Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hollywood Cemetery

With its entrance in the Oregon Hill neighborhood of Richmond, historic Hollywood Cemetery, laid out in 1847, unfolds over hills and dales up to the James River. Two of the main attractions in the cemetery overlook the James from one of the highest hills in the garden or rural cemetary.
James Monroe, #5, resides in a cast iron cage with this plaque upon his concrete slab.
John Tyler (#10)'s monument, an ornamented obelisk, is the more imposing monument. It's a stone's throw from Monroe's "bird cage".
An obelisk marking the grave of a revered mason is decorated by some interesting imagery.

This impressive monument, made of James River granite and 90 feet tall, was completed in 1869. 18,000 Confederate dead are buried around its base. It's the centerpiece of the CSA section of the burial ground, the part farthest from the river. J.E.B. Stuart and George Pickett are amongst the ranks.

"In eternal remembrance...""...Of those who stood for God and Country"
Here's a view of the cemetery from Belle Isle. The highest bunch of gravemarkers include the presidents.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

All Aboard

My first post visited traveling by rail to and from DC. It seems that this has just gotten a lot easier, and my complaint about the lateness of the trains will no longer be true. There is now daily direct service to DC, as reported by the Daily Progress. By train is still the most romantic way to travel - countless New York City subway rides haven't stolen that away - and in Charlottesville it just became a lot more feasible.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

C-ville Food Blog

I just discovered Mas to Millers, a most excellent Charlottesville food blog worth checking out.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Old Power Plant

I've written about the old Charlottesville and Albemarle Railway Company power plant before and how to get to it. Here are some photos of the factory and nearby train bridge coutesy of Adam.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Garden Upgrade

Last week we moved to Brooklyn. I've started the new Brooklyn version of this blog, Notes from Carroll Gardens. Here's what our patio garden looked like in Charlottesville.
Here's what we upgraded to.
Here's the back garden planted with some veggies and herbs.
Although the posts will be much less regular, please let me know if anything on here is egregiously wrong and I'll update it. The email address is at the bottom of the right column.

Thank you Charlottesville for 7 great years!

Take It Away Sandwich Shop

Take It Away is one of the Corner gourmet sandwich peddlers. The others are Revolutionary Soup and, eh, Cafe Europa. They specialize in build your own sandwiches. I favor the cut baguettes for bread, veggies, the cukes and sprouts, provolone cheese, and the special sauce which would make just about any sandwich taste good.

This place gets busy at lunch time, but the kitchen runs with the efficiency of Bodo's. They have as many drinks, bottles of wine included, as one could want. Boxes of chips abound. There's a Take it Away in Williamsbug but no indication these two are associated.

Get the special sauce!

115 Elliewood Ave
Charlottesville, VA 22903-2605
(434) 295-1899

Saturday, June 13, 2009

C-ville Coffeeshops

A notable exception in this round-up is Starbuck's. No matter what this coffeehouse does - give away free songs, help the third world, improve their coffee - it will always be a franchise and never home-grown. I won't refuse a starbuck's gift card, but if it's my money, I'll put it on one of the local coffee shops.

As an aside, the picture to the right drew my attention to the avenue in Elliewood Avenue. It's hardly a main street or thoroughfare.

My order of preference
1. Shenandoah Joe's
2. Mudhouse
3. Para Coffee

Honorable Mention: Higher Grounds. Although I've consumed probably more of this coffee over the last 8 years than any other, it's hospital only location excludes it from a list of top coffee shops. It does win points for its punning name.

Others: C-ville Coffee, Fox Park

I haven't been to Java Java under the new management so I can't comment on that one.

R.I.P. Espresso Royale Caffe

Al Dente

First located above Escafe, Ristorante Al Dente moved to the Ix building in the Spring of 2008 and then was joined by its companion restaurant Al Hamraa in the Fall of 2008. As the picture above attests, Al Dente doesn't have a grand entrance. The character of the place and space makes up for it.

Having eaten at Al Hamraa more recently and knowing that Karim Sellam is behind both places may explain why the food did not have the Italian flavor I expect. The Sangiovese I chose was great. Salads were "in season" arugala. The fruta del mar mussels, albeit a questionable choice at our inland location, didn't seem right. The gnocchi was dense, layered in a thick sauce. It didn't leave much room for dessert and I would have enjoyed trying the tiramisu.

The prices were a little more than comparable places in town. The restaurant has charming antique silverware and a sturdy outdoor area. (too hot to enjoy one recent night) There are so many restaurants in town to choose from, and I can't figure out the niche this one fits in. Al Hamraa, on the other hand, is a treasure I hope sticks arounds.

IX Buiding
925 Second Street SE
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
(434) 295-9922

Horse and Hound Gastropub

Maya's neigbor, Horse and Hound, opened for business almost two years ago. (reviewed previously). It's touted as a gastropub. Even the sign sports the fancy moniker. And the sign is downright fancy. It's hard to miss when driving down west main.

Gourmet pub food is the best description. The Belmont, a waiter's favorite sandwich at an early visit, is a fancy pulled pork sandwich, topped with dry cole slaw. The french fries were excellent. The fish and chips are also remarkable. Fried to perfection with tartar and those excellent fries, if I didn't like the Belmont so much, I'd go for this.

There's a large indoor dining room. The bar is separate and features a row of large stools and a few high tops. The outside patio is fitted with huge umbrellas which become useful when it rains. In the winter they bring in the heaters.
For drinks they have a number of specialty beers on tap. Guinness is a must some of the time. Currently they have the Blue Mountain Mandolin Artisanal Ale. It's not listed on the Blue Mountain site, but it doesn't need to be. It's a great beer in my opinion.

Dinner for four: $100 (a couple beers each)

625 West Main Street
Charlottesviile, VA 22903
(434) 293-3365

Friday, June 12, 2009

Chiles Strawberries

At least last weekend, Chiles, just west of Crozet, had plenty of strawberries. They were more picked over than last year when we went in May, but we still harvested 12 pounds ($1.50/lb). Crozet is also a great place for peaches. (See prior post.) The season for that hasn't really started up yet.

With the flat of strawberries we picked along with a few quarts from chesterfield berry farm closer to richmond, we had a family jam session. Mashing berries, mixing in sugar, and boiling pectin took up the bulk of an afternoon, but the fruits of that labor last all year. Not all the strawberries turned into jam. There was a strawberry shortcake and plenty eaten as is. In a head to head trial, these berries wallop the bloated, fibrous versions that come out of california. The strawberry milk shake mixed up by Chile's at their roadside mega-stand is incredible.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Milano Cafe

Milano moved from the Main Street Market a few months ago. The space there has since been replaced by Calvino Cafe.

Now on South Street in one of the old warehouses, Milano has a little more space, a great outdoor seating area, and access to hoards of Saturday morning farmer's market shoppers. It's serving the same illy coffee and has kept much of the same indoor setup. Its unusual marriage to a furniture store is still alive. The wood farm tables are spectacular.

A small selection of baked goods and a freezer of gelato flavors are offered along with the joe.

100 West South Street
Charlottesville, VA 22903
(434) 220-4302

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Downtown One Lane Train Bridge

I've always found this bridge overpass interesting. Couldn't it just be widened? As it is now, I wouldn't be surprised to see a horse-drawn buggy waiting on the other side.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Marco and Luca

A downtown cheap food standby for at least a few years, this noodle and dumpling restaurant serves up one of the tastiest $3 snacks in town. It's located on the downtown mall in Yorktown place, one store front away from Christian's Pizza, which has the cheapest, best tummy filler in town, a $2 slice of cheese with oregano and hot pepper flakes.

The only thing I've ever ordered are the pork dumpling which are provided in a sweet and spicy soy-based sauce. The sauce is incredible and overpowers the dumplings: the combination is heavenly. The health benefits of these seven fried wonders are less clear than their perfect taste.

The place is small but has plenty of seating for its size. Sitting on one of the stools facing the window offers great people watching.

112 E Main St
Charlottesville, VA 22902
(434) 244-2605

Monday, June 1, 2009

Continental Divide

I just revisited this place last night and updated the previous post. Many restaurants are closed on Sunday nights, but the "get in here" sign was shining. At 8:30 we still had to wait for a table, which wasn't any trouble because there were plenty of seats at the bar. This restaurant never struggles for business.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cafe Europa

An easy-to-miss mainstay on the UVA corner, Cafe Europa has been serving sandwiches longer than Rev Soup on 14th Street and nearly as well. The decor is reminiscent of the Seinfeld diner in the mid-90's. The main offerings are pitas, baguette sandwiches, and paninis. There are lettuce and other salad sides. My parisian sandwich, turkey, brie and honey mustard, was served with a hearty serving of potato salad. I really have no complaints about the food. There are fountain drinks and a couple coolers full of pops and juices for refreshment.

Without a good scrubbing or a renovating update, it's hard to consider this place as an attractive Corner lunch option, especially when compared to Take It Away or Rev Soup.

1331 W Main St
Charlottesville, VA 22903
(434) 295-4040

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Boylan Heights Happy Hour

For weeks I've been going to 12th Street Taphouse for happy hour. There's something to say for the 20 ounce beers. Boylan Heights has regular old pint glasses, but on week nights from 6-9 they are only $2. With the students gone for the summer and the recession in full swing, this is a deal. Drinking to forget the world's troubles is rarely this cheap.

Monday, May 25, 2009

12th Street Patio

Since I'm obsessed with this place, I added a picture of the patio to my prior post.


This Lathyrus specimen grows on the corner of Wertland Street and 12th Street. I think it is most likely Lathyrus latifolius but I'm not sure. The Audubon field guide states there are 20 Lathyrus spp. in our range. This plant will produce peas which are either edible or may cause neurological disease depending on the source. It seems that in small amounts the peas are safe, but if they are eaten in large quantities, a toxic amino acid contained in the peas causes neuronal damage. This has been the source of epidemic lathyrism in places worldwide when populations resort to eating the wild pea during food shortages. The word lathyrus is derived from Greek, 'la' meaning very and thyrus meaning passionate, since the plant was considered an aphrodisiac.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Monument to the Real Estate Bubble

The stalled Landmark eyesore made Gawker via a photo from C-villain. How long will we have to look at this concrete shell?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bodo's Bagels

Three locations in Charlottesville, a local institution, Bodo's serves up bagels as early as 6:30AM on the weekdays if you're up. It's a good time to go because during regular hours or say 10AM on a weekend you'll have to wait a while before biting into the doughy goodness. Below is the Preston Ave location early one morning.Sticking with an order once I find it, I find the egg on a sesame bagel always satisfying. Bodo's must pack some calories because I'm not hungry for hours afterward. There are multiple cream cheeses to choose from if you're so inclined. They would probably add to the stick-to-the-ribs-ness.
The coffee is never very good. The website isn't clear about what beans are used. Locally roasted beans from Shenandoah Joe's would certainly be an improvement. Fortunately Shenandoah Joe's is right down Preston from this location.

The Corner location is famous for not being open for years. On my visits there I've seen a lot of happy undergrads. The other location, nominally on Emmet could also be considered the bypass location, as in the 250 bypass. The building used to house a Roy Rogers.

When I first moved to town after college before starting school again in the fall, I tried to get a job at the bypass Bodo's. The owner said I was over-qualified. For what looks like an intense, fast-moving work environment, I was certainly not overqualified; perhaps it was his nice way of saying that I wouldn't last.

505 Preston Ave
Charlottesville, VA 22903
(434) 293-5224

Charlottesville Beer

To take home from Harris Teeter?


For the Charlottesville area local beer scene, Starr Hill is one of two bottling breweries in the area. The other is Blue Mountain. South Street and Devil's Backbone brew their own for on-site consumption. Supposedly Kegler's has a limited batch a year, but I still haven't had a chance to try it. If anyone has details about this beer, please let me know.

Over the mountain, there is Queen City Brewery in Staunton and Cally's in Harrisonburg. I went to Queen City once.

The original intent of this post was to announce that The Barracks Road Harris Teeter was selling Starr Hill Beer 6-packs for $6. That was quite a deal.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bel Rio

This restaurant is not at all what I thought it would be like. Saxx always looked to me like a comedy club straight out of a 90's Seinfeld intro routine. Bel Rio makes good use of the space, what looks like the top floor of an old industrial building. The name sounds Italian but there's plenty of everything else. The complimentary bread was perhaps a bit salty, but I couldn't stop eating it. The panini had a few more pickled veggies than I would have hoped but it was good. The fries were excellent. I ate my date's second crab cake the next day for lunch and it was very good even after being heated in a microwave.

Before going I had a glass of wine and a cheese and bread plate at Mas, not realizing that Bel Rio would have been a good place to do the same thing.

Their is a full music schedule and an open U-shaped bar. Bel Rio is another great place to hang out in Belmont. With the outdoor patio, I think Mas still has it beat. Some home owners are trying to add their home to the neighborhood's restaurants. The Local still needs to pick up their service. I recently had a three hour meal there that should have been a comfortable two.

Bel Rio
407 D Monticello Rd
Charlottesville, VA 22902
(434) 979-5299

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Flowering Dogwood

Cornus florida
Tis the season. This is a pink cultivar in a front yard on Wertland Street.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Catering to the undergraduate eater and budget, Lemongrass is located on 14th Street underneath the corner parking garage. It makes the most of a triangle shaped cave.

The food is quite good, although don't get carried away with the spiciness scale. Dinner is comfortable and delicious at 3/10 peppers. 5/10 peppers took the fun out of it. I appreciate a wall of flame or a wall of unpleasant meals, but I don't have any desire to appear on one. If you have any aversion to MSG, this isn't the place.

The Mango Tofu is what I get regularly. It's consistently delicious and takes the guesswork out of a take-out dinner. There's always the old standby Pad Thai.

104 14th St NW
Charlottesville, VA 22903
(434) 244-8424

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


A block from the mall and a block from vinegar hill, this place is perfect for grabbing a beer before or after a movie. The wood-lined bar and frequent live piano player add to the draw. They also have larger acts many nights of the week.

The restaurant offers southern Italian food. The entrees are mostly pasta and meat dishes. No one of a party of 7 was disappointed. The meatballs were flavorful. They bent over backward to accommodate a severe food allergy which is not always the case. A big table in the bar sits large parties along two pews. The restaurant proper is attached to the bar. Its brick walls mark it as the older structure. According to the menu history it dates back to the 1850's.

A bubblemaker lives on the roof over the main entrance.

200 W Market St
Charlottesville, VA 22902
(434) 979-4279

Monday, April 13, 2009

Black Maple

Acer nigrum

After feeding yellow-bellied sapsuckers on warm winter days and squirrels with its buds, this black maple's green flowers bloomed ahead of its leaves this month.

Wertland Street near its intersection with 12th Street.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Eastern Redbud

Cercis canadensis

Seeming to be everywhere right now, this eastern redbud blooms along Wertland Street. It is also called the Judas tree because legend has it that an Old World relative served as Judas Iscariot's gallows. Three white cultivars reside next to 1222 JPA.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Poplar Forest

Jefferson went all out when he built his octagonal retreat near Bedford VA. It's a square within an octagon with paired stairwells, chimneys and outdoor privies. The tour guide was serious about the house and all the work the Corporation for Jefferson's Poplar Forest has done for the property. Like any old house, there was a fire and multiple owners, who didn't always share Jefferson's symmetric vision. With all this havoc over the last 200 years, there's been plenty of restoring to do. The Corporation has gone to great lengths to restore the house to what Jefferson intended. Currently the house is being renovated in stages which provide examples of every stage of the process.

One of the more interesting facts is that the fire was probably a product of Jefferson's obsession with symmetry. He ran one of the flues from the center room at an angle so it would meet up with one of the four chimneys. It is believed that accumulated soot and debris in the non-vertical flue caught on fire spreading to the house.

On each side of the house T.J. had a mound built. They were popular in Europe at the time. There are mounds like them at the White House called Jefferson's Mounds.

View from a mound To get there from Charlottesville take 29 South to 460 W. Continue for 14 miles. Take a right on T.J. Road (811). Turn right on Bateman Bridge Road (661) which leads right to it. There are signs along the way.

For those more accustomed to Jefferson's Charlottesville area architecture, such as Monticello, UVA, even the Barboursville ruin, Poplar Forest is the place where Jefferson elevated the artistry of a building over its utility, hence the fire.

The New York Times recently had something to say about Jefferson's two Virginia residences.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

LOTUS in Yogaville

At some point I'm going to make a list of must-see places around Charlottesville and this will certainly be on it. Like the Blue Ridge Tunnel, I waited too long to visit Yogaville.

We loaded up on BBQ at Pee Wee's Pit before driving over the James toward LOTUS. After about 10 miles on 20, take a right on 655. Turn right on 601, then a left on 604. You can't miss the entrance.

The drive there is very different from the drive between C-ville and Scottsville. Buckingham County has more trees and less open pasture land. It reminded me of driving through Louisa County, which probably means that it looks like a lot of Central Virginia counties. One stretch of road on the way to the shrine curved through the middle of a clear cut wasteland. Trailers and small homesteads appear around almost every bend. Once you get to the entrance, it truly feels like the middle of nowhere.

Past the entrance there's a split road with driving on the left side. The narrow curving road leads to this view.

Buckingham County's Taj Mahal

Silence is requested between the elephants and the shrine. The inside of the shrine is split into two levels. The bottom level has some information about the world religions since this is the light of truth universal shrine. Upstairs doesn't disappoint. Twelve neon lines lead up to a glowing pink cylinder at the apex.

For a really crazy day, you could get a Christmas Tree and visit a shrine, or just head to Scottsville and keep driving.