Will Richey is at it again. The owner of The Alley Light, Revolutionary Soup, The Whiskey Jar, and The Pie Chest is set to open yet another restaurant. This time it’s a family-friendly Mexican restaurant in the former location of Glass Haus Kitchen, called The Bebedero.
Richey sounds almost giddy when describing what he calls the “magic team” behind the project’s food and drinks. In the kitchen will be Cesar Perez, longtime sous chef of The Whiskey Jar, and his girlfriend Yuliana Perez Vasquez, most recently of Keswick Hall. They will be assisted by Yuliana’s mother Francisca Vasquez, whose family recipes from their native Veracruz form part of the menu, which will also draw on Perez’s home state of Puebla, known for its moles and chiles rellenos.
“We hope to bring a Mexican cuisine to Charlottesville that has not yet been experienced here,” says Richey. Indeed, it has long been a dream of Cesar and Vasquez to open a restaurant that they say is difficult to find – one that, as Vasquez puts it, “actually has the flavors that remind us of home.” By this, she means their grandmothers’ and mothers’ cooking, whether in Puebla or Veracruz.
As an example, Vasquez cites Chuletas de Puerco en pipian verde – pork chops in a sauce of spicy green chili peppers and pumpkin seeds, ground together with spices and seared green tomatillos. Another is Del Mar Stew – a stew of mussels, white fish, scallops, and shrimp in a tomato base with a touch of fresh epazote, an aromatic Mexican herb.
There will also be more familiar fare like guacamole made-to-order (mild, medium, or hot), tamales, and fresh ceviche, with shrimp, baby scallops, white fish, and pico de gallo. Vera Cruz is on the coast and known for its seafood, which will be a focus at The Bebedero, like whole grilled snapper with fresh ground Mexican spices. Richey’s aim, he says, is for a lighter take on Mexican food, so people can come several times a week.
Behind the bar will be another Whiskey Jar veteran, River Hawkins, who is half-Mexican and brings eighteen years of barkeep experience. Hawkins plans a cocktail lounge focused on mezcal and tequila, which he views as under-appreciated. “I’ll be offering tasting classes to inform the public of the rich history, fascinating processes and unique beauty in a liquor most associate with questionable decisions made late night at some poorly lit dance club,” says Hawkins.
Hawkins recently returned from a year in Yelapa, Mexico, managing the bar of Verana, a boutique resort. While there, he toured mezcalarias, tequila distilleries, and agave fields, and says he can’t wait to share with Charlottesville what he learned, as well as unusual ingredients discovered in his travels. One is Sal de Gusano (Salt of the Worm), which Hawkins uses to rim the glass for his “Pico De Gallo” cocktail – Mezcal with muddled pineapple, serrano peppers, cilantro, and lime juice. Hawkins will also offer flights of tequila with traditional accompaniments like salted orange wedges and Sangrita – a mixture of tomato juice, orange juice, and real pomegranate grenadine, which cleanses the palate between sips of tequila.
Helping to oversee it all will be Josh Zanoff, Richey’s “life long friend and culinary mentor,” who also helps with Richey’s other venues, in particular The Whiskey Jar.
The Bebedero should open mid-March.