By Nathan Alderman, Shea Gibbs, Jackson Landers and Caite White
Much in the way that giving directions to a newcomer will never not be thrilling (or is that just us?), recommending an essential dining experience is also a rite of passage: It ups your townie cred and, if you’ve steered the novice correctly, shows off our local culinary aptitude. The food scene here continues to change and grow, but what follows is an abbreviated list of dependable recommendables—those classic Charlottesville foods that make us excited to keep eating here indefinitely. They’re just as good now as they were the day we found them (once someone steered us in the right direction).
All in one
Deli-Egg at Bodo’s
Bodo’s Deli-Egg isn’t just delicious. It also solves a problem.
“You get to a point where you’re slicing deli meat, and you have an undersized heel you don’t want to use for a sandwich,” says Scott Smith, co-owner of the venerable bagel vendor.
Bodo’s didn’t come up with the idea—it’s an old New York Jewish deli trick—but Smith and his team have taken it a step further. Because they’re not kosher, they’ve added ham, capicola, salami and Swiss, muenster and provolone cheese to the traditional deli egg mixture of pastrami and corned beef.
The result is one of Bodo’s most popular items. Indeed, the sandwich shop sells so much deli egg, they end up using far more cured meat than just the stuff that comes from the unused ends.
Smith says most folks are straight down the middle with their egg sandwich orders—Deli-Egg on an everything bagel is most popular. But some add more meat and cheese, usually bacon and cheddar, or balance out the richness with some punchy pepper spread.
Smith’s pro tip? Try the Deli-Egg a couple times before you make up your mind about it. The meat and cheese contents can vary depending on what’s available to chop on any given day.
Cup of coffee at Mudhouse
Panama, Ethiopia, Colombia, Nicaragua—wherever there are good beans, there’s John and Lynelle Lawrence, the brains of Mudhouse’s successful operation for more than two decades. They get coffee from all over the world, bring it back to Charlottesville and roast it downtown, just up the street from their flagship mall shop. And their hard work continues to pay off, with plenty of buzz from locals and national press, too, like a recent Roaster of the Year award from Roast Magazine.
That’s so cheesy
Stumble Down Mac ‘N’ Cheese at The Virginian
“My chefs don’t need a gym membership,” says Bo Stockton, general manager at The Virginian. “They just carry the mac prep upstairs all day.” He’s joking—probably—but the beloved Corner appetizer does require between 35 and 50 pounds of pasta, roughly 15 pounds of potatoes and more cheese than Stockton cares to guess at, every single day.
Fourteen years ago, owner Andy McClure wanted to create a distinctive twist on macaroni and cheese, combining ultra-twisty cavatappi pasta with spicy pepper jack. Head chef Ernesto Salazar added a cheddar potato cake on top for extra crunch, and diners have been demanding it ever since.
“We get told about how people shared their first date over a mac app,” Stockton says, “while there is a photographer taking their picture eating a mac app because they are getting married that weekend.” Just don’t ask him to explain the Stumble Down name. “People have created their own meaning for the name,” he says, “and we like to think that is special!”
Hungry for more? Read the full list of our favorite iconic Charlottesville eats in the current issue of Knife & Fork!