But, we like them best on their own.  Like butter.

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2)  Baked Beans with Sausage at Smoked BBQ Co. “Try the beans.”  That’s what a trusted tipster said in a recent email about Smoked BBQ Co.  So, we did.  Wow.  Don’t be fooled by these beans’ humble appearance on the list of other sides at this immensely popular barbecue cart run by Justin van der Linde.  These are the real deal.  They are like Franks N Beans on performance enhancing drugs.  Chunks of ground pork sausage are simmered into baked beans to create a side that is worthy of the tipster’s high praise.  Smoked BBQ Co. sets up on the downtown mall most weekdays for lunch, and often does evenings at Champion Brewing Company.  Check their Facebook page or Twitter feed for updates and locations.

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Two for Tuesday: Feast! and Pad Thai

1)  Summer Grilled Cheese at Feast!  When it comes to comfort food classics, we usually like to keep it simple.  Leave the lobster out of our mac-and-cheese, our burgers unadorned, and our grilled cheese free of fancy fix-ins.  Of course, there are exceptions.  Like the Summer Grilled Cheese at Feast!  Although it bears little resemblance to what we think of when we crave a grilled cheese, it is mighty good.  Yellow cheddar, manouri cheese, local summer tomatoes, and roasted poblano and red onion spread, are all grilled on yeasted corn bread from Albemarle Baking Company, a bread that is tailor-made for grilled cheeses.

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2)  Beef Tongue Nam Prik Pao at Pad Thai.  The menus of many Thai restaurants list sauces to choose from and pair with any of several meat and seafood options, allowing customers to come up with their own favorite combinations.  But, there are some meat-sauce pairings that seem particularly on point.  Take nam prik pao, the chili paste used to season many Thai sauces and soups.   At Pad Thai, a sauce of nam prik pao has long been available with a choice of vegetables, tofu, chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, or fish.  Thanks to a recent shipment of beef tongue, diners now have another option.  Meaty and rich, beef tongue seems the perfect foil for a sauce that, with chilis, fish sauce, tamarind, and palm sugar is spicy, salty, tangy, and sweet.  The more you eat, the more you want more.

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