The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Ace Biscuit & Barbecue

#12: Ace Dip – Ace Biscuit & Barbecue

The Barbecue Sandwich

It is easy to think of sandwiches as simple food, ready in seconds. Open the fridge, put some cold cuts on bread, and you’re done. But, for a chef as passionate as Brian Ashworth of Ace Biscuit & Barbecue, a great sandwich can take hours or even days to make.

For his Ace Dip, Ashworth transforms an ordinary pork barbecue sandwich into one that some call the best sandwich in town. He starts by smoking whole pork shoulders for 8-10 hours, placing them in a half pan as they smoke, to capture all the drippings, the condensed essences of pork and smoke. When the pork shoulders are done, he removes the bones and makes a stock from the bones, drippings, and aromatics like mirepoix, black peppercorns, garlic, and bay leaves. To that he adds roasted garlic, crushed red pepper, house-made hot sauce, vinegar, and brown sugar, brings it all to a boil, and thickens it with a simple roux of flour and butter. He then purees it and, voila, “smoky gravy.”

Meanwhile, Ashworth cooks yellow onions over very low heat for up to eight hours, slowly removing all of their water, and gently caramelizing them. For sandwich assembly, he smears house-made parsley-garlic butter on a bun and griddles it. On that, he piles pulled pork shoulder, caramelized onions, and provolone, and serves it with a cup of the smoky gravy for dipping.

Pork smoked all day. Eight-hour onions. Gravy redolent of smoke and swine. A bun with toasty butter and garlic. One bite of the sandwich dripping in gravy and you’ll never call sandwiches simple again.

The genius of smoked pork in liquid smoked pork dates back even further than Ace Biscuit & Barbecue’s opening in 2012. When Ashworth was a sous chef at Zocalo, he would lie awake at night and dream up ideas for a restaurant of his own, sometimes jumping out of bed to jot them down so he would not forget. Thank goodness for the Ace Dip he didn’t just roll back over.

#12: Ace Dip – Ace Biscuit & Barbecue
The Charlottesville 29 of Sandwiches

Others of Note: The Hot Mess at Vision BBQ Vegetarian Alternatives: The Vegetarian Option at Vision BBQ, BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich at Firefly (GFA)

#13: Belle Cubano – Belle

The Cuban

A great chef knows to tread carefully with a classic dish. Invoking a classic’s name on a menu can create expectations that risk leaving some disappointed by even slight deviations.

Belle’s John Shanesy is a great chef. And his riff on a Cuban sandwich is outstanding. In hotspots like Miami and Tampa Bay, where the sandwich dates back more than a century, there are strong opinions about what belongs on it, or, more importantly, what does not. Traditional ingredients include roast pork, ham (sometimes salami), Swiss cheese, sliced dill pickles, and yellow mustard, pressed on Cuban bread.

Shanesy’s recipe tracks these fairly closely, but with a chef’s attention to detail, and only carefully considered deviations. For the pork, instead of the standard roast, Shanesy braises Autumn Olive Farms pork shoulder overnight, in salt, water, and the pork’s own fat, and throws in pig feet and skin as well to ramp up the swine flavor. The next day, he pulls the meat and cools it. Shanesy’s ham choice is prosciutto cotto for its ability to retain flavor and texture whether served hot or cold. The bread is his brother’s sourdough hoagie rolls made with Autumn Olive Farms cornmeal and local Deep Roots flour, which he fries on both sides in butter until crisp, and then smears on mustard and mayo. For assembly, he sears the braised pork and piles it on the bread with the prosciutto cotto, Alsatian Gruyere, and a generous handful of house-made pickle slices. Finally, there is Shanesy’s main tweak to the standard recipe: a salsa verde he makes from chopped herbs, jalapeños, fresh squeezed orange juice, apple vinegar, and oil, which adds flavor and offsets the sandwich’s richness, without upsetting its underlying appeal. The verdict? Spot-on.

#13: Belle Cubano – Belle
The Charlottesville 29 of Sandwiches

Others of Note: Cuban Pickle Crisis at Ivy Provisions, El Cubano at Guajiros, Ace Cuban at Ace Biscuit & Barbecue

#15: Breakfast Sandwich #1 on English Muffin – Belle

The Breakfast Sandwich

A day just feels different when it begins with a great breakfast sandwich. Fortunately, Charlottesville has no shortage of them, especially at Belle, the Belmont bakery and café run by the Shanesy brothers: chef John and baker Scott.

There are six numbered breakfast sandwiches at Belle, all delicious, but the most satisfying is the first: Breakfast Sandwich #1. Folded egg topped with a sausage patty and a slice of melting American cheese. As listed on the menu, the sandwich comes on house brioche, which is delicious. It’s baked by Scott Shanesy, after all. But, the sandwich reaches even greater heights on the bakery’s English muffin, which Belle calls “the house specialty.” Yes, it’s special. Like a sausage egg McMuffin on steroids, there’s no more delicious way to power up the day.

#15: Breakfast Sandwich #1 on English Muffin – Belle
The Charlottesville 29 of Sandwiches

Others of Note: Troutlandish at Chickadee, Southern Breakfast Sausage Biscuit at Ace Biscuit & Barbecue, Sausage, Egg, & Cheese on English Muffin at Grit, Morning Melt with Kimchi on a Za’atar Croissant at Bowerbird Bakeshop, Hangover Cure at Multiverse Kitchens, Madame Guillotine at ooey, gooey, crispy (GFA), Sausage, Egg, & Cheese Biscuit at Timberlakes Soda Fountain, Egg & Gruyere, with sausage on a baguette at MarieBette, Sausage, Egg, & Cheese on an English Muffin at The Food Bar. Vegan Alternatives: Signor Sunshine at ooey, gooey, crispy (GFA)

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