The White Spot was founded in 1953, when Paul Dunsmore decided that the increasing student population at UVA since the end of the Second World War justified another student-oriented dining venue in a very different Charlottesville from today, where there were limited dining choices for hungry Wahoos.
Dunsmore found an available location at the southern end of the famed UVA Corner, which for many decades had been a gathering spot for the UVA community. The small storefront at 1407 University Avenue had been occupied by the University Beauty Salon since 1936. When the salon left the site for an adjacent space next door, they took their main salon chair with them, leaving a large circular spot in the tiled floor. With no replacement tiles to repair the resulting gap, the spot was filled with white paint instead. And thus, “The White Spot’ was born.
Although Dunsmore’s new eatery occupied a somewhat confined space, with just enough room for a counter, a handful of stools and a galley kitchen, the new kid on the block quickly gained a faithful following of students, UVA hospital employees from across the road and Charlottesville town folk who appreciated the traditional comfort food served up at reasonable prices. And significantly, abutting a University that was still essentially an all male institution, Dunsmore’s decision to keep the grill open for most of the night created a devoted group of late night Wahoo diners who were returning from road trips to the numerous all female schools encircling UVA or emerging from fraternity parties with a need to fill their stomachs with something other than alcohol.
Within a few years of opening, the White Spot became known for a number of delicacies which have enchanted generations of Wahoos. The most famous of these is the “Gus Burger” — named after the legendary Dr. Gus Egor, who would traverse University Avenue daily to order a cheeseburger topped with a fried egg. The Gus Burger has reached national renown and become part of UVA lore. For years there have been Gus Burger eating contests held in Madison Bowl, with the current record being 8 Gus Burgers in a 6 minute period. Other White Spot favorites have included the Bacon Cheese Dog (recently added once again to the menu after a short interlude) and the White Spot Chili Dog which was featured in the French magazine Cuisine in 1980. A student once downed 27 of these to raise money for charity. Not to be forgotten, is the piece de resistance known worldwide as “Grillswith”, which became a White Spot staple after the closing of the University Diner in 1985. This delicacy consists of two glazed donuts fried on the grill topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It is now served at some of the finest restaurants in the country…although none finer than our own White Spot.
It was also during Mr. Dunsmore’s reign that some of the most famous White Spot employees began their tenure. Henry Rhodes, just known as “Henry” to countless Cavaliers began working at the White Spot shortly after it opened and did not retire until three decades later. Nat Pritchett was somewhat of a latecomer, not starting until 1960, but his ever-present visage behind the counter extended into the 1980s. Unfortunately, our founder Mr Dunsmore passed away in 1967 and ownership passed to Pete Johnson.
Mr. Johnson oversaw the White Spot during one of the great transformations in UVA history—coeducation. As coeducation took hold on Grounds, a social transformation took place. There were fewer and fewer road trips and less late-night travelers coming in for a midnight Gusburger. But simultaneously, the number of bars in the Corner area increased rapidly as gathering and mixing places for students. Add to that the closing of the University Diner in 1985, and the White Spot became the preeminent eatery for a growing population of festive student diners.
In 1988, Lyle Garth, the former manager of the University Bookstore, acquired the White Spot. Mr. Garth shepherded the White Spot for over a decade and sold it to Dimitri Tavampis in 2000. Recognizing growing customer demand, Mr. Tavampis undertook the first major expansion of the White Spot in 2005 by taking over the next-door space which had been occupied by The Coyote Jewelry and Gift Store. With this additional space, the White Spot for the first time was able to add table dining to the counter only dining that had existed for 50 years. For twenty years, Mr. Tavampis was an ever-present fixture befriending thousands of White Spot regulars.
As of January, 2021, ownership of the White Spot has transferred to a group of 15 UVA alumni owners representing virtually every decade from the 1960s to the 2000’s. Three of the new owners were also White Spot employees during their undergraduate years. Your new owners are proud to become the custodians of the White Spot and intend to preserve the atmosphere and good food that have made this establishment a true Charlottesville and UVA treasure.
Since its founding, The Spot has been led by spirited ownership. Beginning with Paul Dunsmore and continuing with his legendary successors Pete Johnson, Lyle Garth, and Dimitri Tavampis — in addition to numerous dedicated and legendary grill masters from the past such as Henry Rhodes, Robert Wright and Nat Pritchett, each as talented in the vernacular as with the spatula — the appetite of a growing university has long found satisfaction here.
And today is no different. With almost 70 years of uninterrupted experience serving patrons on the Corner from this very location, our incomparable current team of Sam, Angel, Daniel, Bryan, and Elmer pride themselves on a cheerful and welcome blend of fun and efficiency.
A new generation of ownership has arrived to chaperone our hallowed institution into a future full of Gus Burgers. In 2021, 22 UVA alumni representing every decade from the 1960s to the 2000s became the next generation of owners of The Spot. Three of them worked here as undergraduates. We are proud to be the custodians of The Spot and intend to preserve the atmosphere and good food that have made this establishment a true Charlottesville and UVA treasure.