Keepin’ It Fresh

Reinventing Charlottesville’s iconic Dairy Market.

(Photo by Sera Petras)

Part food hall, part event space, and located between the Downtown Mall and the University of Virginia campus, the recently opened Dairy Market in Charlottesville is poised to become both a dining destination and a meeting place in the tradition of New York’s Chelsea Market, Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market, and Boston’s Faneuil Hall.

“Opening a market hall around the holidays, during a pandemic has certainly posed some unique challenges,” says market manager Frank Brunetto. But, after years as the director of operations for R&L Hospitality Group, which operates iconic Richmond restaurants like Lunch & Supper, Brunch, and The Village Café, he is the ideal person to shepherd this complex project, which comprises almost 20 businesses in a historic space. “We’ve had to delay the opening of the retail spaces in order to accommodate COVID-19 distancing guidelines, but when the whole space is fully open, it will offer a unique blend of retail, dining, and community gathering spaces.” Brunetto expects Dairy Market to host live music, community meetings, receptions, movie screenings, and more.

Dairy Market is sited in the Monticello Dairy building, built in 1936 as the first brick-and-mortar location for the beloved Charlottesville business. Originally an ice cream company, the working dairy also sold milk, butter, and cheese; the building quickly became a community gathering place known for its ice cream parlor and event room. Today, the expansive spaces feature nostalgic black and white photos that evoke the building’s history.

The building is anchored by two large bays just inside the front door, destined for clothing retailers later in the year, and two major drinking and dining destinations, which flank either end. Starr Hill Brewing, a Charlottesville institution, returns to its original neighborhood with a spacious taproom featuring small batch brews made onsite and live music. Restaurant X, a yet-to-be named Central and South American-themed steakhouse, is the longtime dream project of experienced restaurateur Will Richey of Ten Course Hospitality. “I’ve wanted to launch this concept for years,” he says. “A diverse menu will celebrate multiple cuisines with a range of offerings, from simple burgers and tacos to more specialized fare. … Every steak will have a reason and a story behind it.”

More than a dozen other concepts present individually branded and decorated spaces that convey their unique offerings and stories.

Sera Petras

Angelic Jenkins

Angelic’s Kitchen: From festival food to food truck and now the Dairy Market, Angelic Jenkins feeds the soul of the community with her fried fish and chicken, mac and cheese, green beans, corn pudding, and pinto beans. Hospitality is as important to Jenkins as her food. “We invite you to have a seat at our table, where food becomes your happiness,” she says.

Sera Petras

Macarons from Bee Conscious Baking Company

Bee Conscious Baking Company: Owners Alexis and Patrick Strasser, a husband-and-wife team from Goochland, strive to raise awareness of the declining bee population, as well as use eco-friendly packaging and support conscientious farming practices. “We are passionate about sustainability and operate the farm organically using a no-till method,” says Alexis, a Culinary Institute of America-trained pastry chef. “We are excited to expand our vision from the farmers’ market to a brick-and-mortar location in this exciting new development.” Look for farm fresh eggs, seasonal produce, pastries, and cakes.

Sera Petras

Basil stir fry chicken from Chimm Street

Chimm Street: Serving up a menu of Thai street food, Chimm Street offers vegetarian and shrimp spring rolls resplendent with fresh mint and cilantro, carrots, and rice noodles and accented with spicy peanut sauce or fish sauce. Also look for extra crispy chicken wings, pork and crab dumplings, a selection of coconut-laced curries, and Vietnamese specialties like pho and a grilled beef noodle salad.

Dino’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Rotisserie Chicken: A native of Kosovo with a lifetime of culinary experience, veteran chef Dino Hoxhaj combines his love of pizza and rotisserie chicken in a food hall environment perhaps more commonly found abroad. The extensive menu features 16 wood-fired pizzas, calzones, chicken wings, salads, wraps, and rotisserie chicken. “My family has been cooking over wood fires for over 200 years,” says Hoxhaj, “a tradition that we take seriously.”

Sera Petras

Eleva Coffee

Eleva Coffee: Every community gathering spot needs a café to fuel conversations. With its first foray outside of New York, Eleva Coffee is one of the Dairy Market’s anchor points, occupying the central hall just inside the front doors. In a farm-to-cup fashion, Eleva sources its beans directly from producers in the coffee growing regions of Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Ethiopia, building on relationships that its founder developed during a career as a coffee trader. Special offerings include egg, bacon, and cheese hand pockets and alfajores, a traditional dulce de leche sandwich cookie.

Sera Petras

The Milkman’s Bar

The Milkman’s Bar: Led by mixologists River Hawkins and Mike Stewart, The Milkman’s Bar serves a menu of cocktails in a funky space, with couches, high tops, and a bar lit with milk bottle pendants, an homage to the building’s heritage. The drink menu includes dairy-themed concoctions like the Milk Plus, “a milk drink minus the milk,” made with coconut rum, lychee juice, coconut water, and coconut milk, and The Big Tickle, a specialty bourbon egg cream. The bar also serves a menu of light fare.

Sera Petras Photography LLC

Moo Thru

Moo Thru: Founded by a multi-generational dairy farming family, Moo Thru has been serving ice cream for 10 years in Fauquier County and at events around the state. The Smith family takes special care in crafting delectable ice cream, malts, shakes, and more. Flavors include traditional vanilla and chocolate, as well as more unusual offerings like Blackberry Merlot with Dark Chocolate Chunks and Bourbon Caramel.

Sera Petras Photography LLC

Priscilla Martin Curry with an assortment of goods from Springhouse Sundries.

Springhouse Sundries: A one-stop shop for curating a perfect happy hour, Springhouse Sundries features olives, crackers, quince jam, Olli salami, and cheeses from local favorites like Caromont Farms in Esmont and Mountain View Farm in Fairfield, all paired with an intriguing collection of local and international beer and wine. Co-owner Matt Hauck says, “We had a lot of fun choosing a wide range of beer and wine to accompany our food items. We went beyond local with Belgian favorites like La Chouffe and Duvel, and even have an Icelandic porter.” Look, too, for dinner fixings, such as Bloody Butcher grits from Deep Run Milling and pasta from Lynchburg’s Scratch Pasta Company.

Sera Petras

Take It Away Sandwiches

Take It Away Sandwiches: Making some of Charlottesville’s favorite sandwiches for nearly 30 years, Take It Away Sandwiches has expanded its offerings to include hot sandwiches, many of which feature their special dressing, a blend of herbs, spices, and mustard.

Coming later in 2021, the Dizon family, known for its Little Manila food truck, will serve family favorites and Filipino dishes, like pancit, lumpia, and pork belly tacos at Manila Street. Citizen Burger will deliver burgers made from local ingredients, including grass-fed beef from Timbercreek Farms, bread from Albemarle Baking Company, and cheese from Mountainview Farm. Grn Brgr will offer a vegetarian burger menu. Led by executive chef T.K. Chin, Mashu’s menu will feature Japanese festival fare, including sushi; and Maizal is expected to become a hot spot for fans of Latin street food. DairyMarketCville.com

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Sera Petras

The Milkman’s Bar

Food Hall vs. Food Court:

What’s the Difference?

Dairy Market is part of the food hall trend that has taken the country by storm over the past five years. Unlike a mall or airport food court, which is usually packed with fast-food chains, food halls and markets typically mix small restaurants, artisanal food shops, and, occasionally, boutiques to create a distinctly local destination. They are usually stand-alone locations, often sited in repurposed or historic locations, and generally serve as incubators for food startups and new concepts.

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