The Charlottesville 29

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

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Five Finds on Friday: Todd DeSorbo

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from the Tony Bennett of college swimming, Todd DeSorbo. In just his fourth season at UVa, DeSorbo became the first coach ever to lead an ACC school to a swimming and diving national championship, when his women’s team took home the title last month. DeSorbo was subsequently named Women’s Team Coach of the Year. DeSorbo’s picks:

1) Burger with Bacon at Wayside Takeout & Catering. “This has become our staff’s go-to pre-Championship lucky lunch. The Monday prior to every ACC or NCAA Championship (including two weeks ago before our women won the National Title), we head to Wayside for a burger. If I had to pick a favorite food of mine, it’s for sure a burger, and Wayside does them right. Not to mention convenient to our place of work, the AFC pool.”

2) Piggie Smalls at Fry’s Spring Station. “If you’re sensing a theme in locations, it’s likely because when I first moved to Charlottesville I lived just behind Scott Stadium, and pretty much went from the house to the pool, and didn’t know much other than that there were several great food joints within walking distance. This turned out to be a family favorite and a staff favorite. We often have gathered here with all our swimming and diving staff and families to hang out. The pizza is phenomenal and the casual atmosphere is right up my alley.”

3) Black Coffee at Atlas Coffee. “Sorry to be sticking with the theme again here, but this was my go-to Thursday morning treat. It’s always been a goal of mine to be able to walk into a coffee shop (or bar) and be ‘regular’ enough that the barista knows what drink you want. I only went a few weeks in a row and they knew exactly what I wanted. I finally made it! Great coffee, great spot.”

4) Mother’s Day Roll at Tokyo Rose. “My family and I have eaten more sushi since the pandemic hit than probably in the previous five years. Likely because my 12 year-old son has decided he loves spicy tuna rolls, and Tokyo Rose’s are the best. Personally I love the Mother’s Day Roll. We haven’t been inside the restaurant in a year, but the takeout/delivery is just as good as dining in.”

5) Kimchi Pork Wrap at Beer Run. “This restaurant was introduced to us by the myth ‘The Charlottesville 29.’ This is a go-to for our family and friends. From family night out to champagne celebrations when our staff won our first ACC Title three years ago, Beer Run has been a staple in our eat out rotation. Great beer selection (almost too good), great food, and great casual environment. If you can’t tell, I like casual.”

Five Finds on Friday: Brittany Miller

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Brittany Miller of Cakes by Rachel and Shenandoah Imagery. There are lots of great cake bakers in the area, but only one who was once head chef of Clifton Inn, Rachel Willis. Miller runs the office for Cakes by Rachel and also has her own food photography business, Shenandoah Imagery. As a classically trained chef, Willis still loves a challenge, like our request for a Manhattan-inspired cake to help us celebrate this weekend. White cake baked with a splash of whiskey and bitters, brushed with a whiskey cherry syrup, filled with homemade brandied cherries and triple whipped cream, and iced with a “Manhattan” buttercream: vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream accented with whiskey, vermouth, bitters and Fiori di Sicilia. Miller’s picks:

1) Vegan “Crab” Cake Sandwich at Firefly. “You can’t tell it’s not real crab. And this is coming from someone who orders crab cakes whenever I see them on a menu. I would recommend Firefly to any vegetarian or vegan looking for delicious eats.”

2) Southern Fried Chicken at South Street Brewery. “A huge piece of perfectly seasoned chicken is complemented by pillows of mashed potatoes and gravy. It’s comfort food at its finest. Better than Grandma’s.”

3) Chocolate Sour Cream Cake from Cakes by Rachel. “Everyone who’s had Rachel’s baked goods can attest to them being the best in the area, but Rachel’s chocolate cake reigns supreme, and I’m not historically a huge fan of chocolate cake. Pro tip: order yours with the chocolate buttercream. Absolute heaven. Everyone wishes they were her official cake taster, but that’s actually part of my job. I’m very lucky to work there.”

4) Sigara Börek at Sultan Kebab. “Hot phyllo rolls filled with Turkish white cheese and parsley should tell you all you need to know. They’re like mozzarella sticks, but better. Having shot their whole menu, I can certify that the owners are really great people who are passionate about their food and you can tell. Every bite amazes.”

5) Chicken Paffle from Iron Paffles. “What exactly is a paffle? I’m not really sure. I just know those paffle sandwiches taste really freaking good. I recommend the chicken with the macaroni and cheese and sriracha. The chicken is tender and the paffles are perfectly flaky. Mac and cheese just rounds it out to make it a perfect sandwich. I can’t wait to go back.”


It’s Time to Declare Victory: The Charlottesville Food Community Overcomes COVID-19

A year ago today, March 16, 2020, this site launched the Culture of Takeout. The premise was a simple win-win: help save Charlottesville restaurants while brightening lives of seclusion with a restaurant meal at home. At the time, and for every day since, our restaurants have faced an existential threat from a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Will our food community survive?

One year later, we have our answer. For all its havoc, for all its devastation, for all its pain, this virus could not defeat the Charlottesville food community. Yes, we lost beloved institutions. Yes, our restaurants faced greater anguish than ever before. Tears. Heartbreak. But, no, COVID-19, you did not destroy us.

Why did the Charlottesville food community prevail? Among myriad reasons, surely the biggest is heart.

A common theme on this site over the years is the heart of the Charlottesville food community. It is a talented bunch. And driven. And passionate. But, to quote a 2017 article:

If you want to understand Charlottesville’s food community, you need to know its heart . . . No virtue stands out more.

In the Charlottesville food community, if one has a need others rush to fill it. While that has long been the case, we now know it remains true even as a pandemic threatens the community’s very existence. Though dangling by a thread themselves, restaurants still did everything they could to help their peers. They lifted them up, they celebrated them, and they lent whatever help they could. There are too many examples to mention, but one story from early in the pandemic captures it well.

It started when an anonymous philanthropist began purchasing $10K or $15K worth of $50 gift cards from area restaurants and giving them to deserving recipients like frontline workers and people in need. A brilliant win-win with a philosophy not unlike the Culture of Takeout, the campaign injected urgently needed cash flow into restaurants, while brightening lives.

Two restaurant owners, though, declined the gift certificate purchases. While the pandemic had devastated their businesses and while $15K would have gone a long way to help them weather the storm, they could not bring themselves to accept such a large cash outlay while others suffered more. “Thank you, we appreciate it,” they said. “But, while we are hurting, we are going to make it. We would rather this money go to a restaurant in greater peril.”

Culture of Takeout One Year Later

The virus is subsiding. Vaccinations grow by the day. Spring is almost here. And in sight is the light at the end of the long, dark tunnel.

The coronavirus has been a formidable foe. We are battered, bruised, and, in some ways, changed forever. And, we pour one out for casualties lost along the way. But, COVID-19, the Charlottesville food community has a message for you: we win.

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