Welcome to the Dairy Market Food Hall in Charlottesville
The new elevated market concept with a diversity of local independent vendors
Welcome to the first in our series of new Charlottesville highlights. We begin with a look at the Dairy Market Food Hall in Charlottesville.
History and nostalgia set the stage for the new Dairy Market, but epicurean impulses are satisfied today.
The building originally housed Monticello Dairy, beginning in the 1930s, where milk, cheese, and ice cream were processed and packaged. The business sold some of its products right there on site, including ice cream, making memories for Charlottesville residents of the time. Although the building has housed other businesses in the years since Monticello Dairy moved, this concept will undoubtedly have long-term staying power.
Today’s Dairy Market is an exalted food court – no mall necessary – and you, too, will be singing its praises once you visit. In fact, big box stores would detract from the purity of the place. The market hall has about 18 merchant stalls (some still in build-out), including specialty retail, a restaurant, and a brewery. Each food stall features a different cuisine, for a medley of flavors.
The market space is open and airy, with a sleek vibe complemented by exposed brick, and a sprinkling of Holstein allusions. Step in the front door to be greeted by a two-story court of glistening white tiles and black accents, and windows flooding the room with natural light.
Though take-out is always an option, the vibe, the tables (inside and out), and the guest Wi-Fi invite you to sit a spell, to enjoy your food and drink while they’re fresh. When I visited, nine stalls were serving customers. Highlights of my visit included:
The Milkman’s Bar
Picture a drugstore soda fountain … that grew up. The milk bottle lighting hints at the bar’s creativity and its nod to nostalgia – as does the menu. Think The Big Tickle bourbon Egg Cream or a non-alcoholic Egg Cream; the Regal Beagle, a spin on a Harvey Wallbanger; Milkman’s Gamble, a Gibson riff; and others, with and without alcohol. Playful presentations add to the appeal. The Regal Beagle, pictured here, is garnished with Galliano Caviar. The Lucille is chilled with an ice sphere filled with strawberry balsamic shrub (a “Lucille ball,” you might say).
Look for daily featured cocktails, barrel-aged cocktails, and cocktails using ingredients from the other businesses. Ask for recommendations to pair your drink with foods from other Dairy Market vendors.
When I learned that the bar shares parentage with Charlottesville’s The Bebedero restaurant (part of Ten Course Hospitality), I knew I’d love it. I was right.
Bee Conscious Baking Co.
Talk about local! The couple behind this bakery, Alexis and Patrick Strasser, grow many of the ingredients for these scrumptious baked goods on their farm. What they don’t grow, they try to source locally. The name reflects their attention to sustainability, including the importance of pollinators. And while the company’s mission brings warm feelings to your soul, Alexis’ baked goods bring pleasure to your palate and a smile to your face. Macarons, cupcakes, cake pops, cakes, galettes with seasonal fruits, cinnamon donuts, a delicious protein ball to reward yourself after a workout, a dirt cup for the kids … oh, and fresh farm produce and free-range eggs available, too!
The smallish space belies a carefully curated selection of specialty foods – both nonperishables and perishables such as cheese and charcuterie – wines, ciders, and beers. Beers, for example, include familiar but hard-to-find beers like Saison Dupont, LaChouffe, Hacker Pschorr, Hitachino Nest, and Schlenkerla. I spotted numerous familiar Virginia food brands (including AR’s Hot Southern Honey, which just so happened to be on my grocery list) and took home some new ones (Bloody Brilliant Bloody Mary mix and The Little Things shortbread salted rosemary cookies, both of which suddenly appeared on my grocery list … delicious!).
Food and alcohol from Springhouse can be taken into the Dairy’s seating areas, too, so you can pair your meal with wine or beer.
Starr Hill Brewing. satellite location
Talk about a blend of the past and present! Starr Hill, the second-oldest craft brewery in Virginia, began in a Charlottesville music hall before moving its brewing operations to nearby Crozet. After opening satellite locations in Roanoke, Richmond, and Lynchburg (with one on the way in Tyson’s), the brewery has come home to C’ville. Well, a “vacation home,” so to speak.
Starr Hill produces classic styles such as Vienna lager, wheat, and doppelbock, trendy styles like seltzer, fruited gose, and double-dry-hopped New England-style IPA, plus creative riffs such as toasted marshmallow double chocolate stout and fruited IPA.
The brewery has a generous tasting room and patio seating. Rather than brewing on a smaller system, the satellite space will receive wort from the Crozet facility to be finished at the Dairy. “We have open-top fermenters that we will be doing some wild fermentations and fruit fermentations before putting it in stainless or barrels,” Starr Hill brewmaster Robbie O’Cain told me.
The direct-trade coffee company greets your senses immediately upon entering the Dairy. Besides coffee drinks in all your favorite forms, Eleva offers tea and matcha drinks, chocolate milk, and food. And, since you’ll want to take home more than just memories, you can purchase whole bean coffee to enjoy later.
Angelic’s Kitchen & Catering
Angelic brings the soul to the Dairy – traditional Southern soul food, that is. And Angelic Jenkins knows how to cook it up right! She has operated a food truck and catering business for years. She even packages her signature breading for retail. The fried fish is a must-try (OK, or the fried or barbecued chicken, the shrimp, or the wings), along with a plethora of sides: macaroni and cheese, collard greens, candied yams, sweet cornbread, pinto beans, and more.
Of course, the Dairy Market must have an ice cream shop! Moo Thru originally opened in Remington, Virginia, in 2010, as an offshoot of a dairy farm. Moo Thru ice cream has been so popular that the business has since expanded to other locations – including The Dairy. The hand-churned, hand-dipped ice cream comes in more than a dozen delicious flavors. As if choosing among the flavors isn’t tough enough, you can also opt for shakes, malts, and sundaes. The business is still family owned, with the fourth generation still milking the cows and the fifth generation making the ice cream.
And then there’s …
Each of the diverse food stalls called my name as I strolled by, like sirens signaling using delightful scents wafting through the air. Regrettably, I didn’t have the capacity to sample them all. And several have opened up in the few weeks since, with more poised to open. All of which gives me an excuse to return. And when I do, I’ll be visiting:
Chimm St., highlighting authentic Southeast Asian street food. Charlottesville restaurateur Jay Pun takes his experience at Chimm Asian restaurant and Thai Cuisine and Noodle House, both also in Charlottesville.
Dino’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Rotisserie Chicken (plus salads, wraps, and apps, gluten-free and vegan options), a delicious new concept from chef Dino Hoxhaj.
Manila Street, with dishes crafted by Chef Fernando Dizon, a Filipino native, using recipes handed down in his family for generations.
Take It Away, a name familiar to the local community, features sandwiches made from all-natural meats and cheeses, veggies, and freshly baked bread, using the signature house dressing.
Latest merchants to join Dairy Market Food Hall in Charlottesville
South & Central Latin Grill & Steakhouse (opening June 1) will be fueled by a wood-fired masonry cooking hearth to present Argentinian, Brazilian, and Mexican cuisine, with lots of grilled meats, seafood, and more. Plus a Latin-influenced cocktail program.
Citizen Burger Stand (opening June 1) proves that you can enjoy American favorite foods while still expecting the best. Virginia restaurateur Andy McClure believes in using unprocessed food, 100% grass-fed beef, and free-range chicken.
GRN Burger (opening June 1) offers a 100% vegetarian menu – burgers, chick’n sandwiches and nuggets, and other American favorites.
Mashu Festival (opening June 1) presents Asian festival food, which is, fortunately, nothing like American fair food. Executive Chef TK Chin will demonstrate his experience with Japanese cuisine and fresh traditional ingredients.
Quattro Tizi (opening mid-June) sells urban contemporary men and women’s clothing and accessories, complemented with décor, furniture, and art – and focused on sustainability.
The Dairy Market building also houses a 6,000-square-foot event space, called The Brick Cellar, in – wait for it – the lower level. Given Charlottesville is home to University of Virginia and is central to the rest of the commonwealth, it’s easy to envision The Brick Cellar in use for graduations, weddings, and reunions as well as business events.
The Dairy Market
946 Grady Ave., Charlottesville
Featured image at top by Robinson Imagery x Do Me A Flavor