Midway through January, you're feeling pretty damn good about yourself. That bold detox plan to quit booze, drink gallons of water and eat well for a month is actually coming together. Thanks to a new-found penchant for hoarding kale, you’re putting that Vitamix to work and juicing your ass off. At the health club you muster flashes of genuine interest in idle chitchat your trainer peppers in between burpee sets. You shudder at Instagram siren calls pitching new cocktails or special dishes, mocking their futility. It's safe you say you have a new-year swagger.
Soon enough a self-righteous strain of confidence creeps in. Now you're chest thumping about your progress, failing to notice the eye rolls from friends and colleagues who remember this same song and dance from last January. You are downright insufferable in this new haze of 2018 bravado, but it’s in the name of good health, so to hell with the haters!
Then, out of nowhere, you feel a wobble in your legs, a dull ache in your head. You pound coconut water and gobble zinc tablets to fend off illness. Newsflash: You are not sick, Grasshopper; your body is in the early stages of a revolt. Once your system realizes the carb train has left the station with no immediate plans to return, it raids and taps your temple’s fat supply for fuel. This is a good thing - the genesis of weight loss and what those bizarre Purvelo instructors call natural energy - but also the exact point where boundaries of good judgment start to blur.
Suddenly you entertain food porn fantasies and can see yourself saying, ‘Fuck this, I need a stiff drink and a cheeseburger!’
You are not alone. We are right there with you.
Let’s get real. It’s not a matter of if we will fall from grace, it’s a matter of when. So let’s dismount the high horse and ponder the important matter of where and how to break bad on our good intentions.
Ham Biscuit @ JM Stock
We love the smell of our favorite butcher in the morning. Smells like...
It's liberating AF to stroll into JM Stock on an empty stomach with every intention of steering your day down a glorious path of carnivorous gluttony. The throwback vibe of the space combined with the smoked swine funk in the air makes you want to stick around until your clothes absorb every whiff of that essence. These sweet jabronis are just fine with you lingering, and while you ponder what beast you will prepare that evening, they'll set you up right with the perfect wrecking ball for that dainty-ass diet of yours: Ham Biscuit.
Sourced from Autumn Olive Farms, Tasso ham is house brined and smoked, then glossed with honey and hot sauce, and nestled into a warm, flaky house made biscuit. This bundle of decadence is worth every haymaker of guilt you'll beat yourself down with tomorrow, so STFU and enjoy it today!
Boozy Lunch @ Lampo
When it comes to dissolving resolutions, this one’s a no-brainer. Pizza sits firmly in the holy trinity of guilty pleasure spirit foods -- with burgers and tacos -- and no one in town does it better or more consistently than Lampo.
Lunch on a Friday is how to roll. There's rarely a wait and usually a spot or two at the bar, which is where you want to park your ass. The cocktail menu abounds with options to get your day drink on. If you're feeling frisky -- you better be after living like a goddamn monk -- Andrew is happy to go off script with his mad skills.
Pay no attention to those refreshing vegetable options today because you're here to get raunchy. Dial up an Abruzzo pie (beef and pork meatballs) and a Porchetta Panuozzi (sangwichi). The former will sate your pizza jones, the latter will drip grease down your hands and smear your face so the dopey, food-buzzed grin you're wearing shimmers blinding light.
Cocktails + Snacks @ The Alley Light
As we've penned, The Alley Light offers several layers of experience to be whatever you fancy any given night and does it all with the right blend of sass and class. The bar has become our go-to opening act for lubricating and noshing ahead of a night on the town. If happy hour must be the scene of our jailbreak from good habits, it's going down right here.
Behind the stick, Micah LeMon has mastered the art of slinging the perfect cocktail to complement any dish you order -- dealer's choice or menu. We're convinced he has a telepathic line to Chef Robin McDaniel and her evolving menu ideas. Together, these badasses are responsible for our favorite food and drink pairing of 2017: Foie Gras Brûlée and Doctor's Orders.
We're batshit crazy about jams that transport us back in time to carefree moments of our childhood. This combo was PB&J and black cherry Kool-Aid -- a classic pairing from those long lazy summers of yore.
Stalk the Weekly Specials menu for that brûlée because it's bound to make another cameo some day. In the meantime, the menu is littered with decadence well worth the wages of sin.
Dinner @ Back 40
Maybe you’re a true locavore and want to mark the occasion of dietary adultery with a quiet sophisticated night off the beaten path. Then get to Back 40, the high-end restaurant from Timbercreek Market, where the concept of farm-to-table is about as legit as it gets. Most menu ingredients are sourced from Timbercreek Farm, which practices organic farming and responsible agriculture. That is to say, you can feel good about being bad here.
The ever-changing bounty from the farm necessitates a dynamic menu and keeps Chef Tucker Yoder and Sous Chef Shelby Park on their toes. These cats are cooking their hearts out, pushing the envelope of creativity and risk in a town where too many kitchens play the same old hits. Since its September launch, we’ve dined thrice and every dish has been a shot in the arm. No promises on offerings any given night, but some show stoppers we hope to meet again: Tempura-Fried Chicken Hearts, Braised Beef Cheeks, Fried Duck Wings w PawPaw sauce, Whiskey Aged Ribeye, Grilled Pork Coppa Roast.
There's a rustic charm and utter lack of pretension to the service and atmosphere that draws us here for intimate date nights. The small space, located on the fringe of downtown in the Coca-Cola Building, is cozy with good acoustics that make moans of pleasure around the table loud and clear.
Late Night Burgers @ C&O
Leave it to low key, OG Chef Dean Maupin to fly our favorite burger in town below the radar. Exclusively on the Late Night Menu (10pm to close), this is a case of a throwback riff on a dish turning out to be pure gold -- or crack.
The inspiration is a Cuban ribeye steak that used to grace the C&O menu. These days the beef patty is born of house ground sirloin and flank steak, topped with white American cheese, doused with a secret hot sauce, topped with a leaf of Bibb lettuce, and then packaged in a basic bun slathered with red onion marmalade. The heat-and-sweet combo hits you in the mouth so good and leaves you whimpering for an encore. Go for it. No one will judge if you order a second, and at the absurdly low price of $6, your wallet won't feel a thing. One night we made like a pack of wolves on the first wave, then, with straight faces, ordered another round, eliciting a sly nod of approval from Dustin. It's that addictive. Plus, we’re not the late night crawlers we used to be, so who could blame us for doubling down on the spot?
The backstory from Maupin: ‘We didn’t over think it, we were just throwing ideas around and it sounded like it would jive. People really dig it so we haven’t messed with it.’ These words drip with understated humility we've come to know this cat by, but he nails it: the jam jives hard and we can't get enough of it.
Which begs the question: How is this burger not staple in the lexicon of Charlottesville dining? No doubt, the limited availability factors in, and when you consider the throwback indie vibe permeating the C&O, it’s almost poetic that something so good comes to the cult of those who wait.
That being said, we're jonesing for this gem to land on the regular menu. Make it happen, Maupin!