The Bebedero: Upscale-casual, with a twist

Mexican restaurant with Tex-Mex influences comes to Charlottesville

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The Bebedero showcases the work of local artists, local chefs and influences from around the world.

Tucker Wilson | Cavalier Daily

The word “bebedero” is tough to define. In most parts of the Spanish-speaking world, it is either the word for a drinking bowl or a water fountain. Other translations amount to, “the watering hole.” But in the Andes region of South America, a bebedero is an establishment that sells alcoholic drinks, otherwise known as a bar. It’s a word in business conversation, evoking class and sharpness — as expected with a word this fancy. However, Charlottesville’s namesake bar and restaurant, The Bebedero on the Downtown Mall, is not just a business bar — it’s a warm, authentic and friendly bebedero that brings authentic cuisine to the people of Cville.

The Bebedero is a newcomer in the city’s Mexican food offerings. After opening near Paradox Pastry in March 2016, The Bebedero moved to the Mall last March, directly above another of owner Will Richey’s restaurants, The Whiskey Jar. However, you can’t count out a newcomer, as the chefs in The Bebedero cook like they’ve been here for decades.

The Bebedero’s kitchen pulls heavily from authentic Mexican influence, as chefs Cesar Perez and Yuliana Perez Vasquez hail from Puebla and Veracruz, respectively. Influence from Veracruz, a coastal region on the Southern Gulf of Mexico, is especially prominent at The Bebedero, as its menu is filled with offerings of seafood of all shapes and sizes — shrimp, oysters, scallops and fish. The Bebedero’s menus are filled with coastal classics — smoky paella with roasted jalapeño peppers and indulgent white wine sauce broth, or citrusy ceviche with grapefruit and orange juice.

However, The Bebedero’s offerings don’t stop at the traditional. Parts of their menu have a distinct Tex-Mex flair, like nachos in cheese sauce and a southwest style burger. The nachos are some of the best I’ve had — a perfect combination of classic ingredients like cheesy queso sauce and hot and sour pickled jalapeños and classier entries like cotija cheese crumbles sprinkled on top. 

The burger, nicknamed the Chicana burger after the Spanish word for an American child of Mexican immigrant parents, is an appropriately tongue-in-cheek Americanized Mexican offering. Topped with a savory smorgasbord of guac, roasted poblanos, ham, bacon, mayo, pickled vegetables and Chihuahua cheese — the Chicana is a sinfully spicy, smoky and fatty burger that’s to die for.

And some meals blend the traditional and the new. My personal favorite, the Camarones Poblanos, shrimps served over rice with chipotle cream sauce, is part risotto, part paella and part shrimp and grits. It packs a taste of classic Mexican spice, but the white wine sauce and sauteed cremini mushrooms make it sweet and mellow. It’s rich, creamy, cheesy, oh so decadent and its mixed influences and ingredients are a perfect representation of The Bebedero’s menu.

Inside, The Bebedero is fun and family-friendly. The space is upscale enough to enjoy cocktails at the bar but relaxed enough to share nachos with a group of friends. Classic Mexican-style decor — exposed brick walls, paintings of sugar skulls and strings of colorful papel picados hanging on the walls — are easily recognizable features. But the walls of The Bebedero also feature works of local artists. The walls display disparate works, from traditional paintings of skeletal figures and Mexican sunsets over the Gulf, to a striking mural of co-owner River Hawkins’ wife plastering an entire wall or the work of Spanish immigrant and artist Chicho Lorenzo of IX Art Park fame.

Even as a newcomer, The Bebedero is making its mark on Charlottesville. It blends authentic roots and Tex-Mex interpretations and has a relaxed atmosphere with upscale offerings. It showcases local artists, local chefs and influences from around the world. The Bebedero is fun, friendly and sophisticated and it will keep me coming back for more.

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