Aaron Burnley had a vision when he walked into Branch and Vine months ago. Business was slow and selection was minimal when he first saw the place. But now that he's the new owner and the keys are in his hand, he wants to put it back on the map.
"It was just kind of empty, but I could see being able to do really well in this space and location," Burnley says. "I'm just trying to make it feel a little more like it's a place where you'd want to come in and sit down and eat, versus what it used to be, where you just kind of stand in line and order sandwiches and run out the door."
Changes include new lighting and little touches like flowers and decorative wine bottles on each table. It's modern and sleek while still cozy, with intimate two-top tables, bar-style seating at the window for people watching over lunch and a cluster of couches and armchairs. As of last week the bottle selection featured more than 153 wines from all over the world, plus several Virginia beers. Grab a bottle to take home, or pick anything up off the shelf and enjoy it on-site with an additional $6 corkage fee. House wines are available by the glass and the six-tap draft list is all Virginia beers.
On the food side, Burnley and his girlfriend Jessica Duarte have expanded the menu with items such as Duarte's Portuguese kale stew, a hearty recipe from her mother featuring spiced pork, potatoes, kidney beans, carrots and kale. Burnley, who's been working in the food industry for more than 20 years, has changed the tuna and chicken salads, revamped the roast beef and introduced his family's crabcakes. Deli meats and cheeses are now available by the pound, and you can expect to see more sides in the display case.
Every Friday evening since buying Branch and Vine, Burnley and Duarte have collaborated with wine reps to hold complimentary wine tastings. And on the occasion when reps haven't been available to get behind the bar, Burnley, ever the hands-on owner, has been happy to hop back there and do it himself.
There's more on the horizon for the revamped Branch and Vine, but Burnley is cautious to not throw too many noodles at the wall at once. Keep an eye on the Facebook page for future updates.
Branch and Vine
2001½ W. Main St.
Every day 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.