Having been to Charlottesville multiple times, I figured it’s high time I wrote about all the delicious food that I’ve had there. One of my favorite places to head for food is the historic Downtown Mall in the evenings. Regardless of the people, it’s just got such a great ambience, a range of outdoor seating in the summer, with musicians playing in the corridor and people taking their pets for a walk.
Whether it’s after a meal or just when taking a stroll downtown, Splendora’s Gelato is a must-go for me. I’m a big fan of their sorbets during the summer, especially their mango sorbet. But my overall favorite is definitely Salted Caramel, which also seems to be one of their most popular flavors. For those who want to experiment – try the pink peppercorn!
Orzo Kitchen & Wine Bar – Just five minutes before the downtown mall, this place is perfect for a nice, classy night-out, or when you’re looking for a reason to celebrate. The Farmer’s Market Vegetarian Risotto is especially great, creamy and flavorful. Do check to see which vegetables they are using on a particular day though because they change pretty often. They also have a decent wine collection, and for dessert, the Chocolate Pot De Creme is highly recommended. Now I know what you’re thinking – that you might be pretty full after a meal here, but don’t worry, the Pot De Creme is really light and the perfect ending to a meal.
However, this place is also packed, so make sure you have reservations.
Positively 4th Street – Located in the Downtown Mall, this place has possibly one of my favorite vegetarian burgers. Their black-eyed hummus with baked pitas is also a must-try and is an excellent munchie in case you’re going there just for drinks. From their cocktails, their French Martini (vodka, chambord, pineapple juice and lemon juice) is my favorite for its light and summery taste.
Bluegrass Grill and Bakery – Just 5 minutes from the downtown mall, this place is perfect for brunch, but you might have a 10-15 minute wait before you’re seated. Two favorites here seem to be the the Un-Latkes (potato chunks, occasional bits of sausage, covered in a white gravy, pieces of bacon, and lots of scallions) and the Hungry Norman (english muffins with jam, goat cheese, sausage, over-easy eggs, and hollandaise sauce). My only two complaints with this place are – their home fries are occasionally seasoned too much, and that they only accept cash.
Be cautious: Lemongrass – Tucked away in the UVA campus, this cozy restaurant serving Vietnamese and Thai food, which is often pretty good, needs to regulate its spice levels. Patrons can choose a spice level between 1-10. However, having gone here on multiple occassions, my 6 dish sometimes tastes as spicy as my 10 dish, while on some days my 5 dish is completely spiceless.
Disappointments: Himalayan Fusion – Located at the end of the Downtown Mall, this restaurant is a ‘fusion of Nepali and Himalayan’ cuisines. However, the only dishes that are really worth having are the chilli chicken and the chicken momos. The rest is also pretty mediocre, especially the curries, which taste like they’ve been made straight out of bottled sauce (quite frankly, even the sauces from the Taste of India or Patak’s taste better). The naan is equally disappointing – instead of being light and fluffy, it’s on the hard and charred side. The chicken in their curries isn’t very succulent either, and their ‘basmati rice’ is definitely not basmati rice, given that I always cook with Basmati rice, and even when I add too much water or too little spice, they still turn out much better than those served at the restaurant. Overall, it makes for an unsatisfactory meal, especially when you’re craving Indian food.
So what are your favorite restaurants in Charlottesville? And what would you recommend for when I visit again?