14 Best Restaurants in Downtown Charlottesville, VA

The best restaurants in downtown Charlottesville, VA feature a wide assortment of excellent and diverse specialties that include sushi, French, contemporary American cuisine, tapas, farm-to-table, old Virginia classics, and more.

Many of these restaurants are conveniently located in historic downtown Charlottesville near the Downtown Mall.

The below recommendations are Charlottesville restaurants that either I have tried and enjoyed myself, or they are recommendations from a good friend of mine who is a University of Virginia alumni.

Please note: the menu items listed below are subject to change. Please view the restaurant websites for the most recent menus. 

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Top photo courtesy The Ivy Inn Restaurant.

14 Best Restaurants in Downtown Charlottesville, VA

1. C&O Restaurant (French Fine Dining)

C&O Restaurant is one of the best restaurants in downtown Charlottesville, VA. It is a fine dining establishment that features both an outdoor patio and inside bistro seating areas. 

C&O is a perfect destination for a birthday party, rehearsal dinner, office function, special occasion, special events, or private events.

Appetizer selections include Duck Confit and Ricotta Gnocchi, with butternut squash, arugula, and duck jus; and Roasted Scallops, with whipped cauliflower, and golden raisin-caper butter sauce.

Main courses include steak and fish dishes such as Steak Chinoise, filet of beef, tamari-ginger pan sauce, scallions, gruyere-thyme potatoes; and Monkfish and Jumbo Lump Crab Piccata, with capers, potato puree, and lemon. 

There are also a number of decadent dessert dishes, including Bittersweet Chocolate and Pistachio Pavé, with salted caramel, whipped cream; and Sticky Toffee Pudding, with warm toffee sauce, whipped cream.

The full menu can be found here

2. Bang! (Asian Tapas)

Bang! is another one of the best places to eat in Charlottesville, VA. It features Vegetarian, Vegan, and Gluten Free dishes, as well as traditional meat dishes such as BBQ, Crab potstickers, and Firecracker Shrimp. The restaurant also features clever and colorful cocktails, such as Black Cherry Cosmo, Lychee Avalanche, and a Key Lime Tini – a key lime twist on the classic martini. 

Vegetarian dishes include Fried Sesame Rice Balls with Chili Sauce; Sweet Potato Gnocchi, with Curry, Coconut, and Kale; and Oyster Mushroom Steamed Buns, with Miso Mayo and Daikon Pickles. 

Traditional dishes include Korean Beef Empanada; Sweet & Sour Pork Ribs with Pineapple Slaw; and Southern Fried Chicken Steamed Buns, with Spicy Mayo and Pickles. 

The full menu can be found here.

3. The Alley Light (French Small Plate)

The Alley Light is conveniently located in Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall, and it features classic French shared plates. 

Small plates include Artichoke Gratin with bacon, carrot, and parmesan; Anchovy Toast with parsley butter and country bread; Marinated Calamari; House Made Seafood Board; Tuna Carpaccio; and Veal, Foie Gras, and Sweetbread Terrine. The Alley Light also features additional weekly specials that can be found on their website

Desserts include a Raspberry Tart with raspberries, pistachio pastry cream, and shortbread; and Poached pear, with chocolate sauce, almond parfait, and candied almond. 

The full menu can be found here

Visiting Charlottesville? Learn all about the best things to do in town!

4. Vivace (Italian)

Vivace features amazing Italian food in a unique setting. The restaurant is located on the former main quarters of an old farm. It is located up on a hill and features terraces and decor that transport you back to a quaint Italian village. 

Dishes feature local and fresh ingredients from Virginia and Italy and include such Italian staples as Spicy Italian sausage with crispy polenta cake, Bruschetta, Pizzas, Gnocchi, Fettuccini Alfredo, Chicken Marsala, and Veal Parmesan. Dessert dishes include Italian favorites such as Tiramisu and Cannoli. 

Vivace also features several Special Menus for parties of 20 or more, which can be found here

The full menu can be found here

Brunch dishes from The Nook, one of the Best Restaurants in Downtown Charlottesville, VA
Source: The Nook

5. The Nook (Diner Classics and Brunch)

The Nook is another one of the best restaurants in downtown Charlottesville, VA. It is open daily from 8 am to 3 pm and is a great option for classic diner and brunch fare. It is conveniently located in the heart of downtown Charlottesville.

Menu items include breakfast and brunch staples such as Chicken Biscuit, The Chicken and Waffle, French Toast, Pancakes (Plain, Blueberry, or Chocolate Chip), Breakfast Platters that include Sausage and Eggs Benedict, and many specialty Omelets.

The Nook also features lunch dishes such as several varieties of Mac and Cheese, Salads, Hamburgers, and Sandwiches.

As a sweet treat, The Nook offers Extra Thick Milkshakes, Root Beer Floats, and Creamsicle Floats. 

The full menu can be found here

6. The Local (New American Cuisine)

The Local is another popular spot in downtown Charlottesville.

The restaurant is a farm-to-table gastropub that offers a tasty variety of fresh selections featuring many local fresh ingredients from nearby local farms.

Appetizers include Caromont Goat Cheese Salad with mixed greens fresh berries, toasted pine nuts, and raspberry-champagne vinaigrette; Fried Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts; and Crispy Shrimp with a pickled ginger black sesame aioli, seaweed, salad, local honey, and sambal. 

Main Courses include: Truffled Mushroom Ragout with “Sharondale Farms” shiitake, crimini, and oyster mushrooms, white truffle oil, and parmesan cheese, tossed with fresh house-made fettuccine; Lobster Mac and Cheese; Wasabi Pea Crusted Salmon with edamame rice pilaf, cucumber slaw, and house-made yuzu-ginger hoisin glaze; and Roast Local Squash stuffed with “Caromont” goat cheese, quinoa, dried cherries, and almonds over local braised greens with a fresh tomato sauce, and parmesan. 

Desserts include a decadent Brownie Sundae with peanut butter chocolate brownies topped with house-made vanilla bean ice cream and hot fudge; as well as a Blackberry Cobbler served with vanilla ice cream. 

The full menu can be found here

7. Ten (Japanese)

Ten is an excellent sushi restaurant with a sleek and chic interior decor. They feature delicious specialty Sushi Rolls, as well as fabulous Nigori sake flights. 

Entrees include Rice Bowls, Rolls (Blue Crab, Soft Shell  Crab, Dragon Roll, Rainbow Roll), Tempura, Skewers, Nigiri, and Sashimi.

Some of their desserts include Warm Chocolate Cake and Mochi Ice Cream. 

The full menu can be found here

8. Citizen Burger Bar (Burgers)

Citizen Burger Bar is a great spot for burgers made with locally-sourced beef and fresh produce from nearby farms. Even the buns are produced locally by the Albemarle Baking Company. 

Their burgers feature flavorful cheeses and sauces for a unique tasting experience. 

Some of the custom burgers that you can order include The Citizen Burger (with Swiss Cheese, black onion, garlic aioli, lettuce, and tomato); The Southern (with pimento cheese, bacon, mustard, and tomato); and The Hotness (with jalapeño jack cheese, sriracha mayonnaise, and beef chili). 

Beyond burgers, you can get a snack (beer-battered onion wings, crispy fried peppers), a salad (house, Caesar, wedge), or sandwiches (grilled cheese, chicken sandwich, or the “Kinda Vegan” sandwich.)

Citizens Burger also features a location in Carytown, Richmond. You can learn more about the best burgers in Richmond! 

9. Mas Tapas (Spanish Tapas)

Mas Tapas is a great Spanish Tapas restaurant and wine bar located near downtown Charlottesville. 

They focus on organic, locally-sourced meats, vegetables, honey, grains, and herbs. 

They feature traditional small-serving tapas dishes like Papas Bravas, Chorizo, Tortilla Espanola, and Datil con Tocino (dates wrapped in bacon, a personal favorite!)

For a bigger appetite, you can order a traditional paella for two (made with Rock Shrimp, Maine Blue Mussels, Organic Chicken, House Chorizo, and Rice.)

You can cap off your meal with a decadent dessert like the Chocolate Sangria Cake or Lemon Goat-Cheese Cheesecake. 

10. Brasserie Saison (French Brasserie)

Brasserie Saison is one of the best places to find excellent French fare in downtown Charlottesville. Their menu is specifically inspired by the brasseries of France and Belgium. 

For a starter, you can order Steak Tartare (with Shallots, Capers, and Quail Eggs) and Escargot Tarte (made in a Puff Pastry with Shallot, Parsley, and Lemon.) 

Main Courses include Crispy Scallops (with Spring Peas, Risotto Cake, and Vanilla Carrot Sauce); Pamplin Farms Chicken (with Fingerling Potatoes, Local Mushrooms, and Dijon), and Spring Vegetable Fricassee (with Saffron, Crispy Leeks, and Panisse.)

House Specialties include Steak Frites and Moules Frites.

They also feature a delicious Brunch. Some of the dishes include Eggs Benedict (with Poached Eggs, Surryano Ham, Tomato, and an English Muffin), Nutella Crepes (with Berries, Brandy Lemon Syrup, Chantilly Crème, and Hazelnuts), Steak Frites (with Sunnyside Eggs and Garlic Aioli), and Croque Madam (with Ham, Gruyère Cheese, Sunnyside Eggs, and Sourdough Bread.)

11. The Ivy Inn Restaurant (Local American Cuisine)

The Ivy Inn Restaurant is located in a historic building just one mile from the University of Virginia. It was once part of the “Faulkner House” estate, which was a residence of author William Faulkner. 

The elegant interior is a perfect place to celebrate special occasions like birthday parties and anniversaries. 

The restaurant features American cuisine. 

The menus change frequently based on the time of year and local produce. Some of the delicious dishes they have served include Seafood Bisque, Purée of Butternut Squash Soup, Oysters Rockefeller, Shrimp and Crabmeat Etoufee, Chicken Cordon Bleu, and Beef Tenderloin with Bacon, Cheese, Sour Cream, and Cabernet Sauce. 

The Ivy Inn also features delectable desserts like Crème Brûlée, Key Lime Pie, Pineapple-Walnut-Coconut Cake, and Sticky-Toffee Pudding Cake. 

You can also find many wines from area wineries on the menu.

12. Farm Bell Kitchen (Southern Cooking)

Farm Bell Kitchen is a great Charlottesville destination for Brunch and modern Southern cuisine. 

The restaurant is located in the historic Dinsmore Boutique Inn and features three dining rooms and three outdoor dining areas, which are perfect for eating outside during the warmer months.

The downtown Charlottesville restaurant serves Brunch 7 Days A Week from 8 am to 2 pm. The Brunch menu includes a wide selection of classics like Fried Green Tomatoes, Banana Beignets, Baked Brie, Salmon Bruschetta, Brisket Brunch Platter, Eggs Benedict, Chicken and Waffles, and Avocado Toast. 

Sweet dishes include Brioche French Toast with Bourbon-Glazed Bananas Foster, Belgian Waffle, and Three Buttermilk Pancakes with your choice of topping: Strawberry White Chocolate, House-Made Hazelnut, or Peaches and Cream.  

The Everyday menu includes Bayou Panini, Grilled Cheese, and Cajun Breakfast Sandwich. 

Glass of whisky
Photo by Adam Jaime on Unsplash

13. The Whiskey Jar (Southern Dishes and Whiskey)

The Whiskey Jar is another great place for southern comfort food in the Charlottesville area. The restaurant is located in the historic downtown mall. 

Their seasonal menu features locally sourced ingredients. An example of some of their dishes includes Oysters, BBQ Mac & Cheese, Shrimp & Grits, Blackened Catfish, and Hush Puppies. 

Some of their desserts include Southern staples like Bread Pudding with Maple Vanilla Sauce and Pecan Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream. 

You can also order sandwiches like the Fried Chicken Sandwich, Oyster Po’ Boy, and Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich. 

The Whiskey Jar also features a large variety of vegetarian options, including Hush Puppies and Garlic Cheese Biscuits, Black-Eyed Pea Hummus, and the Chilled Beet Salad.

Appropriately enough, The Whiskey Jar also features a wide selection of whiskey and whisky cocktails like a Whisky Sour, Old Fashioned, and Apple Pie Mule.

You can find a full menu online.

14. Sultan Kebab (Turkish)

Sultan Kebab is an excellent authentic Turkish restaurant in Charlottesville.

Some of their traditional Turkish dishes include Baba Ghanoush, Hummus Casserole, Dolma, Chicken Shish Kebab Sandwich, Shrimp Casserole Platter,

For dessert, you can order delicious Baklava, Rice Pudding, and Turkish Coffee with Turkish Delights.

They also have an extensive wine list and beer list, as well as a wide assortment of Turkish teas, coffees, and juices.

You can find a full menu online.

Where to Stay in Charlottesville, VA

Charlottesville is home to a number of great hotels with excellent amenities like indoor pools, fitness centers, and free breakfast. Below are my top recommendations for hotels in Charlottesville.

Omni Charlotteville Hotel

Omni Charlottesville Hotel is great for all of the amenities that you could need! They have a gorgeous, spacious lobby, indoor pool, outdoor pool, bar, restaurant, sauna, and fitness center. The hotel is also pet-friendly.

🛏️ Book your stay at the Omni Charlottesville Hotel by clicking here! 🛏️

Graduate Charlottesville 

If you’re looking for more of a boutique hotel, Graduate Charlottesville is a great choice. The hotel has loads of charm and personality. It also has an amazing rooftop patio.

🛏️ Book your stay at the Graduate Charlottesville by clicking here! 🛏️

Inn at Court Square

 The Inn at Court Square is a great choice for historic charm. The decor has a classic, historic touch with lots of wood paneling and brick accents. The breakfasts also earn high marks from guests.

🛏️ Book your stay at the Inn at Court Square by clicking here! 🛏️

Conclusion: The 14 Best Restaurants in Downtown Charlottesville, VA

With its rich history and strong ties to agriculture, Charlottesville, VA is a foodie’s paradise. You’re sure to find plenty of excellent restaurants in downtown Charlottesville to match any taste.

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