Chopt: Charlottesville Chopt Salad Yumminess

Kebab CobbRESTAURANT:  Chop’t Creative Salad Company

DATE OF VISIT: 8/15/17 (Second Day of Opening)

ADDRESS: Barracks Road Shopping Center (1117 Emmet Street, Charlottesville, VA 22903)

GENRE: Salad

AFFORDABILITY: Most of the entrees are around $10. I wouldn’t necessarily call it cheap, but the quantity is filling and the variety of options is really nice.

PARKING: Plenty of parking around Barracks Shopping Center

VENUE: Chop’t just had its grand opening a few days ago. If you’ve ever been to a Chopt in DC or NYC, the first thing you will notice is that this Charlottesville Chopt is MASSIVE. Definitely a different experience than you would have if you have been to one in a city. There is seating outside and inside there are several tables and booths as well. Everything is very clean and sleek and the fabric in the booths was really nice too. The only potentially confusing part is that a lot of people may enter from the side door and not the main entrance.

From my experience and observations, the restaurant seemed LGBTQ+ and POC friendly.

GENERAL: The minute we walked in we were greeted by someone explaining how ordering works and the menu. Another employee also checked up on us while in line and the manager did twice: in line and also while we were dining. Multiple employees came by to pick up our finished dishes while we were dining or to ask if we wanted more free bread. Even while ordering, employees would always ask if we wanted more sauce or our salad chopped more finely. Everyone was super friendly and it was a great first impression to have of the restaurant.

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So many fresh options!

How it works is you can make your own salad or choose one of the many preset combinations. They will put the salad materials in a bowl and hand you a ticket (that you later hand to the cashier when you pay) and will then lead you to a chopping station.

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My Kebab Cobb, waiting to be “Chopt”

At the chopping station they slice-and-dice your salad however fine you would like it (don’t have to chop it if you don’t want) and add the dressing.

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Chop chop chop chop chop!!

At the cash register, at least that day, they were giving out free pieces of bread. Again, everyone was super friendly.

THE FOOD: I ordered the Kebab Cobb because I love Tzatziki and Pita Chips and Feta in my salads. I got it double chopped (in my opinion, the more chopped the better, I was just too excited to eat to get it even more chopped) and with extra Tzatziki. It was absolutely delicious. Mixed well you would get a little bit of every flavor in every bite, which is the advantage of the chopping. And the flavors were definitely strong. The rich Tazatziki balanced out the spicy peppers really well and the Pita Chips added a nice crunch – a much appreciated change in texture to the rest of the salad. I definitely 100% recommend. Especially if you love the “El Jefe” at Roots. Very different from the El Jefe, but it has the pita chips and feta which will remind you of it.

My friends also enjoyed their salads, the Smoky Santa Cruz and Spicy Santorini (pictures below)

ACCOMODATIONS: You can customize to your heart’s content. They have so many different add-ins and options. Just let them know you have food restrictions and they will work with you.

OVERALL: I always think when you get to watch your food being made, the experience is heightened. That mantra stayed true at this restaurant. Tasty food, decent price, decent portions, friendly employees. I couldn’t ask for much more.

A lot of local college students may be wondering “how does it compare to Roots?” I think they are both different. While they have some overlap in selling salad based food, I think the chopped salad experience and the options are just very different from what you find at Roots.

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Stone’s Cove Kitbar: Meeting My First ChefTender

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RESTAURANT:  Stone’s Cove Kitbar

DATE OF VISIT: 5/30/17 #TacoTuesday

ADDRESS: 2403 Centreville Road Herndon, VA 20171 (Two Locations)

GENRE: Several Seafood Inspired dishes, burgers, steak

PARKING: Plenty of parking around the restaurant and in neighboring lots

AFFORDABILITY: Entrees are in the $10-$20 range and are fairly large and filling. You are definitely partly paying for an experience, which I will describe below.

VENUE: The restaurant itself provides a really cool experience. It is a self-dubbed “KitBar” meaning that the restaurant “combines the design of a kitchen and a bar to create a large communal table that surrounds the kitchen”. Essentially, a majority of the seating is alcoves of bars surrounded by the kitchen, which is in the center. Your hosts are “ChefTenders” i.e. Chefs and Bartenders. Not only fully trained to provide you your drinks but they also cook all your meals in the center of the restaurant for you to watch. This isn’t a Hibachi-style restaurant, it’s just literally that the seating is around a bar/kitchen that is in the center of the restaurant. I went with a group of five and will admit the bar seating, although shaped in alcoves, can still make it a little bit hard to hear. But this is definitely a fun venue for large groups and I do recommend trying out the KitBar experience at least once!

From my experience and observations, the restaurant seemed LGBTQ+ and POC friendly. Did not take note if there were gender neutral bathrooms.

GENERAL: This is definitely a versatile restaurant. A decent variety of options that is the perfect spot for a group of co-workers to grab lunch or for family or friends to visit in the night. The service was phenomenal. Although you start out with one main ChefTender they all come and check on you and they were all ridiculously friendly and thorough that it made for such a pleasant experience. The KitBar experience is a ton of fun and it is a great restaurant for sharing food (plenty of sharing plates within arm’s reach and both the Flatbreads and Appetapas – meals that double as entrées or appetizers (if I’m not mistaken) – were great for sharing). It was also a cute touch how the menus doubled as placemats.

THE FOOD: I ate the Soup of the Day (a Corn-Tortilla Soup), Mackinac Roasted Flatbread, and the Fish Tacos.

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The soup of the day, which of course varies per day, was a Corn-Tortilla soup for me. I am typically not a huge fan of soups of this style, but this one was delicious! It had a perfect amount of sour cream in it and none of the flavors were too overbearing. The crackers were the perfect addition to the soup to add a bit of crunch and it wasn’t overloaded with beans. Definitely would order again. The quantity was a little bit low for a $4 soup, but it was still a decent amount.

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The Mackinac Roasted Flatbread is bacon, lettuce, tomato, guacamole, onion, and cheddar with jalapeno mayo (optional additions of chicken, steak, or shrimp). The entire platter (not pictured) is shareable with five people (or more if you are okay with portions less than pictured). Overall, it was a really good appetizer. Lots of flavor from the jalapeno mayo (wasn’t spicy, don’t worry!) and it was easy to place in your mouth. The bacon provided the perfect amount of crunch.

My main entrée was the fish tacos. Three sizable fish tacos for $12 bucks are definitely filling – good bang for your buck. Now this was my first time ever having fish tacos, and honestly I think they were really good. It was a little bit of a weird sensation for me because the soft tortilla and the fish at the bottom of the taco was really warm, but the jicama green apple slaw and chipotle lime cream cold, like ice-chilled. That bothered me a little bit, but maybe that’s how fish tacos are? Maybe not the biggest fan of fish tacos in general, but it was filling, had good flavor, and I think was really awesome for a fish taco; I just don’t think fish tacos in general are for me (not with the varying temperatures at least).

I think the next time I go I will order the Margarita Crab Wraps for myself. I had been eyeing them for a while. I strongly recommend the Island Hopper Tacos too. I almost ordered them myself – I thought the combination of flavors may have been a bit too sweet or tropical for me at the time, but my ChefTender and my colleague who ordered them had lots of praise for them! Seems like a really good bet (and again, three pretty large tacos for $12!)

ACCOMODATIONS: Did not seem to have a ton of vegetarian options beyond salads (a lot of dishes have seafood with them). There are two really delicious looking flatbreads that are vegetarian and I bet it would be easy to make the other flatbreads or some of the other items without the meat.

OVERALL: Filling meal with a great experience, from awesome ChefTenders to an overall unique dining experience. Definitely do recommend trying out the KitBar at least once, you arrrrrrghonna have a great time (okay the restaurant isn’t pirate themed but like it’s the sea and the word “Cove”). But in all seriousness, the service and the experience at Stone’s Cove Kitbar made up for me not completely falling in love with my entrée, and even then I still did enjoy the experience of eating my entrée.

Fry’s Spring Station: UVA Gem on JPA

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RESTAURANT: Fry’s Spring Station

DATE OF VISIT: 5/1/17 and 5/12/17

ADDRESS: 2115 Jefferson Park Avenue (corner of JPA and Alderman, near the Jefferson Scholars’ Foundation Building) right on the Inner/Outer Loops

GENRE: “Industrial-styled” Pizza and Italian Eats

AFFORDABILITY: For the amount and quality of food, it definitely is on the affordable end for college students looking for a great sit down restaurant to bring family, friends, dates, etc. Entrees in the $10 to $15 range with a great amount of food.

PARKING: Free parking along parts of JPA and also across the street at the other shopping complexes.

VENUE: Casual, great for families, but can also be fancy. Does offer a fine drink selection with wine and beer for those interested and fancier options.

GENERAL: Fry’s Spring Station is definitely one of those gems near grounds that I think is super underrated. I had always heard amazing things about their brunch, but was super excited to go for dinner there twice in early May. A fire station turned restaurant definitely gives the restaurant a cool look. It was pouring rain both times I went, so I couldn’t eat outside, but they open the “garage” doors when the weather is nice giving the restaurant a cool indoor/outdoor feel. The staff is super friendly and both times the food arrived fairly quickly. Also cool that they have some high tables with board games making it for a fun time with friends depending on what you are looking for.

From my experience and observations, the restaurant seemed LGBTQ+ and POC friendly. Did not take note if there were gender neutral bathrooms.

THE FOOD: For Appetizer, I strongly recommend the Angry Grandma. Cheese curds (or wings) smothered in a sauce, topped with radishes, cilantro, scallions, fried chili crisps, and a great ranch dipping sauce. Cheese curds are absolutely delicious and were a great way to start the meal (how can you go wrong with fried cheese?) The radishes provided the perfect complement with a great sour taste that somehow my friends and I could not get enough of.

The first time I went I ordered the Funghitown pizza (Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions, White Sauce, House Mozzarella, Arugula) and the second time I ordered a Margherita (Housemade Mozzarella, Crushed Tomato, Basil, Olive Oil).

The Funghitown was definitely delicious. I had to take a little less than half home because it was so filling. There is a lot of Arugula on top, but easy to pick-off if you are not a fan. The caramelized onions provided the perfect balance of sweet with the savory of the scrumptious white sauce. The mushrooms were a flavorful addition that definitely helped make it a filling meal.

The Margherita was a lot sweeter than I expected, but was definitely a solid gourmet pizza and I would eat it again. The homemade mozzarella was super fresh and the olive oil was not too overbearing.  Don’t expect to take leftovers because it is a lot less dense, which was a little bit disappointing after having eaten such a filling Funghitown the week before (I love leftovers!), but still a tasty option that I would eat again.

For dessert both times I ordered the Fried Pizza Dough. Essentially glazed strips of donuts made from pizza dough (definitely have a taste difference from donuts though so don’t think you’re just ordering classic Krispy Kreme’s or something like that); they were absolutely delicious. Warm and fresh from the fryer, they came with a silky mocha-nutella dipping sauce that complemented it super well. Honestly, I think I’m probably just going to order the Fried Pizza Dough to-go whenever I want a sweet bite because it is so good.

I think next time I go, I definitely want to check out their drink selection. What’s cool is, even though they have a ton of alcoholic drinks, they have a fairly sizable and somewhat-unique non-alcoholic beverage section. I’m looking forward to trying some of those out! Also I hear a lot about their brunch selection, so I definitely want to check that out as well.

OVERALL: You’ll most definitely find something you’ll want to eat and leave with both your stomach and wallet happy. Again, a well-kept, versatile place to just eat a decent meal at a decent price with friends or loved ones. Super close to grounds and honestly a much better ambiance than many places on the corner (also probably easier to find free parking nearby).

Via Brasil: Tastiest Adventure on Little Brazil Street

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RESTAURANT:  Via Brasil 

DATE OF VISIT: 5/14/17

ADDRESS: 34 West 46th Street New York, NY 10036 (A short walk from Times Square on “Little Brazil Street”)

GENRE: Brazilian Food

AFFORDABILITY: Entrees are on the expensive side (high teens but mostly higher) but are extremely filling!

VENUE: The restaurant itself is really nice, spacious New York eatery! Great environment to bring friends for a fancy time or family for a great family-meal in the city.

From my experience and observations, the restaurant seemed LGBTQ+ and POC friendly. Did not take note if there were gender neutral bathrooms.

GENERAL: My friends and I had no plans for dinner after 9pm on a Sunday night and were just walking around Midtown and we stumbled across this restaurant. We were super indecisive, but I am so glad we decided to stop at Via Brasil! The service was fast and the menu was super expansive. Beyond the large regular menu, there were several specials, which was super great.

THE FOOD: I ordered Chicken Milanesa off the specials menu which was a breaded chicken dish with mashed potatoes. I honestly did not expect the serving to be so large – it was a great portion size. The potatoes were creamy and silky smooth and I absolutely loved them. The chicken was tender and cut easily, but has a great flavor to it. It was expertly breaded and overall delicious dish.

My friends ordered beef dishes and loved them as well. I think the next time I go I would definitely order Fried Yucca!

ACCOMODATIONS: Has some vegetarian options and appetizers, but a strong majority of the cuisines include meat.

OVERALL: Although slightly on the more expensive side, the food was filling and absolutely delicious. Definitely recommend if you want authentic Brazilian food! It’s a great time with family or friends and short walk from the Theater District and Times Square.

Fuji Sushi: Seafood Udon of My Dreams

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RESTAURANT:  Fuji Sushi

DATE OF VISIT: 5/17/17

ADDRESS: 238 W 56th St New York, NY 10019 (Not too far from Central Park and Times Square)

GENRE: Japanese Food

AFFORDABILITY: I found the restaurant reasonably priced for the serving sizes and quality of food.

VENUE: Standard sit down New York restaurant. I sat with a friend by the window so that was really nice. The restaurant seemed to have a lot of seating and a good atmosphere to bring family or friends.

From my experience and observations, the restaurant seemed LGBTQ+ and POC friendly. Did not take note if there were gender neutral bathrooms.

GENERAL: The service was fast and attention was great! My friend and I had time to kill before our train and it was a great spot for that! The menu is large and expansive covering a variety of Japanese food, which was really awesome. The server checked to see if I needed a fork to eat my Udon, and I appreciated the concern.

THE FOOD: I ordered Seafood Udon Noodles. It was affordable and the serving was huge – I couldn’t even finish it! It comes with salad on the side, but I instead asked for Miso Soup. The Miso Soup was delicious. The Seafood Udon Noodles came with a variety of Seafood like scallops, squid, and more. Some pieces were a little bit rubbery, but it was still satisfying. I definitely appreciated the quantity food. Quality Udon! I definitely recommend!

I think next time I visit I would order some sushi. My friend did and he received a ton of food and it looked delicious.

ACCOMMODATIONS: Does have vegetarian options.

OVERALL: It was a pretty good restaurant! For the price and location, I think it is definitely a good bet if you’re looking for a variety of Japanese food options!