Charlottesville, Virginia is a community rich in history, dating back to the earliest years of our fine nation. Thanks in part to one of its most famous residents, Thomas Jefferson, Charlottesville has a vibrant culinary scene today. President Jefferson was a voracious traveler and a botany enthusiast; he established relationships around the world that ultimately created a network for seed exchange, thus making the area a hub for farming.
Mr. Jefferson is also credited for getting Americans to start eating tomatoes. During his presidency he learned that folks feared the fruit of a nightshade plant, so he made a concerted effort to eat the versatile fruit while in public, eventually changing the unfounded perception.
Charlottesville (aka C’Ville) and the surrounding area has very fertile land, which makes it perfect for cultivating an array of crops and produce—the foundation for its “farm-to-fork” movement that the restaurant community is proud to support and embrace.
With over two hundred restaurants to choose from in this relatively small community, there can be no question these folks love good food. During my time in C’Ville for “Best of the Road,” I had an opportunity to eat at a wide selection of restaurants…here are my top-five to try the next time you visit this culinary community.
The Local – A cool ol’ brick building with hip modifications, various dining options and contemporary American menu makes “The Local,” a world-class dining experience. Chef Matt Hart and his team do an amazing job showcasing what the local farmers, cheese makers, breweries, distilleries and winemakers produce. Each dish tastes as good as it looks, and, the outdoor seating options accentuate the fresh theme. If you go, be sure to try:
- Crispy shrimp tossed with a pickled ginger black sesame aioli
- “Rag Mountain” Trout –stuffed with “Mountain View” marmac pimento cheese over corn grits with braised greens and Old Bay hollandaise
Clifton Inn - I have a fondness for boutique inns, especially ones paired with fine-dining. The Clifton Inn is without a doubt world-class “fine dining” at its best. The food, setting, and the service are impeccable. We had the pleasure of sitting at the “chef’s counter,” which offers a unique front-row seat to a culinary cabaret. The interactions with the chef and his team make for an experience you’ll not soon forget.
When dining at the “chef’s counter” you’re treated to a prix fixe menu, however that’s just a guide…they’ll fix just about anything you desire. Throughout the dining experience, you ‘ll enjoy a number of “amuse bouche” in between courses served on interested surfaces, including small pieces of slate rock which adds to the visual appeal.
Brookville Restaurant - Chef Harrison Keevil of Brookville Restaurant is getting national acclaim for his cuisine that he calls, “locally conscious.” At Brookville, ninety percent of their ingredients are sourced within a hundred miles of Charlottesville, and, the menu is always seasonally inspired. Speaking of the menu, it consistently changes…so those who fear change should run for the nearest McDonald’s. Those on the other hand who enjoy experiencing creatively inspired new dishes that will send your taste buds into a euphoric sense of delight, well you’ll love Brookville—as well as its charming second floor location in a historic building at the sloping end of the downtown square.
MAS Tapas – The layout and decor at MAS are funky and modern while being quite comfortable with a spacious and inviting patio. MAS was conceived by chef Tomas Rahal to be both an antidote to the fast-food craze and as an opportunity to feature slow, organic, artisan foods and wines with Spaniard influences. The menu descriptions are witty and fit the overall vibe of MAS. The “Datil con tocino” (bacon wrapped dates) dish paired with a good red wine is delectable.
Tempo- Tempo is a chic upscale restaurant/lounge with European inspired influences. The large garage-type doors open to a dynamic dining room. The focal point is an opulent bar with adjacent lounge, which is the perfect place to try the Lemongrass Scallops Lafayette, Spicy Tempo Shrimp or the Roasted Beets. Everything at Tempo is delicious and artistic.
Charlottesville has so many amazing restaurant options to choose from…it’s both a foodie’s paradise as well as a casual diner’s delight. If you have a favorite Charlottesville restaurant, please post it below with a link to their website, I’m sure my readers will enjoy the additional suggestions.