Charlottesville Last Minute Shopping

Small shops in Charlottesville, VA

For last-minute Christmas shopping in Charlottesville, VA, consider these top 10 small stores:

  1. Agents in Style: Luxury consignment store with high-end brands.
  2. BitterSweet: Chic boutique with locally designed clothes and jewelry.
  3. Bottle House: Wine shop offering quality selections and tastings.
  4. Brigid & Bess: Unique decor and artisan items, perfect for gifting.
  5. Darling Boutique and Dashing: Secondhand and artisan combo store for sustainable fashion and gifts.
  6. Rock Paper Scissors: Custom paper store ideal for unique invitations and gifts.
  7. C’ville Arts Cooperative Gallery: Offers local art, crafts, and unique handmade gifts.
  8. Derriere de Soie: Lingerie boutique for luxurious and intimate gifts.
  9. O’Suzannah: Quaint store with an eclectic mix of gifts, stationery, and home goods.
  10. Telegraph Art & Comics: Perfect for comic book enthusiasts and art lovers.

These stores offer a diverse range of options for all tastes, ensuring a unique and thoughtful gift for anyone on your list.

Not Your Average Gym

The start of a new year brings thoughts of committing, finally, to a fitness routine. This year will be the year you structure your day and manage your time so that health is a priority, you tell yourself. And if you’ve tried a standard box gym membership and found yourself either intimidated or bored by the options, you might wonder what the alternatives are. Charlottesville has a number of box gyms, furnished with the standard equipment, that also mix it up by offering classes, from spinning, body pump, and yoga, to barre. But it also has a plethora of alternative fitness studios that cater to specific interests or goals in a more intimate environment. Here are a few of those alternative spaces unique to Charlottesville. (There are plenty of studios devoted purely to yoga, Pilates, and Barre as well, but that’s a post for another day.)

Edge Studio

2075 Bond Street, Suite 150

Charlottesville, VA

In addition to yoga classes, this specialty fitness studio offers cycling and intense performance training with equipment such as kettlebells, ropes, and medicine balls to test strength and endurance. Their philosophy is that athletic training betters your performance in all areas of your life.

Zoom Indoor Cycling

1929 Arlington Blvd.

Charlottesville, VA 22903

This strictly cycling studio boasts a “concert-quality sound system” that delivers music with a beat to keep you motivated. Class offerings range from interval training that also incorporates weights to work the arms, a combination of cycling and outdoor running with Tread Happy (see below), and classes organized according to musical genre so you can choose your listening preference.

Pūrvelo Cycle

1000 West Main Street

Charlottesville, VA 22903

The owner founded this rhythmic cycling boutique after a necessary knee surgery prevented her from running and she had to incorporate low impact exercise as part of her physical therapy. You can choose from eight different instructors and class start times range from 5:45 a.m. to 6:45 p.m., depending on the day of the week.

Tread Happy

103 8th Street NW

Charlottesville, VA 22903

This “run studio” founded in 2015 stakes a claim to fame as the only one in the mid-Atlantic. As the website details, “6 different classes—tread Happy, Hustle, Temp, Distance, Flow, and Recovery—were developed based on the formula runners follow in a given training week.” However, the studio emphasizes that you don’t have to be an active runner in order to participate in, and benefit from, classes there.

DanceFit Studio

609 East Market Street, Studio 107

Charlottesville, VA 22902

DanceFit Studio owner and instructor Edna-Jakki Miller has been teaching mind-body fitness for over 45 years. She developed her dance-fitness program in 1973, which centers on mindful movement. Current class offerings include Yoga Being, Yoga Light, Chair Energy Yoga, Cardio Flex, Hip Hop, Be Fit, DanceFit for Seniors, Kids Ballet, and Kids Hip-Hop-Jazz.

Bar-G Fitness

3042-B Berkmar Drive

Charlottesville, VA 22901

This fitness studio was founded on attentive personal training. Owner Andrew Barga has been a certified personal trainer for 15 years who has also faced his own struggles with weight gain, injuries, and chronic pain. Offerings include one-on-one sessions, small group sessions, exercise classes, workshops, and nutritional guidance.

Clay Fitness

233 Douglas Avenue

Charlottesville, VA 22902

Clay Fitness emphasizes the importance of community to help motivate and sustain a committed fitness routine. To that end, they offer small class sizes in an intimate space where students can get to know each other and encourage each other. The name of the studio comes from the idea that our bodies are “malleable and responsive like clay.” In addition to classes, they offer personal training, retreats, one-on-one nutrition coaching, and a jumpstart program. Current class offerings include athletic training, small group training, high intensity interval training, and cardio boxing.

Success Studio

2125 Ivy Road, Suite G1

Charlottesville, VA 22903

Owner and personal trainer Bill Burnett opened Success Studio 12 years ago with the goal of creating “a safe, non-threatening, and supportive environment that teaches clients a lifestyle change.” His staff includes three other personal trainers, a life coach, and a nutrition coach. Classes are structured as large group personal training sessions, while still maintaining smaller class sizes than what you’d find in a large box gym. Current class offerings are: Metabolic Express, Total Body Strength, Cardio Zone Training, ChiZel (high intensity interval training), and Stacked (in which “targeted movements [are] stacked together”).

CrossFit Charlottesville

1309 Belleview Avenue

Charlottesville, VA 22901

At CrossFit, certified instructors lead small group training sessions in functional fitness, which mirrors daily necessary movements like “lifting things off the ground, sitting and standing, pulling and pushing.” The workouts are high intensity and usually last a maximum of 20 minutes, though there are specific classes that last longer.

MADabolic Cville

943 2nd Street SE

Charlottesville, VA 22902

Technically MADabolic isn’t unique to Charlottesville, but the Charlottesville location is only one of eight in the United States. The “MAD” in MADabolic stands for Momentum, Anaerobic, and Durability. The foundations of their program include high intensity interval training, strength training, and slow, focused movements.


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.


The 5 Best Pancake Restaurants in Charlottesville, Virginia

For an indulgent breakfast, warm, rich pancakes are hard to beat. While Stone Age cooks were believed to be grinding flour and cooking it in hot patties as long as 30,000 years ago, the first American pancake, or “Johny Cake” as they were once called, appeared in a cookbook in 1796. If you’re looking for modern day pancakes in Charlottesville, VA, be sure to try the wonderful pancake dishes offered at the 5 restaurants below:

1. The Nook

The Nook in downtown Charlottesville is a popular weekend breakfast and brunch spot for good reason. Their breakfast portions are tasty, hardy, and skillfully prepared. With lovely, aged mahogany booths, a bar, and an outdoor café, The Nook, which has been in operation since 1951, is a great breakfast spot (and is open for other meals as well). Their fluffy buttermilk pancakes and full breakfast menu are available all day.

2. Tip Top Restaurant

Tip Top on Pantops also serves breakfast all day, as well as lunch and dinner. With retro diner décor, ample seating, and quick service, Tip Top is a great choice when you need to scratch an itch for old-fashioned, traditional breakfast. Also, if you’re looking for a wide variety of pancakes, they offer buttermilk, buckwheat, corn, chocolate chip, strawberry, banana nut, and pecan.

3. Blue Moon Diner

With breakfast all day and weekend brunch specials, the old school and eclectic Blue Moon Diner on Main St. does breakfast right. They offer their delicious buttermilk griddle cakes in a three-stack or as one single on the side. For a fun surprise addition, the pancakes come topped with powdered sugar that is stenciled into images and portraits from retro and contemporary pop culture. They are also open for lunch and dinner and regularly have local live music in the evenings.

4. Bluegrass Grill and Bakery

Just across the train tracks from the downtown mall lies Bluegrass Grill and Bakery, in The Glass Building, and they’ve been open since 2011. It’s made from scratch fare is very savory, plentiful, and popular; on a weekend morning you may want to get there early and be prepared for a possible short wait. But planning ahead is well worth it, because their rich buttermilk or honey wheat biscuits in stacks of two or four won’t disappoint. Their website shares this description from a review in The New York Times: “hearty southern comfort fare.”

5. The Flat: Takeaway Crêperie

If you prefer thin, sweet crepes to thicker pancakes, The Flat specializes in delicious, warm crepes offered with a variety of savory and sweet fillings.  They are located on the Water St. side of the downtown mall and are open at 11 Friday-Saturday and at 10 on Sunday. Their “Greene Eggs” and “Hangover Relief” breakfast crepes are served all day. The Flat is a charming, compact space and has limited seating, so you may be taking your crepes to go.

Because Charlottesville has such a diverse and thriving restaurant scene, this list is certainly not exhaustive. But hopefully it will give pancake breakfast fans and connoisseurs some good ideas of where to start exploring Charlottesville’s pancake offerings. Enjoy!

Charlottesville Named Best Small City for Living Well

Trulia recently released a new online feature “Living Well Maps” which aim to help prospective home buyers get a better feel for neighborhoods.  The data takes a look at features such as Quiet Streets, Great Places to Play, as well as Care and Essentials.  Using this data the team at Trulia found something we have known all along.  Charlottesville, VA was ranked the #1 place to live for living well in a small metro (population under 1 million).Additionally, a neighborhood just north of downtown, Locust Grove, was named the best neighborhood for living well! From Trulia “Those looking to live well in a small city would be best off in the Locust Grove neighborhood of Charlottesville, Va. Locust Grove sits just north of downtown Charlottesville, and boasts a high concentration of play-centric amenities such as the Meadow Creek golf course and numerous playgrounds. It’s also nestled between three large parks and is quiet – over half of it’s streets have low traffic volume. Another added bonus: It’s close, but not too close, to the University of Virginia, which is full of restaurants, bars, and bookstores.”

We are thrilled to see Charlottesville getting more recognition as a wonderful place to live.

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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.