It’s been a while since I have written a culinary travel post, but Charlottesville with it’s gorgeous Jeffersonian architecture and vibrant culinary scene warranted one. I was lucky enough to have resident Virginian foodie and musicology PhD candidate Craig Comen as my host last week in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was my first trip to Virginia and my first trip to the south in fifteen years, so I was excited to explore a scene and a cuisine very different from the Californian one with which I am so familiar. Although we were able to fit in a long hike in Shenandoah National Park, most of my trip was spent exploring and eating delicious meals. I’ve rounded up my favorites to share with you in case you ever make it to this quaint Virginian town.
Best Caffe/Bakery: MarieBette
Open for Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch
Perfectly flaky pastries, crusty French breads, delectable baked eggs, a full espresso bar, this is your go to for light French perfection. I often find French food heavy, but everything I ordered was flavorful without being too greasy or heavy. The combination of great service, quaint atmosphere, and excellent food is what made this place special.
What to try: Any of the pastries, Baked Eggs, tartines, the Virginian sourdough
Best Diner: Blue Moon Diner
Open for Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, and Dinner
Diner fair in a funky hip atmosphere. This is a classic Charlottesville hang, boasting live music and ladies arm wrestling. You may have to wait a bit for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. This is where to go if you’re looking for all-American diner fair with a bit of flair. Menu includes epic omelettes, steak and eggs, burgers, sandwiches, crawfish, catfish, and even doughnuts with ice cream for dessert. It’s best to take a nice long stroll after this meal ladies and gentlemen.
What to try: omelettes
Best Authentic Italian Pizza: Lampo
Open for lunch and dinner
I do not take pizza lightly. Two years in Italy will change an American’s pizza standards. Lampo, meaning lightening bolt in Italian, serves authentic neapolitan pizza with local or D.O.C (the Italian quality assurance label) ingredients. The restaurant is tiny and chic, meaning it can be difficult to get a table during peak hours. From the bar, you have a view of the kitchen and pizza oven. I liked that there’s a lot of focus on farm to table, and a lot of the pizza toppings come from local farms. The wine list is exceptional, covering multiple Italian regions, and the sommelier certainly knew his Italian wines, but honestly the best thing was the pizza crust: slightly charred, but still soft and doughy inside, without being too thick, heavy, stiff, or salty. Pizza is an art, and Lampo is exceptional.
What to try: Any of the Pizzas
Best Formal Dining Experience: C&O
Open for Dinner and Drinks
Rustic is the way to describe the decor. C&O is located in two old brick buildings and offers six distinct dining areas. The restaurant gets it’s name from its location, right next to the tracks of an abandoned railroad. It’s all reclaimed barn wood and brick with an elegant yet cozy feel. We ate downstairs in the bistro, which was once referred to as, “One of the greatest rooms in America.” The atmosphere was great without being too stuffy, and the service was phenomenal. The food was good, the highlight being the fettuccine, but what really stands out is the experience of eating and drinking there. Note: the bar has a great whiskey collection.
What to try: Fettuccine, Grilled Beets
Best Coffee: Grit Coffee Bar & Cafe
for coffee, studying, or hanging out
Grit is another place that has a great atmosphere, and as an added plus great coffee! My cappuccino was perfectly formed with quality espresso and perfectly steamed local milk. For a place with great coffee, the vibe was cozy and laid back, a great place to read a book or write your dissertation. They even had a little garden view.
What to try: Your favorite espresso drink!
Best Bagels: Bodo’s Bagels
Located right near grounds (UVA’s term for campus), Bodo’s Bagels is definitely a student hang. It’s not just the location that draws the student population, but the warm carby morsels. Now, I do not call myself a bagel expert, but these were excellent, and passed my my friend’s test.
What to try: Whole Wheat bagel with Jalapeño