Most Timely Addition to Culpeper Scene: It's about Thyme for Stylish Accent on Flavorful Fare
Rosson, John, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
I fancy this little restaurant not because it takes me back almost to my infancy in Virginia, though that's part of the tale, but because it's the first totally promising restaurant to hit Culpeper, Va., in years. Maybe decades.
It's called It's About Thyme, and for Culpeper it is about time.
Compared with some of its equally history-laden neighbors - Fredericksburg, Warrenton and Little Washington come to mind - Culpeper has been the laggard on historic preservation.
More's the pity, and that could explain why some of the perks often resulting from "old town" preservation - good restaurants being one of them - have seldom made their presence felt there, if ever.
But Culpeper is changing. And It's About Thyme - open since November - is shaping up as a hit. It isn't exactly packed (though I have seen it nearly that way), but at any given hour it can be a very busy little place. Clearly it's a restaurant the locals like, and that can spell staying power.
The reasons for its following are clear. The food is stylish, with an emphasis on Italian, Greek and American accents; the ingredients are fresh and inordinately flavorful; the ambience is cultured but not stuffy; and the locally trained staff, though it doesn't always succeed, tries mightily to keep up with the pressure.
Finally, the price is right - lunch about $9 and dinner $16 to $20, with plenty of openings to dine both lightly and for less.
Meanwhile, the setting is something else - for me, at least.
Until I entered It's About Thyme a few weeks ago, I had not set foot in that small storefront in more than 50 years - not since I was the 12-year-old paperboy delivering the Richmond News Leader to the building's Depression-era occupant, Deckelman's Ready to Wear, one of numerous stores strung along East Davis Street.
I can still see Deckelman's and its neighbors in their 1930s and '40s guises - among them the Sanitary Grocery, the J.J. Newberry's five-and-dime and Knackal's Bakery, all subscribers to the News Leader. Of that list, only Knackal's still exists.
Today, the old Deckelman's flooring is polished, the walls are splashed with a flamboyant artist's depictions of sunny Mediterranean villas, the tables are dressed with fresh flowers, and the old pressed-tin ceiling, while newly painted, really is the old Deckelman's ceiling.
The rear of the room is devoted to another eye-catcher: It's About Thyme owner John Yarnall's slickly mounted, chalk-white pizza oven, its small, upscale pies styled for grown-ups rather than kids.
Put briefly, It's About Thyme is a restaurant first, but it's also a snappy, 60-seat cafe.
Mr. Yarnall, 47, is a native of Swarthmore, Pa., and for 13 years he owned and operated a restaurant in Media, Pa. …