Law Weekly Editorial Staff
Charlottesville is known for having the most restaurants per capita in the country. As the recent winner of the “best place to eat in Charlottesville” debate written in this paper, I feel eminently qualified to introduce you to the basics of the Charlottesville food scene.
North Grounds / North Grounds Adjacent:
Let’s start with the basics: you’ve got an hour between class, and you can’t handle another Scoco Chicken Caesar wrap. Here are your basic options near the Law School. You’ve got Zzaam, a Korean rice bowl place a little bit past Barracks, which is honestly delicious and very underpriced. There’s also Cookout right next to Zzaam, in case you want to see how terrible you can make your body feel for just $2.80. Plus, they have milkshakes, so that’s good.
In Barracks itself, you have some classic brands. There’s a Chipotle, but it is always SUPER busy with undergrads who call it “Potle.” The real pros always order ahead online, or go to the other Chipotle a little further away in Pantops. There is also a Ruby Tuesday, at which I have seen a total of two people eating during my three years in Charlottesville. Very unclear how they are staying in business. There’s a pizza place called Brixx, which has a decent lunch deal with a half pizza and half salad for ten bucks. Not amazing pizza but not too bad. Sedona is also near the Law School, but the real reason to go to Sedona is for its happy hour (3 to 6 everyday, mark your calendars). The food is fine for lining your stomach after a couple of martinis, but otherwise isn’t really worth stopping by.
There’s a fair amount of fast food around North Grounds. There’s Arby’s, McDonald’s, Subway, and Taco Bell. But the crown jewel of North Grounds is Wings Over Charlottesville. Cheap, delicious wings, open until 3am, and they deliver. Do yourself a favor and order the parmesan garlic fries.
If you’re ever on the Corner during the day, I definitely recommend going to Trinity. While Trinity at night is a hotbed for physical violence and poorly-made drinks, during the day it has pretty decent pub food and a fine beer selection. Apparently Bilt has okay food but you can judge for yourself whether that’s a good idea or not. There’s also Pigeon Hole if you are interested in brunch that is overpriced.
For all of those other times you’re on the Corner (read: only at night), the move is dumplings at Marco and Luca. Be forewarned that the line in the store is really confusing, and if you cut in front of a drunk undergrad, you will be yelled at and possibly lectured by a sophomore Philosophy major about morality. But trust me, the dumplings are worth it.
For the two Thursdays a semester that Bar Review isn’t at Bilt, Boylan has okay food sometimes. People also talk about the White Spot, but I am not really sure why.
The Downtown Mall:
Here’s where the focal point of your dining experiences in Charlottesville should be fixed. There are tons of great places on the Downtown Mall, so I encourage you to try all of them. I’ll just point out a few of my favorites.
Whiskey Jar is a great place to get some classic Southern food with a fancier twist. Delicious corn bread, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, collard greens, etc. They have a great meal where you can just pick a bunch of sides all together as your meal. Definitely worth it. Their drinks are okay, but not worth the price, especially given the number of better bars on the Downtown Mall.
Jack Brown’s is a great spot to get a fairly cheap burger and fries; if you’re a JMU alum, then you already know how great Jack Brown’s is. It is pretty busy and seating is a little limited, but the food and the price are definitely worth the wait. Compare with Citizen Burger, which, in my opinion, is exactly the opposite. The burgers at CB are pretty bland, and they are wayyy too expensive for how meh they are.
Miller’s has pretty good food and some good beer on tap; its major bonus is that NO ONE is ever there (if you don’t mind a pretty thick smell of cigarette smoke). There’s also Now and Zen, a great sushi place just a block off the Mall. It’s a little pricey but the sushi is really good, probably the best tasting sushi in Charlottesville.
Pretty much anywhere in the Belmont area is delicious and really expensive. Wait for your parents, sugar parents, or firm to take you out to these places. Mas, The Local, Tavola, etc. All great places. But you can skip the new BBQ place next to the Local. It’s pretty average food, a little on the dry side, and not worth the money. Another Belmont notable is Lampo Pizza. Open late, this pizza joint is pretty good, putting some new twists on classic pizzas.
A little ways up on Route 29, there is Love Sushi King (LSK). At LSK, you pay $17 (maybe $14 for lunch), and you get UNLIMITED items off their menu. That’s right. Unlimited. Their sushi, their sashimi, their hibachi, their appetizers: all unlimited, all for just $17. You can literally gorge yourself on the hedonism. Is it the absolute best tasting sushi in the world? No, probably not, but it’s pretty decent for what it is, and I again repeat, UNLIMITED. I highly recommend the crab Rangoon; my personal record at one sitting is eight orders.
I’m sure I’ve left great restaurants off this list, but they’re playing that music from the Oscars to make award winners stop talking, so I’ve got to bounce. Catch you at Wings Over!
At some point in law school, you’re going to need a drink or ten. The two main areas you’ll want to hit up are the Downtown Mall (pros: no undergrads, more upscale; cons: wayyyyy more expensive and further away) and the Corner (just reverse the pros and cons from above). Notable stops on the Downtown Mall are Commonwealth’s Skybar (overlooking the mall area), Whiskey Jar (be sure to try some of their Southern-inspired items on their menu), and Alley Light. If you’re looking to dance out your stress while enjoying a cocktail, there’s no better place on the Mall than Éscafe. While it markets itself as a gay bar, people of all genders and sexualities flock there for the great music and large(ish) dance floor.
The Corner, more central to university nightlife, has a wider variety of choices for the casual (or less casual) drinker. Biltmore (Bilt) is the “law school bar,” the default stop for law students, but when it gets cold enough to close the outdoor area, the upstairs bar becomes super crowded – claustrophobes beware. Across the street, Coupes is the opposite situation – there’s tons of room because no one goes there. Around the corner, the Virginian is another law school favorite, but the venue is extremely small, and if you or a friend doesn’t get a table early, it’s almost not worth it. But once the crowd gets rowdy enough, people start to dance on the tables. Cf. Trinity, the Ke$ha of bars. After 11:30pm, the top floor becomes a huge dance floor, perfect for dancing those boozy calories away.
Charlottesville’s location, between the Clinch Mountains of Virginia where country music was born and the major East Coast music circuits, lends it a fantastic blend of attractions that come to town. We are the proud birthplace of the Dave Matthews Band, and with so many venues friendly to up-and-coming musicians; it is easy to see how the Band developed. Here are a few of my favorite spots to hear live music:
John Paul Jones Arena
A short walk from the Law School, Charlottesville’s largest venue seats over 14,500 guests and hosts all of the big name acts such as Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift, and Cirque du Soleil. The arena may be more notably home to the University of Virginia Cavalier Basketball Team, and students (yes, even law students) are encouraged to reserve their free ticket to support the ‘Hoos!
The Jefferson Theater
This theater has a folksy reputation, probably because it has attracted artists like Shakey Graves, Brandi Carlile, and Trampled by Turtles to name a few. But to say this is an Americana joint would be a misnomer: The Jefferson has played host to pop bands like Fitz and the Tantrums to the ravey electronic band Lotus to Southern rapper Big K.R.I.T.
Twisted Tea Branch Bazaar
This tiny hole in the wall, nearly hidden on the Downtown Mall, is the perfect chill spot to hear local bands and poets for cheap ($5-7 cover). Along with an impressive tea and small plates selection, you can also listen to music in their hookah lounge and patio.
1 We tried to track down a source for this fact, but it seems like it was started as a rumor by Professor Bowers back in 1940.
2 No, seriously, ask Ryan Caira. He totally admitted that Maya was great.
3 Although I don’t know if it’s possible to have too many of those wraps.
4 I shit you not.
5 Fair warning: there will be undergrads. Something something The Hills Have Eyes.
7 Don't be fooled. Bar Review is always at Bilt. But legally, SBA is required to pick other places sometimes.
8 But see below.