The Charlottesville 29

If there were just 29 restaurants in Charlottesville, what would be the ideal 29?

The Corner: The Virginian

Virginian

Photo by Hajung Yoo.

Note: This post is part of our guest series, The Corner, by digital media students at The University of Virginia.  Today’s student contributor is Hajung Yoo.

The Background

If you’ve been in Charlottesville for more than a week, chances are you have heard of The Virginian. Established in 1923 by University of Virginia Alums Billy Gooch and Ellis Brown, it is the oldest restaurant in Charlottesville.

Current owner Andy McClure took over shortly after graduating UVa Comm ’01. And, in running a restaurant that once had to convert to a soda fountain during prohibition, McClure has always been mindful of the need to strike a balance between preserving history and forging ahead.

The Experience

Thus, while The Virginia is designed to be a modern, attractive bar, the décor looks to the past, evoking nostalgic feelings of all-American comfort. Dark vintage wooden booths and dim lights recall a low-key speakeasy, and the vintage photos and wall décor reinforce the visual throwback. The menu also skews to Americana, with comforting options like chicken, burgers, salads, crab cakes, pasta, and sandwiches.  Modern touches include wine and draught beer lists that are exclusively Virginian.

With three other restaurants in town (The Biltmore, Citizen Burger Bar, and West Main), McClure is fiercely proud of Charlottesville. “I think Charlottesville is outrageously unique…we do a ridiculous job in terms of food options, the experience and quality of chefs and style.”

What to Order

The Virginian’s most popular menu item is the Stumble Down Mac N’ Cheese – creamy, cheesy pasta with pepper jack under a cheddar potato cake. It’s one of Dean Groves’ favorites, too, who also likes The Rachel, which is essentially a turkey Reuben. But, if you ask the expert what to get, McClure will tell you his favorite is the steak and cheese, with thinly sliced steak, grilled onions, and American cheese on a toasted sub roll. A close second, he says, is the gourmet grilled cheese, with cheddar, provolone, and Swiss, on sourdough, grilled to a golden brown.

Two for Tuesday: Allen Groves

Groves

Note: This post is part of our guest series, The Corner, by digital media students at The University of Virginia.  Today’s student contributor is Ali Donaldson.

Tuesdays during The Corner series feature two favorite Corner food items selected by a different University figure each week. First up is Allen Groves, Dean of Students at the University of Virginia, a graduate of the UVa School of Law, and Guiness world record holder for most high fives in an hour. Dean Groves’ picks:

1) The Rachel and a side of Stumble Down Mac ‘N Cheese at The Virginian. “The Virginian is one of the few restaurants on The Corner that was around when I was a student. They have a special on Wednesdays called ‘The Rachel’ which is essentially a turkey Reuben. But, anytime I go in there, I ask them for the Rachel even if it’s not a Wednesday, and they’ll make it for me. The Virginian is also known for their side dish mac and cheese, which is a wonderful little pot that has macaroni and cheese and on top of it a spicy potato cake. So you put that combination together, and it’s incredible.”

2) Fried Egg and Cheese Sandwich with Grits at The Pigeon Hole. “I’ve been there now three times with students. It’s incredible. The grits are really good, not that soupy kind – real grits.”

Five Finds on Friday: Emily Holter

emily

On Fridays, we feature five foods finds selected by local chefs and personalities.  Today’s picks come from Emily Holter, of Sweethaus, the Charlottesville cupcake cafe that is poised to open a second location in Brooklyn.  Holter’s picks:

1)  Wings and Nachos on football Sundays at Wild Wing Cafe.  “Doesn’t get much better than throwing on a jersey and hunkering down for a game at WWC. I’m such a sucker for nachos. Different types of cheeses, fresh salsa, sour cream, seasoned beef, texture explosion! Always solid and delicious. And there’s a reason the wings are so revered; the sauces are creative and complex all the while really tasty.”

2)  Fleur de Sel Caramels from La Vache Microcreamery.  “You have never tried a fleur de sel caramel proper until you’ve tried these small-batch artisan classics from La Vache. A crazy-good concoction of my favorite ingredients: butter, salt, sugar. Stephanie has nailed it!”

3)  The Local Burger at The Local.  “I’m a burger girl. Nothing more satisfying than that first juicy bite of a beautifully executed burger. Caramelized onion, always crispy apple-smoked bacon, swiss cheese. Medium-rare all the way. The best.”

4)  Farmhouse Dry Cider on draught from Potter’s Craft Cider.  “I met these guys years ago while working at Whole Foods buying wine and beer just as they were starting out. They’ve got me hooked! Farmhouse dry, especially on draft, smells like fruit and almost tastes like champagne upon first sip. Tart, dry, and insanely crisp. Excellent any time of year, and effervescent to the max!”

5)  Longaniza anything at El Tepeyac.  “This house-made Mexican sausage is the real deal. The rich notes of smoke and a slight sweetness give way to a beautifully balanced kick at the end. Sometimes its great in a burrito with chunky jalepenos and fresh avocado, other times it’s delicious enveloped in a cheese quesadilla. Yum!”

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