I'm going to be in Charlottesville for a few days next week and was looking for some recommendations. I'll be staying at the Doubletree, so bonus points if it's close to the hotel. I'm mainly interested in casual, non-trendy places. Thai, Indian, taquerias and pupuserias especially. Not really interested in bbq or soul food unless it's both close to the hotel and exceptional.
I never made it out to Aqui es Mexico. We hit Maharaja and Milan for Indian; of the two, I preferred Maharaja. The food at Milan was a bit bland. A trip to the downtown mall yielded the usual suspects which I'd been trying to avoid. We settled in on a dingy looking bar/grill place whose name I don't recall. It was two stories, and you had to walk through the smoking section to get to nonsmoking(upstairs). There was an employee passed out in the landing on the way up. My kind of place! The food was not bad and the beer was cheap.
We also found a Persian kabob place called Zamzam Kabob off 29 a few miles south of the Doubletree. This was pretty good- I got a heaping pile of saffron rice, mixed kabobs which were well spiced, and three different sauces(hot, tzatziki, and some kind of house sauce).
On the way back to NC, I made the now-obligatory stop at the Stony Creek Tastee Hut in Stony Creek, VA for bbq and hushpuppies.
What is the shared understanding of "trendy" and "non-trendy" that folks have? It seems like it's being used effectively as a descriptor in this thread and I just don't have a clear sense of precisely what it means. (Please note: zero snark, legitimate question here.)
I'm pondering on the food.
Trendy is one of those "I know it when I see it" things. Things to look for:
1. Terminology. How often is the word "fusion" used on the menu? If in Charleston, substitute "maverick". Does the menu read like a mishmash of Ikea and J. Peterman tropes?
"It was July and rivulets of perspiration cascaded down my epidermis like mountain streams swollen by spring freshets. We moved slowly up the Irrawaddy delta, and it was there that I discovered the hærdvärtaco."
2. Music. Do I have techno in my sushi? If so, the restaurant is probably trendy.
3. Cocktails. Did my server just suggest an arugula-appletini? Trendy.
4. Price. Did I just pay ten dollars for two breadsticks? Trendy.
The Doubletree is out of town on the north side, so there aren't many things nearby that aren't chains. If you head down route 29 towards town, you'll find a few gems.
Thai 99 has good to great Thai (http://www.thai99usa.com). If you've never had Thai suki, I highly recommend it. Get it Native Hot if you like spicy.
Milan has good Indian (http://www.milan-indian-cuisine.com/home-page.htm). It's as close to authentic as you're going to get.
Shebeen South African Pub & Braai (http://www.shebeenpub.com) is non-trendy and casual. The portions are huge and easy to split. The food is very good.
I'm also a big fan of Continental Divide. No website, It's on Main Street and only open for dinner. It is a bit trendy, but the upscale Southwestern fare is excellent for the price (entrees range $9-18).
Even the most upscale restaurants in Cville are pretty casual. So if you're looking for higher-end food yet still want to wear jeans, I highly recommend Zocalo, Ten, and L'etoile.
It's good that you don't want bbq or soul, since Charlottesville is not known for southern food.
The Flat is a cool little creperie in Cville. No seating, just service from a window and some very fine crepes. Feast is a nice, high-end grocery with a great cheese counter. Albemarle Baking Co turns out some very fine breads, which combined with a little cheese from Feast can make superb picnic. And Ten, while definitely not casual and unfortunately trendy, has really superb sushi.
I followed you from the Greenville postings -- thanks for the taco rundown! I moved from Charlottesville to Greenville a couple of years ago; I wrote up a big post at the time, which is here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/175434 . Some of it may be out of date (I know, for instance, that Ludwig's is gone). I will say that I went back recently and had an excellent Italian meal at Orzo. As I note there, Charlottesville isn't so big on the casual, non-trendy places. But if Aqui Es Mexico is still open, it definitely qualifies. I remember having some very good mole chicken there. Mesob does better-than-average Ethiopian food, and it's quite inexpensive. Unless things have changed, all the Thai and Indian places are pretty mediocre -- none better than Dale's or Saeng Thai House in Greenville, anyway. Out near the Doubletree you'll mostly find typical mall/chain stuff; one exception is Copacabana, which is Brazilian/French, not cheap, but not particularly trendy either, in a strip mall. Your best bet for a memorable meal in C'ville is to pay up for some of the Virginian/French sorts of places like L'Etoile, the C&O, or the Ivy Inn. If you're looking for lunch, you might try Feast or Seafood @ West Main, both in the West Main Market building. Have fun!
I know what you mean. Generally, the food on the Downtown Mall itself isn't so hot; better restaurants are scattered around the neighborhood nearby. Exception: Revolutionary Soup on the Mall is really good -- local/organic ingredients, bread from Albemarle Baking Co. (a really top-notch bakery; we always bring a bunch of loaves back when we visit C'ville, along with cheese from Feast). Feeling nostalgic, I just checked my recommendations: Mesob is gone, but Aqui Es Mexico is still in business. It's a little difficult to find -- in an industrial neighborhood east of downtown -- but as you know, that's where the good Mexican food lives. They do Salvadoran too, but I haven't tried it. Saigon cafe is fairly mediocre Vietnamese, but definitely not trendy -- if you just want a decent bowl of pho, it'll do. Under trendy-but-good, I'd file Orzo and Mas.