Updated on November 10, 2023 by Julie McCool
Our 21 favorite local restaurants in Charlottesville VA—from casual markets to special occasion and date night dining—offer unique flavors and menus in this historic Virginia city. Charlottesville is one of our favorite day trips and getaway destinations and we have visited it many times during our 25+ years in Virginia.
Central Virginia is rich with farms and wineries, and the chefs at Charlottesville restaurants take advantage of that bounty. Locally sourced ingredients are transformed into farm-to-table deliciousness at the restaurants listed below. That's why Charlottesville is a foodie destination that draws diners from around Virginia and the DC region.
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Plan your visit: Charlottesville Getaway to Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Home.
Favorite Local Restaurants in Charlottesville Virginia
We have sampled a wide variety of Cville restaurants, and we're rounding up our favorites here. Of course, these are not all of the best restaurants in Charlottesville. Rather, these are all local restaurants that we have personally tried, enjoyed, and are happy to recommend.
We worked with the Charlottesville Tourism Office for some of our meals while we dined at others on our own. And when our daughter was an engineering student at the University of Virginia (Go Hoos!) we had many opportunities to try different Charlottesville restaurants.
Restaurants below are grouped in three Charlottesville areas, then listed alphabetically:
- favorite Charlottesville Downtown Mall restaurants
- restaurants near the University of Virginia, ideal for a meal with your favorite UVA student
- favorite places to eat outside downtown Cville and in nearby Crozet.
Opening hours for the Charlottesville restaurants listed here were last updated in April 2022. Follow the links for the latest status as hours continue to shift as indoor dining reopens.
Restaurants in Charlottesville Downtown Mall
Charlottesville's historic downtown mall is one of the longest pedestrian malls in the country. Packed with eight blocks of excellent restaurants, bars, and shops, the mall is a fun daytime and date night destination.
Conveniently, all of the downtown mall restaurants are within an easy walk of public parking lots. In warmer months, many restaurants open outdoor seating areas where you can enjoy your meal with a side of people watching.
We sampled several of these downtown mall restaurants on an Evening Delight Food Tour, which has since closed. A food tour is a really fun and delicious way to try a variety of flavors, and every stop includes dishes paired with drinks. Our tour guide also shared interesting info about the architecture and history of the downtown mall.
Spending the night? We recommend the Residence Inn Charlottesville Downtown, located just a block from the pedestrian mall.
Here are some fantastic downtown Charlottesville restaurants to try.
The Alley Light – Elegant Shared Plates and Cocktails
Hidden in a small alley on 2nd Street is a fine dining Charlottesville restaurant with a cool bar and a speakeasy vibe. The Alley Light offers an upscale but accessible menu of small plates and shared boards, perfect for a group or date night out. The Bone Marrow with escargots is a dramatic and delicious plate to share. Pair your plates with wine, port, or a custom cocktail from the beautiful bar.
The Alley Light is open Wednesday to Sunday, 5:00 – 10:00. When the alley lantern is lit, the doors are open.
The Bebedero – Refined Mexican
Pretty lanterns fill the ceiling in the dining room of this modern Mexican restaurant. The restaurant occupies a second-floor location on the western end of the pedestrian mall. The menu is refined, with shared plates and entrees that are a cut above most American-style Mexican.
Don't miss one of the excellent craft cocktails from the bar or the non-alcoholic and delicious Aqua de Horchata.
Bebedero is open 12:00 – 10:00 daily and closed Sunday.
If you prefer a casual spot, the tacos at La Michoacana Taqueria, east of the downtown mall.
Bizou – Virginia Classics with French Flair
Pair a bustling diner interior with excellent scratch-made and locally-sourced dishes and you are sure to draw a crowd. Bizou bustles at lunch, filling a compact area of booths and tables with hungry diners. A full bar, good wine list, and craft beer and cider selection round out the dining experience.
We are fans of the house-made Butternut Squash Ravioli, one of several vegetarian options on the menu. On the other hand, you can also stick with classics like meatloaf or chicken pot pie. Either way, leave room for the grilled banana bread with ice cream, and caramel sauce.
Bizou is open for lunch 11:30 – 2:00 weekdays, brunch 11:00 to 2:00 weekends, and dinner 5:00 – 9:00 daily (weekends to 10:00).
Brasserie Saison – Belgian Classics
Head to Brasserie Saison for small plates, steak frites, and a wonderful selection of beer and wine. The atmosphere is casual but date-night appropriate, and the menu focuses on Belgian and Dutch favorites. Mussels fans can choose traditional or House Style Moules Frites with beer, bacon, garlic, and chiles. Delicious!
Brasserie Saison is open 5:00 – 10:00 daily (Wednesday to 9:00) and it closed Tuesday.
Citizen Burger Bar – Excellent Burgers on the Mall
Citizen Burger Bar is on our list of favorite burger restaurants in Virginia. Big, juicy, locally-sourced burgers are accompanied by equally tasty fries. Visit on a warm day and enjoy an outdoor table or head inside to the cozy booths and long bar. Citizen emphasizes fresh ingredients, teaming with area farms to source their grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, and local produce, cheese, and bread. Pair your meal with local craft beer and you have a winning combo.
Citizen Burger Bar is open daily 11:00 – midnight, but the kitchen closes at 10:30 (11:30 on weekends).
Draft Taproom – Beer Taps + Bar Food
Draft Taproom temporarily closed in 2020 and has not reopened as of April 2022.
The vibe is even more casual at Draft Taproom, which draws beer lovers with a huge selection of pour-your-own craft brews. Accompany your beer with a selection of wings, apps, sandwiches, and salads. Fries with beer cheese and bacon hit the spot for us.
Draft Taproom is open daily 11:00 – midnight, Thursday – Saturday to 1:30.
Himalayan Fusion – Excellent Himalayan Flavors
Explore a more unusual food selection at Himalayan Fusion, on the east end of the downtown mall. The lunch buffet is not currently available, but the restaurant is open for dinner, in-person dining and takeout. Biryani, Tandoor meat and veg dishes, and Tibetan specials like Momos are all tasty and filling.
Himalayan Fusion is open Monday to Saturday 4:00 – 8:00 and is closed Sunday.
Orzo Kitchen and Wine Bar – Classic Mediterranean
Just two blocks from the downtown mall, Orzo Kitchen and Wine Bar serves up classic Mediterranean dishes with a modern flair. The chef-led restaurant creates tasty dishes with Italian, Greek, and Spanish flavors.
Tables at Orzo are flanked by a wall of bright murals and an open kitchen, a wonderful backdrop to the food. The vibe and menu are refined enough for a date night or business meal, but relaxed enough for a casual night out with friends.
Orzo is open Monday – Sunday 4:00 – 9:00.
Paradox Pastry – Bakery Specials
Paradox Pastry is just two blocks from the downtown mall, and it's a convenient spot for breakfast or lunch in Charlottesville. We like the hand pies and quiche, and they also offer a few sandwich and salad options if you're avoiding sweets.
Paradox Pastry is open 7:00 – 5:30 weekdays, 7:00 – 4:00 Saturday, closed Sunday.
Tilman's Wine Bar and Cafe – Light Meals + Wine
If your goal is to relax, sip, and enjoy a snack or light meal, head to Tilman's Wine Bar and Cafe. The relaxed space welcomes foodies and wine lovers with delicious cheese boards, small plates, salads, and sandwiches.
The friendly staff can help you create the perfect pairing with their extensive wine list and cheese selection.
Tilman's is open daily 11:00 – 10:00 (to 9:00 Sunday).
Restaurants in Charlottesville Near UVA
We love to eat at the historic Charlottesville Downtown Mall, but there are more excellent restaurants nearby. The Charlottesville local dining scene extends down Main Street all the way to the University of Virginia. This area is especially convenient for anyone attending or visiting UVA.
Happily, you can travel between destinations on a free trolley. If the weather is nice, consider walking to your restaurant of choice. The Rotunda at UVA is an easy 1.5 mile walk from the downtown mall.
Bodo's Bagels – Cville's Bagel Emporium
Bodo's Bagels have been serving fresh, tasty bagels to UVA students and locals since 1988. If you crave a bagel in Cville, you have to head to Bodo's. The counter-service restaurant has three locations, including one on “The Corner” across the street from UVA.
Create your own bagel sandwich, or choose from several salads and sides, if you want a more substantial meal. Choose from a fun and tasty selection of flavored cream cheeses like Jalapeno Lime and Honey Pecan.
The Corner location of Bodo's Bagels is open 7:00 – 3:00 weekdays, 8:00 – 3:00 weekends.
Farm Bell Kitchen – Southern Farm-to-Fork
Our favorite stop for a leisurely brunch in Charlottesville is Farm Bell Kitchen, on Main Street close to UVA. There's a take-out counter for sweets and to-go items, but we prefer to eat on-site in one of the lovely rooms of this converted home.
Everything we have tried at Farm Bell Kitchen is delicious, and the Shrimp and Grits are among the best we have had anywhere. If you crave sweet, you can't go wrong with the Bananas Foster French Toast.
Farm Bell Kitchen is open for breakfast and brunch 8:00 – 2:00 daily.
Foods of All Nations – Fresh Grocery Store Deli
With a grocery store feel and a small cafe area, we generally head to Foods of All Nations for take-out. The deli offers a nice selection of prepared food or you can have sandwiches made to order. There is also a salad and soup bar if you want a lighter meal. Last visit we had a Shrimp Po'Boy with fried okra that was very tasty.
Foods of All Nations is open daily 7:30 – 7:00, Sunday 10:00 – 5:00.
Oakhurst Inn Cafe – Breakfast and Brunch Near UVA
Even closer to UVA, and also serving a very tasty breakfast menu, is Oakhurst Inn Cafe. We first tried the cafe when staying at the Oakhurst Inn, but we return even when we are staying further away.
Oakhurst is a nice, relaxed place to take your student out for breakfast. The custom omelets are wonderful, and the bacon is always perfectly cooked.
Oakhurst Inn Cafe is open daily, 8:00 – 2:00.
The Ridley – Elevated Southern Cuisine
In 2021, The Ridley opened downstairs at the hip Draftsman Hotel in the space formerly occupied by Renewal. The restaurant's name is an homage to Dr. Walter N. Ridley, the first Black student to graduate from UVA.
The menu features elevated Southern cuisine and cocktails in a lovely indoor-outdoor space about halfway between the pedestrian mall and UVA. Students—tell your parents to stay at the Draftsman and spring for dinner downstairs the next time they visit.
The Ridley is open daily 7:00 – 10:00, to midnight weekends.
Roots Natural Kitchen – Healthy, Vegan and Vegetarian-Friendly
Another favorite restaurant on The Corner near UVA is Roots Natural Kitchen. The restaurant was created by UVA Business School grads on a mission to deliver healthy, affordable, and delicious food made with natural ingredients. Diners choose from a variety of grains, greens, vegetables, nuts, cheese, meats, and dressings to create the perfect bowl of flavor. Take your meal to go or relax at one of the tables upstairs.
Roots Natural Kitchen Charlottesville is open weekdays 10:30 – 10:00, weekends 11:00 – 10:00.
Favorite Places to Eat in Charlottesville Beyond the Downtown
Here are more great Charlottesville restaurants away from the downtown and UVA area.
Ace Biscuit & Barbecue – Barbecue and Breakfast
You'll often find a solid line of hungry diners at Ace Biscuit & Barbecue, located north of downtown in the Ross Hill neighborhood. Here you can indulge your love of barbecue with a brontosaurus-size order of ribs, pulled pork, brisket, fried chicken. Of course, they also serve delicious barbeque sauce and all the traditional sides you'd expect.
Ace is also a great stop for breakfast sandwiches built around their giant biscuits. Seating is minimal so be prepared to stand along the wall or get your food to go.
Ace Biscuit & Barbecue is open 8:00 – 3:00 daily.
Carter Mountain Orchard – Food with a View
You'll find a casual take-out menu, local Bold Rock Cider, and delicious apple cider donuts at Carter Mountain Orchard. Best of all, you can enjoy your meal with the most beautiful views in Charlottesville on the open deck or patio.
The orchard is perched on the ridge of Carter Mountain with an open vista of Cville and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. Thomas Jefferson's Monticello is just up the road, but even TJ can't match this view.
Carter Mountain Orchard is open year-round, but hours vary by season and there are usually extended sunset hours in summer.
Crozet Creamery – Indulgent Ice Cream
When you're craving a treat, Crozet Creamery has got you covered. This local ice cream shop makes all of their flavors daily, from scratch. Flavors reach from the traditional vanilla and chocolate, to unusual combinations like Whiskey and Fig or Sweet Potato Casserole. Sundaes and milk shakes round out the menu.
Crozet Creamery is open noon – 8:00 daily, weekends to 9:00, with extended hours in summer.
Crozet Pizza – Top-rated Pizza
Take a short drive west to the quaint town of Crozet to enjoy some exceptionally good pizza. National Geographic included Crozet Pizza on their “Best in World” list, and Fodor named the casual restaurant both “Best in State” and “Best in USA.” We absolutely loved The Hittie, a rich pie covered in sausage, onion, and peppers.
Cozet Pizza is open Wednesday and Thursday 3:30 – 8:30, Friday – Sunday 11:30 – 9:30.
Pizza fans should also check out Christian's Pizza. Their location in The Corner is convenient when visiting UVA and their downtown location is convenient to the pedestrian mall. Both locations serve great pizza, by the slice or whole (giant) pie.
Mas Tapas – Spanish Tapas
A short drive from the downtown mall, Mas Tapas serves excellent Spanish tapas in a hip and busy space in the Belmont neighborhood. Diners share cocktails and plates at the long bar, tables on two levels, and a small patio outside. Many of the ingredients are locally sourced, and it's easy to sample a variety of flavors with a selection of tapa plates.
Mas Tapas is open Tuesday – Saturday 4:45 – 9:30.
That is our list of favorite local restaurants in Charlottesville VA, for now. Whether you want a sweet snack, a casual meal, or a refined dining experience, you'll find tasty options on our list. Now we're looking forward to our next visit.
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