Saturday, February 23, 2008

Spry's Closed

The lights have been out for a couple weeks in the old Northern Exposure building. Within the last week the Spry's signs came down. Read the earlier post here written soon after it opened in September. The doors are now closed for good. A sign on the door says they closed due to the owner's health concerns. There is a number to call with questions and concerns. Now the dark building, stripped of signage, seems even smaller in front of the UVA parking garage that looms over it. The only permanent change to the building is the now white wall that used to be covered by a cartoonish mural of NYC.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Valentine's Day (really the day after) seemed like as good a time as any to visit the fanciest and most expensive restaurant in Charlottesville. Oxo is a close second. (The Barboursville restaruant is outside the city.) Tucked into one of the side streets of the downtown mall on 3rd St. NE, Fleurie has been hosting "special occasion" dinners since 2001. In the home of a former pottery shop, it fills a small space split in two by a divider. The north wall is lined with comfy booths. A bar fills the southeast corner. Small tables are neatly spaced along the front window and along the pale yellow walls.

Upon seating we were offered champagne but passed. The wine list is extensive and all the wait staff seem to know it well. We opted for a lower end Burgundy, but lower end is $40. A prix fixe menu included around five choices each for appetizer, main course, and dessert. The meal started with an amuse-bouche (this place is French after all) of a piece of salmon over a parsley puree. The lobster bisque was less creamy than I expected but excellent. The meal never let up after the amuse-bouche. For the main entrees, there were scallops over green couscous, amazing, and flounder over white beans with a caviar garnish, splendid. We opted for the blueberry souffle with homemade vanilla ice cream for dessert. Just thinking about how good it was makes me want to swear. After that came some tiny pastry treats from the pastry chef: truffles, lemon meringue, and some sort of sweet bread. Settling the tab enforced that the price is steep, but the meal was certainly memorable. Dinner for two was $200 so it's not the place to go when your reason for dining out is that you don't want to have to clean up the kitchen after dinner.

Fleurie Restaurant‎
108 3rd St NE, Charlottesville, VA
(434) 971-7800‎

Monday – Thursday 5:30pm to 9:00pm
Friday – Saturday 5:30pm to 10:00pm

Unfortunately, Fleurie is on the street that's been torn up since late summer. The mess and construction machinery in front of the restaurant is amusing to me, but can't be for the people whose businesses are here.

A conspiracist might suggest that someone at city hall is carrying out a vendetta by trying to shut down a business on the street. The likely explanation is an underprepared contractor. Regardless, I doubt that patrons of Fleurie are deterred.

West Main

If you're in the mood for southern comfort food in a bar, and Miller's is just a little too smoky, West Main is probably a good place to try. Anchoring the old southwest corner of the Vinegar Hill neighboorhood, with heaps of food at reasonable prices, leaving hungry is not an option. As the first restaurant west of the downtown mall, it's a short walk from there. The historic corner building, old brick and incandescent light, makes it a natural place for a restaurant. The inside bar and upstairs dining areas are decorated with historic pictures of Charlottesville, among them some from Holsinger's studio around the turn of the century. Downstairs there is a larger bar area with a stage that serves as a small-time venue. Unfortunately the place is more appealing than the food.

The burger, a half-pounder with fries, can't possibly be eaten without causing a stomach ache. The entrees come with two sides and a small biscuit. Opting for the Virginia crabcakes seemed appropriate. They come with a spicy sauce, and have their fair share of onions, garlic, and green peppers. At least, I think that what's the green flecks were. The hushpuppies were too crispy. The macaroni and cheese was the best part, thick fusili pasta in a creamy cheese sauce served in a ramekin. The draft beers were flat, the Guinness stale. Since the food isn't the draw, it would be nice to stop by for a drink, but even that isn't desirable.

333 W Main St
Charlottesville, VA 22903
(434) 293-2605

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Moore's Creek and Woolen Mills

A portion of the Rivanna Trail can be accessed from the back of Quarry Park. From the website:

    Quarry Park to the Woolen Mills
    (1.64 miles, 19.55 from mile 0, difficult)
    The trail hugs Moore's Creek as it makes its way to the Rivanna River. Be prepared to scramble over rocks, trample through sand, and see a variety of wildlife, exposed rock cliffs, the livestock market, and historic mill buildings. We plan to build a footcrossing of Moore’s Creek near the old Woolen Mills.
This portion of the trail offers a glance at Charlottesville's underbelly and history.
Walking toward Woolen Mills, the trail follows Moore's Creek and skirts sanitation ponds. Eventually the stench leads to the above outflow into Moore's Creek. Upon reaching Woolen Mills there is the old plant across the creek still used by Allied for storage. From there the train bridge is visible. By hiking up the stone embankment, the tracks can be reached, and to the east, there are the ruins of the Charlottesville and Albemarle Railway Company power plant. This old power plant was under construction in 1913 at the time of the lower photograph.
Now its overgrown and a venue for grafitti. The statue of liberty stencil looks like the work of Banksy.

The C. and A. Ry. Co. (its lettering formed in bricks on the power plant building) was a streetcar company that in powering its cars also powered Charlottesville. According to the billboard C. & A. "keeps your home bright".In addition to the sewage treatment plant and some ruins, this stretch of trail serves as the address for a number of squatter camps. There were many visible from the trail with tents, mattresses, and pants hanging over branches to mark them. One at the end of long dry culvert, in the center of an on-ramp, looked just lived in. A bar of soap still teetered on a log. Having been in this area before, the profusion of such camps seem to indicate an economic downturn. The area along Moore's Creek may never have known good economic times. Just this week the Moore's Creek Restaurant was burglarized. This included a full-sized arcade game. (see story)

Photos thanks to Rufus Holsinger and the University of Virginia.