Carytown’s newest restaurant opened quietly last week, but the space speaks for itself. Xtras Cafe is visually stunning. It is sharp without being cold, polished but not pretentious.
Carytown’s newest restaurant opened quietly last week, but the space speaks for itself. Xtras Cafe is visually stunning. It is sharp without being cold, polished but not pretentious. The turquoise grabs you first, with complements of lime green and pale yellow thrown in. The color combo could sound garish, but it all works beautifully. Art deco is a clear influence here, and the zigzag black and white floor draws your eye in and back to the long curved bar, which seats 18. Owner Xtra Moore was inspired in the design by a portrait of a woman done by artist Michael Sprouse.
Sprouse’s painting was hanging at Chasen Galleries up the street. She and her father had both admired it independently from afar. Moore thinks the piece represents the idea of the classic Hollywood woman, “who’s beautiful and proud of it. Elegant. Classy,” she says.
“I wanted to provide a space for women. A women-friendly hangout spot with amazing, healthy food that’s delicious, [that] you don’t have to feel guilty about.”
Moore hired the same designers who did DeLux, but Xtras doesn’t feel like a copy. At the entrance, a huge vertical print of a piece by Polish art deco painter, Tamara de Lempicka, announces the design. Moore is in talks with Main Art to display local artwork and possibly begin to host art showings.
And yes, Xtra is her real name. Turns out, she was an unexpected baby, and her parents were looking at movie credits for name ideas. Her mom was reading actors aloud and accidentally read “extras,” and the name stuck. Her father owns the building, her mother runs Bangles and Beads downstairs, and she’s been doing her parents’ accounting for years. Two years ago, when the family renovated the bead shop, they decided to add the second floor and turn it into a restaurant space. “A lot of people looked at us like we were crazy,” she confessed.
Moore is young, but with ten years in the industry and an economics degree from the University of Virginia, she seems well-positioned. Serious and soft-spoken, she discusses her place with ease.
It’s a large restaurant, with nearly 50 seats inside. The wall opposite the bar is banquette seating, but the prime real estate is the semi-circle shaped, covered patio overlooking Cary Street. She wants to offer great portions for the price. “Everything we can make in house, we do it. I love a wet sandwich, too,” she offers. Chef Chris Aheart hails from Corner Café, where he used to work with Moore. “We’re both in this business to take care of people,” she insists.
Moore, who claims never to have been a foodie, reiterates, “So many places get caught up in the product and the food, they forget about the people.”
I like a menu with choices, and Xtras’ two-pager covers interesting twists on standard appetizers, salads, flatbread pizzas, pasta, sandwiches, and entrees. Desserts are made from scratch and offered seasonally. Prices live around $9 with the most expensive food item still under $20. There are 10 beers on tap, and nearly double that in bottles. The savory crème brulee is a big seller so far. Cheddar fondue, nutmeg, caramelized sugar crust with apples and crostini sounds like a nice fall appetizer.
My first night, I took the Portuguese Brunswick Stew to go. I love stew, and the fact that I can’t get it regularly adds to the appeal. The Portuguese comes from the type of sausage used in the dish. While I enjoyed it, it seemed a little thin, and I couldn’t really distinguish the sausage flavors from the whole. The second visit, my friend and I split the Chicken Thai Flatbread Pizza. It wasn’t a flatbread, just a typical round pizza, I didn’t notice any Thai influence, and the flavors just didn’t work together. I’m not hard to please when it comes to pizza, so that was disappointing.
With ambitious daily hours from 11am to 2am, Moore hopes to bring nightlife to Carytown. “I’m not going to sleep and it’s fine,” she says determinedly. The large menu is mostly casual for now, but they hope to add some higher-end offerings. She also emphasizes the gluten-free and vegetarian options. The chef — he’s a veggie too.
Typical happy hour specials run 4 to 7pm. Additionally, each night has a unique offering. Monday is “—21” night, with $5 appetizers for those who share the 23221 zip code. Sunday will be industry night. Saturday has $2 dessert slivers. Thursday is ladies night and Wednesday offers $10 bottles of bubbly. Friday is 80’s and Tuesday is date night, with 1/2 price bottles of wine.
Bartender Jason was friendly and skilled, making me a delicious martini and coming back now and then to chat. I look forward to spending more time at that lush bar, and sitting outside once the weather cools down. Fortunately, there’s only one TV inside, and at the back corner of the bar, I almost didn’t notice it.
Xtras is working on a website, but visit their Facebook page for now.
Their official opening was last weekend. I take it as a good sign that on both my visits, the bar was filled with other restaurant people, including owner Phil of 9 North 4th. and staff from Mezzanine/Bellytimber.
3222-B W Cary St
(Photos by Terra Gatti)