Top 5 Pizzerias in Charlottesville

Or, more accurately, top five pizzerias in the Charlottesville area. Despite the modern pizza’s roots in Naples, Italy, the delicious combination of flatbread, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and various toppings has long occupied a place in American hearts, notable for its status as “the only thing my kid will eat.” We can’t live without pizza; it’s good for sporting events, birthday parties, and getting people to come to interest meetings. Enough already…you know what pizza is. But do you know where it is? Now you do. Take a look at our picks for five of the best pizza joints to land in the Charlottesville area! Many of these spots get bonus points for sourcing their ingredients from central Virginia farms. Note: We’ve only included local spots, but you probably already know that Cville has a laundry list of all your favorite pizza chains. Anyway, let’s get started!

1. Dr Ho’s Humble Pie

Our #1 pick for sure. The self-described “Alternative Pizza” has been a personal favorite for as long as this author can remember. It was love at first bite. The spot is located just south of Charlottesville, in North Garden , a small “town” in Albemarle County. It’s been around since the late 90s (which makes it older than you’d think, at first), adopting an artisanal, handcrafted approach to good pizza. This means housemade dough, local beer, and a whole bevy of fresh ingredients locally-sourced from a plethora of farms in the Charlottesville area…places like Belair Farm, Double H Farm, Caromont Farm…the list goes on. It’s also worth stopping in to Dr. Ho’s to eat your pie there; they cultivate an open, inviting atmosphere. Don’t be surprised to see a bluegrass quartet pickin’ away while you sip a beer and wait for your pizza. A comfortable, delicious affair.

Favorite pie: A two way tie between the Popeye (spinach, caramelized onions, artichoke hearts, roasted garlic, mozzarella, cheddar) and the Lil Mermaid (shrimp, house-made basil pesto, roasted tomatoes, cheddar, feta, and mozzarella)

2. Lampo

If you are Lampo, and you’ve somehow been imbued with consciousness, and are reading this, please know it wasn’t an easy decision and that you are a close second. Lampo is Italian for “lightning,” probably one of the more appropriate descriptions of a place that churns out a pie in 90 seconds. But “churns” make it sound like fast food, which it certainly is not. The folks at this authentic Neapolitan pizzeria are steeped in culinary tradition, taking their cues from the great pizza makers of Italy. That means San Marzano tomatoes and fresh buffalo mozzarella…if you doubt their commitment, check out the 3-ton brick oven. They keep wood burning throughout the day, making sure the oven gets up to 1000 degrees…whoa. A lot of their producers are Charlottesville farms: Free Union Farm, JM Stock and Provisions, and Wolf Creek Farm just to name a few.

Favorite pie: Technically it’s a panuozzi (a sort of pizza/sandwich hybrid) but the muffuletta (prosciutto, salami, mortadella, giardiniera, provolone). Also can’t go wrong with a good margherita pizza.

3. Crozet Pizza

This spot has a lot of history in the area around Charlottesville and Crozet. In a way, it epitomizes the small-town charm of a place like Crozet. We’ll explain: In 1977, Bob and Karen Crum bought an unoccupied building in Crozet. The original Crozet Pizza was pretty small…it had only five tables, all of which were handcrafted by Bob himself. The couple teamed up to build a successful pizza place from the ground up. Karen perfected Crozet Pizza’s inimitable dough recipe while Bob concocted the sauce from scratch. Pretty soon that tiny, five-table restaurant started getting calls for orders days in advance. The same recipes are in use today, under the ownership of Colleen, their daughter, although the wait time is considerably shorter. There’s also a location on some prime real estate in Charlottesville proper, steps away from UVa’s campus. We can’t tell you exactly what makes Karen Crum’s secret dough recipe so delicious, but we’re willing to go broke trying to figure it out.

Favorite pie: The “Meet Me in Crozet” (Pepperoni, sausage, and meatballs)

4. Christian’s Pizza

Charlottesville pizza purists might agree with the order of this list, but even they would agree that Christian’s is the most ubiquitous name in Cville pizza. That comes from over one-and-a-half decades of hard work by the titular Christian Tamm himself. The franchise started with a location in downtown Charlottesville, at the heart of the pedestrian mall. It soon opened up locations in Pantops, on the UVa Corner, and in Richmond, VA between West Franklin and West Grace Street. The secret? Fast, fresh, delicious pizza at affordable prices. We’ll let you in on a little secret…each Christian’s is different. The Corner location is great for a quick slice of cheese after a night out. The downtown location is perfect for lounging and people-watching, especially from its elegant patio. If you’re grabbing a few pies for a group/party/event, hit up Pantops. Either way, you’re in for a treat!

Favorite pie: Spinach and feta (spinach, feta, sauteed mushrooms, diced tomatoes, garlic)

5. College Inn

Bringing up the rear is the almighty College Inn (not to be pronounced like or confused with collagen), a place that has transcended typical “restaurant” status and become an institution. It’s been around since 1953! This place is older than the president! Some of the delivery drivers have stories about delivering hundreds of pizzas to UVa libraries and fraternities during Finals Week…and this was before cellphones mind you. This place keeps its lofty place in our hearts because it delivers, rain, snow or shine until 2am every single day. College Inn, you’re playing a dangerous game, but we love it. In fact, this is the only delivery joint on our list. It’s the only one you need, whether you’re lounging at home or planning a tailgate. They’re here for you, long after Domino’s and Papa John’s have closed their doors.

Favorite pie: Chicken alfredo (grilled chicken, sliced mushrooms, ham with mozzarella & parmesan cheeses, alfredo sauce base)

Dave Matthews Band Turns 25, Returns to Charlottesville

Other than Thomas Jefferson, it’s tough to think of a name more synonymous with the spirit of Charlottesville than Dave Matthews. Once a bartender at the city’s most prestigious dive bar, Dave (we’re clearly on a first name basis here) and his band of Cville locals rose to unexpected heights of fame, selling out arenas worldwide and earning two Grammy Awards for his anthemic vocal performances. Many of the guys in Dave’s band got their starts here…keyboardist Butch Taylor plays John D’earth’s weekly gig at Millers, the same bar where Dave worked and where saxophonist LeRoi Moore played before DMB had even started. On May 11, 1991, the Dave Matthews Band (DMB) played its first show. Now, 25 years later on May 7, they will return to town, playing an anniversary show at John Paul Jones Arena.

Matthews is known and celebrated in this town for more than just his music. In 1999, he bought 10 acres of land in Albemarle County, and his Blenheim Vineyards wine is a testament to not only the viticultural potential of land in the Piedmont region, but also his commitment to preservation and conservation. When the band hit it big, they gave back…they’ve donated an estimated $40 million to grants and charity in the Ville (and elsewhere) through the Bama Works Fund, administered by the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation. So it should come as no surprise that the proceeds from May’s show (an estimated $1 million) will go to charity. Face it, when it comes to Charlottesville heroes, Dave is starting to make even TJ look like a normal guy. In honor of the many gifts given, hearts won, and shows to come, we’ve picked out a couple of our favorite classic DMB songs. He’ll doubtlessly play some of these at the May 7 show at John Paul Jones Arena.

“Don’t Drink the Water”

The first single off of Before These Crowded Streets, “Don’t Drink the Water” opens with a murky, sludgy kind of bass groove, fleshed out by a frothing, bubbling banjo rhythm courtesy of Bela Fleck. Dave’s lead vocal is supplemented by the wailing cries of Alanis Morissette; together the two reach a fever pitch. Lyrics like “No room for both, just room for me” reflect Dave’s social consciousness. The song is about South African apartheid and the subjugation of Native Americans.


#41 begins with a light, hip drum groove, heavily syncopated. The tune is a testament to Dave’s trademark style; drifting purposely through a myriad of rock landscapes. The subtle grooves of the intro merge and mesh into an open, unrestrained instrumental space, with violin, flute and sax solos over a deep pocket groove.

“Ants Marching”

This is a contender for most famous DMB song. It’s both a tribute to and a repudiation of what some affectionately call “the daily grind.” A musical celebration and a lyric denouement. It’s a song about getting up in the morning and doing the same darn thing you did the day before, an earnest, from-the-heart reflection from a guy who we sometimes forget was a bartender at a decidedly working-class establishment. Musically this experience is redeemed, while the lyrics have a distinctly existential approach.

“Best of What’s Around”

The textures of this song are porous, shimmering, inviting light into its depths. It’s got lush, full harmonic ideas, rife with substance and motion. It’s also got one of the most head-nodding, groovy backbeats in DMB’s catalogue. The vocal performance by Dave is rich, and at times even soaring.

Guide to Starting a Farm Brewery, Winery, or Distillery

zxltgiathCwWK0bEdJFhtdrB3551G78MrROB1GIK8iwYou might as well refer to the land outside Charlottesville as beer/wine country. The rolling hillsides of Albemarle County and beyond are incredibly well-suited to breweries and vineyards. The past few years especially have seen an explosion of craft breweries like Blue Mountain Brewery in Nelson County, the brand spankin’ new Pro Re Nata in Crozet, or the flagship Starr Hill which was founded in 1999, technically on Charlottesville land (though now in Crozet). Wine aficionados will appreciate knowing that central Virginia land has robust, exquisite terroir…many compare the farms and pastures of the Piedmont region to southern Italy for this reason. Barboursville Vineyards in particular has become a formidable winery whose influence is not relegated to just Virginia…they move 35,000 cases of wine a year, and Queen Elizabeth II herself has sampled their fares.

If you own land in Albemarle County, a brewery or distillery would be an excellent use of your property. Charlottesville’s farm-to-table aesthetic reaches out to many places in central Virginia, bringing farmers, restaurateurs, and local breweries/vineyards together for a culinary culture that is inclusive and community-based. Brewing beer lends itself especially to retired life…there’s lots of cleaning, record-keeping, maintenance, and beverage-tasting. Wineries are kind of the same deal. As a pet project, it’s the kind of endeavor that requires time and a meticulous attention to detail. But as a landowner, it’s an investment in space, resources, and possibly potential. It’s not hard to find passionate young amateur brewers, or even seasoned vets who know the ropes. The old joke is that brewing is 90% cleaning and 10% paperwork. If you’re looking into this process and you just so happen to live in Albemarle County, we’ve got that last 10% covered for you here.

First off, we advise you to meet with a staff member from the Albemarle County Zoning board. It’s not necessary, but is a helpful first step. You’ll also have to get a Virginia farm winery, limited brewery or limited distillery license from the ABC and be up-to-date on all zoning regulations. In certain cases you’ll also need to acquire a special permit. You don’t need a permit to grow or harvest any of the barley or grapes necessary for production; you don’t even need one to sell or store your finished product. However you’ll need a special use permit for events with over 200 attendees at a time. For multiple events, attendance is cumulative; so if you have two events with over 100 attendees each, you’ll need to have acquired a special use permit.

Getting a special use permit requires a legislative review process wherein the Board of Supervisors considers the impacts on adjacent properties and the effects of multiple uses on the community. It costs $2,500 and takes a minimum of six months to process. To be safe and ready, contact the Community Development Department (CDD) a few months in advance. The special use permit application should include information about the proposed uses/events, and the frequency/duration of these events. You’ll also need a sketch plan: a schematic, to-scale drawing of the site. There are minimum setbacks (a setback is the distance of a building from the road, a river, a flood plain, etc.) The front of any building must be 75 feet from public roads and 25 feet from internal public or private roads. The side setback is 25 feet and the rear setback is 35 feet, although you can appeal these minimums to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.

You’ll need zoning clearance if you’re planning on having outdoor amplified music, or any gatherings that will generate over 50 vehicle trips a day or take place on sites under 21 acres. Zoning clearance costs $54 and usually has a 2-3 week processing period. Most events are subject to the 50 vehicle trip/21 acres rules, but just for good measure, we’ll list some common events to which these rules apply:

  • Wine/brewery/distillery festivals, showcases etc.
  • Club meetings
  • Tasting seminars and luncheons
  • Business meetings
  • Gatherings intended to promote sales
  • Hosting guest winemakers, brewers, and distillers
  • Hayrides
  • Exhibits, historical functions related to beer, wine, liquor
  • Kitchen and catering activities related to wine, beer, and distilleries
  • Agritourism
  • Weddings/wedding receptions
  • Tours

You also need to allot one 9’ x 18’ parking space for every 2.5 customers and one parking space per employee at these special events. Contact the Land Use permitting office at VDOT for info regarding access points and entrances.

As far as food is concerned, you can’t operate a restaurant at your Albemarle farm winery, brewery, or distillery, but you’re permitted to prepare and sell finger foods and appetizers. You can also offer prepared/pre-packaged foods. Check out this Winery Food Service Form or this Food Service Fact Sheet for information on providing your own food. You’ll need a food service permit from the Virginia Department of Health. Food trucks are allowed and should have their own Mobile Food Vendor Zoning Clearance. Caterers are also permitted, but must have their own food service permits.

You can have amplified outdoor music, so long as it stays within 60 decibels by day and 55 by night. You need a zoning clearance for outdoor amplified music, which may necessitate examination of the equipment to be used and/or access to a calibrated sound level meter.

Signs are permitted if you follow the guidelines described in the table below:

Type of sign

# permitted

Max area





40 sq ft

20 ft


Free standing


24 sq ft total, for all the signs

12 ft

5 ft

Agricultural product


32 sq ft total, for all the signs

12 ft

5 ft


1/street frontage

24 sq ft.

10 ft

5 ft

So there you have it, a comprehensive look at all the zoning regulations that go into owning and operating an Albemarle County farm brewery, farm winery, or farm distillery. Whether you have a singular passion for delicious beverages or you plan to enlist the services of a veteran brewmaster or sommelier, this guide contains much of the information you need with regards to building clearance, food regulations, music regulations, and advertising, but definitely check with the county authorities early on to see how their regulations impact your goals. Good luck in your ventures! Call Gayle Harvey Real Estate for any questions about land in Charlottesville or farms in Albemarle County or the Greater Charlottesville area.

History of the Charlottesville Dogwood Festival

Who doesn’t love a local carnival and parade? If you’ve ever spent the spring in Charlottesville, you may be familiar with The Charlottesville Dogwood Festival, either through attending it yourself or hearing it described by locals and through media coverage. This pleasant event full of diverse activities has a rich local history, dating back to 1950. This years festival will be held April 7-24th. Read on to learn more about how The Charlottesville Dogwood Festival came about, some of its important milestones, and how it has evolved through the years.

The Charlottesville Dogwood Festival is a popular two-week long springtime event and tourist attraction in Charlottesville, VA, featuring multiple festive happenings and celebrations, including the parade, fireworks, and a carnival. The festival, first carried out in 1950 as an Apple Harvest Festival, aims to exhibit the Charlottesville and Albemarle areas’ cultural and historical heritage and rich natural beauty, and succeeds in doing so to this day.

The Apple Harvest Festival in 1950 was originally held in the fall and was instituted to celebrate and draw attention to Charlottesville’s vibrant culture and booming trade, and specifically to the local apple production industry. Like the current Dogwood Festival, it involved a grand parade and carnival and the choosing and honoring of an annual festival queen. Nancy Hughes was the first Apple Harvest Queen and after her coronation a Queen’s Ball in her honor was thrown at the conclusion of the festival.

The festival’s first president, Sol Weinberg, was a prominent business leader at this time and played many roles in Charlottesville. He was born in nearby Staunton, attended UVA, served on the Charlottesville School Board, and was elected to Charlottesville City Council. He financed the first festival and was appointed mayor of Charlottesville in 1954.

Dogwood ParadeThe early years of the festival were exciting and successful. The Charlottesville Municipal Band was a staple of the early Dogwood Festival parades. The Charlottesville Municipal Band was formed in 1992 and has been performing continually ever since. You can still expect to see them at the festival. In 1951 the Belmont Bridge was closed because of the immensity of the festival parade and observers stood in the street intersections near the bridge to watch. Businesses took advantage of the massive parade crowds and both supported floats and ran advertisements on wagons in the parade. Local scouting and civil service organizations also traditionally participated in the parade. Awards were and still are given out for parade floats. In 1951 and again in 1953, a team of acrobats performing in the street without nets were a popular parade attraction. In 1956, a pet show was incorporated into the festival and sponsored by the Charlottesville Kennel Club.

In 1958 the name of the festival was changed to The Charlottesville Dogwood Festival in honor of the Virginia state tree and flower. Variations of the Virginia dogwoods (which are woody plants of the cornus species) grow widely in Eurasia, North America, and Canada. The Dogwood is also the state flower of North Carolina. Dogwoods are known for their abundance of white and pink blossoms.

Wallace McDowell was the first president of the newly named festival. Each new Dogwood Festival has a queen; originally she was a paid actress or model who was chosen from a more urban area like Washington D.C. or New York, but later in 1968 the title was instead given to a local princess. The modern festival includes both a full dogwood court and junior court of young women comprised of pageant participants from the surrounding counties, as well as the crowned queen.

E4A71888-2E66-4841-8215-8842C499CAC2The carnival was and is the widely attended centerpiece of the festivities and is held in McIntire Park. McIntire Park has been a large, popular outdoor recreation venue since the 30’s. Paul Goodloe McIntire financed the land acquisition in the 20’s. McIntire also provided land to the City of Charlottesville for Lee Park, Jackson Park, and Belmont Park. McIntire Park was designed with a rolling, pasture-style layout as well as sports fields, nature trails, playgrounds, and picnic shelters, and during the carnival, it serves as a fair ground. In 1966 the nations’ first Vietnam War Memorial was dedicated during the Dogwood Festival at McIntire Park.  The memorial features a gun, helmet, and a pair of boots, and holds a plaque that lists the names of 23 local men who gave their lives in service. It was founded by Jim Shisler and is re-dedicated yearly at the close of the festival with honorary music, the placement of 23 new flags honoring each fallen hero, a relevant speaker, and a 21-gun salute.

The popular Dogwood Track and Field Meet began the tradition of the festival’s skilled running competitions in 1966. The US Army Golden Knights Parachute team were also a big hit of the festival in the 60’s and 70’s.  Other notable highlights of the festival throughout time have been the BarBQ, Dogwood tree sale, Benefit “Breakfast in Charlottesville,” movie in the park, the flower show, and the many carnival rides loved by young and old such as the classic, colorful carousel and ferris wheel. As well as providing festivities and commerce for the local community, the festival has carried out and promoted community service through the volunteer activities of the county princesses and queen.

There are other popular dogwood festivals that occur in several cities across the US, including the annual International Dogwood Festival in Winchester (in Franklin County, Tennessee).  The Charlottesville version of the Dogwood Festival continues to thrive. Parades, carnivals, good food (including funnel cake), games, prizes and good music continue to please visitors and bring crowds of participants from near and far. For the 65th festival in 2014, hundreds attended the festival kick-off in McIntire Park. For over half a century the Charlottesville Dogwood Festival has ridden the waves of social and cultural change and continues to stand the test of time. As Elizabeth D. Wood Smith, author of The Charlottesville Dogwood Festival and member of the Dogwood Festival Board of Directors, wrote, “The Charlottesville Dogwood Festival takes pride in being a long-standing part of an area rich in tradition and heritage.”

Smith, E. D. (2005). The Charlottesville Dogwood Festival. Charleston SC: Arcadia.


Charlottesville Farmers’ Market is Back Saturday, April 2!

Spring is here! What better way to celebrate it than the return of Charlottesville’s legendary farmers’ market! The City Market re-opens this Saturday, April 2 in the Water Street parking lot one block parallel to the pedestrian Downtown Mall, at the heart of the city. If you’re new to the area, this is a great way to get the lay of the land in Charlottesville. The spirit of the city is encapsulated, in this community-driven exchange of goods and ideals, and it has been since 1973. If you’ve been wondering what the farm-to-table movement is all about, this will be a firsthand display. From 7 to noon every Saturday, over one hundred vendors will gather. They serve up more than just grassfed meats, handmade crafts, flaky baked goods, and fresh produce from a laundry list of farms in central Virginia….they offer a slice of life in Charlottesville, a gleaming portrait of the small-town-big city feel that makes this place so unique. This is your chance to come face-to-face with the food you love and the people who love to make it. In honor of the City Market, we’ve compiled a little list describing some of the vendors for whom we’re most excited.

Got Dumplings

If you’ve got a hankering for quick, hot, and fresh Chinese food at dynamite prices, check out this spot. They started as a food truck on Grounds at the University of Virginia, and recently opened up a location on some of the most prime Charlottesville real estate available…the historic Corner. Come for the dumplings…tender servings of meat ensconced in a crisp shell. Stay for the refreshing bubble teas or classic sides like fried rice and spicy kimchi. Bring me some if you remember.

Free Union Farm

A farm in Albemarle County, Free Union was started in 2010 by Joel and Erica, two people with a passion for food. Their philosophy is based on holistic livestock grazing techniques. The cows eat grass, clipping it short enough for ducks and chickens to access green shoots and insects. The ducks provide manure that is 90% water, rejuvenating the soil. Wash, rinse, repeat. You can’t argue with the results, especially when it comes to 100% grass fed and finished cows. This method of farming is highly sustainable, and highly labor-intensive. You can taste it, both at City Market and at notable Charlottesville restaurants like the Ivy Inn and Lampo Pizzeria.

Caromont Farm

Not long ago, this Albemarle farm in Esmont made headlines with an invocation for volunteers to come and snuggle with its kids (non-human). Caromont farm churns out more than just the cutest goats in the county…they also boast some of the finest cheeses in the area. Most of their cheeses are made with goat’s’ milk, like the flagship chevre, a creamy lactic cheese that they launched when they first started in 2007, or the native Esmontian, a semi-firm, enzymatic tomme that’s aged for at least 60 days. The farm also has a commitment to community. Its grass-fed cow’s milk comes from nearby, and the cider it uses to wash its semi-soft Red Row cheese is straight from Albemarle CiderWorks. Their philosophy is simple: good cheese comes from good milk, which comes from happy goats and cows grazing open land.

The Rock Barn

With its vaguely metropolitan atmosphere, it’s easy to forget that Charlottesville is a southern town…until you get a whiff of barbecue. Often, you can thank these guys for the free smells: the Rock Barn is a team of butchers committed to using the whole hog. They offer an $80 pork share and provide their tasty pork to multiple outlets in the ‘Ville. Check ‘em out at the Market, whether you want to cook up a batch of bacon for brunch or spend a few hours smoking a whole pig.

Marie Bette

One of the more unique vendors this year, Marie Bette offers authentic French fare that is both scrumptious and affordable. Take note: authentic, delicious, and affordable…usually the best you can hope for is two out of three. For a few months, Marie Bette was this writer’s “Place Down the Street,” a one-stop-shop for fresh baked bread, delicious coffee, and any number of breakfast, lunch and brunch offerings (also open on Sundays, phew). We’re talking quiches, baguettes, croque monsieurs, and flaky, buttery croissants. We can’t quite speak to what they’ll have at the City Market this year, but chances are it’ll be delicious.

Radical Roots

Established in 2000, Radical Roots is a family farm on five acres in Rockingham County. Like Free Union Farm, the folks at Radical Roots are committed to sustainable agriculture, using permaculture farming techniques to harness the land. They maximize the potential of their five acres by growing certified organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs. And it shows. Sometimes it just takes a sprig of fresh basil or cilantro to elevate your dishes to the next level.

Don’t miss out on the City Market. Consult this list of vendors for more information!

The Top 5 Burgers in Charlottesville

burger-1150315_1280Burgers come in many shapes, sizes, and personalities. One person’s favorite burger will not satisfy another. That being said, if you are a burger lover, you will not be disappointed by the burger offerings in Charlottesville, Va. Below are five that are not to be missed.

The Cheeseburger @ Riverside Lunch

This casual, friendly, and reliable local diner offers delicious, classic, old-time burgers and quick service. As their Facebook page extolls, they are “[t]he ORIGINAL Riverside Lunch since 1935 and ‘Flat out, STILL the best burgers in town!’” The burgers are compact, delicious, and very satisfying, as are the onion rings. Riverside Lunch is appropriately located a few blocks from the river near Route 250, between Pantops and Downtown, on Hazel St., which is just off E High St.

The Mini @ Citizen Burger Bar

As described on their menu, The Mini’s main ingredient is a “4oz griddle-smashed Timbercreek Angus.” Add the American cheese, iceberg lettuce, onion, citizen sauce, and a potato roll, and you’ve got a mouth full of happiness. Citizen Burger Bar focuses on offering local and fresh ingredients and they also have a great vegan patty. They have a big restaurant with a long bar and outdoor seating and they still manage to stay quite busy in their central downtown mall location.

The Zinburger @ Zinburger Wine and Burger Bar

This namesake burger is really a savory treat. You may be unsure what a wine and burger bar would be like, and will be pleased to find a hip, bustling, open space with delicious fare. Their menu shares that this treat is “topped with Manchego Cheese, Zinfandel Braised Onions, Lettuce & Mayo,” and it’s a full meal. The Manchego sheep’s milk cheese is a wonderful, zesty topper. Zinburger Wine and Burger Bar is at Barrack’s Road Shopping Center.

The Danny Laruso @ Jack Brown’s

The first Jack Brown’s was opened near JMU in Harrisonburg, and recently opened up on the downtown mall in Charlottesville.  All burgers are made with all natural Wagyu Beef and come with unique toppings and an amazing special sauce. Our go-to is the Danny Laruso topped with cream cheese and a jalapeno jelly.  Make sure to order a side of fries and a craft beer from their large list.

The Varsity @ Boylan Heights

This organic burger with cheddar, tomato, chili, fried onion rings, hot sauce, ranch, and even jalapenos, is not for the faint of heart or appetite, especially as it comes with a choice of side as well (the sweet potato fries are great). But if you crave a spicy and hearty burger, you’ll be glad to try this unique and delicious one from the “Dean’s List” section of the menu at Boylan Heights, on the UVA corner.  

If you find that you want to try more Charlottesville burgers, check out the Bison Burger at Beer Run, the Blue Burger at Blue Moon Diner, and the Firefly Cheeseburger with sriracha aioli.

Local Food from Afar in Charlottesville, Virginia

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore,” wrote the American poet Emma Lazarus late in the 19th century. Long before these words were immortalized in the lower level of the Statue of Liberty, America had become a cultural epicenter, a place where nationalities converge to create something much greater than the sum of its parts. While this may be a lofty introduction, we believe it applies to food, and especially to food in Charlottesville. To this end, we’ve compiled a handful of categories loosely based on regional origin and selected our favorite spot for each one. And speaking of community, most of these restaurants use locally-sourced ingredients from just around the way, so where applicable, we will be giving shout-outs to the central Virginia farms that made these meals possible!

French: Petit Pois
For a small mid-Atlantic town, Charlottesville sure does have its fair share of French restaurants. This charming bistro is right off the pedestrian Downtown Mall, and you couldn’t ask for a better location. On a good day, patio dining is a must. From escargot to trout amandine to steak tartare…Petit Pois serves up authentic French cuisine with aplomb. This writer’s favorite meal is probably the confit duck leg, served with roasted Brussels sprouts, panisse, and apple cider gastrique…yum. Every bite is deliberate and delectable, with well-balanced flavors and thoughtful wine/cocktail pairings. The wait staff is cheerful, attentive, and extremely responsive. In addition to a slew of delicious offerings, there is also an extensive wine selection. And Petit Pois has fairly affordable fare, especially considering where the ingredients come from. The connection with farms in the Greater Charlottesville is especially encouraging. The folks at Petit source their food from several different central Virginia farms: chicken from Polyface Farm, beef from Wolf Creek Farm, beautiful cheeses from Caromont Farm…the list goes on.

Italian: Lampo
Lampo is Italian for “lightning,” and what is more Italian than authentic Neapolitan pizza fresh from a 1000-degree wood-fired oven? Located in a neighborhood in Charlottesville (the Belmont area near downtown), Lampo’s quick-fired pies are usually ready in a matter of minutes. Don’t limit yourself to the classic margherita pizza, no matter how enticing the thin, buttery crust and the gooey combination of San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. Shop around…the menu has something for everyone. We heartily recommend the polpettine…with pecorino cheese, basil, and organic pork and beef, it’s probably the classiest interpretation of a meatball sub we’ve ever seen, much less devoured in two bites. Beautiful, refreshing wines and cocktails to go with any meal. Supplied by JM Stock and Provisions, Down Branch Farm in Albemarle, Caromont, a dairy farm in Esmont, and countless others. Check out their website for a full list.

Mexican: Al Carbon
This Peruvian-inspired Mexican joint wins points for uniqueness. Everyone’s done the taco shop and the burrito bar. We think it’s fair to say that chips and salsa have become appropriated into the continuum of standard American snack fare. But the sight of Al Carbon’s mouth-watering whole chickens as they rotate inside a coal-fired broiler is something you just don’t get to see every day. This is street food, plain and simple. This is especially true for the giant rotisserie ovens, which you are far more likely to find on the sidewalk in Mexico City than in a person’s home. These juicy, flavorful birds are carved up into quarters and halves and served up with spicy, savory, and creamy sauces on the side. And the array of side dishes includes everything from the usual suspects like tortillas, rice and beans, and guacamole but also yucca, plantain, and, the piece du resistance….deep-fried churros filled with Bavarian cream and topped with ice cream. Okay, that’s less a side and more a dessert but you get the idea. Head chef and owner Myriam Hernandez hails from Mexico, but she gets her chickens fresh-never-frozen from a farm in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Indian: Milan
No town is complete without a good Indian lunch buffet, and Charlottesville is lucky to have a handful of options. Milan stands out for its sophisticated aesthetic and measured, down-tempo ambiance, as well as its deviation from standard Anglo-Indian cuisine. That’s not to say you can’t get a piping hot bowl of chicken tikka masala and some charred, buttery garlic naan. These Punjabi classics are among the most recognizable to Americans. Head chef and owner Charanjeet Ghotra hails from this region, so you know there will be food you love on this menu. Milan (like most Indian and Thai restaurants) is a great place to bring vegetarian or vegan friends. The scallop patia features sweet and sour curried mangoes and ginger; the khumbh til ka paneer features creamy chunks of paneer and shiitake mushrooms simmered in curry and sesame seeds; or the lasooni gobhi, an appetizer of crispy cauliflower sauteed with garlic in a tomato-based sauce. A great lunch or dinner spot, for sure.

Chinese: Peter Chang’s
So much has been said and written about chef Peter Chang that it’s difficult to know where fact ends and fable begins. But there are a couple of things we do know about the legendary chef. He specializes in Szechuan cuisine, was trained in China before moving to D.C. to cook at the Chinese embassy, and he’s opened up a slew of Peter Chang restaurants in various Virginia cities. Szechwan cuisine is characterized by liberal use of garlic, chili pepper, star anise, and broad chili paste. Legend has it that at any given night, Chang is cooking at one of the Virginia locations, and there is a legion of fans dedicated to tracking him down. Needless to say, the food is awesome. The scallion pancakes–big as dodgeballs and barely able to sit comfortably on a plate–are a great way to start off a meal. The dry-fried eggplant, stir-fried with scallions and cilantro? The mouthwatering lamb chops, marinated to perfection and pan-seared with chili powder and cumin seed? Has a single meal ever reduced you to asking a series of rhetorical questions while your stomach rumbles? Has it ever brought you to tears? We don’t even want to mention the fact that you can get a meal for under $20, because price shouldn’t be a consideration when it comes to food this good.

Thai: Pad Thai
Thai food appears to be experiencing a surge in popularity in recent times; the fear is that Thai chefs will alter their cooking to suit Western palates, but in an age where “authentic” cooking can mean many things (and, consequently, nothing) chefs Santi and Utaiwan Ouypron are serving up delicious “home-style” cooking straight from their kitchen. This was literally the case a few years ago, when the Ouyprons operated an eatery out of their home in Bangkok, Thailand and it’s the case now, at their restaurant Pad Thai on Carlton Avenue, not far from downtown Charlottesville. They have offerings you don’t typically see on Thai menus, which tend to serve up variations on pad Thai, drunken noodles, pineapple-fried rice, and a great many curries. Compare that with the litany of brothy noodle bowls, the Chinese broccoli sauteed with shrimp or roasted pork belly, or the Grandpa’s favorite (green curry-fried rice, beneath a curried seafood roll, a Thai omelet, and fried catfish chunks, wow) and you’ll wonder what all the other guys are doing. The Ouyprons don’t really source much from the local farms, but they do use local eggs, chilies, basil, lime leaves, lemongrass, mint and some bell peppers.

Burgers: Citizen Burger Bar
The modern burger is as American as the assembly line, and don’t let anyone from Hamburg tell you different. Our list of celebrated ethnic foods wouldn’t be complete without something homegrown, and for that we come to Citizen Burger Bar, one of the heartiest, tastiest burgers in town. Go try the Southern, a giant half-pound burger with pimento cheese, yellow mustard, iceberg lettuce and tomato. Eat your fill and take the rest home, or stay and try to wash it down with the bevy of local beers on tap. The place is not strictly a burger joint; they have other fare like chicken, salads, grilled cheeses, truffle fries, and a genuinely delicious vegan burger made from quinoa, millet, and beets. The meats and cheese are locally sourced from Timbercreek Organic farm in Albemarle County and Mountain View Farm in Fairfield respectively. Grass-fed beef and free-range chicken make for a good meal every time.

And there you have it…our take on Charlottesville and its diverse culinary offerings. Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ethnic food around here, so don’t just take our word for it. Get out there and eat!

Eclectic Spaces in Charlottesville

Charlottesville IX ArtWhen we think of living in Charlottesville, our minds tend to conjure up of images of vineyards, breweries, restaurants, sporting events, and high-profile concerts. But there are a few unconventional, out-of-the-way places that have found a home in Charlottesville. We’ll share our favorites here. 

Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar

Known affectionately as “The Tea House,” this place and its many hats have been around since 2002. They probably have the city’s biggest selection of tea, a seasonal selection of about 40 different teas from all over the world. It’s also Charlottesville’s only hookah bar, and you’ll probably catch a whiff of traditional Turkish tobacco or a house blend on your way to the bathroom or the back patio. The space and atmosphere are carefully cultivated, whether it be the array of comfy armchairs, the floating wire baskets of fruit, or the “tree,” whose titular, twisted, papier mache branches house stone statuettes, ancient teapots, and books (many about tea). With the exception of one item, their menu is completely vegetarian, with a slew of delicious vegan options as well. And on many nights, expect to catch some live music from some of the most substantive and original underground musicians on the scene–anything punk to hip-hop to indie. 

IX Art Park

Charlottesville IX Art Park
Pronounced “-icks,” not “nine,” the IX art park is quite unlike anything else the city has to offer. It’s located in the Belmont neighborhood of Charlottesville (considered the “Brooklyn of Cville” by many), and accessible to anyone from dawn to dusk. Nearly everything you encounter is an exhibit, from the sweeping, variegated murals, to the lifesize windchimes, to the stairs painted like black and white piano keys. At its best, IX is home to a community-minded aesthetic that positions the artist and the audience in the same space. The actual park is outdoors, but it’s flanked by a handful of other shops: a taco joint, a bike shop, and Henley’s auction. The latter deserves its own mention, for having one of the most diverse, far-flung, and at times bizarre collection of antiques, doo-hickeys, knick-knacks, and doo-dads in town, and for having killer electronic/DJ shows on the weekends.

The Bridge PAI

The Bridge Public Arts Initiative began as an ideal, an attempt to marry the ideas of art, expression, creativity with community and civic engagement. They do this by hosting studio art exhibitions, spoken word and poetry performances, and live music out of an awesome space in Belmont. It was founded in 2004 and received non-profit status in 2010. Currently on display: Beyond the Single Story: Using Analog Hypertext to Explore Multiple Perspectives in an Object Study Gallery, an exhibit which displays audience commentary (most often via Post-it note) alongside pieces of art…on display until January 23. The goal is to foster civic relationships through art (any medium). Pretty cool idea.

The Alley Light

Okay, so we did explicitly mention that ideas of living in Charlottesville are inexorably linked to vineyards, breweries, and class bar/restaurants (like this one). So it feels slightly hypocritical to include the Alley Light on this list, but this out-of-the-way place earns a spot due to the fact that it’s virtually hidden. Right next to Revolutionary Soup on 2nd street, off the pedestrian downtown mall, and through (you guessed it) a dimly lit alley, this location cultivates the atmosphere of a 1920s speakeasy, due in part to the soft lighting and down-tempo jazz music. There is something exclusive (but not exclusionary) about a bar whose entrance is concealed…even though anyone can go, it feels like you’re complicit in something slightly mischievous. Enjoy some tasty French cuisine and one of their trademark Mary Lou Mules, a Southern twist on the Moscow Mule cocktail, complete with a copper mug.

Gorilla Theater

Live theater is a lost art, a voice long-since drowned out by the roar of television, the Internet, and Hollywood. But there is no substitute for the spontaneous, improvisatory nature of the stage; being privy to real humans emoting and expressing, mere feet away…it’s a beautiful thing. This small, DIY theater is on Allied St., close to the 250 bypass. The actors, actresses, and directors make little money (and are usually volunteers) who want only to hone their craft and share their gifts with others. These are folks who take chances on original material, people whose gratification comes more from developing a quality performance and less from having people “appreciate” that performance via social media outlets. The shows are a good time, with cheap wine and snacks, and since half the audience ends up being actors/crew, you can get up close and personal after the final act. Speaking of which…the next performance is a stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, playing the last two weekends of this month. Check it out!


Low might be one of the coolest parts about living in Charlottesville. As a consignment shop, its offerings toe the line between quirky and compelling threads you’d never seen before, and reasonably-priced, extremely fashionable stuff you could wear anywhere. As a record store, it’s got some of the most obscure titles you’ve ever seen, little-known gems from forgotten eras, and some roughed-up, original pressings of some of your favorites. We all know that maintaining a record store is a difficult and rarely profitable venture, especially with old releases that aren’t as commercially viable, so seeing people doing it (and doing it so well) gives us hope.

 Atlas Comics

BOOM! BZZRRT! KA-POW! Walking into Atlas, the first thing you’ll see is an array of blown-up onomatopoeias on the wall. They lend themselves to what ends up being a pretty immersive comic book experience. This store is for anyone who laments the death of the graphic novel. You’ll quickly see why the art is alive and thriving, with modern-day imaginings of all your old favorite DC and Marvel characters and universes, alongside new heroes and worlds. We even checked out a newer title called Darth Vader and Friends, and it was hilarious. Atlas has been around for a while, and they’ll be here for much longer, albeit at a new location.

Great Activities for Kids in Charlottesville, Virginia

Regardless of if you land in Charlottesville while passing through or if Central Virginia is your home, Charlottesville offers a lot for the young and the young at heart. In this post, we take a look at some fun stuff to do with kids of various ages.

Virginia Discovery Museum
Age range: 1-10
This one is definitely meant for the young ones, but it’s a fun and informative way to spend an afternoon. Since 1986, the Virginia Discovery Museum has been a fixture…from its beginnings in a two-story home near UVa to its current home on the pedestrian walking mall. It’s a non-profit children’s museum with creative programs and exhibits that cover ground in the arts, humanities, sciences, and the outdoors. It’s one floor with two galleries of exhibits connected by a hallway. There are a multitude of attractions:

  • Keva planks (similar to Jenga) that let kids act out architectural fantasies
  • A nautical-themed toddler room with a “sunken” pirate ship and puzzles
  • The kiddie carousel, located on the mall outside of the museum…our personal favorite
  • VA heritage area; an authentic replica of a central Virginia farm from the 18th century, complete w/ toy stables
  • Open art studio
  • Play post office and firehouse

And a rotating cast of other exhibits. Depending on the day you choose to go, you may be privy to such offerings as pay-what-you-will day (every 1st Wednesday), poetry club (every Tuesday), and various December dates featuring some guy called Santa Claus. If Old St. Nick likes the place, it must be pretty great!

Fridays After Five
Age Range: All ages
A few paces from the Virginia Discovery Museum, the nTelos Wireless Pavilion is a haven for local, regional, and nationally-touring bands. In the summer, you can expect a free show every Friday afternoon complete with food, beer, and wine trucks (not free). The concert series boasts an eclectic mix of genres, usually regional bands from the Greater Charlottesville area or bands with some local following. It’s an awesome way for parents and kids to spend quality time together after a long week. It even works for those moody, eye-rolling teenagers; the Downtown Mall is big enough for them to slink away with their friends while you enjoy a glass of wine from one of the vendors. There is no real typical age for this one; some of the people you’ll see are local adults overjoyed at the prospect of a few days off. Some are music nerds, bearing cameras around their necks, notepads in hands, and probably wearing glasses. You can get something called a “Fro-dough” from the Carpe Donut truck…it’s a heaping scoop of frozen yogurt between a donut sliced horizontally. Yes, it is delicious. The music usually goes for a couple of hours and after that, you will find yourselves on a bustling downtown strip with arts and crafts merchants, ice cream, movies, record stores, pawn shops…a pretty solid way to start the weekend.

Main Street Arena
Age Range: 3+
Lumbering on a corner of Water Street in downtown Charlottesville, the Main Street Arena is nearly 40,000 sq ft., centered around a huge ice rink, surely the biggest in the city, probably the biggest in the Greater Charlottesville area. It’s a versatile space, and you can even rent it out for private events when available. The ice skating school will take participants as old as three years of age…it could be the place your toddlers embark on a lifelong journey of grace, athleticism, and icy fulfillment. Of course, they could also fall on their diapers a bunch of times and give up skates forever. But hey, at least they’ll have known it wasn’t meant to be, right? The ice skating instructor is Susan Tuck, a 38-year veteran on the ice. That’s 38 years teaching, mind you. She’s a passionate, dedicated instructor who works with people of all ages, from young children up to adults. It’s probably also worth mentioning that the school is United States Figure Skating Certified, which means it meets national standards for instruction. The arena will indulge practically any sport requiring large amounts of flat ice…we’re talking hockey and curling here; there are options to take lessons in both (and the age range is pretty wide). There are also seasonal camps and clinics and a sports TV room for you to wait for your little ones to finish up. If you’re feeling brave, you can even lace up the skates yourself.

Walnut Creek
Age Range: 7+
A full day at Walnut Creek promises enough adventure to satisfy kids of any age. We encourage you take your chances on this sprawling, 525 acre outdoor paradise…any time from mid-spring to early fall will do. The park is located on land in Albemarle County, just outside Charlottesville. The 45 acre lake is perfect for swimming, canoeing, or fishing (the lakes are stocked with channel catfish, sunfish, and largemouth bass). There are also 15 miles of bike trails which range from beginner to advanced and are a good workout for any young athlete. We hear that kids like frisbees…Walnut Creek offers an 18-hole disc golf course. The park is also rife with amenities like picnic tables and shelters and has some really pretty hiking trails…perfect for tiring out even the most energetic young ones. By the way, we strongly suggest keeping an extra-close eye on the kids when you’re on the trails or near the lakes.

Jump Cville
Age Range: 3+
Trampolines are inherently fun. We don’t think you have to be a kid in order to enjoy the admittedly repetitive activity…if it were feasible, we would have been more than happy to write this entire piece on a trampoline. Alas, physics. Seriously though, this place is great. It has 8,000 square feet with 50 trampolines, angled wall trampolines, foam blocks, basketball hoops, and a dodgeball court. There are designated “open jump” times during the weekends and special periods like “college night” on Wednesday (for the bigger kids). They have a family “power hour” Tuesday and Wednesday from 5-8. We’ve often heard it said that any serious discussions you need to have with your kids go over better when both parties are mid-air half the time. But don’t just take our word for it. By the way, if your kids are under 13, you’ll need to accompany them, and regardless of age, everyone who wants to jump needs to sign a waiver. If you’re a little skeptical about the idea of throwing your younger ones in with a bunch of teens, never fear; the Jumping Beans timeslot is dedicated to kids ages six and under.

Music Resource Center
Age Range: 7th-12th Grade
The MRC has been around since 1995, providing angsty young teenagers with cathartic byways to self-expression that are crucial to that age. It’s a recording studio and practice space with more equipment than you could shake a stick at and a team of industry professionals who know how to use it. More importantly, it’s a place for teens to play music that is objectively bad. Everyone needs a place to sound terrible on his or her instrument, and not all of us are lucky enough to have sound-proof garages or family members who are hard of hearing. The MRC is completely free to all students in the area…all you have to do is drop them off. They can have their band practices there in the studio or work on electronic music using a variety of samplers, sequencers, mixers, etc. Give your kids a few weeks and they’ll be producing music that is objectively not bad, or at least less bad.

IX Art Park
Age Range: All ages
The IX Art Park is like something out of a dream, a kaleidoscopic melange of two and three-dimensional structures. This open air sensory oasis is rife with sculptures, murals, gardens, exhibitions, and eye-catching crafts. Some are solo exhibitions, some group efforts, and some works were spontaneously created in fleeting moments of inspiration. While you may not have much luck explaining the “underlying aesthetic” to your kids, it is a testament to the spirit of community that Charlottesville has cultivated. This one is hard to describe with words…you’ve just got to go into downtown Belmont and see for yourself. It’s free to walk around, open all hours and all days, and is a great place to bring kids. There are also a few shops that surround the park, including a well-known taco shop called Brazos, a bike shop and an awesome auction house.

The University of Virginia
Age Range: All ages
We’ll try to be quick with this one…we almost left it off this list altogether, because it seems almost unnecessary. It goes without saying that a huge, publicly-funded university is going to have something to offer the young ones, so we’ll keep this brief. There’s the McIntire Music Department which puts on a variety of musical performances throughout the year; from jazz to klezmer music, string quartets, electronica and everything in between. There are all the sporting events, giving kids early exposure to NCAA-level athleticism and marrying the idea of community to sports culture. Culbreth Theater and the drama department provide access to some great live theatre, and the 3D/studio art programs are able to bring innovative, interesting exhibits to the Fralin Art Museum and a few other great venues. There’s Morven, a central Virginia farm owned by UVa that features plenty of open-air activities. Trick-or-treating on the Lawn is always a ton of fun; doe-eyed toddlers dressed as Batman standing in awe of the Jeffersonian architecture (and/or the college students). Lighting of the Lawn is another special event at UVa…22,000 lightbulbs are hung up around the university and lit amidst a cappella Christmas carols, poetry recitation, and general holiday cheer. Bring em around here often enough and maybe they’ll want to enroll.

Charlottesville has lots to offer, regardless of whether you are a kid or a kid at heart.

Watch Some UVA Basketball

If you find yourself in Charlottesville between the months of November and March and don’t have tickets to the game at John Paul Jones Arena, you should definitely check out the game somewhere in town.

Champion Brewery, located pretty close to the nTelos Wireless Pavilion, is the old standby for this author, but there are several places to go depending on the type of atmosphere you want. Of course the UVA Corner (which is located right across from Grounds) has a dozen different places to watch the game: Boylan Heights is probably one of the more popular spots. It’s huge, capable of comfortably housing hundreds of basketball fans with (relative) comfort. They’ve got great burgers! The TVs are huge and they play the games with the sound on.

Places like that are popular destinations for the college crowd, but I prefer to be on the Downtown Mall. Citizen Burger Bar serves up huge, half-pound burgers locally sourced from Timbercreek Farm, an organic farm in Charlottesville (notice a burger trend yet?) It doesn’t matter if you’re not a huge fan.

Even folks from the outer reaches of Albemarle, Nelson and other parts of the Greater Charlottesville come out in droves to support UVA. There’s just something so invigorating about UVA’s playing in recent years. It’s a refreshing take on basketball and in many ways it’s what makes college ball so different from the NBA. These are kids…they haven’t lost their passion, they’re still coming into their own.

The defense is exhilarating to watch; guard Malcolm Brogdon’s tenacious man-to-man coverage, center Mike Tobey’s explosive rebounds, or the look in Justin Anderson’s eye when he “turns on” and morphs surreally into a true playmaker. The team hasn’t been this good in a very long time… the last time was in 1981 for Pete’s sake! And the difference among the community is palpable. The air is thick with inflated expectations,dashed hopes and wide-eyed longings.

Check out the 2015/2015 Schedule for game times.