Charlottesville Food Tour - Bursting With Local Characters

Time for a trip on a Charlottesville Food Tour.  Charlottesville is often described as a foodie’s paradise, and if you look around this little town, it’s easy to see why. Two years ago the Huffington Post listed Charlottesville in the top 15 cities in the nation for restaurants per-capita. For anyone asking what to do in Charlottesville, checking out some of the top restaurants in town is a must! With so many fine eateries to choose from however, you could spend a whole vacations’ worth of time just trying to figure our where to grab lunch!  Charlottesville’s food scene is booming, with something worth trying for just about every taste.  

Part of the growing national trend known as the Locavore Movement, many folks in Charlottesville are attempting to connect consumers with ingredients grown and sourced from local growers and producers. The aim is to cut the carbon footprint of the food we eat and support local small businesses, to name just two of the many benefits. Another happy byproduct is fresh, healthy food that tastes amazing. If you need convincing of this, check out Esquire Magazine, which just named Virginia its Top Food Region of 2014, stating, “The Old Dominion has seemingly overnight exploded into one of the country's greatest gastro regions.”

While it’s nice to see the nation catching on to what’s going on around the Commonwealth, Cville locals will tell you we’ve been doing this local-gastro focused cuisine thing for years! Centuries, if you want to hark back to Charlottesville’s most famous foodie resident, Mr. Thomas Jefferson.  On a historical tour of Monticello, it’s hard not to gravitate towards the immaculate and historically accurate gardens. The variety of fruits and vegetables Jefferson managed to grow in good old Virginia red clay is truly staggering. And when you enter the house and hear about the extensive and elaborate dishes that were prepared, it’s hard not to salivate. Just don’t drool, as it’s a historic property after all. Inspired by global cuisine, Jefferson was a true gourmand, attempting to live a European foodie’s life in the Virginia countryside.  By all accounts, he succeeded!

If you wanted to find the modern day heart of the Charlottesville’s food scene, a good place to start might be one of the multiple farmers’ markets held each week.  Starting in early spring and held all the way through December, you can find a market selling local produce and goods on nearly every day of the week- a pretty amazing fact given the size of this town. Without a doubt the granddaddy of them all, Charlottesville’s Central Market is a maze of wondrous food options for buyers who want to meet the person who pulled their food out of the ground or raised the cow they are about to slap on the grill.  While wandering around the colorful stalls, there’s a good chance you’ll bump into a local chef, gathering elements for the night’s special dish.

The word “scene” conjures up images of groupies and rock bands, or fans swooning at the sight of the latest starlet to grace the big screen. But in many ways, this image is not too far off the reality of Charlottesville’s foodie world. I have personally heard the whispers of awe as a revered chef walks into the dining room, onlookers excited to see a master of their craft. It might be somewhat shameful that I’d have trouble picking the mayor out of a line up, but I could tell you at a glance who cooks the best fried chicken in town (hint, they also sell gas for your car!) I guess you can count this Food Trail Guide as one of the groupies!

One of more recent developments in Charlottesville is a revitalization of neighborhoods, showing a reimagining of existing spaces as cutting edge eateries.  Neighborhoods like Belmont are home to authentic Spanish tapas joints and traditional Neapolitan pizzerias. Rose Hill is serving up slow roasted pork, cooked to perfection as well as croissants that look as if they came straight out of a Parisian baker’s case. The downtown mall continues to evolve, while Midtown gets a new sense of chic with upscale seafood restaurants and cocktail lounges. Even Route 29 North, previously the domain of strip malls and big box stores, now has its own purveyors of local ingredients and interesting international flavors. With so many foodie neighborhoods to explore, you almost need a food tour just to navigate it all!

When coming to Charlottesville as a visitor, trying some of the traditional southern fare is a must. It’s the ultimate expression of local, drawing both from regional ingredients as well as recipes. There are local places that specialize in the holy trinity of Southern staples- buttery biscuits, slow cooked meats, and waffles- Chicken and Waffles, to be accurate! Cville is full of up and coming chefs, playing with classic dishes with a youthful spin, showing how good simple food can be with a dedication to preparation, local sourcing, and innovation.

Burger with Pimento Cheese and Homemade Pickles! 

Burger with Pimento Cheese and Homemade Pickles! 

When I decided to move to Charlottesville a few years ago from a major metropolitan city, one of the major draws what the ability to live in the country while not giving up good sushi. Well, good sushi and authentic Mexican, and Thai Curry, and a REAL bagel…. you get the idea! Charlottesville is fortunate to have a range of restaurants exploring an astounding array of traditional cuisines. Due in part to a vibrant immigrant population, and in part to a worldly university community open to trying new and novel foods, there is a whole globe worth of food options to explore.  

With all the amazing innovators and traditionalists in the Charlottesville food scene, it’s the perfect place to take a food tour. In today’s online world, every restaurant, local food purveyor, and hot dog stand has a presence online, complete with gushing reviews.  In many ways, a review-based system is the great equalizer, letting you know which places are the best based on the actual experiences of actual customers. But with so much information out there, how do you choose and sort the hyperbole from the truth? And more importantly, do you want to be doing that research on your vacation? In our experience, the best meals I’ve eaten while visiting a town as a tourist have all come from a local’s recommendations.  These are the people who, in an instant, can cut through the noise and send you straight to a meal or tasting you’ll never forget!  

In a foodie’s paradise like Charlottesville, one easy answer to all such questions is to head out on a guided food tour, where your local guide can confidently say the places they are taking you represent a great cross section of the best restaurants and food purveyors in town. If you’ve seen Jefferson’s Monticello and sipped at winery or two and still left wondering what to do in Charlottesville VA, there is no better way than guided food tour to show you what culinary pleasures await.  You can head out on the Charlottesville foodie trail in comfort and style for what is sure to be a memorable day of tasting the best the Piedmont has to offer! Give us a call or book online using our easy reservation system today!

Mmmm Cheeeeseeee

Mmmm Cheeeeseeee