The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Smoked Kitchen & Tap

Introducing Taste Shack: Smoked’s Justin van der Linde Brings His Attention to Detail to Classic Sandwiches and Familiar Favorites

Nearly a decade has passed since Justin van der Linde began selling barbecue from a cart on the downtown mall. The crowds that flocked to his cart only grew when, in 2016, he opened a brick and mortar home for Smoked. Even certified barbecue judges heaped praise.

All the while, as passionate as van der Linde was about barbecue, the culinary school graduate could not shake the urge to make other foods he loves. “I get this itch every once in a while to do something new,” said van der Linde. And so, van der Linde has sold his beloved Smoked, to turn all of his attention to a new venture: Taste Shack, which opens next week on 29N.

For van der Lind, “something new” never means reinvent the wheel. That’s not his M.O. Rather, he takes classic foods he loves, like barbecue, and applies obsessive attention to detail. “I am not the great inventor,” said van der Linde. “But, I do like to make a run at it.”

With Taste Shack, he is making a run at a menu of classic sandwiches and other familiar favorites, where the simple names bely the effort behind them. For “Chips and Dip,” for example, van der Linde first slices and soaks Russet potatoes. He then deep fries the sliced potatoes and, while they are still hot and ready to absorb flavor, tosses them in a house-made “red-salt,” which he likens to a dry rub. The dip for the chips is van der Linde’s take on a classic game day bacon-and-onion dip, but requires a lot more care than opening a pouch of powder. Van der Linde roasts onions in butter, which he chops together with cherry-wood smoked bacon, and blends with beef broth, sour cream, and minced chives.

Fans of Carving Board, the sandwich shop he ran with his wife, will be thrilled to know that sandwiches are a focus of Taste Shack, again with van der Linde’s signature attention to detail. For a Steak and Cheese, he says, the cut of beef is crucial. Too fatty and the fat won’t have time to render on the flat-top. Too lean, and the meat will dry out as it sears. That’s why he calls rib-eye the “king of the cut” for the sandwich. “You get that good mouth feel,” said van der Linde, “and there’s enough marbling that you get that good sear before it dries out.”

For the sandwich, Van der Linde starts with whole rib eye, which he trims to an eighth of an inch of fat. He freezes it briefly to firm up before shaving off thin slices. The shaved beef stays raw until order when it is seared on the flat-top and topped with a choice of cheese and toppings. The whole thing is stuffed into an Amoroso roll, which van der Linde re-bakes at the restaurant, yielding a crisp exterior and soft interior.

As good as the Steak and Cheese sounds, van der Linde’s personal favorite is the Country Gentleman, a nostalgic tribute to a childhood favorite from a sandwich shop called Chubb’s, where his father would take him on Sundays. Van der Linde starts with whole turkey breasts, which he de-bones in house. “This ensures the highest quality whole muscle product,” said van der Linde. “Nothing extruded like you would find in most deli turkey.” He brines the turkey breast for 48 hours in 50/50 sugar and salt, rubs it in salt and pepper, and then roasts it whole, adding honey towards the end of the roast time, to bring a touch of sweetness without burning.

For the sandwich, he piles the turkey with Kite’s country ham, Southern style slaw of green cabbage, and a choice of cheese (he recommends Swiss). Next comes the key, van der Linde says. A house-made Russian dressing that he likes so much that he is tight-lipped about its preparation. While all sandwiches come on a choice of bread, van der Linde says grilled rye is the way to go for the Country Gentleman.

And for those cutting carbs, sandwiches can also be ordered over greens instead of on bread. It’s all made from scratch. House-brined corned beef for Reubens. House-brined and house-smoked pastrami. And a smash-burger inspired by the 2017 Dish of the Year.

A Happy, Hometown Place

The COVID-19 pandemic weighed heavily in van der Linde’s planning of Taste Shack. For guests, the pandemic changed the ways many people want to dine, he said: faster, easier, and often on the run, whether from Apps or instore kiosks.

But, it’s not just ease people seek, van der Linde says. More than ever, people crave a happy escape. And so, his aim with Taste Shack is to create what he calls a “hometown place with hometown service,” where everyone feels welcome and happy. Like The Tavern back in the day. “It’s a shack,” he said, “so come as you are. Bring your kids in muddy cleats and shin guards falling out.”

The pandemic’s lessons extend to staff, too. “I am hearing what the industry is saying,” said van der Linde about restaurant workers fleeing the industry. “Message heard loud and clear. Our staff is just as important as the customer.” In addition to “top pay” and a positive environment, the father of two plans for hours that allow staff a quality life outside work: Monday through Friday, 11am – 7pm.

Taste Shack is located on 29N at 2291 Seminole Lane. Check back for an opening date.

 

Five Finds on Friday: Martha Stinson

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Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Martha Stinson, of Stinson Vineyards, which allows several ways to enjoy its wine through the pandemic. Reserve online for outdoor bottle service and wine flights at the vineyard. Shop online for curbside pick-up or free delivery within 20 miles. Have it shipped to you, with free shipping for 4+ bottles. Or, best of all, escape to the vineyards’ Inn at Stinson Vineyards, including a free wine tasting, hot breakfast, and stunning views from the patios and swimming pool. Stinson’s picks:

1) Hunt Brother’s Thin Crust Pizza from Piedmont Store in “downtown” White Hall. “You can add toppings such as pepperoncinis, but plain cheese is great. Perfect for pool days at the Inn.”

2) Collard Greens at Smoked Kitchen & Tap. “Practically a whole meal by itself. Cooked in the Southern style, with a mix of their meats.”

3) COVID-19 Wine Flights at Stinson Vineyards. “These were a group design effort – we used my husband’s architectural drawing software to make the printouts.

4) Everything Bagel with Cream Cheese at Bodo’s. “Warm, soft and chewy. Would make New York jealous.”

5) Soup of the Day from l’étoile Catering. “My all-time favorite is the seafood bisque – every bite is different.”

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Five Finds on Friday: Ryan Davidson

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If you work in the Charlottesville food industry, you may recognize this week’s Five Finds on Friday participant, a young lady who has joined me on my food adventures ever since she changed my life eleven years ago today. With a boundless love of life and people, it seems Ryan has told most of Charlottesville’s servers that she likes their earrings. Happy birthday, Ryan. Ryan’s picks:

1) Parker House Rolls at Prime 109. “When I go to a restaurant, I always like it when they have bread. But, Prime 109’s Parker House Rolls are not just ordinary bread. You can smell them coming from the other side of the restaurant. And when you get them you can’t stop eating them. We always end up ordering a second one! They are warm and have a nice salty taste when eaten with butter. They are also almost as good at home! And, Prime 109 is the place where I’m going today for my birthday!”

2) Fried Chicken with Waffles and a Vanilla Milkshake at Smoked Kitchen & Tap. “Chicken, waffles, and syrup. There are so many flavors and I like how they fit together. Smoked is also where I had my first milkshake. I love vanilla, and when I heard vanilla ice cream was in that milkshake, I was really excited! Their milkshakes are creamy, sweet and, best of all, taste exactly like vanilla! I’ve had more milkshakes, but that one is still my favorite! Their chicken always comes out nice and hot, and the waffles freshly made. It’s a bit of a drive, but it’s totally worth it!”

3) Lumpia from Little Manila. “Ever since I was young, my brother and I would go to the market on Saturdays. And every Saturday, my brother would get what he called ‘egg rolls’ from Little Manila. Then he introduced them to me and I loved them. They have great flavors on their own, but even better in the sauce.”

4) Dealer’s Choice at The Alley Light. “Sometimes after swimming at ACAC, I like to go to The Alley Light for a mocktail. Every time I go, Micah always makes a different one for me. But, the parts I like most are the fruity flavors and the tiki glasses.”

5) Kale Caesar at Chopt.  “After a soccer game, for me, the best thing to eat is a Kale Caesar from Chopt. I love salad, not only because it’s so healthy, but because of how many different types there are. My favorite by far is the Kale Caesar because I love kale and the dressing they use. I also think that one bonus is how they chop it. They chop it up so small, so that everything is mixed together.”

ryand

 

 

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