Bizou in Charlottesville
Bizou is good, but I wasn't too impressed the last time. C&O, also on the mall, is good and I've only heard good thigns about Zocalo. Fleurie (also on the mall) is good, though pricey. It's very good quality french. For an inexpensive place off the mall I'd reccoment Styx. It's sort of a local chain...but not at all chain-like. It's med kebabs, hence "sticks". Another good place, in Ivy, is Duners. For breakfast Spudnuts is amazing (potato doughnuts) and Bodo's (bagels) is very good. Lunch there's C'ville coffee, they have sandwiches and noodle bowls from a local vietnamese restaurant. Mas is good...though I prefer other places. I miss C'ville! Oh...one more place: Pasta Bella. I've heard good things about L'Etoile.
I love Bizou. If there is a quintessential Cville place, this would be it. And sitting on the patio during nice weather is sublime.
I also like Zocalo a lot. They might only have 8 entrees, but they are all delicious. ANd the bar there is terrific. Great martinis.
And you can't forget Continental Divide. Entress are only $9-15, and the southwestern food is very well executed. Plus they have great martinis and 40 tequilas!
Hardware Store is closed, thank goodness.
I haven't been to Bizou, but Starr Hill (on Main St) is great and they have their own beer. If you want something more casual, Wayside take-out fried chicken (in Fry Springs) is fabulous, and Guadalajara (on Fontaine, and also on Market St) has good Mexican.
If you're sticking with the Downtown Mall (and I can't blame you!) go to Zocalo or Hamilton's, and Splendora's for gelato. Don't go to the Hardware Store - overrated and not very good.
Bizou is alright. Its a good concept and they do a reasonably good job with the food. They're a better lunch option than dinner option, especially if its a nice weekend and they have the outside seating open. I always find that the food lacks something. IE, the fried chicken is a bit too heavily seasoned (they use herbs de provence) for my tastes, the salads are usually a bit overdressed, the potatoes a bit underseasoned, etc. This is not to say its not an enjoyable meal, its just not going to blow your mind, in my opinion. Thus, my statement that its better for lunch (because in my mind, a nice glass of wine, some decent chicken and good company makes for a wonderful lunch).
Another place in C'ville is L'etoile on Main St. They are doing (again, in my opinion) the most interesting stuff in town. They miss on dishes as well (they're big fans of smoked cheese which can often overwhelm a dish) but they do a good job with scallops and foie gras. I find them a great option for dinner. They have wonderful wine list and I've found the service to be quite good. I should say, though, that we lived across the street from them for a few years and went there often, so the service may well have been affected by that a lot.
If you're not a frequent visitor of C'ville, Zocalo is a great option. The food is very good, they just almost never change the menu. You won't mind that the first 3 or 4 times you eat there, but then you have to get geared up to want which ever dish it is that you're craving.
I haven't eaten at Mas in quite a while. When last seen, they allowed smoking in the restaurant so we would only eat there when the patio was open. The food was uneven but you were almost certain to get your palate blown away by at least one dish per meal. Overall, outside in the summer with some sangria, yes, otherwise, I'd skip it.
The burger's at Mel's Cafe (total dive, but lovely people) are a good option, too. They have Meta's Burger - swiss, grilled onions on toasted rye. Yum.
Blue Light has a great bar scene and a good cocktail menu, but although they do have food I have never been really interested in eating there.
Bizou and Hamilton's are the places to go, although it's been awhile since I've been to either.. I don't get back to Chville as much as I'd like.
Bizou was a regular of ours back when we dined out frequently (before kids). Never had a bad meal, especially like the bison meatloaf - good beer selection. But I haven't been there in quite a while. My favorites in town are Mas (tapas - Belmont), Blue Light (seafood - downtown mall), and Zocalo (southwesterny - downtown mall).