Whether you’re kicking back with a cocktail or tucking into a hearty meal, a great view always enhances the moment. You may be on a patio in the country, gazing at a distant mountain ridge, or on a cozy porch in the city, surrounded by strings of sparkling party lights. Whatever your vantage point, there’s a reason the phrase “drinking in the view” was invented. Here are just a few places where the outlook is always bright.
1. Camp Ten Four at The Graduate Charlottesville
The view: Camp Ten Four is named for the 10.4 square miles that make up Charlottesville proper. Nine floors up, the rooftop restaurant’s view stretches from West Main Street all the way the Blue Ridge Mountains. On a recent visit, one guest was overheard saying, “This is the spot.” Sounds about right.
The vibe: The restaurant offers casual fare in a laid-back setting, not surprising for a place with camp in its name. String lights, picnic tables, and rocking chairs all contribute to the atmosphere, as does the aural backdrop of a lively playlist at just the right volume. Indoor and outdoor seating are available.
The menu: Sharables and sandwiches dominate the menu. A highlight is the crispy chicken sandwich, served with a honey hot sauce and piled high with a spicy slaw. Sides are a la carte, and both food and drink are ordered at the bar. The rotating drink menu is playful, with three varieties of Boozed Capri—think an adult Capri Sun—and a spicy pineapple mule among the selections.
Vitals: 1309 W. Main St. 295-4333. graduatehotels.com
2. Early Mountain Vineyards
The view: The atmosphere at Early Mountain Vineyards is well worth the drive out to Madison. The property certainly doesn’t lack beautiful things to ogle, with green rolling hills, mountains, vineyards, and two historic barns all on site. “One of the most important things about the view is that it’s here no matter the weather, with the way the vineyard is situated,” says Aileen Sevier, director of marketing.
The vibe: Guests can choose from a number of different experiences in the expansive setting, including a traditional tasting, flights, or a picnic on the back lawn with a bottle of wine. The winery hosts a number of festivals throughout the year, including its bi-annual Oyster Fest and Solstice Sundown event. (Ed. note:
The menu: A bestseller here is the ever-evolving cheese and charcuterie board, featuring cured meats, local cheeses, housemade pickles, and a creamed honey so good that one visitor purchases containers of it in bulk. The grilled cheese isn’t too shabby, either. “I’ve had so many people write in and say this is the best grilled cheese they’ve ever had in their life,” Sevier says.
Vitals: 6109 Wolftown-Hood Rd., Madison. (540) 948-9005. earlymountain.com
3. Michael’s Bistro and Tap House
The view: Owner Laura Spetz’s preferred table on the balcony at Michael’s Bistro is just outside in the right-hand corner. From there, she can look down along the Corner and watch the comings and goings of a quintessential Charlottesville place, or shift her gaze to UVA’s iconic Rotunda. The outdoor space is small, with only four two-top tables (that’s part of what makes it special),
The vibe: Word has it that several regulars visit Michael’s Bistro almost every single day the restaurant is open. It’s no surprise, given how comfortable and inviting it is. Outside, the open-air space shows off with string lights and flickering lamps, a calm oasis above the madding crowd on University Avenue.
The menu: A patron’s impression of Michael’s Bistro might shift depending on which menu she chooses to focus on. The list of nightly drink specials showcases deals on rails and pitchers that no doubt cater to UVA students, but the beer and craft-cocktail menus both have a more universal appeal. The food menu is just the right size, with enough entrée and small-plate options to please every palate without inducing decision fatigue. The fried green tomato small plate served with a housemade pimento cheese sauce is a delicious way to start your meal.
Vitals: 1427 University Ave. 977-3697. michaelsbistro.com
4. The Rooftop
The view: The Rooftop delivers sprawling mountain views worthy of the restaurant’s name. Even diners facing inward can enjoy the scenery, captured in the reflection on the glass wall that separates the interior and exterior of the space.
The vibe: It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re on any rooftop, and almost impossible if that rooftop is this one. The breeze hits just right, the service is warm and welcoming, and the experience is chill at this classy yet casual space. Fair warning: The Rooftop can be tricky to find. Enter through Smoked Kitchen and Tap, head down the hallway, and get in the elevator to find your way upstairs.
The menu: Launched by chef Justin van der Linde, of Smoked barbcue-truck fame, and partner Kelley Tripp, formerly of The Fitzroy, the restaurant offers options suited for both celebratory occasions and a Friday night out. Truffle fries, served with aged Parmesan, white truffle, fresh herbs, and a garlic aioli for dipping are a crowd favorite. Other popular selections are the mussels simmered in Bold Rock cider and the hanger steak.
Vitals: 2025 Library Ave., Crozet. 205-4881. smokedkt.com/the-rooftop
5. The Southern Crescent Galley and Bar
The view: An evening at The Southern Crescent could easily be mistaken for a friend’s party at a house with a great outdoor space—in this case, a pleasantly worn Victorian with a porch and patio. Deliberately evoking the Big Easy, the Crescent—named for the Amtrak train that round-trips between New York and New Orleans—prompts a sigh of relief like the one you experience at the start of a vacation. Through twinkling lights and sweeping trees, visitors will see the character and homes that make up the Belmont neighborhood.
The vibe: This charming spot claims no pretenses, and its quirkiness is exactly what makes the restaurant so inviting. The concept was born from the experiences owner and executive chef Lucinda Ewell had growing up in New Orleans, and that inspiration comes through in touches, like fleur-de-lis floor tiles, potted tropical plants with big, broad leaves, and brightly painted furniture nestled in the lush gardens.
The menu: Among the drink selections is the Vieux Carré cocktail first made at New Orleans’ famous Carousel Bar. The menu features a raw bar, gumbo that’ll make your mind travel to the bayou, and entrées like smothered catfish. A variety of po’ boys are also available, made on fresh Leidenheimer Bread shipped from Louisiana. “Aside from the bread, everything we do is made from scratch—including our beignets, which some people say are better than the ones at Café Du Monde,” Ewell says.
Vitals: 814 Hinton Ave. 284-5101. thesoutherncrescent.com