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Best in Charlottesville, VA

  • j

NYC 'hound coming to Charlottesville for two nights over Memorial Day weekend. In need of two dinner recommendations in C'ville. One can be expensive, one moderately-priced (entrees in $15-22 range). Was hoping for one locavore and the other anything else.

We'll have been to L'Auberge Provencale the night before we hit C'ville; French restaurants fine if the compare (L'etoile?) but otherwise, we'd like to go in another direction. The girlfriend is vegetarian, but so long as there is something for her, no other constraints. We're looking for the best C'ville has to offer.


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  1. We had a great meal with a group of eight at Mas Tapas. Fairly expensive, the vegetarian choices are some of their best (don't miss the roasted tomatos, of all things). Sometimes there is quite a wait, and I have read some comments that suggest that the staff exercise preferential seating, yet we have talked to several Charlottesvillians who say it is their favorite restaurant.

    I don't know the town well enough to recommend anything stong on locavore.

    1. Duner's is the best -- a little ways out of town up 250, but not far -- should have lots of veg options.

      1 Reply
      1. re: lawhound

        I used to love Duner's but was less impressed on my last visit. Curious what others think.

        Visit C'ville frequently and my hands down consistent favorite restaurant is C&O on the far end of the downtown mall.

        For lots of other recs, search this board for Charlottesville. I've made lots of previous suggestions, all food types and price points,

        Have a fabulous trip! Charlottesville is a really special place.

      2. zocalo is really good. it's one of my favorite restaurants in cville. their menu rarely if ever changes, but they do everything perfectly. the chili dusted sea scallops with tostones and the grilled pork chop with roasted sweet potatoes are both excellent.

        as far as french, i prefer zinc. it's on the way to the downtown area near the main street market. it's cheaper and the vibe is way more relaxed. they have traditional french dishes and great specials. i've had the moules in a saffron cream broth, excellent! i've also had frog legs cooked with a garlic butter and they were so tasty. i don't see either of those on the current menu, but regardless, zinc has great french bistro food.


        2 Replies
        1. re: mikeismora

          I liked the food at Zinc but found the atmosphere cold. Will depend what you're in the mood for. You may want to poke your head in first. If you're at Zinc, make sure you stop by Gearhart's chocolate shop. I wasn't a real chocolate fan until I discovered Gearhart's.

          1. re: Meg

            yeah, the space isn't the best. it hasn't really changed much from when it was station. i haven't been in a while as i now live in dc, but i remember it was acceptable atmosphere wise when the house gets packed with diners and lively people at the front bar. then again, i've never seen zinc truly packed haha.

        2. EXPENSIVE - Ivy Inn (out Old Ivy Rd.), Downtown Grill (on the Mall), (I would avoid OXO).
          MODERATE to MOD+ - Hamiltons and C & O (both on Downtown Mall).
          INEXPENSIVE+ - Mono Loco (burritos, etc.), Thai 99 (the one north of Rio Rd. is amazing), Mellow Mushroom (great pizza and beers on the Corner), Marco & Luccas (dumplings and noodles).
          -Other local treats: Arch's frozen Yogurt & Spudnut donuts!!

          If I had to pick two of the better ones I'd say Hamiltons and Ivy Inn. Thai 99 was our local place, dear to our hears.

          2 Replies
          1. re: NoVA

            Oxo is long gone, so no worries there.

            My pick for inexpensive is Eppies on the east end of the downtown mall and Continental Divide on W. Main Street.

            1. re: NoVA

              Love those spudnuts! Thanks for reminding me!

              And for all you spudnut neophytes...http://spudnutshop.com/

            2. What is curious to me about c'ville is that I've don't ever recall going to a really solid country, BBQ or southern place. I've looked and Old VA fried chicken on JPA and JPA extended is about as close as I could get.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Soup

                You should try the Barbeque Exchange in Gordonsville!

                It's about 20 minutes from town but they have the best BBQ I've ever had and it's absolutely worth the drive. They smoke the meat themselves out back, make a wide variety of homemade pickles (which they also serve fried), plus cornbread, mac and cheese, and all your favorite barbeque side dishes. Add in a good beer selection, incredible made from scratch desserts, and a reasonable price tag and you've got yourself a winner.

                Here's their website with directions if you're interested... http://www.bbqex.com/

              2. I had quite a nice meal at C & O Restaurant when I was in C'ville in January:


                Oh - and there is this wonderful little drugstore on the Mall that has a lunch counter in the back - really wanted to try their pimento cheese sandwich.

                4 Replies
                1. re: MMRuth

                  The Milan Indian restaurant on Emmet is very good, and fiercely better than a pimento cheese sandwich in a drugstore.
                  Barboursville Vineyards just north does a nice single seating multi-course dinner with fun wine pairings in a beautiful setting. Jackets for men.

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    MMRuth, you know I am just funnin' you about the pimento cheese, but it does seem to be stalking me everywhere I go....:)

                    1. re: Veggo

                      The stalking may be because I see to be obsessed with pimento cheese! That's great to know about the Indian - I'm going to tell my sister who lives about an hour south of C'ville.

                    2. re: MMRuth

                      yep, Timberlake's is worth the visit. We have grilled cheeses and milkshakes at the counter with my girls. Frequented by John Boy..

                    3. Milan is pretty good for Indian, although I preferred Maharaja, which we dubbed "Miraja" because it's highly visible from the highway, yet fiendishly difficult to get to.

                      I also liked Zamzam Kabob, a little Persian kabob place which is also right off 29, up near the Doubletree.

                      1. It's been a couple of years isnce I have been to C'ville. We stayed/ had dinner at the Keswick. The setting is beautiful and we had dinner on the terrace which was lovely and the food was quite good. Also nice to stumble back to the room after the second bottle of wine. I did have a bit of an argument with the mgmt. Their policy was (though I could never find it in print) to add 20% for service. While I often tip more than that, I will not tip 20% on very expensive wine. It simply doesn't take any more care of effort to open a 250 dollar bottle of wine than it does a 40 dollar bottle of wine. I won the argument in the end, but I am not comfortable with my bill being altered without at least a conversation. I haven't been back as it soured the experience, but it was a beautiful spot.

                        1. For local foods, I'd recommend Orzo or L'etoile, both on West Main Street. Orzo is in Main Street Market, http://www.themainstmarket.com/. Feast is an amazing local foods grocery/cheese shop/lunch spot.

                          On Saturday morning you may want to check out the local farmers market, just off the downtown mall.

                            1. We just returned from our weekend in Charlottesville and I thought I would post my report. We ate two dinners and one lunch. We were there the Sunday before Memorial Day and Memorial Day itself. I know it's a holiday weekend without students but we were still shocked at how quiet and tame the city felt.

                              Zocalo, on the downtown mall - by far the most recommended place and a total disappointment. I wish we went to C&O instead. This place would never survive in Ann Arbor, MI, let alone NY, IMHO. Nothing was horrible, but almost everything was less than mediocre. Both a salad and the recommended cheese fritters (my fault for even ordering that, despite the recommendation) were insipid. The sauce on the fritters had some flavor, but Chili's-esque. Entrees were worse. Scallops were bland and tasted like nothing but the chili rub. Chili relleno was mild and pretty bad. Even the wine wasn't very good. At these prices, it amazes me that this place can exist.

                              Maya, on west Main St - we really liked Maya. It was our favorite place and we found ourselves getting drinks there on the night that we didn't eat here because it was the only place that even had people in it. Food was very good, though not amazing. We didn't order entrees, just appetizers and sides, but all were quite good and the place had a nice vibe. Served Bell's beer, which was a huge plus. We'd go back.

                              Little John's Deli on the Corner - very good, incredibly inexpensive sandwiches. We each liked ours very much; they're not huge, but at the price, it was still a value. We'd go back here, too.

                              Really bummed we didn't try C&O. It was closed Monday. In fact, we were shocked how many places were closed either Sunday, Monday or both. Guess we picked the wrong weekend to check out C'ville.

                              Thanks to everybody for their recommendations!

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Jorel

                                Thanks so much for the report. It's always a treat to get feedback. Sorry to hear that you didn't have a stellar C'ville weekend, at least on the dining front. I have never been to Zocalo but know so many people that live in town or visit often and that's their go to spot. Which I've never understood. I've only ever been there for drinks and for some reason I just can't take the place seriously, as more than a bar that is. The atmosphere has never enticed me to stay for dinner. Maybe it's because my party crowd friends hang out there and I assume that the food is an afterthought.

                                1. re: Jorel

                                  I loved Mas...pitty you didnt try it;-( We also had some delish oysters at blue light grill on the mall (think it's new)...next time you go be sure to check out Mas, the food was amazing esp the spin salad w. mango vinagrette...mmmmmm

                                  1. re: Jorel

                                    gosh, little john's is still there? it was a staple when i went to uva in the early 80s.

                                    the virginian always had great onion soup.