The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Peter Robertson

Five Finds on Friday: Peter Robertson


Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Peter Robertson who, with his wife Merrill, runs the outstanding food truck Côte-Rôtie. In addition to their regular gig at Champion, Côte-Rôtie has lots of exciting upcoming events, including tomorrow at IX Park for a party celebrating the release of Potter’s The Haven, next weekend at Blenheim Vineyards and, perhaps best of all, June 10 at Afton Mountain Vineyard for a multi-course wine dinner, when the Culinary Institute of America alumni really plan to let loose. Robertson’s picks:

1) Olive Boule at Albemarle Baking Company and Sourdough at MarieBette Cafe & Bakery.  “Charlottesville is blessed with two fantastic bakeries. Every Friday, Albemarle Baking Co. makes an olive boule which we try to get every time we pick up our fish order from Seafood @ West Main. MarieBette has a delicious sourdough available in large and small, where the latter can make an excellent soup bowl for French onion soup, which you can throw right under the broiler to gratinee and get yummy burnt edges.”

2) Bread at MAS Tapas. “While in Libourne, France, we purchased a life-changing boule from a baker who had a small cart at the farmer’s market. He baked his bread in a wood burning oven, made of stone out in the countryside and brought it to market occasionally. MAS’s bread is the closest thing to that we have had in the United States. Every time we go there we ask if we can buy one to take home, the closest to burnt that they have. Everything at MAS is delicious but their bread is old world, and we love it.”

3) Pizza Dough at Lampo.  “These guys know what’s up.  Whenever we sit at the bar, I just marvel at the tray of perfectly formed white pillows of stretchy dough. It’s amazing how it cooks in just a few minutes with just the right amount of burnt bubbles on the edges.  The ingredients on top are always fresh and delicious but ‘dat dough’ is what I crave.”

4) Stickin in My IPA at Champion Brewing Company. “‘Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of Bread’ – Bob Dylan and The Band’s song always runs through my head when drinking a Champion Brewing Company beer. So many tasty beers come out of there. I think my first Champion brew was Stickin in My IPA in the tall can. It was ice cold and I nearly downed the whole thing after a busy night cooking and it definitely stuck to me. Also, it’s one of our regular stops and everyone who works there is aces in our book.”

5)  Double Bacon Cheeseburger at Riverside Lunch.  “My list wouldn’t be complete without Riverside Lunch. I know Merrill mentioned it, but it’s just perfect. No pretension, consistent, super friendly staff, fast and efficient. I love the thin crispy ‘smash burgers’ which chefs in NYC are starting to copy, but I doubt it will get any better than they do it at Riverside.”

Introducing Côte-Rôtie


A promising food truck by two Culinary Institute of America alum has just hit the Charlottesville streets. Côte-Rôtie is the product of Peter and Merrill Robertson, a husband-and-wife team who recently arrived from the Hamptons.

Both bring impressive culinary resumes.  Peter has worked under one of the nation’s most acclaimed chefs, Frank Stitt, of Highlands Bar and Grill, in Peter’s native Birmingham, Alabama, while Merrill once managed a gourmet shop in the Hamptons, Loaves & Fishes.  And, together in the Hamptons for nearly eight years, they ran a catering business and a tiny, ambitious set-menu restaurant with just twelve seats, called Dish.

What brings them to Charlottesville?  Like most of us, they are here by choice.  Merrill’s brother and sister both live here, and Peter and Merrill “had always enjoyed coming to visit,” said Merrill.  So, when they lost their lease on Dish, they headed south.

The Hamptons’ loss is our gain. But, why a food truck and not another restaurant?  “We wanted something small and outfitted exactly how we wanted it with the right equipment and placement,” said Merrill.  “A food truck fit that bill.”  Their restaurant Dish was so small that they never needed to hire staff, and came to enjoy operating everything themselves.

Côte-Rôtie’s cuisine likewise draws on the preferences of Peter and Merrill.  They love Japanese food, for example, and would frequent yakitori spots in New York.  So,they had a yakitori grill custom-made in Japan just for the truck.  “It gets extremely hot and is just a great all-around grill for everything,” said Merrill. The two also have fond memories of “fabulous rotisserie chicken” at markets in the south of France, so they had a rotisserie built for the truck as well.  Utilizing the rotisserie, the truck will offer full take-home meals of rotisserie ducks and chickens, with potatoes, a salad, and a vegetable.

But, yakitori grilled meats and vegetables and rotisserie birds are just the starting points for a menu that will change with the seasons and the whims of Peter and Merrill.  Their sample menus are as ambitious as any I’ve ever seen for a food truck. “We love sashimi, bacon cheeseburgers, and Mexican food!” said Merrill.  “We plan to change the menu every 1-3 days in order to offer new things and cook the foods we love to eat.”


Steak frites, $9.

If what I’ve sampled from the truck is any indication, I love to eat what they love to eat.  At just $9, the steak frites was worthy of a great bistro, rivaling any version in recent memory.  “Perfectly ” is a lazy, over-used adverb in food writing, often empty of meaning. But, here it is spot-on.  Steak frites is not rocket science, but both the steak and fries were indeed perfectly cooked. A hard sear on the skirt steak created an umami-laden crust, encasing medium-rare meat that, thanks to being sliced properly, was “melt-in-the-mouth good,” as one reader put it.  The fries were also perfect, with all the indicia of being fried twice, as is ideal: a crisp, salty exterior and a creamy, buttery interior.

It’s a bold move to arrive in Charlottesville and start hawking fried chicken.  With so many great fried chicken venues in the area, it’s a bit like showing up in Paris and selling baguettes. But, Merrill insisted, “Peter makes awesome fried chicken.”  So, I had to try.  And, she’s right.  Awesome. It’s an instant contender for best in town. I don’t think I’d heard a crunch that loud since Florence Henderson was pitching Wesson in the early eighties.


In addition to catering, Côte-Rôtie plans regular stops around town.  This week, on Tuesday and Thursday from 11:30 until 2, they will be downtown at the parking lot 100 E. Water St.  And, Friday, they will be at the Wine Warehouse.  They also plan to visit vineyards, breweries, and events around town.  This Saturday, they will be at Henley’s Orchard, and on October 24, they will make their debut at Charlottesville’s top food truck destination, Champion Brewing Company.  Follow along on Facebook for locations, dates, and times.


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