This is the story of two local young people who have owned and operated convenience stores but decided to open a trendy restaurant and bar in Scottsville. Jeff Sprouse grew up in Crozet and Michelle was raised in Fluvanna. After selling Ollie’s Place in Buckingham, they bought the building on the corner of Valley Street (Rt. 20) and W. Main Street and started renovations in 2011. The outside of the building looks spanking new and the inside has three separate areas. A restaurant area with lots of wood accents, a bar with smaller tables, and above the bar, seating for 75 additional diners. A banquet/meeting room for 100 - 125 people with the latest in hi-tech audio and visual available is still under construction. There is also a small meeting room for 10 - 15 for smaller gatherings. Smoking is not permitted in the restaurant or bar, only on the patio. Parking is available on the street and in a lot adjacent to the restaurant. Although the Tavern on the James opened on June 16, a grand opening is planned for September.

An attractive new restaurant will get people through the door but it takes a talented chef to get them to return. Chef Spencer Marshall is having a lot of success on that count. Although he has not trained at a culinary school, Chef Marshall has been working at restaurants his whole life. He remembers how much he learned when he was a waiter at the Inn at Little Washington in Northern Virginia to owning and operating his own restaurant in Waynesboro, where he earned a three diamond rating his first year. The kitchen at Tavern on the James is still working on getting everything right all the time. I expect that the menu will continue to evolve with more meals served and changing seasons. Sunday brunch is planned for the near future.

The menu features American food, homemade and made to order. Of the six friends who sat down for lunch, five were first timers and one, a Scottsville resident, had dined at the Tavern several times before our visit. We sat in the dining room that had a rustic, tavern feel – brick walls, wood floors and tables, lot’s of windows and high ceilings with fans. The service was excellent and accommodating.

This is an example of what we enjoyed. Myrna and I started out with a crock of French onion soup for $5. It was a rich broth with lots of onions and provolone cheese and a tavern crouton made of toasted rye bread. Myrna enjoyed her main dish of a large classic Caesar salad made with fresh romaine lettuce tossed with Caesar dressing and topped with parmesan cheese and tavern croutons for $6. Linda recommended the turkey breast sandwich with fried green tomatoes for $8. Freshly roasted turkey breast was served warm on a large round croissant roll (or you can choose white, wheat or rye bread) with melted cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, bacon and slices of fried green tomatoes. Two of the ladies raved about the sandwich and one was not totally happy with it.

Loretta thought the Tavern Club for $9 was really delicious. She especially enjoyed the “real” home cooked turkey breast and roast beef, on a croissant with American cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. I ordered the Reuben for $8. Strips of corn beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing was piled high on grilled rye bread. It was very tasty, but I prefer regular slices of corn beef rather than strips. All sandwiches come with a choice of French fries, onion rings, or cole slaw. We all ordered the onion rings and are we glad we did. They were freshly made, crispy on the outside and sweet and juicy on the inside. Yum. Other lunch menu items include white chili, assorted salads and sandwiches, appetizers and a children’s menu.

The desserts were outstanding and cost between $5 and $6. Although they were certainly big enough to share after the generous lunch servings, they were so good you might want to keep your dessert to yourself. We shared and I am looking forward to more desserts on my next trip to Scottsville.

Cold muddy river was chocolate cake rolled around vanilla ice cream, frozen and sliced and served with strawberry, chocolate and cream anglais. This was called honeymoon cake when I was growing up. I always say, you just can’t miss with chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream. The apple walnut crisp with butterscotch sauce is also served with vanilla ice cream and was a hit with all. Finally, the peanut butter pie was outstanding. It was light and fluffy - like a peanut butter cloud – two yums for the pie.

Jeff and Michelle Sprouse and Chef Marshall can be very proud of their new establishment. The space looks great, the food is really good, presented well and reasonably priced. They are looking forward to bringing in entertainment on the weekends. As they complete the upstairs’ areas, they will be booking parties, meetings, space, and conferences. I think that Tavern on the James is a real feather in Scottsville’s cap. Please let me know what you think about this restaurant and others that I review or suggestions for future restaurants by emailing me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . And Let’s Do Lunch.

Tavern on the James
280 Valley Street, Scottsville
434-286-3500
Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. – midnight