Best of C-VILLE 2019: Food & Drink

Lampo’s classic margherita pizza, cooked Neapolitan style in a brick oven, is a proven winner. Photo:  Tom McGovern Lampo’s classic margherita pizza, cooked Neapolitan style in a brick oven, is a proven winner. Photo: Tom McGovern

Great chefs, and wineries, and steak—oh my!



Runner-up: Al Carbon

Honorable mention: Tavola

Lampo, a repeat winner, continues its young but strong tradition of excellence by hewing to a formula of not-too-fancy but consistently fine wood-fired Neapolitan pizza and rustic Italian fare. It would be unfair to give all of the credit to former chef Ian Redshaw—our 2018 Best Chef winner and a 2019 James Beard Rising Chef of the Year semi-finalist—but his ethos has carried over to the current Lampo team, headed by chef Mitch Bereens. Consistently mobbed since its opening in 2014, the restaurant is still a tough table, but getting a seat inside the charming little brick box feels just as special as ever. • Up on Route 29, Al Carbon’s rotisserie chicken-centric cuisine remains a Charlottesville favorite.

New restaurant

Sugar Shack Donuts & Coffee

Runner-up: Peloton Station

Honorable mention: Little Star

Our readers love their fried dough, caffeine, and beef (there’s a Luther Burger inside Sugar Shack). The Charlottesville Sugar Shack location (there are many others) has a well-worn path leading to the door. And they must be damn good at what they do, because the competition in this category was fierce. • Witness the second- and third-place finishers, Peloton Station and Little Star. The former—opened with great expectations under chef Curtis Shaver of Hamiltons’ at First & Main and two of that restaurant’s partners —has become a go-to place for fans of Shaver’s inventive sandwiches and salads, with a great tap-beer selection and an upbeat, quirky vibe (Peloton shares space with a bicycle-repair shop). Little Star also has an impressive pedigree, with an opening partnership that includes Ben Clore and Tristan Wraight of Oakhart Social, and executive chef Ryan Collins, a protégé of the renowned chef José Andrés. Using a wood-fired hearth, Collins and his team craft inventive Spanish and Mexican-influenced dishes.

Lampo Chef Mitch Bereens paddles a pie into the brick oven. Photo: Jackson and Amy Smith


Mitch Bereens (Lampo)

Runner-up: Craig Hartman (BBQ Exchange)

Honorable mention: Dylan Allwood (Tavola)

A young guy from Holland lands in Charlottesville and gets a job as a dishwasher. Later, he finds his way into the kitchen at Oxo, now closed but once among the city’s better restaurants. Next stop, Mas, and after that, Tavola. Now he’s on a really good run. Major turning point: In 2014, he becomes one of four founding partners of Lampo, including Ian Redshaw. A few years later, the same team opens Prime 109. Redshaw leaves Lampo to head up the kitchen at Prime 109, and the Dutch guy, Mitch Bereens, steps up to the brick oven at Lampo. Best restaurant, best chef. It’s a good year for Bereens. • A few years back, runner-up Craig Hartman turned from fine dining to barbecue. That worked out pretty well for him.

Steak is not just a piece of seared meat at Prime 109. It is a work of art, like this dry-aged carnivors’ dream with garlic, rosemary, and seared lemon. Photo: Amy and Jackson Smith


Micah LeMon (The Alley Light)

Runner-up: Camille Garcia (Bang!)

Honorable mention: Ted Norris (Maya)

One recent evening, an Alley Light patron joshed Micah LeMon about his repeat wins as best bartender. “Isn’t it about time to pass the torch?” he humbly offered. I was the patron, and the drink he made was a rock-your-socks gin concoction infused with rosemary. LeMon still has the magic. There will be no torch-passing this year. • We love the cocktails at Bang! Da Bomb Basil (Bombay Sapphire, fresh basil, lemon), Lavendays (gin, sage, and lavender), and Southern Brew (Maker’s Mark, lime, ginger beer), to name just three. Thank you, Camille Garcia!


Three Notch’d Craft Kitchen & Brewery

Runner-up: The Alley Light

Honorable mention: Kardinal Hall

Just in case you still need convincing that Charlottesville is a craft-beer city, our readers drive the point home by choosing Three Notch’d as the city’s best bar. The food is uneven, but who cares? The IX Art Park anchor has more than 40 beers on tap, a mob of loyal regulars at the concrete bar, and crackling atmosphere in the airplane-hanger-size room. • Just off the Downtown Mall, runner-up The Alley Light proves that the speakeasy culture is still alive and well in these parts.

Craft cocktail bar

The Alley Light

Runner-up: The Whiskey Jar

Honorable mention: Bang!

Might as well create a separate subcategory (Best of All Things Booze?) for Micah LeMon, the dean of mixology at The Alley Light, our slam-dunk winner this year. • The bar crew at The Whiskey Jar is more about beards than waxed mustaches, but that doesn’t stop them from making the best old fashioned in town. “Nothing Fancy” proclaims the banner headline on the restaurant’s landing page. Accordingly, nothing too precious graces the cocktail menu.

Sports bar

Kardinal Hall

Runner-up: Three Notch’d Craft Kitchen & Brewery

Honorable mention: Wild Wing Café

Stroll past the umbrellaed outdoor tables and bocce courts, and enter the arena/beer dispensary known as Kardinal Hall. The televisions are large, all around you, and they are variously tuned to golf, football, soccer—oh, hell, we don’t need to list them all. Whatever your favorite sport is, you can watch it here. And while you’re at it, eat some crispy bocce balls (breaded and deep fried white cheddar cheese curds with spicy tomato sauce) or a “Das Boot” sandwich, with pork schnitzel, roasted tomatoes, and arugula. • For the skinny on runner-up Three Notch’d, also voted Best Bar this year, imagine that room with a bank of big flat screens. They’re mounted high on the wall and all tuned to sports.


Mudhouse Coffee Roasters

Runner-up: Shenandoah Joe

Honorable mention: Grit Coffee

Mudhouse Coffee Roasters (please, just call it Mudhouse like everyone else does!) isn’t shy about its commitment to exceptional coffee. With its anchor location on the Downtown Mall, a new shop on 10th Street next to Peloton Station, and an outpost in Crozet, the coffeehouse has built a devoted following that grows bigger by the day. The java is the key: In 2017, Mudhouse earned Roaster of the Year honors from Roast Magazine. • Now with three Charlottesville locations, Shenandoah Joe, which topped Mudhouse in last year’s Best of C-VILLE, got a recent boost with an interior makeover at its flagship on Preston Avenue. The stuff in the cup is still the same, which is a good thing. • Honorable Mention goes to Grit, whose outpost at The Wool Factory is generating buzz, even though it isn’t open yet!


MarieBette Café & Bakery

Runner-up: Bodo’s Bagels

Honorable mention: Bluegrass Grill & Bakery

And the 2019 winner is…the same brunch spot that won in 2018! Paris comes to Charlottesville by way of MarieBette, where the menu features baked eggs with fine herbs, cream, and garlic, French toast stuffed with Nutella and banana cream cheese, and lemon ricotta pancakes. Just say oui! • A trip to runner-up Bodo’s might not feel as fancy, but hey, sometimes you just need some sliced deli meat and cheese on a bagel with lettuce, tomato, mayo, and pickles.

Draft beer selection

Beer Run

Runner-up: Draft Taproom

Honorable mention: Three Notch’d Craft Kitchen & Brewery

More than 1,400 craft beers, ciders, and meades. Dozens of taps running strong with IPAs, stouts, and small-batch specials. Speaking of specials: happy hour from 3-6pm. No wonder Beer Run is tops. • Last year’s winner, Draft Taproom, got edged out. But it’s still well worth a visit, with 60 brews available by self-serve taps.

Restaurant wine list


Runner-up: Tavola

Honorable mention: Fleurie

Some say C&O launched the fine- dining scene in Charlottesville. And everyone knows it was the first place to put together a world- class wine list (including a few Virginia standouts), which has won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence every year since 1996, while also dominating this Best of C-VILLE subcategory for nearly a decade. Welcome back to the winner’s circle, C&O! • At Tavola, wine director Priscilla Martin Curley also puts together a list worthy of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, with oodles of Italian regional selections and outstanding picks from France, Spain, California, Oregon, Argentina, and a handful of the fine wineries in our own backyard.

Outdoor dining

Blue Mountain Brewery

Runner-up: Brazos Tacos

Honorable mention: Citizen Burger Bar

Last year we called this subcategory “Patio.” Well, I’m the editor, thank you very much, and I reverted to the 2017 name Outdoor Dining because it sounds classier. Apparently, our readers don’t get hung up on names—they chose Blue Mountain Brewery for the second year in a row. Man, it’s a scene out there in Nelson County. Every weekend, parking attendants are called in to manage the stream of vehicles carrying patrons who like a mountain view with their beer and pub grub. The wood-burning fire pit cranks up at night, creating an equally enticing setting. • At Brazos Tacos on the edge of IX Art Park, a large outdoor dining area with picnic tables and string lights provides a sweet spot to enjoy the Austin-style tacos.

Specialty food shop


Runner-up: MarieBette Café & Bakery

Honorable mention: Foods of All Nations

On the Feast! website, the tagline for the Main Street Market shop reads “Charlottesville’s destination for food lovers.” That’s about right. With an impressive lunch menu that includes a new “sandwich of the world” selection each week, cured meats, a stellar cheese counter, wines, and food samples galore, there’s a reason readers flock to Feast! for meals, picnic prep, or just to graze and soak in all the foodie goodness. • Rose Hill favorite MarieBette is more a bakery and brunch/lunch spot than a food shop, but apparently our readers’ love for those pretzel croissants could not be contained.

Sandwich shop/deli


Runner-up: The Market at Bellair

Honorable mention: Ivy Provisions

Of all the places to eat and drink in Charlottesville, Bodo’s likely wins the award for most often having a line out the door. Yes, even with three locations, readers can’t get enough of the place. Possible sandwich combinations are endless, with options from the standard bacon, egg, and cheese on everything to deli meat topped with a choice of almost 20 different condiments. • Bellair Market and other Tiger Fuel locations like The Market at Mill Creek are the standard bearers in a town where gas-station food is plentiful and delicious. The markets’ signature selections are named after local attractions. Birdwood, anyone?

Local winery

King Family Vineyards

Runner-up: Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards

Honorable mention: Barboursville Vineyards

What is this, 2018 all over again? For vote-getters in this subcategory it is. King Family’s formula—mountain views, polo matches, and awesome wines from Matthieu Finot—is still working. It would make David King proud to know that the winery he and his family created is our readers’ favorite. The King family patriarch and champion of Virginia wine passed away May 2, leaving an impressive legacy. • A few miles away, in the hills of North Garden, Pippin Hill pairs its fine wines with a kitchen garden-to-table menu—and, like King Family, mesmerizing mountain views.

Local brewery

Three Notch’d Craft Kitchen & Brewery

Runner-up: Blue Mountain Brewery

Honorable mention: Devils Backbone Brewing Company

A repeat of 2018, just like the local wineries. Either our readers need to get out more and try new places, or they know a good thing when they taste it. Probably the latter.

Local cidery

Bold Rock Hard Cider

Runner-up: Potter’s Craft Cider

Honorable mention: Albemarle CiderWorks

Oops, they did it again. Another three-peat from 2018! At Nellysford’s Bold Rock Hard Cider, patrons climb the switchback ramp to the big house, where the taps run with traditional offerings, like Virginia Apple, and seasonal varieties, like blackberry and ginger turmeric. Meanwhile, down in the flats near the road, the cozy Cider Barn has turned into a destination of sorts, offering small-batch ciders with an experimental edge. • Closer to town, Potter’s Craft Cider delights with its outstanding products—try a glass of grapefruit hibiscus or a can of Passionfruit Mosaic—and its standout packaging, old-timey illustrated labels on the bottles and colorful, eye-catching cans.


Prime 109

Runner-up: Aberdeen Barn

Honorable mention: Downtown Grille

It’s typical for a good steakhouse to make repeat appearances on best-of lists, and runner-up Aberdeen Barn, with its charcoal hearth, and honorable mention Downtown Grille prove the point: If a place gets a rep for great seared beef, it earns a regular and loyal following. This year’s winner, Prime 109, changed the city’s meat-centric landscape by offering excellent locally sourced dry-aged cuts and rounding out the menu with beefless fine-dining fare. It helps that chef Ian Redshaw is watching the shop at Prime 109. He didn’t make semi-finalist as the James Beard Awards’ Rising Star Chef by sitting on his laurels.


MarieBette Café & Bakery

Runner-up: Albemarle Baking Company

Honorable mention: Chandler’s Bakery

MarieBette, with a bread and pastry menu offering sweet and savory options from baguettes to canelés, is not the place to try to resist temptation. Owners Jason Becton and Patrick Evans named MarieBette after their daughters, Marian and Betty, and the love the men put into the space comes through tenfold in the menu, service, and style. • Albemarle Baking Company. is best known for its well-loved Princess Cake and hearth-baked breads that can be spotted on menus all over town. But we’re also fans of ABC’s savory pan-baked pizza, and, of course, the amazing donuts (“Ode to the Sconut,” page 97).


Monsoon Siam

Runner-up: Thai 99 II

Honorable mention: Chimm

Not to upset the applecart here, but Monsoon Siam and Thai 99 II are the repeat winner and runner-up from 2018, respectively. We’re very happy to see our voters give both places the accolades they deserve. • But the real news here is Chimm, our honorable mention. Chosen by our own Knife & Fork magazine as one of the 10 best new restaurants in the city, Chimm’s full name contains the phrase “southeast Asian street food.” It’s a Thai restaurant, yes. But the flavors and menu items reach into new territory for Charlottesville, and we—and our voters—are grateful for that.


Milan Indian Cuisine

Runner-up: Maharaja

Honorable mention: Himalayan Fusion

With their bountiful lunch buffets and delicious traditional dishes, all three of these contenders are longtime Charlottesville favorites. Kudos to Milan for grabbing the top spot and repeating last year’s win, and also to Maharaja, for trading places with last year’s runner-up, Himalayan Fusion.



Runner-up: La Michoacana

Honorable mention: Al Carbon

Sometimes you just want some reliable, relatively inexpensive Mexican (or Tex-Mex) food and a margarita the size of your head. Guadalajara’s four locations have got you covered. • La Michoacana wins over diners with authentic tacos and the no-frills atmosphere you’d expect from a hole-in-the-wall joint off East High Street.


Now and Zen

Runner-up: Ten

Honorable mention: Sakura

Eight years is a long time to churn out consistently excellent food. In this case, it’s sushi, which makes the feat even more impressive. Since 2011, former Tokyo Rose chef Toshi Sato has been slicing and rolling at Now and Zen, the little restaurant that reminds you, bigger is not better (except, perhaps, when it comes to sushi rolls, which are enormous here). • For a change of pace, hit the mall and go upstairs—and upscale—to Ten, where the cocktails and haute-design ambiance pair well with the fine sushi and other Japanese fare.



Runner-up: Lampo

Honorable mention: Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie

It does a foodie’s heart good to see that the top vote-getter in this category is the antithesis of an Americanized red-sauce joint. Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Belmont anchor’s menu holds to the simple-but-elegant formula that has filled the bustling room with grateful clients year after year. Owner Michael Keaveny, chef Dylan Allwood (our No. 3 chef this year), and wine director Priscilla Martin Curley lead the team dedicated to delivering a dining experience evocative of a Tuscan enoteca or a tucked-away bistro in Florence. The Wine Spectator Award-winning list features regional Italian gems as well as thoughtful pairings for the rustic fare and seasonal specials from California, Spain, Argentina, Oregon, and a few of the fine wineries in our backyard. No wonder the place is always jammed. • Like Tavola, Lampo wins over its diners with authenticity. Best Chef, Best Restaurant, and the runner-up spot here—what more can you say?



Runner-up: MarieBette Café & Bakery

Honorable mention: Bizou

It’s a source of pride and delight to see three very different takes on French fare score top honors this year, testifying to Charlottesville’s finely tuned palate and taste for diversity. Repeat winner Fleurie leads the pack with its romantic dining room, elegant seasonal presentations, and outstanding tasting menus. Exquisite desserts and an extensive wine list (also a Wine Spectator Award winner), pushes Fleurie over the top. Kudos to owner Brian Helleberg and chef de cuisine Joe Walker, whose resumé includes stints at the Inn at Little Washington and Blue Duck Tavern. • Parisian-style cafe MarieBette and old-school favorite Bizou, at the intersection of French and diner, round out the roster.


Peter Chang China Grill

Runner-up: Red Lantern

Honorable mention: Taste of China

For nearly a decade Peter Chang’s has set the high-water mark for Chinese food in Charlottesville. Is it the scallion bubble pancake, the dry-fried eggplant, or the ample servings (rarely does one leave empty-handed) that make our readers love Peter Chang’s so much? Its namesake chef has opened a number of restaurants throughout Virginia in recent years, but Charlottesville’s Barracks Road location continues to offer the sophisticated Szechuan cuisine that Chang himself first cooked there in 2011. • Red Lantern is the Chinese takeout you grew up with. It does the trick to satisfy a craving or make for an easy night in.

Fried chicken

Wayside Fried Chicken

Runner-up: Brown’s

Honorable mention: Michie Tavern

Fried chicken causes arguments —or more. The perennial debate over whether Wayside or Brown’s serves the better yard bird was settled this year in favor of Wayside, at least among our readers. Aficionados note that Wayside uses a thicker batter, while runner-up Brown’s goes with a thinner and more spicy covering. But really, is it worth fighting about? Um, yes?


Citizen Burger Bar

Runner-up: Riverside Lunch

Honorable mention: Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint

Citizen Burger Bar is focused on high-quality local ingredients. On the menu, sourcing notes come across almost as prominently as the listings for the dishes themselves. Local grass-fed beef, local produce, and local bread come together to make a mean burger that can be customized with specialty toppings like Nueske’s bacon and black onion. • Riverside Lunch is decidedly old-school, with smashburgers for the Carhartt and camo crowd. • We would be remiss if we didn’t tip our hats to Jack Brown’s, another smashburger haven but one with the advantage of loud music (punk, soul, alternative, you name it) and lots and lots of beers.


Wild Wing Café

Runner-up: Buffalo Wild Wings

Honorable mention: Wings Over Charlottesville

Located next to the Amtrak Station, Wild Wing Café offers 33 made-from-scratch sauces, including traditional Buffalo, flaming Parmesan, and atomic meltdown. Bone-in or boneless, take your pick. • Runner-up Buffalo Wild Wings on Route 29 pleases with wings aplenty and lots of screens for your sports-viewing pleasure.


Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie

Runner-up: Lampo

Honorable mention: Christian’s Pizza

In a strip mall on Route 29 in North Garden, Dr. Ho’s is easy to miss. But once you find it, and revel in the tumultuous atmosphere and bodacious pizza, you’ll be back for more. With a menu of specialty pies and create-your-own concoctions, Dr. Ho’s has something for everyone. The Bellissima, a margherita pizza topped with shaved country ham, arugula, and aged Parmesan cheese, is a standout—and evidence that all pizza is not created equal. Further proof of this, albeit in a much different vein, can be found at Lampo, which meets the stringent requirements of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana for ingredients, cooking time, and temperature. Yup, it’s the real deal.


Continental Divide

Runner-up: Beer Run

Honorable mention: The Bebedero

The garage rock is always playing and the margaritas flowing at Continental Divide. Both go well with nachos, and the restaurant with the famous “Get In Here!” neon sign in the window serves ’em up tall and extra-cheesy. Opt for chili or some form of poultry on top, and you’ve got a meal for two. • Beer Run’s nachos are also splittable. As with all good food, quality ingredients make the difference here: organic chopped tomatoes and red onion, all-natural meats, housemade tomatillo salsa, and a lava flow of melted pepper jack cheese.

Frozen treat

Splendora’s Gelato

Runner-up: Chaps Ice Cream

Honorable mention: La Flor Michoacana

Truth be told, we love all three of these places. • Honorable mention La Flor Michoacana, a Mexican-American family business, makes out-of-this-world popsicles (paletas, en Español) in, oh, about 50 flavors. • But Splendora’s certainly deserves the big win, pushing the gelato envelope with two- or three-dozen housemade versions a day, like milk-and-cherry and amaretto, and dairy-free sorbetto, in flavors like blood orange or pink grapefruit. • Just a few doors west of Splendy’s on the Downtown Mall, Chaps is old- school. Traditional flavors made with family recipes for 75 years, 1950’s decor, booth seating—you get the picture.

Food truck

Tacos Gomez

Runner-up: Little Manila

Honorable mention: 106 Food Truck

Four authentic tacos—carne asada, lengua, campechano (chorizo and asada mix), and al pastor—for nine bucks. The best deal in town? Maybe. The best food-truck Mexican? Our voters say yes. • The Filipino street trend reaches Charlottesville by way of Little Manila, where a fiver will get you a plate of marinated, thinly sliced pork loin over rice.


BBQ Exchange

Runner-up: Ace Biscuit & Barbecue

Honorable mention: Mission BBQ

Barbecue devotees are known to plan trips from far, far away for a taste of our area’s finest smoked meats, at Gordonsville’s BBQ Exchange. Chef Craig Hartman has rightfully earned plenty of national recognition for what he’s doing with that ’cue. The combination of Hartman’s attention to detail (the menu goes miles beyond your typical meat-and-three), and the charming setting in an old roadside house make this a clear winner. On Henry Avenue, Ace Biscuit puts a little city attitude into its wall-covering chalkboard menu of both classics and creative, nap-inducing combinations.

Comfort food


Runner-up: Riverside Lunch

Honorable mention: BBQ Exchange

When good food is done right, it’s a source of comfort and nostalgia, and places that offer it have the power to bring folks back time and time again. It could be argued that there’s no place in Charlottesville more nostalgic than Bodo’s, which finds its locations filled with a mix of locals, students, alums, and in-the-know out-of-towners. • Riverside Lunch wins comfort points with decent prices, great smashburgers, and a wood-paneled interior all contributing to the cozy vibe.


Roots Natural Kitchen

Runner-up: Revolutionary Soup

Honorable mention: The Juice Laundry

Roots, the salad-bowl master on West Main Street, jumps to No. 1 in this subcategory and the next, showing that its forward-looking food, always done right, hits the spot for the city’s sizeable population who prefer not to eat meat and otherwise choose what they eat with great care. • Revolutionary Soup has been doing its thing for 20 years (20 years!). Longevity is cool, but a mission also helps instill loyalty. As the Rev Soup website states: “We prioritize eating local and organic and we think the best things in life are food, beer, wine, friends and literature.” Can’t argue with that.

Dietary- or allergy-friendly

Roots Natural Kitchen

Runner-up: Burtons Grill

Honorable mention: The Juice Laundry

You know about Roots (Best Vegetarian-friendly restaurant, above). • Allergy-friendly chain Burtons Grill, which has 17 locations including the one at The Shops at Stonefield, accommodates guests with specific restrictions (peanuts, gluten, and then some) and an accessible menu and strict prep protocols. This sensibility is growing in popularity. • It’s easy to be dietary-friendly when your ingredients are 100 percent pure and 100 percent organic, as they are at The Juice Laundry. The Preston Avenue smoothie bar serves an impossibly delicious (sprouts, parsley, cilantro, jalapeño—we’ll never know why that works), all-natural menu of cold-pressed juices, bowls, and cleanses to help you meet your daily nutrition requirements.

Moderation at chef/owner Craig Hartman’s BBQ Exchange in Gordonsville? (Cue the laugh track.) Photo: Morgan Salyer


Brazos Tacos

Runner-up: Blue Mountain Brewery

Honorable mention: Three Notch’d Craft Kitchen & Brewery

It’s curious that two of our top three places for kids are breweries. Not judging, just sayin’. But our winner for best restaurant to bring your young’uns makes a point of welcoming them. “Ready when your kids are, all day,” says the menu at Brazos Tacos, and they mean it. There’s plenty of room for the little ones to bounce around and enjoy some simple but delicious grub, like the “I Want a Normal Taco” (chicken and cheese on a flour tortilla), while parents indulge in more creative offerings, like—oh, who cares, this is about the kids. (Note: In fairness to Blue Mountain, the Afton brewpub proudly proclaims its family- and kid-friendliness.)

Annual food and drink event

Know Good Beer Festival

Runner-up: Porkapolooza

Honorable mention: Taste of Monticello Wine Trail Festival

If it’s craft beer, it’s pouring at Know Good Beer, held last year at IX Art Park. Far-flung producers like California’s Lagunitas Brewing Company join locals including Three Notch’d and Champion—and about 25 other makers. It’s the scene for suds in Charlottesville. • Fast for a few days before you head to chef Craig Hartman’s Porkapolooza, where the price of admission ($18 in 2018) gets you unlimited ’cue. Save room for the cheesy grits and maybe a red velvet cupcake.

Spot when the boss is buying


Runner-up: Prime 109

Honorable mention: Hamiltons’ at First & Main

When you’re looking at $60 to a Benjamin per person even before the cocktails and wine start flowing, you’re damn right the boss is buying. If you like the old-school hideaway feel, hint at the C&O, our winner. • On the other hand, runner-up Prime 109 is all about sleek. Except for the “World’s Greatest Prime Rib,” which is a very chunky, 48-ounce piece of meat that goes for $66. Don’t order it. You’ll get fired.

Community Garden

IX Art Park

Runner-up: Friendship Court Community Garden

Honorable mention: New Roots IRC

A new category this year, but a familiar winner: IX Art Park (“How sweet IX is,” page 43) • Our runner up is the subject of a nice story, “Community roots,” on page 63. The point is, you can live in the city and grow your own food in an actual garden. As the saying goes, good and good for you.

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Paul Guest

The casual racism of your assertion about Chinese food and fine dining is shocking and should never have been able to make it past an editor who was in any way thoughtful or knowledgeable. You should retract this lazy and ill-informed thinking and writing.


Love this list… Appreciate what you all do to help raise consciousness to local flavor. Unless I missed this in previous years, I hope the pie chest/lone light coffee (cafe/bakery) and quality pie (brunchy, dietary/allergy friendly cafe) get some love