The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Andy McClure

2017 Best New Restaurant: Tavern & Grocery

Tavern

With Citizen Burger BarThe Virginian, and The Biltmore all to his name, there is no doubting restaurateur Andy McClure’s knack for running successful restaurants. But, until Tavern & Grocery opened last year, one may have wondered whether that knack extends beyond traditional bar fare.

Wonder no more. Tavern & Grocery, McClure’s first foray into more sophisticated cuisine, is Charlottesville’s Best New Restaurant.

While the reasons are many, the biggest is the kitchen. David Morgan, a talented young chef, has been sous chef at acclaimed restaurants like Clifton Inn and Ian Boden’s Staunton Grocery (now closed). In his first stint as head chef, he has nailed it. His food is just familiar enough to appeal to the masses, while also showing the attention to detail to excite those of us with a passion for food. Case in point is the steak & fromage sandwich. If you’re inclined, scarf it down mindlessly, and it will hit the spot. But, it’s so well executed that it will also repay close scrutiny. After dry aging grass-fed rib-eye for four weeks, Morgan cold-smokes it, and then heaps seared thin slices onto a buttered Albemarle Baking Company baguette with brie, caramelized red onion, and garlic aioli.  Other highlights are a dish of braised  baby squid with a runny 62-degree duck egg, a burger that may be the best in town, and almost any special, where Morgan showcases his creativity.

But, don’t worry. This isn’t a froufrou place. It’s a tavern, warm and welcoming. The cozy space of brick and wood may inspire you to break out your phone and take a picture – just as alluring for an intimate drink as for a raucous meal with friends.

tavern

In fact, as others have observed, the setting and varied menu allow guests to make what they want of a visit to Tavern & Grocery. There are snacks for a light bite or sharing, sandwiches, and full entrees for those seeking a proper meal.

In addition to dinner seven nights was week, Sunday Brunch is already one of the area’s best, with the potential to bring back the party brunch. And, there is a serious beverage program, too, thanks to McClure’s brother Patrick, who also runs the downstairs speakeasy-style bar Lost Saint.

Service has the polish you’d expect from a place run by a serial restaurateur. Knowledgeable servers are passionate about the enterprise and seem genuinely to care about their guests’ experience.

Tavern & Grocery occupies a tricky location on West Main that was once home to McClure’s restaurant West Main. On neither the mall nor The Corner, it has always been a tough nut to crack. Here’s hoping that others agree Tavern & Grocery warrants breaking old habits and starting new ones. While the other finalists are worthy, Tavern & Grocery is 2017’s Best New Restaurant.

Introducing Tavern & Grocery

Tavern

At 5 pm today,  Tavern & Grocery will open its doors in the former home of West Main Restaurant.  It is the latest project of restaurateur Andy McClure, who also owns Citizen Burger Bar, The Biltmore, and The Virginian.  At Tavern & Grocery, McClure says to expect “classic tavern dishes” in a comfortable setting – the type of food you’d want “when you return home from a long trip.”

A sneak peek at the menu reveals familiar favorites, gussied up, like a crispy chicken sandwich with Swiss, bacon, and sriracha mayo, and a “steak and fromage” sandwich, with cold smoked grass-fed rib-eye, sliced thin to order, creamy brie, caramelized red onion, on crusty bread.  But, there’s more adventurous stuff too, like veal sweetbreads with dill sauce, and a banh mi sandwich, with smoked pork belly and house pork pate, cucumber, pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro, jalapeno, and miso mayo.  As for the “grocery,” a section of the menu called “The Store” offers house-made items to-go like cured ham and smoked sausage.

Running the kitchen is David Morgan, a Culinary Institute of America graduate who has been sous chef to Tucker Yoder at Clifton Inn and Ian Boden at Staunton Grocery, and also worked for Reed Anderson at Blue Light Grill during what he calls its “glory days.”  The dish that Morgan lights up about is “Squid and Eggs.” Baby squid, braised in red wine and smoked pork stock, is topped with a 62 degree egg.  “When broke and stirred in,” says Morgan,  “it becomes something magical. Perfect to mop up with a hand-torn chunk of bread.”

Downstairs is a bar called Lost Saint, a promising addition to our cocktail scene, which McClure describes as a “modern cocktail lab in a historic setting.”  Managing and co-owning Lost Saint is McClure’s brother Patrick, a Certified Cicerone who has worked at and even managed some great Washington D.C. bars like Birch & Barley, Eat the Rich, and Barrel. Patrick plans “modern classics” using house-made tinctures, bitters, shrubs, and infusions. “Our guests can expect a classic cocktail customized to their preferences or a new flavor combination from our house cocktail menu,” says Patrick.  For food, there will even be some Lost Saint-only items from the Tavern & Grocery kitchen.

Lost Saint

 

 

Five Finds on Friday: Andy McClure

Andy

On Fridays, we feature five food finds selected by local chefs and personalities.  Today’s picks come from Andy McClure, owner of Citizen Burger Bar, The Virginian, West Main, Three Restaurant, and The Biltmore.  “Loving the idea of this,” said McClure, “and owning five restaurants in town, I thought it best to exclude my own places from contention. So here goes the list of my 6th through 10th favorite places I would dine at or visit throughout the day.”

1) Eggs and Grits at The Pigeon Hole. “This relatively new Elliewood Avenue spot on the Corner is kitschy, fun, and cozy. The food is good, the people are good, and it’s a great addition to the Corner. It feels like one of those ‘been there forever’ breakfast joints in the Low Country.”

2) “Grab and Go” Sandwiches at Feast!. “They are all fast and easy and oh-so-good (they only make like 3 or 4 types), and the store itself is awesome. The amazing level of staff product knowledge at the cheese and meat counter is enough to make any restaurateur question their training program.”

3) Flat-top Burgers at Riverside Lunch.  “Grease everywhere, crispy edges, thick raw white onion, gooey American, and they’re served blazing hot.  When they’re on their game, they’re the best greasy spoon burger around. Plus I never really recommend getting gourmet burgers (or any large burger really) to go. Old school flat-top hamburgers travel really well . . . and sometimes gorging at home is all you want.  True burger lovers know that small diner-style burgers and large gourmet burgers aren’t really in the same universe, but they both can be perfect depending on one’s mood, and Riverside always helps my mood.”

4) Steak at the Downtown Grill.  “I love Mas…and I love TEN…and I love Continental, but sometimes you just need a giant steak, some raw oysters, and potatoes done 10 ways.  Gimme a bar stool, a well-cooked piece of meat, and a big red wine and I’m quite content. I can’t wait to see their renovations. In addition, I consider our little city so lucky to have a downtown area like we do, so an after dinner stroll on the mall is hard to beat.”

5) Late Night Cheese Breadsticks from The College Inn.  “The Corner is overlooked too often. It’s one of the oldest areas of town and offers the best bar crawl in the city. Though it has many food and drink staples, there’s nothing better for soaking up the booze after a night of excess than a nice delivery of cheese breadsticks with ranch from College Inn.”

“Now start a diet the following day.”