The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Mel’s Cafe

Five Finds on Friday: Carolyn Stromberg Leasure

carolyn with cheddar

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Carolyn Stromberg Leasure of Righteous Cheese, which was once a cheese and wine bar in Washington D.C. and now hosts cheese events here in Charlottesville. On Valentine’s Day is Righteous Cheese’s most popular class ever: Chocolate, Cheese & Baller Bubbly. Leasure and award-winning cheesemonger Sara Adduci will lead guests through four rare grower champagnes, cheeses, and a spread of local chocolates. 6:30 – 7:30 pm in Oakhart Social’s private dining room. Details and tickets. Leasure’s picks:

1) Cold Brew Latte (made with cashew milk & cold brew coffee) from The Juice Laundry. “I really appreciate good coffee, and I get to feel like I’m being healthy when I drink this. Unlike a lot of juice places, The Juice Laundry is 100% organic, which I appreciate. Their Cold Brew Latte is creamy and nutty with a hint of cinnamon and a great start to the day.”

2) Fried Chicken and Onion Rings at Mel’s Cafe. “We cook at home almost every night, but when we are too tired and want something fast, it’s often Mel’s fried chicken. Even with takeout, it stays crispy, the onion rings are the apex of the genre, and even the breast meat is juicy. Though, of course, the best way to eat it is at Mel’s, with chicken straight out of the fryer, while chatting with the folks behind the counter.”

3) Hot and Numbing Shredded Tofu Skins at Peter Chang’s. “I love to order tofu when dining out, since making it at home never turns out quite as good. The Hot and Numbing Shredded Tofu Skin almost has the texture of al dente pasta: thinly shredded, toothsome pieces of tofu skin seasoned with chili pepper, chili oil, sesame oil, fresh cilantro and a host of other spices and seasonings. While not the spiciest dish at Peter Chang’s (which means you can eat more!), it leaves a pleasant, buzzy tingling on your lips. Yum.”

4) Eggs and Pancake Special at Tip Top Restaurant. “With a two-year old toddler/tyrant living in our house, my chef-husband and I don’t get out often for dinner, but we take breakfast seriously. I am a bit particular (read: annoying) about my eggs, and prefer them over-medium, apparently the hardest way to cook them. The number of times my eggs are cooked properly – with firm whites and a soft yolk – at most restaurants is few, but the kitchen at Tip Top has never disappointed. Eggs are always perfect, and there’s nothing wrong with the pancakes and bacon (ordered extra-extra-crispy for me). The relaxed dining room is bustling but it doesn’t take too long for a table, they have crayons for my kid, and the staff is the perfect mix of gregarious, surly, and at the top of their game.”

5) Budino at Lampo. “I love absolutely everything at Lampo, and my standard order is the kale salad, a cheese and charcuterie board, and the Margherita DOC pizza. The perfect dish for me, though, is the chocolate budino. Chocolate and olive oil are one of my all-time favorite flavor combinations. The budino is silky and rich with a savory drizzle of olive oil, a salty, crunchy, caramel-y top, and nutty crushed hazelnuts, all of which come together for an ideal balance of flavors and textures.”

tofu

Hot and Numbing Shredded Tofu Skins

Five Finds on Friday: Francesca Black

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Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Francesca Black, chef of Continental Divide, which has been closed for two weeks after water damage related to Hurricane Michael, but is poised to re-open next week. Black’s picks:

1) Late Night Burger with a Salty Dog at C & O. “I usually get fixated on one aspect or one ingredient of a dish so, for me, an exceptional food experience happens when that fixation isn’t easy to discern — a temporary whirlwind sets in because it is that good. C&O late night does that for me. I am rarely free during regular dinner hours, so after work we sometimes head over for that divine burger. The crispy bun, the crunchy lettuce, that perfect first bite. It all becomes complete with their salty dog, the delicious classic with fresh squeezed grapefruit juice and a salted rim. It’s a great way to end a long work day.”

2) Masala Dosa from Desi Dosa with Turmeric Lassi from Planet Earth Diversified at the City Market. “If I can make it Saturday morning, the City Market rules. I love the Southern Indian vendor Desi Dosa. They focus on letting the intensity of their spices speak for themselves in simple dishes like the masala dosa, a thin stuffed pancake. Speaking of bold spice, the turmeric lassi from Planet Earth Diversified really wakes you up and goes great with spicy the food.”

3) Octopus Tempura and Hot Sake at Now & Zen. “Although hard to choose food favorites, octopus is absolutely up there, and when tempura fried, it’s a whole different level! I could eat Now & Zen’s octopus tempura everyday — it’s perfectly fried, salted and served with spicy mayo. Then with some hot sake — enough said.”

4) Half Chicken and Green Rice with Aji Sauce at Al Carbon. “I was definitely late to the game to visit Al Carbon on 29 but a friend got some take out one night, let me taste it, and I was instantly hooked. The flavors, especially in the homemade sauces, are unbelievable. I like to get the half chicken, break it up into the green rice and cover it in aji sauce, their medium, garlicky wonder.”

5) Fried Chicken and/or Meta’s Burger with Crushed Ice Soda at Mel’s Cafe. “Of all the delicious restaurants in Charlottesville, I think Mel’s might take the cake. Mel’s cures a bad day and makes a good day that much better. I can never choose between the chicken or Meta’s burger, both of which instantly fuel a tingling sensation even at the thought. Continental is so close, too –we are very proud and lucky to have them as our neighbors!”

Five Finds on Friday: Wiley Kimball

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Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Wiley Kimball of Parallel 38, which Wednesday, January 24, is hosting a happy hour and dinner with local wine star and itinerary creator Jake Busching. Happy hour, from 4-6 pm, includes a “meet and greet” with Busching and discounted prices on his wines. Dinner begins at 6:30, and includes a seven course feast with Busching, paired with Busching wines and other special selections. Guests can attend either or both events. Buy your dinner tickets at (434) 260-8793. Kimball’s picks:

1) One-Eye Burger from Mel’s Cafe. “This is, to me, the perfect burger. Just the right size, just the right amount of grease, and topped with a fried egg. I get mine with grilled onions, mayo, and hot sauce. Mel’s is a great spot for a casual lunch and the service is some of the friendliest you’ll find anywhere. If you haven’t been, you need to change that ASAP.”

2) The Rocket from Snowing in Space. “I can get down with just about everything from Snowing in Space but I always gravitate to this take on a Mexican hot chocolate. The Rocket is their cold-brew espresso mixed with milk, cinnamon, and a touch of chili powder. I usually drink my coffee black but something about this creamy, slightly spicy concoction always hits the spot.”

3) Literally Any Beer from Three Notch’d Brewing. “I wracked my brain trying to narrow this down to even only three favorites and I couldn’t. Their beers are just that good, especially the seasonals and collaboration brews. Special shout out to their collab with Oskar Blues, the Black & Goldings black ale. If you want something a bit more adventurous, stop by the Sour House on Preston (in their original taproom) and embrace the funk.”

4) Dry-Fried Eggplant at Peter Chang China Grill. “I could easily do this list five times over with only dishes from Peter Chang, but this is my hands down favorite. Light, crispy, savory, and with just enough spice to wake your palate up (and build up to some of the other dishes!). You hand me a couple orders of this and a tall Sapporo and I’ll be the happiest person on the planet.”

5) Wine and the View at Brent Manor Vineyards. “If I need to get out of town, this is my go-to. Tucked away just off 29 in Nelson County, this small vineyard is run by the lovely Jorge and Tracie, who not only make their own lineup of wines including a beautiful Chambourcin, they also stock a rotating selection of Portuguese wines and “winetail” specials that are always surprising and refreshing. All of that, paired with some beautiful VA scenery, makes for a perfect lazy afternoon. They’re closed for the season now but look out for them to reopen in the spring – you won’t be disappointed.”