By Drift Cville
Chances are, if you ask someone in Charlottesville about the Dairy Market’s location they will not only know exactly what you are talking about but they will likely also have a story to share about its history. I personally remember it as the place I first tried a beer from Three Notch’d Brewery – forever changing my world – but I had no idea the history the space truly held. Through all of the reminiscing you get the sense of what this place has meant to the community over the decades and why its repurposing is so important.
But First – A Little Bit of History
The Dairy Market’s roots in the Charlottesville community started over 100 years ago with the formation of the Monticello Ice Cream Company. By the 1930s the company was a fully functioning dairy producing 30 flavors of ice cream, 140 different products and 2100 gallons of milk per hour. In desperate need of a production facility, the iconic Monticello Dairy building opened in 1937. Designed by Elmer Buruss, the dairy would run for 48 years before ceasing operations in 1985 due to a change of ownership.
While the space would continue to be home to a number of local businesses (like Three Notch’d and the infamous McGrady’s Pub) throughout the years, the glory days of it being a community focal point seemed long gone and parts of the building would fall to disarray. It wouldn’t be until 2017 that the former Monticello Dairy building would be given new life when purchased by Stony Point Development Group.
Their mission? To revamp the building as a modern food hall that pays homage to the building’s roots while driving a new sense of community and promoting entrepreneurship.
Something for Everyone: A Carnivore & a Vegan Walk Into a (Dairy) Market
The Dairy Market was an ambitious project under normal circumstances; add in a pandemic and it was hard to tell how their soft opening would go in December of 2020. However, it turned out they had exactly what the community was craving.
Overall, the Market is made up of 18 merchants – 17 currently operational – and consisting of 12 food merchants, 1 brewery, 1 full-service restaurant, 1 full-service bar and 2 retail stalls. The space is tailored to promote Virginia farm-to-table restaurants while offering minority entrepreneurs a space of their own; of the vendors, 22% are women owned and 33% are minority owned.
For food lovers, Dairy Market is an absolute dream. The 12 food merchants offer up a huge selection of farm to table options including the first brick and mortar location for the food truck Angelic’s Kitchen & Catering. Angelic’s specializes in soul food and abides by the saying “we bring our kitchen to you”; you can expect southern home cooking with staples like fried fish, fried chicken, mac & cheese and more.
After some soul food you might find yourself craving something sweet. Owned by a husband and wife team, the Bee Conscious Baking Company takes ingredients from their local farm and creates delicious baked goods, including several gluten-free and vegan. In addition to great pastries, they also have a mission to raise awareness of the bee population decline and this is reflected in not only their mascot, but also in their ingredients and their biodegradable packaging.
While Angelic’s Kitchen and Bee Conscious Baking Company focus more on local, Chimm St. (sister restaurant to Chimm Taste and Thai Cuisine & Noodle House) brings Thailand to Dairy Market. Chimm means “taste” in Thai and Chimm St. brings tons of flavor to the Dairy Market with their authentic street food. Try their steamed soy beans (edamame) with their house chili salt and fried garlic blend for a healthier snack option.
Sometimes you just want a burger and fast, but that doesn’t mean you want to settle for a chain. Citizen Burger Stand brings fast and delicious burgers to Dairy Market, a scaled down version of their flagship Citizen Burger Bar. Sticking with the theme of local farm-to-table, they use locally produced ingredients for a pure solid burger. Try a Mini with a side of truffle fries and you’ll be golden.
Any proper market hall should offer a great pizza and Dino’s brings that to Dairy Market. Using a wood oven, the pizzas are fantastic. Try the Hooville, a delicious white pizza with a ricotta base, mushrooms, spinach and garlic. Their pizzas can also be made gluten-free and vegan. If you are wanting something a bit lighter they also offer rotisserie chicken and a variety of salads and bowls to mix it up a bit.
From farm-to-table we move onto farm-to-cup with the Eleva coffee stand. Hailing from Brooklyn, this coffee company follows the adage of “Love Your Coffee, Make a Difference” and they make a difference by promoting the small farming communities responsible for good coffee. I prefer Dirty Chai but they have fun signature drinks like Clockwork Orange and their Rose Latte.
Next up is Grn Burger, a great spot elevating the standard American burger by making delicious plant-based versions. While some meat eaters might doubt a burger without meat could ever be enjoyed, trust me – their Make it Hot Burger with habanero sauce is enough to make any meat lover change their mind. Their fries are great but the GRN Salad is my preferred item. The simple salad of arugula, parmesan, lemon and olive oil is a great balance to the spicy burger.
If tacos are more your style, the newest addition to Dairy Market is the vendor for you. Maizal offers Latin American Street Food with a selection of 35 bases, proteins, toppings and sauces. My personal favorite is to combine mixed greens, cilantro rice, black beans, braised chicken, pico de gallo, corn, cucumber, guacamole and habanero sauce for a delicious bowl.
Just like Angelic’s Kitchen, Manila Street also got their start on the food truck scene with Little Manila. Serving Filipino food, Manila Street focuses on authentic flavors with dishes like Lumpia (similar to spring rolls), Chicken Adobo and Pork Belly BBQ. For a sweet treat, save room for their Carioca, which is a traditional Filipino dessert made into balls using sweet rice and coconut.
Perhaps the most colorful of all of the vendors when it comes to decor, you’ll be sure to spot Mashu Festival. The foods here are steeped in Japanese culture and the ingredients are fresh and delicious. You’ll find several types of Ramen on their menu but the Spicy Miso Ramen is my pick. Don’t forget to grab Boba Milk Tea!
Rounding out the last of the counter service stands is the UVA staple Take It Away. Known for their quality sandwiches and house dressing, it’s hard to find people in Charlottesville who haven’t eaten at one of their locations. The Wertland Italian is a classic combo of Genoa Salami, swiss cheese, roasted tomatoes, red onions and banana peppers but it’s the french bread that makes this one special.
One can’t forget the best part of the meal – dessert! Operating in the Charlottesville area since 2010, Moo Thru was founded by 4th generation dairy farmers so they know what they are doing. Moo Thru is now a favorite for families and UVA students alike. My personal favorite is Cake Batter with rainbow sprinkles. Nothing can beat that on a hot summer day in Charlottesville!
Of course, Dairy Market offers more than their counter service vendors. South & Central Latin Grill and Steakhouse is perfect for those wanting a sit down dinner. The carefully selected cuts of beef are wood fired and the accompanying dishes reflect Central and South American cuisine. The seasonal menu ensures the freshest tasting offerings. The recent grilled watermelon salad with mint and feta is just one example of how they utilize farm to table in inventive ways. They also offer a weekly Bachata Night on Thursdays for something unexpected to try.
After dinner, grab a cocktail with a twist at Milkman’s Bar, where creativity is always on display and their drinks are works of art. The Senario, using Blue Ridge Vodka, is perfect for your Instagram Stories (it features a magic bubble) but Parts Unknown, a gin based drink, is beautiful and my personal favorite.
However, if beer is more your speed, you can opt for the craft selections at Starr Hill along with their occasional live music and weekly trivia. Their sours are some of the best in town but I’m also very partial to their Little Red Roostarr varieties. Plus, they have a fantastic dog-friendly patio – my puppy Ollie is a huge fan (evidence above)!
Of course, it’s not just food you’ll find at Dairy Market. In need of a fun gift with local flavor? Be sure and check out the two retailers located within the Dairy Market. Brigid & Bess offers a wide range of home decor and gifts, including those from designers calling Central Virginia home. They also host special events and workshops on a regular basis so be sure and check them out.
Across the hall from Brigid & Bess you’ll find Quattro Tizi. Formerly located on the downtown mall, this is your stop for upscale clothing for men and women, as well as other lifestyle items with a focus on organic and sustainable brands.They’ll be sure and keep you ahead of the fashion curve.
Dairy Market is just getting started with their vision for building a new sense of community in Charlottesville. One way they’ll continue to do this is by offering regular events. You can easily check out what is being offered on their calendar.
In addition to the Market itself, it will continue to expand and build with office space, 1-2 bedroom apartments with great amenities at 10th & Dairy and their events space, The Brick Cellar, which can host up to 300 people. With Charlottesville serving as a wedding destination, The Brick Cellar will surely grow as a great place to hold many important milestones.
Whether you are a local looking to celebrate all things Charlottesville in one location or someone visiting who wants to get a literal and figurative taste of the community, Dairy Market is where you’ll want to be. I hope to see you there!
Until next time, cheers and happy eating!