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Best Charlottesville Restaurants

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Up until a few years ago, if you wanted foreign food in Charlottesville, your only choices were one of the 15 or so Chinese buffets, or you could go to Taco Bell. The city has experienced a long-overdue cultural explosion recently, and you can now get just about any kind of cuisine you could possibly want—all in hip, beautiful downtown restaurants. The vast majority of the best food in Charlottesville is all located on the Downtown Mall—one more reason to pick lodging that’s convenient to downtown for your visit. Here are our top picks that span a number of neighborhoods and price ranges.

Bang!

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Expensive
This downtown hotspot serves up delicious Asian tapas, but it’s also known for its mixed drinks. The Mr. Big is a cosmopolitan made from white cranberry juice so men can order it without feeling too girly. Men are also welcome to order the regular pink cosmos as well, but it’s nice that Bang! looks out for your masculine ego anyway. The right amount of food for a meal here is generally two items per person, and of course it’s a great place to come with a group because you’ll want to share and sample lots of everything.

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Hamilton's at First and Main

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Expensive
Hamiltons’ is the restaurant where all the white collar professionals like to unwind after work. Come on a Saturday night (and select Wednesdays) for live jazz music during dinner hours, and enjoy contemporary American cuisine—the crab cakes are a favorite, and the extensive wine list features lots of local selections.

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Ivy Inn Restaurant

Neighborhood: Western Charlottesville - Ivy Price: Expensive
The Ivy Inn is a historical home just west of town that has been operating as an upscale restaurant since the 1970s. They refer to their food as "locally-inspired seasonal American cuisine" and that includes things like mustard herb crusted rack of lamb, pan-seared Alaskan halibut filet and a Maryland style jumo lump crab cake. Reservations are recommended for dinner here, served Monday through Saturday.

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Duner's

Neighborhood: Western Charlottesville - Ivy Price: Expensive
Duner’s stands alone on rt. 250W on the way out of Charlottesville, a fixture of western Albemarle County for nearly 30 years. The menu changes daily, allowing the chefs to mix it up based on what fresh ingredients are available that day. The menu always includes vegetarian options, and the chefs will work around food allergies, too. Though a fine dining establishment, the dress code is casual and they don’t take reservations. Weekends are busiest, but you can avoid lines if you dine before 7 or after 8, or during the week.

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Zocalo

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Expensive
Zocalo has often been ranked in local publications as one of the best restaurant in Charlottesville. Not only did the locals love it that much - we did too. The eclectic menu is Mediterranean-inspired, and the outdoor patio in the center of the Downtown Mall is a great place to have a relaxing meal and do some people watching. Definitely get a Zocalo Margarita to go with your meal—this may just be the best cocktail in town.

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Bluegrass Grill & Bakery

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Moderate
Hidden away behind the Water Street Parking Garage downtown, the Bluegrass Grill serves up a to-die-for brunch menu. It’s the kind of food every southern mother cooks for her family, and if you didn’t grow up in a southern household, you’ll have to come here to see what you’ve been missing. Try the blackberry and cheese blintzes. Yum!

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Guadalajara

Neighborhood: Pantops Price: Moderate
There are four Guadalajara Mexican Restaurant locations in Charlottesville (Pantops, 29N, Downtown, and on Fontaine Avenue near UVA), and they all have the same menu, but the one on Pantops is the newest, and somehow the yummiest. Maybe their margarita glasses are bigger, or maybe it’s just that the colors are brighter. All of the Guad locations serve good food, but the atmosphere at the one on Pantops is the most lively.

Himalayan Fusion

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Moderate
If you’re on the Downtown Mall during lunch, stop in and try the Himalayan Fusion lunch buffet—served every day but Tuesday, the buffet changes daily, usually offering up to 7 vegetarian options, 3-4 meat options, and a dessert. The restaurant fancies up a little bit for dinner, with an extensive menu of Indian and Nepalese options. The down side is that service here is always painfully slow so don't bother coming if you're in a rush and looking for an in-and-out place. If you’re hungry when you arrive, the wait can be excruciating, and servers aren’t great about refilling empty glasses. The good news? It’s worth it. And if you don’t feel like waiting, you can call ahead and get takeout.

Christian's Pizzeria

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Budget
Unless you’re in Chicago, New York, or Italy, you probably wouldn’t think that pizza is an important part of the local cuisine, but Christian’s is the kind of pizza place you could email home about. You can get a whole pie or order by-the-slice, and while you’ll want to try lots of their special pies, one slice will be more than enough. Just don’t be the jerk who goes here and orders a pepperoni slice. They have everything and we mean EVERYTHING. Live a little. Think outside the pizza box. If you don’t pick a slice with at least three different toppings, including at least two things you’ve never even thought to put on a pizza before, you’re doing it wrong.

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The Flat

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Budget
The Flat is possibly Charlottesville’s best-kept secret. It’s just a little walk-up window on the outside of the Downtown Mall at Water Street and 1st, so it would be easy to miss it if you didn’t know it was there.  Serving up made-to-order crepes, it’s a great place for a light lunch or a snack, like a nutella crepe. Closed Sunday and Monday, but open late on Friday and Saturday, so you can grab a crepe after a show lets out. 

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Bodo's

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Budget
It’s hard to say what Charlottesville residents most revere: Thomas Jefferson, or Bodo’s Bagels. We guarantee you that you can stop anyone on the street in Charlottesville and ask them when the last time they had a Bodo’s bagel was, and it will have been within 36 hours. It’s just what you do here. You come to Charlottesville. You eat at Bodo’s. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or all three plus your between-meals snacks. It’s cheap, it’s fast, and it’s the best bagel you’ve ever had. Sorry, New York. There are three Bodo’s locations in town: Preston Avenue, near the Downtown Mall, The Corner, and on rt 29 just north of UVA. Look for the giant bagel.

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Bodo's  

Eppie's

Neighborhood: Downtown Price: Budget
Eppie’s is a very cute lunch and dinner spot on the Downtown Mall, serving up generous portions of pasta, salad, and meat with delicious fresh bread. The garlic bread is fab, but we strongly recommend substituting the corn bread. All the food is made to order—they have a big board with all the choices, and you can combine them however you like. We especially love the tortellini with mushrooms.

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