Dairy Market: A Harmless Food Court?

Lucas Simpson and Zoё Kershner

Photo of The Dairy Market used under SPLC guidelines.

The history of the new Dairy Market in Charlottesville goes back to the 1900s when the Monticello Ice Cream Company was established. 18 years later, the company was renamed Monticello Dairy, Inc., and began to produce other products such as milk, butter, and cheese. By 1937 designs were being created, and construction was underway for the historic Monticello Dairy building. In current times, this building is the new home for the Dairy Market: a place for gathering, eating, and shopping. At future capacity, the Dairy Market will have 18 different shops with many options for new places to grab a bite to eat, drink, or mosey around and shop. 

Here in the KTR we ventured to try three different sections in the recently developed food court. We started with Chimm- Thai & Southeast Asian Restaurant. Due to COVID-19 regulations, they were only open for take-out and delivery. To gain a complete understanding of the quality of this outlet’s eatery, we decided to sample the Thai-style fried chicken wings as well as their signature dumplings. The dumplings consisted of ground pork, water chestnuts, egg, & oyster sauce in wonton paper. They also offered a house soy-ginger sauce. To be completely honest these were average at best. The shape of the dumpling was more of a cylindrical shape instead of the traditional shape. They were kind of dry and I usually prefer my dumplings to be crispier, however, with the sauce they weren’t bad. Our final rating would be a 6.4/10. 

The Wings were thai-style fried chicken wings with sweet chili sauce. They were garnished with cilantro and scallion. They were pretty good but they had very little flavor. The sauce also didn’t pair well with the wings. We would give these a 6.6/10. 

Honestly Moo Thru is definitely a favorite place to get dessert from. They offer spectacular milkshakes and ice cream flavors. The ice cream is always rich and creamy. It is easily a 10/10 and it is also a bonus that the occasional employee is a friendly high school student at a different school. 

The last place we went was Manila Street where  we tried a BBQ skewer. Formerly, Manila Street was a popular food truck that got moved to the Dairy Market.  The menu here was very appealing and we will definitely recommend checking it out. There will probably be more trips to this venue in our future. The BBQ skewer was phenomenal and made for a great meal. 

Although the Dairy Market is bringing a new place to eat and hang out in Charlottesville, the prices of many of the vendors may be out of reach for the community. According to the Statistical Atlas, the Dairy Market sits at the edge of the neighborhood of 10th and Page, where the average annual household income is $31.2k.The lunch that we bought (about a 1 person-sized meal), was $12 before tax. For $31.2k, a family of four has about $85.5 a day to cover all living expenses, such as rent, taxes, utilities, etc. A $48 lunch would take away half of the budget for those expenses. Not only does the Dairy Market’s location not benefit the entirety of the community, but it also brings up concerns of property values rising in the area. In February, a new mural for the side of the Dairy Market was approved. However, the mural seemed to bring up recurring concerns about how the Dairy Market could lead to gentrification. Along with new student apartments, the Dairy Market is causing property values to rise, causing long time homeowner’s taxes to increase. Overtime, people who have had these homes passed down to them might not be able to pay their taxes anymore and will lose their homes. CBS 19 News quoted a resident named Don Gathers, who has lived in the neighborhood for years.“Whatever you put on the side of it, it’s just something looking out over the neighborhood that is about to be gentrified,” said Gathers. “Now it might not happen today, it might not happen tomorrow, it might not be the next couple of years, but eventually down the line, down the road, it’s going to happen.”

City Council member Michael Payne was also quoted, talking about how he believes this is a deeper issue. “You can see Dairy Central looming over one end and luxury student apartments looming over the other end on West Main Street; I think a lot of people are concerned about the character of their neighborhood is changing,” said Payne. 

It seems that mural or not the Dairy Market might cause larger problems such as gentrification and the increase of property values. Even though the many merchants bring a wide variety of cuisine and shops to Charlottesville, the price range along with the location of the Dairy Market create more problems than meets the eye. We thoroughly enjoyed the food that we tried, but is changing the character of the local neighborhoods worth it?