Eating Out, Way Out

Stephanie Klein-Davis
by John. T. Edge - Virginia - Dec 09/Jan 2010

The adventurous cuisine of Chilhowie, Virginia’s Town House restaurant

Charlie Berg serves as sommelier and savant at Town House, a nine-table avant-garde restaurant in the ragtag Appalachian railroad town of Chilhowie (pop. 1,800), in southwestern Virginia. Spend an evening in Town House’s storefront Victorian dining room and, as dishes and bottles come and go, you’ll glean certain details about the thirty-year-old, details that will prove helpful as you attempt, on the drive home, to make sense of the riotously good dinner you just enjoyed.

He was born and raised hereabouts. At the tender age of seventeen, Charlie entered nearby Emory & Henry College, where he studied physics and translated ancient Greek. He now speaks a number of languages, including Russian. He knows his way around a wine cellar. He knows his way around the world.

Charlie is an archetype. He’s a small-town sophisticate. That’s what Town House is, too. A sophisticated restaurant set in a very small town. Lucky for us, it’s one of those few sophisticated small-town restaurants unencumbered by the kind of pretense Calvin Trillin codified in the 1970s when he wrote of “La Maison de la Casa House,” the sort of restaurant where the specialty is “Frozen Duck à l’Orange Soda Pop.”