Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Semi-Failed Trip Downtown

On a search...

Hi friends,
This afternoon, some friends and I took the trolley to Cville's "downtown mall" area to check out Spudnut Shop, an old donut joint that's been around since the 60s. Okay, so it's not located IN the downtown mall, but rather on a road nearby. I read that the donut shop is part of a dying nationwide chain, but the Cville location has been a staple in the town for years. My homegroup leader H actually introduced a dozen Spudnut donuts to us girls during bible study and I pretty much gained 25 delicious lbs that night. So some of my friends and I went on a journey to find the shop, which isn't reached easily by trolley.

Long story short, we got lost, ran across a bridge, found the shop, and watched the owner lock up and drive away for the day. We missed donuts by one minute, and much grief filled our hearts (and stomachs). The trip was only a semi-failure, however, because I got to explore the area with amazing friends and eat some good dumplings.


We returned downtown and explored the area, stopping by a charming bookstore that sells used books for cheap. We also found cool slate panels where anyone can leave his/her mark.

The goodies I picked up at the bookstore. Total cost = $14!

Jewelry displayed at one of the many vendors chillin outside.

S drawing a groovy "Peace & Love" sign

Shamelessly promoting myself... But I mainly wanted to say Food = Love, I promise! Pls note chicken drumstick inside heart.

Grumbling stomachs, ACTIVATEEEEEEE! The group chose to get food from Marco & Luca dumplings, Five Guys and Christian's Pizza, all located in the same part of the mall. Marco & Luca is a dumpling shop that has a very small menu, but that makes for fast service.

S ordering some noodles, since she can't eat meat during Lent. Good vegetarian option foshodo

I ordered the famous panfried dumplings (~7 for $3) and Sweet & Sour Spicy Noodle (~$3.50?). The dumplings, as always, were DELICIOUS. Hot, absorbing delicious sauce, crispy on the outside and meaty on the inside. Oh btw, everything comes in flimsy styrofoam boxes. Heh. No big deal though.

The noodle dish is basically thin spaghetti noodles (Bertolli brand, I believe) served with a soy/sweet chili-based sauce, sliced apple, and cilantro. It's nothing AMAZING, but it's pretty refreshing. I find the sauce a bit too sweet, and I know I could make the same cold noodle dish for less than a dollar at home. I'll eat it if it's in front of me though!


So check out Marco & Luca for a quick, delicious bite that's guaranteed to be cheaper than most places downtown. Always order the dumplings. ALWAYS! And I'll update you on the Spudnut Shop mission after our next attempt.


Spudnut [Coffee] Shop
309 Avon St, Charlottesville, VA
(434) 296-0590
Obviously closes by 2pm, that's all I know for now. It seemed like 2pm was the closing time for every day.

Marco & Luca
112 E Main St Charlottesville, VA 22902
(434) 244-2605
M-Sa, 11am-3pm, 5pm-8pm

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Comfort food: Mel's Cafe, Cville

My [crotchety old man..?] friend D and I checked out Mel's Cafe on W. Main St today for dinner. From the reviews we read, we knew we were in for some real soul food. What we found there was that and so much more.

The parking space in front of Mel's can pretty much accommodate half a car (Okay, 3-4 whole ones in reality), but we parked in an adjacent lot which is entirely reserved for whatever the hell is behind this amazing place. The newly renovated sign is hard to miss, with an arrow blinking towards the establishment in all of its kitschy glory. When we were headed for the door, who I can only presume to be Mel himself greeted us with a warm hello. The staff inside was just as friendly and warm.

a really crooked, random snapshot of the counter

Inside, it's small and homey. The walls are saturated with framed photos of family and friends. There are also local community fliers (my favorite one was for a "STACKBOYZ" performance, featuring artists like Yung VA and C-RYAN™), a faded University map, and other memorabilia.

The menu is extensive. There are sections for breakfast, lunch, sides, salads, dinner and desserts. Items include The George omelette (Ham, cheese, onions, green peppers, diced tomatoes, topped with chili beans) for breakfast, Beef Liver with onions for dinner, and grilled donuts for dessert. Mel's also seems to have good burgers.

When our food was ready, the lady behind the counter brought us our dishes (she was also kind enough to give us silverware beforehand.. I don't know if we were supposed to get them ourselves because I'm a noob). D ordered the fried fish dinner, which comes with bread and 2 sides of your choice. He ordered onion rings and collard greens, the latter of which he doesn't really like but insisted on getting because it's "so soul food." He said everything was awesome and he'd be going back in the future.

D's order of fried fish and sides.

I ordered the 2 pc. fried chicken dinner with mac and cheese and green beans. The chicken wing was nice and tender, but the breast was a bit dry. I'd say Wayside on JPA has better fried chicken, but I will never hate on or reject fried chicken. Ever. The crust on them was friggin tasty. The sides were really good and had that homemade feel. We both agreed that the bread was realllllly delicious. I believe it'd been heated up on the grittle before serving. Everything was served fresh and hot.

2 pc fried chicken and sides

Everything on the menu is basically $7 or less, and usually way less. Our bill came out to $14 and some pocket change, and that includes a drink. The portions were huge and made with love, AND cheap? My gracious.

D and I aren't big dessert people (savory > sweet), but next time I go, I'm going to try their sweet potato pie. And maybe some grilled donuts for good measure because I'm a fatty curious. I'm adding Mel's to my repertoire of good, cheap eats.

In closing, I'll leave you with something D said: "its like i go and get excited about tipping." That's right, he was excited to leave a huge tip because he was happy to eat something other than frozen chicken and bbq sauce like he usually does.

If you're in the area and want some great soul food made by great people, check out Mel's.


Mel's Cafe
719 West Main Street, Charlottesville, VA
(434) 971-8819

M-F 11am-10pm, Sa-Su 5pm-10pm
Carry-out and catering available
click here for the menu


So I was googling Mel's to find operating hours and came across this review on tripadvisor:

"I reviewed the rave reviews on the food so I had someone meet me there for lunch. Evidently I didn't read enough reviews and missed the one where they said this place was a dive! Well how horified I was upon arrival. Worst of all, the people I was meeting had already gone inside.......We did not stay so to be fair to this restaurant, I can not comment of the food. The bathroom is located outside and around the corner in an alley and they give you a key to unlock the door!!!!!!"

Maybe the woman was meeting clients for business or whatnot, but dang. Do some research and use some common sense when you read that "the burgers are great" and "if you want fried chicken, go here." And don't judge the bathrooms! They serve their purposes well enough. :e-slap:

P.S. I'm not sorry if that was your review on

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Well, I liked it: Milan, Cville

Last Sunday, I checked out Milan with my cousin E-terror, her friend S, and my friend H. I'm not exactly a leading authority when it comes to Indian food, but I know that I enjoyed my food, even after taking into account that I was starvin' like Marvin. Everyone else did too.

Our server was pretty attentive, but the staff in general seemed a tad... awkward? At least they didn't suck up and pretend to be disgustingly sweet/friendly. Anyway, the food was good, the portions were more than enough, and I'll be visiting Milan again soon. I think the main downfall was the price. Kind of pricy. The menu has all the regular dishes, and it also has samplers, soups and salads. Lots of vegetarian options too.

E had the matar paneer ($10.95), which is peas and soft, homemade cheese (called paneer) in a sweet and spicy sauce. E commented on the large portion, saying the amount was definitely more than other places. The sauce was thick and creamy, and the dish was "a dream come true!" It's pictured above and below.

matar paneer, with delicious garlic naan (2 naan for $2.95)

I ordered the lamb tikka masala (13.95): pieces of lamb roasted in a clay oven and simmered in a tomato/cream sauce. The lamb medallions were a LITTLE chewy, but still delicious. Not too "gamey" either. The sauce was creamy and slightly tangy, and perfectly seasoned (salt-wise). I'd like to say it was seasoned well when it comes to spices/authenticity, but I'm not too sure about that. I did not, however, think the sauce was bland at all. Very delicious with a warm heat (I got it medium-spicy). S ordered the chicken tikka masala for $12.95

The basmati rice was fluffy, aromatic, and endless!

H wasn't too hungry, so she ordered the tomato soup ($2.50): fresh tomato puree sauteed with ginger and Indian spices. The price was very reasonable, and H said it was "better than normal tomato soup." She normally doesn't eat tomato soup, either.

H said the tomato was "nicely pureed" and proceeded to laugh like a crazy person. I don't know why.. That's just how she is.

Definitely check the place out if you're in Cville. Can't say that it's the best in Virginia, but perhaps one of the better places in this area. Also, I heard the lunch buffet is pretty good and worth the money (around $8-9? Not sure about the price. I'll get back to you on that).

1817 Emmet St. Charlottesville 22901
(434) 984-2828
Lunch M-F, 11:30am-2:30pm; Sat-Sun, 12-3pm
Dinner Sun-Thurs, 5-10pm; Fri-Sat, 5-10:30pm
Catering available

Before I go, I just wanted to say THANK YOU, L for the awesome little rum cake. I've been wanting to try the famous Tortuga Carribbean Rum Cake for years now, and she picked one up while down in PR!


Thursday, March 5, 2009

I'm kind of gross!

First of all, I was published to Tastespotting on my first try! So that makes me smile... But I feel bad for the people who will click on my link and be thoroughly disappointed with my blog. Haha. Second of all, don't read ahead if you're expecting one of my usual entries. Today, I just wanna talk your ears off (type your eyes out?).

These are a few of my favorite things...
I don't recall whose amazing food blog (that I found via TS) I was on, but the writer talked about her "favorite things sandwich." Basically it's what you have or would put in a sandwich and enjoy, even though it's atrocious. Something you COMPLETELY enjoy eating, but only in the confines of your home with no one around. You know, the type of creation that contains a combination people bring up as a joke, and you scoff along, "PSH YEAH! THAT IS GROSS, I'D NEVER DO THAT!" But inside, your heart bleeds because you know it tastes so delicious, yet it'll never be accepted by society. So here's what I would/have put in mine.

Favorite Things Sandwich #1
Wow, now that I think about it, this is freaking embarrassing. But here it goes!
When I was a kid, I'd always stick a slice of American cheese between two slices of white bread and devour that junks. I thought it was the most delicious creation ever! And then I moved onto bigger and better things, such as ranch dressing spread on a slice of bread. I'd eat at least 4 slices like this every time (which is probably why I was a super chubby kid). I thought I was a genius. Then my mom made it even better by spreading dressing on both sides and throwing it in a hot pan! OH MY GOSH. It is still one of my guilty pleasures. So my favorite things sandwich would start with two slices of white bread that have been slathered with ranch dressing and grilled 'til they have nice crusts. In between the slices, I'd stick in some lettuce, avocado (no one has ever agreed with me, but I think avocados have a slight garlic/onion taste.. hmph), turkey (deli-style), and maybe some honey. HAHAHA. Mmm.

Favorite Things Sandwich #2
My first sandwich has never been made, but this one has. Always assembled in this order:
1. Toasted slice of potato bread
2. A zig-zag (3 zigs, 2 zags?) squirt of ketchup, medium thickness kthx
___2b. A slice of American cheese is an optional addition at this point.
3. Slightly wet scrambled egg, seasoned with freshly cracked black pepper
4. A thin spread of strawberry jam (jelly is better, but I grew up with jam/preserves in the haussss)
5. Toasted slice of potato bread

Seriously the best thing ever. Just try it :( or not.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Lazy Snack-- Scallion Pancakes, via gagainthekitchen

Just a quick post on something I made for a quick snack. As an avid Tastespotting aficionado, I've lurked many, many blogs and bookmarked hundreds of recipes. One such recipe is from gagainthekitchen, and it couldn't look much easier! Scallion pancakes seem to be common in Taiwan and China, and even we have a similar dish: Korean pancakes, or pajeon (파전). The main difference is that pajeon contains egg. Therefore, the scallion pancakes are a lot doughier. Almost every culture has their version of a savory "pancake" or flatbread.

I totally forgot to put enough salt, but other that that, these were really tasty and quick to make! Also, no real measuring is required which is awesome because I'm lazy. Head over to gaga's to read her step-by-step instructions!

Sorry for the horrible coloration of the pics.. heheh. Ma badddd

I love the "layers" you get in the finished product because of the rolling+flattening beforehand.

I abandoned the rolling pin after the second pancake and used my hands. Zomg I am supersuper lazy today.

See the layers?

For the sauces, I combined soy sauce + rice vinegar + freshly cracked black pepper for the first one, and mayo + sweet chili sauce + sriracha + a pinch of salt for the second. I wanted a combo of sweet + salty, sauce + dip. Next time, though, I'm gonna add a squeeze of lime juice to the mayo-based dip. I think it'll go well with the other flavors + thin the dip out. How many more +'s can I cram in here? +++++++++++