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Moving to Charlottesville...Cheap Eats

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I've done a decent amount of research on C-ville restaurants. It seems the area has plenty of farm-to-table French and Mediterranean themed places and plenty of crappy college places. I'm most interested in really cheap, really good food, which in my experience is usually, but not always, something ethnic.

Here's my preliminary list of places I plan on exploring that seem to be cheap and good:

Revolutionary Soup, La Michocana Deli, Taste of China, Eppies, Thai Siam (a bit of a drive, I know)...

That's all I can come up with. Any places I should add or take off the list?

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  1. Lunch at Aroma's Cafe in Barracks Rd.

    The Carving Board - lunch only sandwich spot just a few doors down from Taste of China.

    Lime Leaf - Thai in Rio Hill

    Tacos from the City Market on Saturday mornings (or Pen Park on Tuesday afternoons or Meade Park on Wednesday afternoons). Then have a Pantheon Popsicle (though at $3/shot, doesn't really qualify as cheap...)

    Tip Top on Pantops classic diner. A favorite for breakfast

    Continental Divide - best value in C'ville in my opinion

    Bodo's - chicken salad on an everything bagel

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    Continental Divide
    811 W Main St, Charlottesville, VA 22903

    Tip Top Restaurant
    1420 Richmond Rd, Charlottesville, VA 22911

    Lime Leaf
    1958 Rio Hill Ctr, Charlottesville, VA 22901

    Carving Board Cafe
    624 Albemarle Sq, Charlottesville, VA 22901

    1. Take a short drive on I-64 west to Waynesboro for a visit to the Basic City Luncheonette. I was working there for a five month period, and it was an awesome find for cheap eats. We ate breakfast there, and they are only open for dinner on Friday nights. The food is good! Take the Rt. 250 Waynesboro exit at the top of Afton Mountain and head into Waynesboro. Go straight at the first traffic light that you come to at Rt. 340. Turn right on the road just behind the Hess Gas Station at that corner of Rt. 250 and Rt. 340. It is on that road just after you drive underneath the railroad bridge.

      There is an awesome micro-brewery at the base of Afton Mountain off of Rt. 250 heading back toward Charlottesville. Do some homework, and you'll be able to find it. You should be able to take Rt. 250 from Charlottesville without having to go up Afton Mountain.

      Go into Downtown Harrisonburg sometime for a day trip, and eat at the counter in Jess' Quick Lunch. They have other locations, but the downtown location is the original, and still the best. They have awesome hot dogs, handmade burgers, and french fries. Great cheap eats!

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      Basic City Luncheonette
      408 N Commerce Ave, Waynesboro, VA 22980

      1 Reply
      1. re: foodjack

        That brewery is Blue Mountain Brewery: http://bluemountainbrewery.com/

        Truly excellent beers. Take a friend or two and split either their veggie or bratwurst pizza. Both are enough to feed 3 people, so I guess it is cheap eats!

      2. Can I ask what your definition of really cheap is? Entree price under $xx? I might be able to recommend more places then.

        I like Hot Cakes for sandwiches, salads and quiche.

        And there is Crozet Pizza. Also in Crozet La Cocina Del Sol is pretty reasonable.

        Also Shebeen is very reasonable at lunch time, and some of their menu is very reasonable at dinner too.

        The Tacos Al Pastor at Guadalajara are pretty tasty. Maybe I am jaded from the lack of DC Mexican, but I think if you dig into that menu a little there are some gems.

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        Crozet Pizza
        5794 Three Notch D Rd, Crozet, VA 22932

        La Cocina Del Sol
        1200 Crozet Ave, Crozet, VA 22932

        1 Reply
        1. re: ktmoomau

          i highly agree about guadalajara having some gems on the menu. every time i've gone there, i've gotten the carnitas tacos and i have never been dissappointed. they are truly the cream of the crop. fatty, meaty and crispy. wow. however, beware the guad wad. it's the inevitable consequence.

        2. The Indian food at Milan on Emmet is excellent. It is fairly priced, and I hesitate to use the word cheap because the word cheap is cheap.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Veggo

            i have to disagree and say, after trying the food at milan many times, it is not good indian food at all. i think anyone that has had good indian will know this immediately. sad, lifeless curries and underbaked naan do not a pleasant experience make.

          2. Eppies jerk chicken and collards rock. I've enjoyed everything from Taste of China and Milan Indian too. Rev Soup and Continental Divide are local favorites.

            Marco and Luca's dumplings on the Downtown Mall are great. I think it's still $3 for 6 dumplings. Noodles are so-so.

            There's a burrito cart on the Downtown Mall that gets rave reviews from my friends who work downtown. And an empanada place next to the Jefferson Theatre I really want to try.

            Great sandwiches in no particular order and of all different styles: Bellair Market Exxon, Durty Nelly's, Padow's Deli. And we cannot forget Bodo's Bagels (very cheap eats).

            For the money, Miyako has the best sushi in town. Aqui es Mexico for Mexican (mmm beef tongue). I like Thai 99 on Fontaine. Get the Suki.

            Have yet to find good Pho or really good noodles. But there is a Vietnamese place in Richmond known for both as well as a great Belgian beer selection. Might be worth the drive.

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            Continental Divide
            811 W Main St, Charlottesville, VA 22903

            11 Replies
            1. re: mojoeater

              personally, i would skip aqui es mexico. i used to love their tacos as well as their ceviche but my last three visits have been met with lifeless steamed meats that lack seasoning and flabby old tortillas. even the salsa couldnt save it. i would rather go to la michocana or el tepeyac any day.

              1. re: tinymango

                Thanks for all the responses. Ktmoomau, when I say cheap I mean between 10-15 bucks for lunch (tax/tip included), and under 10 for any takeout type place like tacos, pizza, sandwiches, soups, etc. For a sit down dinner I'd say 20 bucks a person (tax/tip included).

                Perhaps this should be a new thread, but what are some of the best places to shop in C-ville for food aside from the farmers market, the whole foods, and that gourmet shop on Main St. next to the bakery and organic butcher? Are there any good Asian or Middle Eastern grocers around by chance? I saw one off of 29 when I drove down last week but it looked kinda small.

                1. re: CoconutMilk

                  Food of all Nations has some interesting things some great some not. And normally has pretty decent wine prices.

                  Mona Lisa Pasta has good fresh pasta and some Italian meats.

                  Sorry I don't know of any ethnic groceries. My in;aws live in the area so I am there all the time, but don't normally grocery shop.

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                  Mona Lisa Pasta
                  921 Preston Ave, Charlottesville, VA 22903

                  1. re: CoconutMilk

                    Oh dear god, don't shop the farmer's market if you can help it, it's overpriced even to me a misplaced Angelina.

                    We've got two asian groceries, both are off 29. You probably saw Asian market which is on the southbound side of 29 between 250 and Barracks. That one's okay in a dingy hole in the wall sort of fashion. C'ville Oriental which is in the Seminole Square strip mall next to Maharaja is way better and bigger.

                    And unlike the people above I will totally disagree on Thai 99 on Fontaine. That's walking distance from us and we've gone exactly once. Sprinkling in red pepper flakes does not make thai food, especially when I order a yellow curry.

                    1. re: astrobabe

                      The farmers market is that bad? I was really looking forward to doing most of my shopping there in August, September, and October when the local bounty is so plentiful. I read about a Thursday farmers market in a nearby town. Is that better? Where am I supposed to get my farmers market fix?

                      1. re: CoconutMilk

                        The farmer's market in Charlottesville is very over priced (and by overpriced I mean take the prices I paid in Los Angeles at the farmer's markets there and multiply by a factor of 3 or 4) and I can't justify paying that much when you take into account that Food of All Nations buys veg locally in the summer for lower prices.

                        There are Tuesday and Wednesday farmer's markets in various parks but I haven't been yet.

                        1. re: astrobabe

                          The Wednesday market is on Meade Ave in Meade Park and is called "Farmer's in the Park." It's great as it's only food and plants, no arts and crafts. It's quite a bit smaller than the Saturday market but that's a strength in my opinion. Many of the same smaller food vendors are there. There's beef, pork, poultry, all manner of vegetables and hand made butter, too. Not to mention fresh popsicles and gelato.

                          1. re: ccbweb

                            I stumbled upon this market while I was in town for a day looking at apartments-- it's fantastic. I plan on going to it every week.

                            Food-wise, my meals at Blue Moon and Eppies have been fine but in general underwhelming. La Michoacana, however, was terrific. And the bagels at Bodo's are first-rate.

                    2. re: CoconutMilk

                      Cville Market is a great resource near downtown. They source as much as possible locally: http://www.cvillemarket.com/

                      Ethnic groceries are tough, especially if you've lived somewhere like LA, SF, NYC, etc. where entire neighborhoods are chock full of options. There is an Asian grocery next to Cville Market that is bigger and cleaner than that one on 29 near the bypass. There's an Indian grocery on Westfield Road, off 29 right near Comcast Cable. And there's a Mexican store on Greenbriar Drive. None of these are stellar but you can get basics.

                      1. re: mojoeater

                        I still can't find the Indian grocery store on Westfield and I've gone through there multiple times! The one on Rio is a dump though.

                        And another place for good Mexican, Dominican and Puerto Rican ingredients is actually Food Lion on 5th between Harris and the freeway. It's about on par with the Mexican grocery stores I used to shop at in Los Angeles for stuff before we moved here last fall. And it's cheaper than Foods of All Nations too (like $1.50 for a bag of Maseca corn flour rather the the $5 Foods of All Nations).

                        1. re: astrobabe

                          The Indian place on Westfield is a small, white stand-alone building. If you turn onto Westfield off of 29, it is on the right., kind of across the street from the Freestyle skate ramp.

                          That Food Lion does have a decent Latin food section. But it gets very sketchy at night. Strictly a shop in daylight kinda place.

                2. Bread Works Bakery is a great place to pick up bread, sandwiches and other baked goods. They are very cheap.

                  you could probably do dinner at The Local on that budget depending on what you get.

                  Blue Mountain Brewery might work too.

                  There is a great, cheap burger joint that I will have to ask my husband the name of.

                  1. Check out retailrelay.com They do a delivery/pick up service from many places in town. We've used them several times and have been very pleased. They have many farms from whom you can buy directly in addition to a few grocery stores and specialty stores. They have one of the Asian markets in town and now some Whole Foods products. They don't have every product from every store, but they cover a wide variety of stuff. The good part of it is that if they do have things you want you can get items from many stores and pick it all up at the same time in the same place. You have to pay extra if you want home delivery and I haven't used that service yet.

                    Delivery from Asian Express is quite good for Americanized Chinese food (and they'll modify any dish to your specifications which helps a lot).
                    Take it Away sandwich shop on Elliewood Ave is good.
                    Boylan Heights on the corner does a nice job with burgers and fries.
                    The Blue Moon Diner is again excellent (they were for a while, then they weren't, then they closed, now they're really good). They'll surpass your expectations of what a diner is and their coffee is the best I've had in a restaurant in town and better than most of the coffee shops, too.
                    Belmont BBQ is pretty good. The chicken is exceptional.
                    Jinx Pit's Top Barbecue is really good. Really.
                    Beer Run is a fine, fine place for beer from everywhere and for cheap eats, too. (Free Beer tastings on Wed. and Wine tastings on Fri. -- The free beer tasting and the Wednesday market a half a mile down the road makes for a nice Wed afternoon/evening).
                    Riverside Lunch on High St. is great for thin burgers and fries and cold, cold bottles of beer or Coke.
                    A chain, but still, Five Guys also does a nice job on burgers and fries. Bring a friend to deal with the fries...the order is large.
                    Fabio's New York Pizza also on High St. does a lovely job. Get the garlic knots.
                    Pizza Bella Bistro is also very good and delivers to the Belmont area and that part of town.
                    Christian's Pizza downtown on the Mall is good, too.

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                    Riverside Lunch
                    1427 Hazel St, Charlottesville, VA 22902

                    Blue Moon Diner
                    512 W Main St, Charlottesville, VA 22903

                    Boylan Heights
                    102 14th St NW, Charlottesville, VA 22903

                    Asian Express
                    909 W Main St, Charlottesville, VA 22903

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: ccbweb

                      What kind of BBQ in Jinx's Pit?

                      1. re: ktmoomau

                        Pulled pork, and I think ribs (also pork). That's almost the entire menu as well. I think he's got slaw, beans and a cucumber salad.

                        1. re: ccbweb

                          Thanks!

                          1. re: ccbweb

                            just had Jinx cater a dinner for our team and it was amazing. Pulled pork, chicken thighs, slaw, potato salad and baked beans. best pulled pork ever! highly recommned Jinx!

                      2. Run, don't walk, to Taste of China while Peter Chang is still there. I wish he was still in Knoxville so I could get there 2 or 3 times a year and sample his unique wares. There was a big article in the March 1st New Yorker by Calvin Trillin that talks about the cult following this guy has. Do a search on the South or Tennessee archive board for more details and postings.

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                        New Yorker Restaurant
                        18164 A P Hill Blvd, Bowling Green, VA 22427

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: KyMikey

                          Ummm he left months ago now....

                          1. re: ktmoomau

                            Yep--just found that out--he's really shy about all the publicity that followed his move there--but an article in the paper there suggests that he is still considering opening another restaurant on his own, so keep your ear to the rail and hope...

                          2. re: KyMikey

                            Picked up some food from there last week and I've got to say it's still the best Chinese in town - even without Chang.

                            1. re: mojoeater

                              I've lived here two months now and only recently made it out to Taste of China. I was totally underwhelmed. The "spicy beef rolls with cilantro" that I'd read about were salty beyond reason and the eggplant with garlic sauce and "dry spicy and tasty" chicken (which was promised to be very ma la) were forgettable. Their version of szechuan cold noodles was pretty good, though. I guess I ordered poorly, huh?

                              La Michoacana remains the best place I've been to, though at times the meats are a little overseasoned and I'm thirsting for water hours later. I also had some surprisingly good drunken noodles and larb gai at Lime Leaf.

                              1. re: mojoeater

                                It saddens me to say that I agree with CoconutMilk's assessment of the current situation at Taste of China. I had takeout there shortly after Chang left. It was wonderful! No discernible drop in quality at all. However, my takeout a week ago was...not good. The spicy beef rolls (which I used to love) were a major disappointment. They were made of beef that was so full of fat or sinew or whatever it was that you had to simply spit it out; there was no chewing it. The flavor was there, but who wants to bite, chew, spit? All the other items in my order were okay, but not approaching what I expected when Chang was there. At this point, I wouldn't go out of my way to eat there. Perhaps they'll get their act together by the time Chang (hopefully) opens his new restaurant I-29. The competition might raise their level of play.