I had 72 hours to take in everything Charlottesville had to offer culinarily. I was screwed.
More than 450 restaurants can be found on C-VILLE Weekly’s restaurant listings, and many others are unlisted, which puts this hamlet in the top-15 most eatery-dense in the nation. Even armed with more than five years’ experience as a local food writer (including for C-VILLE Weekly), my task was monumental. I hadn’t eaten a meal here in almost three years since moving out of town; a lot had changed. The strategy for my long weekend back? Old favorites for breakfast and lunch, new spots for dinner, and a mix for snacks, coffee fuel-ups and booze binges.
There’s only one breakfast joint for your first meal in C’ville: Bodo’s. But there are two orders. One: bacon, lettuce, tomato and jalapeño lime cream cheese on everything. The sweet/spicy cheese transforms the traditional BLT, and I’m not the only person who thinks so—it’s a favorite order for a lot of local food folks. Two: olive cream cheese, watercress and sprouts on everything. This used to be my go-to weekday order, with whole wheat everything subbed in to make me feel better. But if you have only two bagels before returning to a Bodo’s-free existence, you go for it.
After a walk across UVA Grounds, the family and I were hungry enough to eat, but not ready for lunch. Maybe a healthy snack to refuel? Nah, White Spot for a grillswith. The kids were happy with donuts caramelized on the flat top, but in my opinion the ice cream actually cuts the sweetness.
There’s no better way to follow a plate of refined sugar and flour than with burgers. We skipped the Gus and wheeled over to Riverside. For me? Double cheeseburger with everything, basket of fries (seasoned salt to taste tableside), nap.
Our first newish spot was Kardinal Hall for dinner. Friends said it was kid-friendly with games and space. They nailed it. The food and beer was solid as well—asparagus salad, kasekrainer and hot Italian sausages, garlic fries and a pretzel, washed down with a Basic City/Beer Run Waxing Parrotic IPA. This would launch a three-day love affair with Waynesboro brewery Basic City.
To avoid weekend crowds, we headed to Bluegrass Grill & Bakery for a Friday breakfast. The Hungry Norman—blackberry jam, goat cheese, sausage links and eggs on English muffin—delivered as always, and we couldn’t skip a side of Bluegrass’ incomparable corned beef hash. We grabbed to-go pimento cheese on the way out in case we got hungry.
Then it was off to Blue Mountain Brewery on a beautiful, if windy, day for lunch. We shared a cheese plate, highlighted by the cranberry goat cheese, and nachos with Nitro Chili, and sipped summery brews (Kölsch 151 and Rockfish Wheat) despite the calendar. Blue Mountain has upped its outdoor game since I’d last been, with new hardscaping and more room to move. The kids ran their sillies out while we capped the meal with a Sour Geist.
Sugar had been established as snack food, and that brought us to Splendora’s Gelato Cafe once back in town. A luxurious, creamy offering with Caromont Farm’s Esmontonian goat cheese and chocolate flakes highlighted the visit.
We needed a no-fuss dinner after a long day, and takeout pizzas from Lampo seemed an ideal fit. But the place was packed and didn’t offer take-away. Up the road, Junction accommodated. While waiting for enchiladas, pork belly, Mexican street corn, chips and guac, hanger steak and quesadillas, I grabbed Three Notch’d Brewery’s blackberry gose from Belmont Market across the way. The salty/sour brew drank like margaritas from a can as we dug into smoked pork with mango-chipotle glaze and a classic pairing of beef and chimichurri.
With a final day to graze, I got in line at MarieBette Café & Bakery. That meant canelés and espresso beverages while waiting for a table, followed by a croque madame and Afternoon Jørgensen, yogurt, granola, eggs and bacon. Euro-style bliss.
We braved the cold for a City Market stroll mid-morning, grabbing a Mountain Culture ginger kombucha and C-ville Candy Company chocolates. While the crew rested, I zipped up 29 for an overstuffed chicken cemita from Al Carbon—less overstuffed than I recalled but still one of the best sandwiches in town.
Our final official stop was Brasserie Saison, which offered the security of a reservation and peace of mind of a high chair. With saisons and milks in hand, we shared mussels, steak frites, a burger and the country pâté.
A gluttonous 72 hours for sure—we also had time for coffee at Mudhouse and Snowing in Space, nights out at Beer Run and Common House, smearing that Bluegrass pimento cheese on a MarieBette baguette and an Ol’ Dirty Biscuit at Ace Biscuit & Barbecue on the way out of town—but it was worth every calorie.