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Charlottesville's Vision BBQ expanding into dine-in, full-service restaurant

Visit the Boar’s Head Resort Winter Wander, a concert at Ting Pavilion or a Thursday evening sunset at Carter Mountain Orchard and there’s a good chance you’ll spot Otis, the meat smoker, cooking up fresh pulled pork.

Mike Blevins and Gabi Barghachie — and Otis — began selling Vision BBQ at pop-up events around Charlottesville during the pandemic before moving into a small space in the Vinegar Hill Shopping Center downtown adjacent to chef Laura Fonner’s ill-fated Siren seafood restaurant in February 2021.

Fonner had to close Siren earlier this year as the restaurant empire built by her one-time partner Hunter Smith disintegrated. The real estate has sat empty since Siren closed its doors in July.

But with Blevins and Barghachie’s barbecue business on the opposite trajectory, those doors will be reopening soon.

The pair plans to move into Siren’s old space.

The larger footprint will allow them to expand into a restaurant with a full bar, table service for 100 diners, a patio and plenty of room for Dirty Shirley and Jimmy Diamonds — Otis’ sibling smokers. They hope to formally open the space in late January after obtaining their alcohol license.

“This place has always been a focal point for the community, and we really want to bring that aspect back,” Blevins told The Daily Progress. “We’re looking to make everything friendly and lower the cost of entry as much as possible.”

The current iteration of Vision is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. The next generation of Vision will extend its operating hours until 9 p.m. and remain open on Tuesdays.

Increased hours are not the only change customers can expect in the new space. With access to fryers, the menu will also be revamped to include wings, nachos and other pub grub favorites, according to Blevins.

“Being able to serve dine-in dinner will be a real game changer,” said Blevins, whose dream since college was to own a barbeque joint.

Aside from hours and food options, the appearance of the restaurant will retain the “honky-tonk chic” of the current Vision space, a holdover from its time as the Random Row, a popular pub with Charlottesville’s expatriate community.

“We’ll have people come in telling us when they remember watching a cricket game in here when it was the Random Row,” said Blevins. “It’s a venerable Charlottesville restaurant. It’s a passion for creating experiences; we want to create and bring back memories.”

In the few years it’s been around, Vision BBQ has already earned the respect of diners and plenty of profit with a catering and vending business that has kept it simple and worked hard to create “a culture of being easy to work with,” according to Blevins. The restaurant’s in-house sales were up by roughly 20% to 25% this year due in large part to the 41 events its vending staff worked at Boar’s Head Resort and roughly 30 held at Carter Mountain Orchard, he said.

“It really feels like if we add a full bar and sit-down dinner experience, we’ll be able to maximize this revenue stream,” said Blevins, who tries to learn names and talk to any new customer who walks through his doors.

The owners pride themselves on the fact they haven’t raised their prices on any of their homemade, original menu items at any point during Vision BBQ’s three year history. A critical aspect of their business is welcoming anyone — blue collar, white collar or no collar at all — for a $7 sandwich with a side of made-from-scratch pickles.


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