Alley Light Shines in Downtown Restaurant Scene

Posted on March 31, 2014 by


It’s hard for a restaurant to keep a low profile in a city like Charlottesville, where word of mouth travels faster than a downtown businessman to happy hour.

Will Richey has discovered that despite his restaurant’s discreet location, tucked away in an alley on 2nd Street, Cville foodies will hunt down the newest place in town to enjoy high-end cocktails and professionally-plated French fare.

the alley light, © Cville Niche

The man behind the appropriately named eatery known as The Alley Light is no stranger to the local food scene and its patrons. Richey, who also owns The Whiskey Jar and Revolutionary Soup, opened his newest venture on February 1, exactly one month after acquiring the space.


“You can’t afford to be closed,” said Richey, who had the lofty space above Rev Soup transformed into a dimly lit lounge.

The major renovation project included building a bar, knocking down several walls to make room for an entry, relocating the bathroom, and outfitting an area for food preparation.

“We pretty much had to build a kitchen from nothing,” Richey said, adding that Chef Jose De Brito cooks and preps a lot of the food in Rev Soup’s kitchen each day before The Alley Light opens.

Richey is still in the process of building and stocking the wine room.


As far as the concept for The Alley Light, Richey said he initially envisioned a cozy bar but quickly adapted his outlook.

“If it doesn’t feel 100% like a restaurant, that’s because originally it was just going to be a bar lounge with food available from Rev Soup downstairs. But when my long time friend, Jose De Brito, approached me about cooking at the space, I immediately changed the concept to a restaurant,” Richey said. “It is a restaurant. If you know Jose and have tasted his cooking, then you know that when he tells you he would like to cook at your new place, you must build a kitchen for him. And so we did.”

the alley light food, © Cville Niche

Goat/hazelnut flan w/ beets

aL copy

Composed Salad w/ Lettuce and Croque Monsieur


Richey, however, said he wanted to stick with the lounge atmosphere.

“I wanted a good comfortable place to enjoy a drink, with a good atmosphere, the right music, and the best drinks I could provide,” Richey said.

flowers alley light, © Cville Niche

He recruited popular local bartender Micah LeMon to put his own spin on the high-end cocktail selections.

While the speakeasy vibe, small-plate menu, and classy concept of his restaurant appeal to a variety of patrons, Richey said he’s just hoping people can appreciate its unique atmosphere.


“We just want people who will truly appreciate the space, not those who are just out to say they drank at the new place in town,” Richey said. “Some folks are going to get it and love it and really be happy with everything we are doing. Others are going to come in and think we are crazy. I just hope we can cycle through the folks who don’t like it quickly, so they don’t disturb the energy for those who love it.”

dessert copy

Pear Helene – poached pear, almond parfait, and chocolate sauce

Richey said the feedback he’s received has been ‘overwhelmingly kind.’ Many of his customers already have expressed their love for specific drinks and food items. Richey definitely has his list of top fare, which includes the tuna and beef carpaccio, as well as the beef tartar.


Meyer Lemon Drop


“As for the cocktails, I have only heard rave reviews for all of them, but the leader is the Mary Lou Mule that Micah makes with his own ginger beer,” Richey said. “It’s pretty dang delicious.”

“My personal favorite cocktail currently is the Cville Seville, made with bitter seville orange marmalade.”

bartender alley light, © Cville Niche


For those looking to checkout Charlottesville’s newest hideaway, The Alley Light is open from 5 p.m. to midnight Wednesday through Sunday at 108 2nd St. SW, just off the Downtown Mall. Look for the alley light, and you’ll find The Alley Light.

the alley light bar, © Cville Niche