I lived in C-ville for a long time, though my folks still reside there. I bought them a gift certificate to L'Etoile not too long ago, and they really enjoyed it, this coming from very picky eaters. It had pretty rave reviews on here, but I've never dined there. Their menu looked quite good.
I liked the C&O on the end of the Downtown Mall. It's got a nice, unpretentious atmosphere. Other places I liked were Duner's out toward Ivy and Oxo, also on the Downtown Mall. For quick food, I always do Bodo's for lunch -- good, cheap bagels. Continental Divide was always a good standby, pretty cheap, too. Oh, Bashir's was another frequent stop for me.
I'll agree with Bizou and L'etoile. Bizou is right on the Downtown Mall and is a local favorite for somewhat upscale comfort food. L'etoile is classic French dining.
Also on or near the Downtown Mall: Christian's for pizza by the slice or amazing steak calzones. Zocalo has excellent Latin-inspired fare (www.zocalo-restaurant.com). Maya on Main Street does nice meats and two's (www.maya-restaurant.com) my favorites are the ribs, trout, and beef tenderloin. Bodo's Bagels is great for a quick inexpensive lunch or breakfast. South Street brews good beers on premises - food is OK.
Don't miss dinner at the Clifton Inn, if you can still get a reservation. Inventive menu with focus on local, seasonal food -- outstanding execution and presentation. And, the ambience is exceptional -- a romantic, old inn. It is expensive, but an excellent value compared to what we've paid in other places.
I second Bodo's Bagels. They are truly excellent--I lived on Bodo's chicken salad on an everything bagel for 2.50 through my grad school years at UVA. Also, Revolutionary Soup is a great lunch: slice of good bread and nice homemade soups. GREAT people watching, as is the entire downtown mall.
Mono Loco is tasty, but not cheap for latin food.
South Street brews great beer.
Durty Nelly's is a dive bar, but makes really good sandwiches.
The Wayside for fried chicken. Sides are great and so are their chicken livers.
Maharaja used to be good Indian (in the shopping center on 29) and the Basil Roasted Duck is surprisingly good at Thai 99.
Duner's is out of the city limits...used to be a great meal for the drive, and the recent menus looked good. Since Metropolitan closed years ago, Hamilton's and OXO are good choices for a nice meal.
mmmm, I am craving a bagel!!
Metropolitan, how we miss it. Same owners as Bizou but much more elegant and memorable. We'd drive there from Pinehurst for dinner and then fill up the car with great bread from Charlotteville Bakery the next morning before heading home. You're craving a bagel. I'm craving the appetizers at Metropolitan. All of them. I still remember the ridiculously beautiful and tasty shrimp cakes that blew us away.
I'm a cook in Charlottesville and in love with the food offerings. I agree strongly with L'Etoile, it's been consistent the three or four times Ive been there. Expect about $100 for two w/glasses of wine.
Also a big second on Zocalo at a similar price point after tip. I think that some of the best restaurants in Charlottesville are missing though. MAS is a Spanish Tapas restaurant with simply amazing, authentic food and very generous portions (get anything braised, potatoes w/aioli, spinach mango salad, artichoke-goat cheese dip, pumpkin empanadas, boquerones, or anything). I know from a source that their food cost is much higher than any conventional restaurant, and it shows.
Ive eaten on both coasts of the US as well as Italy and Asia and the best Asian influnced meal Ive had was at TEN, Japanese Kaiseki & Sushi Restaurant. It gets a little pricey if you get into wine or sake, but if you stay away from the chef's recommendations you'll get out for under $100 for two easy. Start off with the edamame, the avocado tempura, kobe meatballs, calamari, lamb chops, daikon chicken, Crab Roll, and yellowtail hamachi salad are all amazing.
Frenchwise I think L'Etoile and Hamilton's (Amazing for Lunch) are great choices. I think that if you've had this type of locally influenced French you are better off going to MAS or TEN.
Much more low key is Continental Divide, with amazing Tequila and fun Latin (Tex-Mex?) fare with $10-$15 a person prices. Tuna Tostada is bangin'. Let me know how it goes or if you have any more questions
Calling Maharadja a good restaurant is an insult to indian cuisine. i ahve eating in cville since 96 and coming from NYC, i think i am bit spoiled.
if you are talking about divine ,original and food with passion and great taste i suggest the following restaurants. They love what they do and use little or no unnecessary enhancers.
Mas where chef rahal has been consistant and creative.,he loves what ho does and it shows.
l'etoile where chef Mark has passion and is dedicated to good food and provides great service. he enjoys the respect of all his clientts ,mine included.
Bashir where chef Bashir ,an innovator who brought Mediterranean cuisine to
charlottesville made the New York times for his foodand his food is to die for.
Bang for asian tapas
Kyoto in rio hill shopping center. this restaurant deserves to be downtown ,. Chef david and alice ,a chines couple provide great servive and very good food void of additives or preservatives.
hope this helps
iwhen in charlottesville mainly dowtown ask the locals also because sometimes the reviews are biased.