One of the most talked about subjects since students have returned to Grounds is the December opening of the Dairy Market, a new food-hall venue. Located in the historic Monticello Dairy Building on Grady Avenue, the food hall has the space to house up to 18 vendors — 10 of which are already filled with five under construction. The Dairy Market aims to “deliver a food market that will bring the celebration of food and beverage together under one roof” in this age of food connoisseurs.
Being an avid foodie myself, I was ecstatic when I caught word of this new experience arriving in Charlottesville’s up-and-coming food scene. So a couple weeks before the University’s newest COVID restrictions were implemented on Tuesday, I grabbed four of my closest friends and set out with plans to make a whole outing of this restaurant review — all while abiding by safety regulations that pertained to our visit at that time.
All of the stalls offer take-out options via in-person ordering. Additionally, customers can order from Springhouse Sundries, Dino’s Wood-Fired Pizza and Rotisserie Chicken, Take It Away, Angelic’s Kitchen and Chimm St. via online ordering and curbside pick-up. As of now, Angelic’s and Dino’s have also both joined Elevate — an off-Grounds meal plan that allows students to order ahead from local restaurants and pay with credits — with more additions to be expected soon.
Of importance, of course, is the Dairy Market’s commitment to its COVID-19 safety precautions. The floor plan is arranged such that seating areas are safely distanced from each other, and we took note of the hand-sanitizer stations scattered throughout the food hall. Their procedures lay out the specificities regarding their air filtering system and mask requirements for both staff and guests, as well as their request that visitors abide by social distancing guidelines.
The decor of Dairy Market is perfectly aligned with its trendy, modern food hall layout. With open-air concept rooms filled with large farm tables, Dairy Market perfectly aligns itself with its goal to combine a wide range of food and drink options under the umbrella of one dining experience. Also, the vastness of this 11,500 square foot space coupled with the industrial, dairy-themed, simple decor pays a perfect homage to the historic value of this transformed Dairy Building.
Upon walking into this food hall, I watched as my friends’ and my own eyes glossed over with wonderment — already growing bigger than our stomachs. Bringing along friends meant more mouths to feed and, therefore, more opportunities to try something from each stall. After all, as first-years, we are more than enthused for any chance to evade the monotonous cycle of dining hall food. Letting our hungry stomachs lead us, my friends and I split up at each of the stalls that drew us in most.
My first stop was Dino’s Wood-Fired Pizza and Rotisserie Chicken. Split up into two stalls — one for pizza and calzones and the other for salads, wraps and chicken — Dino’s provides the cure for all kinds of cravings. The chance to get a made-to-order, artisan pizza is one that I could not pass up. After mulling over the long menu of delicious-sounding options, I landed on the “Let’s Go” — Dino’s hand-tossed dough topped with a pesto base, mozzarella, goat cheese, spinach, grilled onions, garlic and balsamic glaze. I got the 10-inch, personal-sized version. After the first bite, I knew I would be able to polish off the four slices all by myself — although I did allow a few of my friends to sneak in a few tastes. With perfectly crispy crust and well-distributed, ample toppings, I can confidently say that this pizza is the best I have had thus far in Charlottesville.
One of the perks of the food court style of Dairy Market is the fact that it provides the opportunity to create a meal of a wide range of cuisines. To go alongside my pizza, I travelled over to Angelic’s Kitchen and ordered a side of hushpuppies — little bites of fried cornmeal dough that are a guilty pleasure of mine. Angelic’s Kitchen offers a large selection of homemade-style soul food, ranging from fried fish sandwiches to staple side dishes like collard greens and macaroni salad. I couldn’t have been happier with my order, as the bite-sized fried pieces of cornmeal were delivered to me warm and straight from the fryer. Served with a side of honey, the hushpuppies perfectly satisfied my craving and provided all the familiar flavors and comfort of authentic soul food.
Several of my friends felt drawn to the Thai-style merchant that sits kitty-corner to Angelic’s — Chimm Street. Offering a menu that is meant to transport patrons to the bustling street markets of Thailand, Chimm Street makes everything from classic street-eat appetizers to customizable noodle bowls. Two of my friends ordered the ground pork dumplings and the shrimp Vietnamese fresh rolls. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t overcome with a sense of jealousy when they opened their meal boxes once we all arrived back at our table. Both of my friends raved about the refreshing flavors of the fresh rolls paired with the indulgent peanut sauce. One of them found the combination of pork and crab in the dumplings a bit unconventional, but delicious nonetheless.
For dessert, the Remington, Va.-based hand-crafted ice cream shop MooThru offers a variety of flavors which customers can order in the form of hand-scooped cups and cones, milkshakes, sundaes and even a banana split. My entire group felt compelled to finish off our meals with sweet treats from this stall. Amongst the five of us, we tried the dark chocolate, strawberry, cookies and cream and cookie dough flavors. We all agreed that the best part of the ice cream was it’s perfectly creamy consistency and richness of flavor.
The stalls we missed out on this trip include Bee Conscious Baking Company, Starr Hill Brewery, Springhouse Sundries which offers beer and wine, Milkman’s eclectic cocktails and bar food, Eleva Coffee and the outpost of a local Charlottesville staple, Take It Away Sandwich Shop. Although we were upset that our full stomachs simply did not allow us to order from these stalls, my friends and I were eager to use this as an excuse to return to Dairy Market again soon to make up for these missed chances.
Dairy Market was the perfect place for a group of college friends, like my friends and I, to go grab a fun dinner. Each stall obviously had a few differences in pricing, but all meals fell within the range of about $4 to $7 for side dishes, appetizers and ice cream and $9 to $12 for entrees. As I said, the set up of Dairy Market allows for one to create a smorgasbord meal while still being conducive to a college student budget.
Located along Grady Avenue, Dairy Market is easily accessible by car for all on-Grounds students or off-Grounds students living around the University. In fact, the food hall sits rather close to many off-Grounds housing apartments and houses, arguably within walking distance. There are both Charlottesville Area Transit Bus Stops — Route Numbers 8 and 9 — and University Transit Service Bus Stops — Orange and Green Lines — nearby. In addition, there are 200 parking spots onsite, where the first hour is complimentary, then $2.50/hour with no maximum.
As for accessibility in terms of disability accommodations, all the stalls are located on one floor, and there is a ramp on the outside steps leading up to the main entrance.
Dairy Market is now open seven days a week. They operate on Sunday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 9pm and Friday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 10pm.
Overall, my friends and I could not have been more impressed with every aspect of Dairy Market. We already have plans to return very soon to try out the merchants we missed out on and those which are not yet open.