Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Taste of Charlottesville

Charlottesville is full of amazing restaurants and cute little eateries. I had the chance to try a lot of Laura's local favorites (but could have used another week or so to hit everywhere we wanted to go). There are also quite a few vineyards in the C-Ville area, which was a lot of fun and surprisingly inexpensive!

Here are some of the great things we had:

Wednesday Night
Pizza at Christian's

As I drove down to Charlottesville I developed quite a hankering for some pizza, so I called Laura to see if we could get thin crust pizza for dinner.  She said she knew just the place, and brought me to Christian's. They have so many different types of pizza on display in their cases, and you can get any type by the slice, which is perfect for indecisive eaters (me) who want to try more than one kind. Laura got a caprese slice and a vegetable slice (on the left) and I also got a vegetable slice and a bbq chicken with broccoli (on the right). This pizza was so delicious and I was instantly jealous that Laura can get it whenever she wants. I cursed my stomach for filling up because I just wanted to stay there and eat pizza all night.

Gelato at Splendora's

Even though we were stuffed with pizza, I did find room for some dessert. Splendora's is a cute little gelato place that has a huge selection of flavors. So big that I could not possibly pick just two. Laura got Ganduia and Jack Daniel's (which smelled so strongly like whiskey that I didn't dare try it). I got the next size up, which dwarfed Laura's, and had coconut, pistachio, and salted caramel - all very, very good.

Delicious lunch (not pictured) and carrot cupcake at Hot Cakes

This place was great. They have a very nice selection of sandwiches, soups, and other fresh meal options (I had some grilled cod with sides of seaweed salad and roasted vegetables).  Their selections of baked goods and desserts was irresistible, and of course I got some carrot cake. The cake was a little bit dry but the cream cheese frosting is the best I've ever tasted. I wish I had their recipe! Hot Cakes also has a nice wine and beer selection and gift items. Laura comes here a lot to have coffee and read or grade papers.

Salads made at home using fresh organic produce, baguette, and cheese from Feast!

Feast is a really cool little specialty food shop. Their produce selection is small, but is mostly organic and all farm fresh. They have a large selection of fine cheeses and meats, as well as cookies, crackers, and a variety of preserves. Feast is pretty pricey, but they also have samples of many items throughout the store, so if you make a couple laps you end up getting your money's worth! Come on now, don't pretend you don't do that! Feast also offers prepared meals, ranging from salads, soups, and sandwiches, and is the perfect place to stop if you're having company over and need some delicious hor d'oeuvres.

For breakfast I made another salad with produce from Feast, this one had roasted butternut squash and hard boiled egg whites. Salad may sound weird for breakfast, but sometimes I'm just craving greens.

Friday was really cold and rainy, so we tried to see as many parts of UVA campus as possible without getting drenched. For a quick lunch we went to Bodo's Bagels - there are a few of these around Charlottesville and they have the best bagels - reminds me of Bruegger's Bagels (which is my favorite) but Bodo's has even more varieties and a much larger sandwich and salad menu.

Friday night we were going to go to The Local for dinner but couldn't get an early enough reservation (because I had to go to bed early to wake up at 5am for my race) so instead I made some whole wheat pasta and some portobello mushroom meatballs. I finished off my carbo-loading with some animal crackers. Pretty serious stuff.


After my race I devoured a banana, slice of pizza, slice of Great Harvest bread, and a protein drink at the race expo. After an ice bath and shower, I napped for about three hours (which I never do, but my body was so tired) before resurfacing and in need of more food. Laura, her boyfriend Todd and I went out to Revolutionary Soup - a great little place just around the corner from the downtown strip. They have a huge selection of soups, salads and sandwiches and have options for everyone (everything from meat-laden soups to vegan chili and spicy peanut tofu). The tofu soups looked really interesting, but I decided to go with a traditional favorite - grilled cheese with tomato soup. The sandwich with thick, cheesy and perfectly crispy, and the soup had just enough texture to be my favorite consistency (nothing worse than watery tomato soup). I would definitely go back here to try lots of things on their menu.

Once full, we set out for some vineyards. We first went to Barboursville Vineyards, which was recommended by Kathryn and one of Laura's friends. This vineyard is located on a large estate that also includes an inn, a restaurant, horse pastures, and ruins of a building that was designed by Thomas Jefferson. 

Barboursville Vineyards
Barboursville Ruins

For $5 you can do a wine tasting, which includes going down the line and trying all of the available wines (typically 16-20 wines) - and you get to keep your glass after the tasting! This seemed like an incredible deal to me - when we went to Sonoma in August, you'd pay at least $5-$10 at each vineyard, and would only get to try four wines.

After getting our fill at Barboursville (and after Laura and Todd bought 6 bottles to bring home) we went down the road to Burnley Vineyards. Burnley is just a mile or two down the road, but  has a completely different feel to it. As we drove down the driveway to the main shop, it almost seemed like we were at someones home. After speaking with the owners, we found out that they built it when they were first starting out, and if their business hadn't flourished, they planned to use the building as a house, so that makes sense why it seemed homey! For just $2 here you can taste every wine they sell, which I think ended up being about 12-14 varieties. 

Tasting counter at Burnley
Though not as fancy and upscale as Barboursville, Burnley was a nicer place to have the tasting. There were fewer people, so there wasn't as much waiting in line or crowding, and it was nice to speak with the owners. It was actually the owners who did the wine tasting for us, and they talked us through each type that we tried, as well as telling us stories about the start of the vineyard and how they come up with different varieties. At Barboursville we did not get any explanations about the wines, what accents to look for in the smell and flavor, or what they'd pair well with. I'm not sure if its because they were so busy that there wasn't time to go over this, but that is something that I enjoy about tastings. Both vineyards offered very different experiences, and if in the area I'd suggest going to both. I really enjoyed the wines from both of the vineyards, but may slightly prefer Barboursville's to Burnley's.

After getting our fill of wine, it was time for the beer. I requested that we go to a microbrewery (since I love checking out different breweries when I travel) to try their beer. We went to South Street Brewery (a couple blocks from the downtown area in C-Ville) to have a drink before dinner. Laura and Todd each ordered a pint and I ordered a sampler (I like getting samplers if its my first time at a brewery).

These were all very good, I especially liked the Hefeweizen (with the lemon) and the Satan's Pony Amber Ale (on the left). 

After wines and beers it was finally time for some more food. For dinner we went to Al Hamraa, a little Moroccan restaurant. I think that was my first time having Moroccan food, but everything was very good. Dinner was served tapas style, so we ordered several dishes to share. I ordered a butternut squash dish and a beets dish, both were great. The couscous dish came with chicken and many other vegetables which was also delicious. My only complaint is that cilantro seems to be as prevalent in Moroccan food as it is in Mexican food, which I didn't know. There was tons of cilantro in every dish, so I spent some time removing it before eating. Otherwise, I can happily report that Moroccan food is delicious! Soft music played throughout the evening and a belly dancer performed. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of our dinner, so you'll just have to go out for some Moroccan and experience it for yourself!

Well that's pretty much a wrap-up of how I ate my way through Charlottesville! It was really wonderful to spend time with Laura, and of course went by too fast.I hope to visit again soon!


  1. although i don't live that far from Charlottesville i rarely visited it. love reading your post about it.

    the Splendora's gelato is one of the best gelato places around.

  2. Ahhh ... Bodo's. My wife and I both went to UVA and spent a lot of hours and $ at Bodo's. Charlottesville is a beautiful place. Thanks for the virtual tour.

  3. I've never been to Charlottesville but it looks like you had a great time eating your way through the town! Your breakfast salad with strawberries and butternut squash looks AMAZING. I'd never think to eat it for breakfast, but why not? Healthy and delicious! :)

  4. Looks like you had fun!! Would like to visit.

  5. Gah I love all those restaurants!

    Esp Revolutionary Soup, yum. Feast has an amazing selection, great cheeses. And of course bodo's!!