Favorite Charlottesville Restaurants

Southern Crescent

Below are some of my choices for favorite food places in the Charlottesville area. This page is updated frequently, so check back for additional information. There’s also a page of Favorite Boutique Inns & Hotels in this link.

We begin the new series on local restaurants with Southern Crescent, which is strongly Palmer Approved. As such, our photo shows Palmer sitting on the blue wraparound porch that surrounds the charming house that is home to this unique restaurant. Located in the heart of the Belmont neighborhood of Charlottesville, Southern Crescent is named for the railroad that connects Charlottesville straight to New Orleans …. so Cajun and Creole are exactly what you can enjoy here. Classic cuisine from Louisiana and the Caribbean includes New Orleans favorites and tropical specialty cocktails, juices, and spirits.

The atmosphere at Southern Crescent is casual and comfortable, with both indoor and outdoor dining. There are lots of tables on the porch and garden if you want to bring your dog, and the bartender and staff have a supply of dog biscuits. Enjoy Po Boys, Jambalaya, Gumbo, Crawfish Pie and don’t forget to save room for Beignets. As for craft cocktails; I recommend starting with a Sazerac, a New Orleans staple.


The Red Pump Kitchen enjoys a prime location on Charlottesville’s popular downtown pedestrian mall. After being closed for two years due to the pandemic, the restaurant has recently reopened. It’s a Tuscan-inspired eatery featuring exquisitely prepared Italian regional dishes and wines, with a sprinkling of Virginia specialties as well.

The atmosphere at Red Pump Kitchen is casually elegant, offering both indoor and outdoor patio dining. They offer a three or 4-course tasting menu to bring “modern, Italian-infused food” to Charlottesville while including seasonal sourcing from local purveyors. Classic and elevated wine pairings are offered to complement each of the carefully crafted dishes. You might also enjoy their handcrafted cocktails. A link to learn more about the restaurant and MENU IS HERE.


Sitting unobtrusively in a weathered 3-story brick building, the C & O Restaurant has been a downtown Charlottesville favorite for decades. The building once offered meals to nearby railroad workers in the 1920’s, but since 1975 the C&O has been a casually elegant destination for those who prefer excellent fine dining in a charming bistro setting. The C&O has a range of seating options, from its outdoor patio to the main dining room to the cozy lower level pub. Although the building is deliberately unpretentious, the food is predicably wonderful, featuring French cuisine and fine wines. My advice is to save room for their Coupe Maison with the most decandent chocolate sauce ever. And if you happen to visit Charlottesville in colder weather, this may be one of the most warming, comforting, welcoming retreats in town. Details and Menu Here.


Located in the popular Belmont neighborhood of Charlottesville, Conmole offers authentic and unique dishes prepared from recipes that the owner, Benos Bustamante, learned from the Oaxaca region of Mexico. What you’ll find is true native Mexican cuisine featuring regional spices and plenty of mouth-watering mole dishes. What you won’t find, is chips and salsa.

Bustamante was a longtime manager at the Mas Tapas restaurant nearby, and now he has the opportunity to feature original traditional family recipes. Many of the recipes come from his mother and grandmother including the various kinds of mole sauce. Every dish is carefully overseen by Benos and he can usually be seen talking to diners asking how they are enjoying the food. You might enjoy the Chuletas with Tres-Chiles Mole which is lamb chops in a mole of three varieties of chiles. The atmosphere is casual, and there is outdoor dining. A link to learn more about the restaurant and menu is below.

More Details of the Conmole Restaurant


Café Frank is a newer addition to our downtown Charlottesville restaurant scene. The restaurant, which features everyday food from a classic French kitchen, originally opened during the pandemic. Due to the timing, they initially offered only dinner to go. Now they offer dining in, patio dining, and a popular option called “take home the chef”.

We’ve enjoyed a menu standard, their Coq au Vin with its incredible rich sauce. They also have an excellent collection of wines by the glass and we’re able to recommend the lovely Sancerre. A link to learn more about the restaurant and menu is below.

More Details of Cafe Frank Restaurant


Consistently excellent. Always great food and professional service. Never disappoints. Hamilton’s restaurant is conveniently located at the corner of First and Main on the downtown pedestrian mall. Dining is available both indoors or seasonally outside at cafe tables. It’s the perfect choice for a wonderful lunch or a romantic cozy dinner. For those who are looking for an ideal site to host a busines lunch or a wedding party, there is also a spacious private dining room. And Hamilton’s menu is available to order online for takeout as well. Recently we’ve enjoyed the swordfish which is beautifully prepared along with seasonal late summer vegetables.

A link to learn more about the restaurant and menu is below.

More Details of Hamiltons at First and Main


Brasserie Saison opened on the downtown Charlottesville pedestrian mall in 2017.  Its inspiration is from French or Belgium neighborhood restaurants and was brought by Champion Brewery in order to feature its brasserie fare, including beers, cocktails, and wines.    The atmosphere is laid back and welcoming.  Among my favorite menu items are the Crispy Scallops with seasonal sides. And you can’t go wrong with their steak or Moules Frites. 
A link to learn more about the restaurant and menu is HERE.

Loosely translated, the word Bizou means a ‘little kiss’ or a ‘little gem’.  It’s the perfect name for the eclectic little diner-turned-eatery on Charlottesville’s downtown mall.  Bizou has been a local favorite since its founding in 1996.  The owners have kept the layout of the previous diner, complete with juke boxes at each booth, so the atmosphere is definitely relaxed.  They feature comfort foods, unique recipes, and a nice wine list.  (I once thought my own rabbit quesadilla recipe was unique, so imagine my surprise when I found that offering on Bizou’s menu too).  A classic meatloaf dinner is also a popular recurring item on the Bizou menu.
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, and a link to learn more about the restaurant and menu is below.

Known affectionately as simply “Sal’s”, this Italian bistro has been at the center of Charlottesville’s downtown mall since 1985.  It’s a family owned/operated full service restaurant which has indoor dining but also a large patio dining area outdoors.  Located next to the Paramount Theater, Sal’s is a meeting place for locals and tourists alike.   
Sal’s has a menu that’s bound to please everyone.  You could begin with a cocktail or local craft beer or any of the dozens of wine selections.  Obviously, pizzas are a staple at this Sicilian-inspired venue, and you can choose your own toppings for traditional or white sauces, hand tossed or pan pizzas.  
There’s a large selection of classical pasta dishes, and one of my own favorites is their Pasta Nina which features shrimp, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes in a Pink Lady sauce over rigatoni.  There’s a variety of other chicken and seafood entree dishes available as well.
There is a large outdoor dining area of Sal’s with canopy covered tables that is a wonderful spot to relax and enjoy ‘people watching’ at all the activity on the downtown mall.  This time of year, Sal’s often offers small heaters next to the tables.  A link to learn more about the restaurant and menu is below.

Tavola Restaurant Charlottesville VA


If you live near Charlottesville and you have an uncontrollable urge to enjoy tiramisu or limoncello cheesecake, then hurry to the Tavola restaurant in charming Belmont to satisfy your craving. The menu at Tavola features a wide range of rustic Italian-inspired entrees using local growers and providers as sources for their unique recipes. Since its opening in 2009, Tavola has developed a loyal following because of the excellence of the food, wines, and service. One favorite dish is their Pappardelle Bolognese, which features a house made pasta topped with local beef and pork in a yummy traditional Bolognese sauce.

The excellence is the inspiration of the husband/wife owners who oversee all aspects of the dining experience. They are very experienced in the world of cuisine and you can learn about them and their training in THIS LINK.

Be sure to make a reservation because this 37-seat intimate eatery is popular and seating is limited. There is an open kitchen where nearby guests can observe meals that are prepared from scratch. You might also want to sample the wide variety of craft cocktails, dessert cocktails, and other specialty creations. It’s always fun to join in the atmosphere of the unique Belmont neighborhood.. A link to learn more about the restaurant and menu is below.



In Japanese, the word for “celebration” or “heaven” is Ten.  In Charlottesville, Ten is a wonderful Japanese tapas restaurant that features Asian-inspired food and cocktails made from carefully selected local, regional, and international sea and farm purveyors.  Ten has been offering traditional and original cuisine since its opening in 2006.
You could begin your meal with a serving of Aburi Saba, a lightly broiled Japanese mackerel with miso.  Next you might enjoy the Wagyu tenderloin served with truffle herb wasabi butter.  I like the Kani Avocado with snow crab, cucumber, avocado, and tobiko.  You might want to try any of their exotic rolls, or perhaps the Ebi hawaiian king prawn.  
There are dozens of exotic drinks to sample as well.  You could try one of their sake flights in order to sample variations.  One unique offering is the North Garden cocktail, a locally sourced combination with apple brandy and Asian pear bitters. And by all means be sure to save room for the warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream.  
Because the Ten menu is quite extensive, you might want to check out a direct link to menu items in this link to the menu from Ten.  

The Ivy Inn

Ivy Inn Charlottesville VA
The Ivy Inn restaurant is located one mile from the University of Virginia on the western edge of Charlottesville.  The property has a rich history dating back to the colonial 1800’s and has been providing elegant dinners in a casual atmosphere since 1973.  
Dinners are served in a quiet peaceful setting, in various intimate rooms of the character rich home.  The menu offers traditional and locally sourced fare.  Entrees vary but always provide options such as Angus beef, rack of lamb, shrimp and crab etouffee, or grilled mountain trout. In a nod to its Southern heritage, it’s one of the few places where you can enjoy pork braised collard greens with Andouille sausage.   And if you’re staying with the traitional southern choices…. be sure to try the yummy banana pudding for dessert.

The Palladio at Barboursville Vineyards

Palladio at Barboursville Vineyards
Located at the award-winning Barboursville Vineyard, their restaurant named Palladio is one of the best in Virginia.  This is my favorite ‘special occasion’ restaurant, where one can enjoy an amazing multi-course feast accompanied by their excellent wines.  
The winery is built on the grounds of Barboursville, the home of the 19th Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, James Barbour.  It is on an estate of 870 acres which is divided between Albemarle County and Orange County.  Words cannot begin to describe the beauty of the rolling hills and magnificent views of the area.  
Lunches and dinners are elegant and exquisitely prepared.  Featured are many choices of North Italian cuisine, complimented by the amazing wine pairings available.  There are also tours, classes, and wine tastings at the vineyard where you can learn details of every step in preparing the grapes, wines, and dinners.  I prefer to listen and learn while sipping their Barboursville Vermentino.
In case you need more time there, also on the property are options for overnight stays.  There is an inn as well as a few guest cottages that are wonderfully luxurious yet understated in comfort.  The character of the decor is in perfect keeping with the rich historical legacy of the vineyard.

The Aberdeen Barn

Aberdeen Barn
Any fan of steak or prime rib is lucky to frequent the Aberdeen Barn restaurant in Charlottesville.   It’s a classic steakhouse with dark wood paneling and red leather seating, and there’s a cozy bar area with sports on tv.  So it makes sense that many UVa team recruits are treated to a meal at “The Barn” as part of their recruitment.  .  
The Barn has been a Charlottesville tradition since its founding in 1965.  In addition to prime steaks, lamb, and chicken, there’s a wide variety of seafood both as a main course and as appetizers.


The Mockingbird Restaurant

Mockingbird Restaurant in Charlottesville VA
If you love southern food prepared with artful soul …. you owe it to yourself to visit the Mockingbird restaurant in the charming Belmont neighborhood of Charlottesville.  You might want to begin with a specialty cocktail like their Blood Orange Margarita.  And next you might enjoy the southern shrimp and grits that are garnished with fried okra, or the Alabama chicken BBQ, or the flakey vegetable pot pie.  It’s a tough choice to decide on a dessert option.  My favorites are the banana pudding or the sinfully rich chocolate-bourbon pecan pie.  
The atmosphere at Mockingbird is warm and inviting,  and the special recipes on the menu offer unique combinations of traditional southern cuisine that are always satisfying and tasty. 


Fleurie Restaurant

Fleurie Restaurant in Charlottesville
Tucked on a historic side street of the downtown mall in Charlottesville you can enjoy fine French cuisine in an intimate comfortable atmosphere. Fleurie is perfect for even the most special occasions with its combination of world-class wine list, personalized service, innovative menu,  and masterfully prepared dishes.  
You might want to begin your meal with the lobster bisque or the mushroom risotto.   And it’s a tough decision for dessert to choose between the creme brulee or the lemon cheesecake (I always vote for lemon cheesecake).  The atmosphere at Fleurie is delightful, the servers are knowledgeable, the food preparation is exquisite, and meal presentation is impeccable. Dining is available indoors and also seasonally on their outdoor patio. A visit to Fleurie is an experience that creates lovely lasting memories.



The Local
Followers of our Charlottesville restaurant reviews will notice that the Belmont district of Charlottesville has many delightful eateries.  (For any newcomers, here is a link to our previous restaurant choices that you might enjoy.)  The Local is another unique Belmont restaurant which offers an opportunity to sample foods from locally owned and operated farms.  Fresh produce, fish, beef, pastries and wines… all raised with care from local Central Virginia sources.  
The menu at The Local includes a wide range of choices.  There’s crispy fried trout, locally raised beef short ribs, or roasted squash with goat cheese.  The truffled mushroom ragout is made with local mushrooms and tossed in freshly made fettuccini. But the food isn’t the only local feature at The Local.  The building itself boasts the craftsmanship of local designers and builders.  Among the elements that were locally sourced are stained glass art, custom made furniture, reclaimed wood flooring, barstools and table tops.   Dining is available indoors and also seasonally on their outdoor patio and deck. 



Vivace restaurant, located on Ivy Road in Charlottesville, has been popular since its 1995 arrival.  The ambience of Vivace is cozy and comfortable with plenty of Italian charm, and it includes a multi-tiered outdoor terrace to enjoy these lovely Charlottesville evenings.  
The atmosphere is not the only Italian touch – the menu reflects the beauty and simplicity of wonderful Italian cuisine combined with local food sources.  A favorite entre is “pasta alla vivace” with marsala cream sauce, grilled chicken, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms over penne pasta. But I also recommend the shrimp scampi with sides of risotto and asparagus. Indoors, a serpentine bar and inviting fireplace provide a perfect setting to sample a glass of wine.