Our 21 favorite local restaurants in Charlottesville VA—from casual markets to special occasion and date night dining options—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 many times during our 25 years in Virginia.
All of those visits introduced us to a wide variety of Cville restaurants, and we’re rounding up our favorites here. Of course, this is not a complete listing of the best restaurants in Charlottesville. Rather, these are all local restaurants that we have personally tried, enjoyed, and are happy to recommend.
2021 Update: Some businesses may be closed or operating with new restrictions and hours. Always check ahead to confirm current status.
Charlottesville Tourism hosted some of our meals at these restaurants, while we dined at others on our own.
Plan your visit with our complete guide: Charlottesville Getaway to Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Home.
Favorite Local Restaurants in Charlottesville Virginia
Restaurants below are grouped in three general locations, then listed alphabetically. First, we highlight our favorite restaurants on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall. Next are restaurants close to the University of Virginia, ideal for a meal with your favorite UVA student. Finally, we share favorite places to eat outside downtown Cville and in nearby Crozet.
Restaurants in Charlottesville Downtown Mall
Charlottesville’s historic downtown mall, one of the longest pedestrian malls in the country, is packed with eight blocks or excellent restaurants, bars, and shops. The mall is a fun date night destination and all of the 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 a Charlottesville Evening Delight Food Tour (thanks to Charlottesville Tourism). This 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. The 2.5-hour tour is $79 and you will finish very full and happy.
Spending the night? We really enjoyed our stay at the Residence Inn Charlottesville Downtown and it is just a block from the pedestrian mall.
Here are some of our favorite restaurants on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall.
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 5:00 – 10:00 nightly except Mondays. When the alley lantern is lit, the doors are open.
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 11:00 – 10:00 daily, with extra weekend hours for brunch and late night dining.
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. 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. A full bar, good wine list, and craft beer and cider selection round out the experience.
Bizou is open for lunch 11:30 – 2:00 daily (Saturday to 2:30; Sunday from 11:00), 5:00 – 9:00 daily, weekends to 10:00.
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 11:00 – 10:00 daily with later weekend hours.
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).
Commonwealth Restaurant and Skybar
Commonwealth Restaurant and Skybar has closed permanently.
Another good option for a group meal or date night is Commonwealth Restaurant and Skybar. The focus at Commonwealth is American dishes with a Virginia flair. Se stopped in for appetizers and enjoyed absolutely delicious small plate of halibut and housemade gnocchi. Enjoy a pre- or after-dinner drink at the upstairs Skybar, and open patio with great views of the mall.
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.
Explore a more unusual food selection at Himalayan Fusion, on the east end of the downtown mall. We recommend a lunch visit so you can sample a selection fo dishes from the buffet menu. Biryani, Tandoor meat and veg dishes, and Tibetan specials like Momos are all tasty and filling.
Himalayan Fusion is open weekdays for lunch (buffet) 11:30 – 2:30, dinner 5:00 – 9:00, weekends to 9:30, and is closed Sunday.
Just two blocks from the mall, Orzo Kitchen and Wine Bar serves up classic Mediterranean dishes with a modern flair. Bright murals cover the wall, a perfect backdrop to classic dished from Italy, Spain, Greece, and Southern France. 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 for lunch Monday – Saturday 11:00 – 3:00; dinner 5:30 – 9:00 daily, Thursday to 9:30, Friday + Saturday to 10:00.
Paradox Pastry is just two blocks from the downtown mall, so it’s a convenient spot for breakfast or a treat. 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.
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 wine and cheese pairing.
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. We had many opportunities to sample area restaurants when our daughter was a student at UVA (go Hoos!).
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 has been serving fresh, tasty bagels to UVA students and Charlottesville residents 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.
The Corner location of Bodo’s Bagels is open 7:00 – 8:00 weekdays, 8:00 – 4:00 weekends.
Our favorite stop for a leisurely breakfast or brunch 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 is delicious, but the Shrimp and Grits is 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 8:00 – 2:00 daily and brunch is served every day.
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 – 8:00, Sunday 10:00 – 6:00.
Even closer to UVA, and also serving a very tasty breakfast menu, is Oakhurst Inn Cafe. We first tried the cafe when we spent a weekend at the Oakhurst Inn, but we return even when we are staying further away. This 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 7:00 – 2:00 weekdays, 8:00 – 2:00 on weekends.
Update: Renewal has closed permanently. The Ridley is opening in 2021 in the space formerly occupied by Renewal.
Renewal serves elevated Southern cuisine in a lovely indoor-outdoor space about halfway between the pedestrian mall and UVA. One of our favorite spots for fine dining in Charlottesville VA, the restaurant is on the bottom floor of the hip Draftsman Hotel. UVA students—tell your parents to stay at the Draftsman and spring for dinner downstairs the next time they visit.
Another favorite 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.
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, and all the traditional sides and fixins you’d expect. This 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 and Bold Rock Cider
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.
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.
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 – Monday at 11:30, closed Tuesday.
A short drive from the downtown mall, Mas Tapas serves excellent Spanish tapas in a hip and busy space on Monticello Road. 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 Monday – Wednesday 5:30 – 11:00, Thursday – Sunday to 2:00 am.
About 3 miles easy of the downtown mall is Shadwell’s Restaurant. Here you’ll find classic Virginia cuisine in a comfortable space, named for Thomas Jefferson’s birthplace. Shadwell’s is known for their Chesapeake Bay-inspired seafood, and we recommend the delicious fried oysters and tasty crab cakes.
Shadwell’s is open Monday – Wednesday 11:00 – 9:00, Thursday + Friday to 10:00, Saturday 10:00 – 10:00, and Sunday 10:00 – 9:00.
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. What other local Cville restaurants should be on our list?
Plan a local getaway! Find beautiful and unique places to stay in and near Northern Virginia with our guides:
- 17 Amazing Northern Virginia Airbnb and Vacation Rentals
- 17 Fantastic Northern Virginia Wine Country Vacation Rentals
- 21 Fantastic Weekend Getaways In and Near Northern Virginia
- 22 Fabulous Romantic Getaways from Washington DC
Published in 2019, updated 2021.