The Charlottesville 29

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

The 2021 Charlottesville 29: This Year’s List of Charlottesville’s Essential Restaurants

The 2021 Charlottesville 29 is here.

Each year, The Charlottesville 29 answers: if there were just 29 restaurants in Charlottesville, what would be the ideal 29? Background here and here. Cuts become ever more difficult, as openings outpace closings.

Ordinarily, the annual update reflects openings, closings, and changes in quality. This year, however, circumstances warrant a one-time exemption from cuts for changes in quality. Whatever the criteria might be for The Charlottesville 29, they do not include: “ability to thrive during a pandemic.” Now that restaurants are resuming normal service, restaurants of The 2020 Charlottesville 29 that survived the pandemic are included in The 2021 Charlottesville 29. It is a great credit to the resilience of those restaurants that, after 14 months of a crippling pandemic, all but one remains open.

While the sole 2020 closure would typically leave just one opening for new entries to The 2021 Charlottesville 29, again an exception is warranted. To limit this year’s additions to just one would concede an unnecessary victory to COVID-19. Therefore, this year it will be The Charlottesville 29 +1. Barring any more pandemics, this is a one-time change: the Charlottesville 29 will return to a list of 29 in 2022.

With that: The 2021 Charlottesville 29.

Could 2021 Rival 2014? A Rundown of Charlottesville’s Newest Restaurants: Filipino, Korean, Nepalese, French, Latin American, American, etc.

Pork belly at Manila Street

As observed before, the restaurant industry can go in growth cycles. “Grow, contract, repeat.”

After a very difficult 2020, though existing restaurants are still enduring effects of the pandemic, many new ones are opening. 2021 has brought such a burst of openings, in fact, that it could eventually rival 2014, which brought Lampo, The Alley Light, Oakhart Social, Parallel 38, Public Fish & Oyster, MarieBette, Red Pump Kitchen, and Al Carbon, among others. A rundown of openings in the first half of 2021:

  • BroadclothTasting menus from former Clifton Inn Chef Tucker Yoder
  • Café FrankJose de Brito’s own restaurant, at last
  • Champion Ice HouseFried chicken and beer with Craig Hartman
  • DanbapKorean BBQ bowls located at Kung Fu Tea
  • Lampo2GOIn IX Park, takeout location of beloved pizzeria
  • Manila Streeta brick and mortar for the popular Filipino food truck
  • South & CentralDairy Market steakhouse from Wilson Richey
  • The RidleySouthern-inspired cuisine in The Draftsman hotel
  • Vision BBQIn-house smoked barbecue, to-go
  • Yummy MO:MONepalese in a gas station

Plus, there are more to come in the second half of the year: a Jean-Georges restaurant in Keswick, another French place on the downtown mall, a new Al Carbon, Dairy Market additions, and more.

Five Finds on Friday: Elizabeth Pelly

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Elizabeth Pelly, Co-owner and Creative Director of Merrie Mill Farm & Vineyard, which opens today in Keswick. Though the industry’s historic 2020 frost wiped out the vineyard’s initial vintage, that hasn’t stopped it from opening, serving the excellent wines of nearby True Heritage until its own wines are ready. And, the frost did no harm to the beautiful view and setting. Pelly’s picks:

1) Everything Baguette from MarieBette Café & Bakery. “This baguette is literally everything to me. Crunchy and flavorful on the outside, soft and light in the inside. I rarely make it out to the car without having a bite or home without eating half of it. It is even great the day after, if there is any left, toasted with a thin layer of cream cheese and avocado.”

2) Carciofo at Tavola (fried artichokes with whipped goat cheese and garlic aioli). “The ‘last supper’ my husband and I had before my second daughter was born was at Tavola. It was the only time I have eaten in the restaurant. We had a lovely dinner and then during COVID – while we have not been out much – we ordered take-away for our seventh wedding anniversary dinner. It can be risky ordering anything ‘fritti’ to take away but the artichoke was absolutely perfect and the goat cheese dipping sauce is divine.”

3) House Dressing from Take It Away. “Does a condiment count in this exercise? Doesn’t matter because I don’t care. First discovered in my university years, it is too good not to mention. A delightful mix of tangy and creamy, this is the perfect companion to a deli sandwich, and I have been known to dip plain bread in the house dressing as a snack.”

4) Princess Cake from Albemarle Baking Company. “I have only had two birthdays in our new home in Keswick, but the princess cake has featured at both. This cake is heaven. Who wouldn’t love marzipan with light fluffy white cake and decadent whipped cream filling? It is perfect for any special occasion, or actually I might have to order one now.”

5) Fried Chicken from Michie Tavern. “For the soft launch of our tasting room at Merrie Mill, we had tons of friends and neighbors come visit. A pretty big contingency stayed for dinner up at our house. I ordered fried chicken from Michie Tavern and everyone, including me, was blown away. If I had a dime for every time someone told me ‘this is the best fried chicken I have ever had,’ I would be buying a lot more fried chicken.”

Carte Blanche: Dinner at Home By Laura Fonner

At a restaurant, we often ask the kitchen just to make whatever they want. And, it’s no different when we invite one of the area’s best chefs to cook dinner at a friend’s house. Carte blanche, we told Laura Fonner. The same went for the wine – carte blanche selections by Bottle House.



Variety of grilled house made sausages and mustards
Spice rubbed rare tuna mini tostadas, pepitas, jalapeño queso fresco, pickled shallots
Heirloom tomato tart tatin, balsamic pearls, pesto creme fraiche

Scallop crude, salsa macha, avocado mousse, citrus segments

12 hour sous-vide teres major steak with roasted carrot, pistachio and currant romesco
Local asparagus and ramp galette
Local lettuce, house made bacon and spring pea salad, Meyer lemon vin
Blistered shishito peppers

Cantaloupe ice cream, spicy honey goat cheese, basil, Macadamia nuts, sea salt


Albert Bichot Cremant de Bourgogne Brut Reserve NV
This Champagne-method wine is produced in Burgundy by the great Albert Bichot and is comprised of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. The balance of acidity and toasty mousse should stand up well to all the first course items.

Domaine Bellevue Touraine Sauvignon, Loire Valley 2020
Acid, acid, acid.  This wine should really bring out the citrus flavors and add a crisp element with the raw seafood.

Cabriz Dão Vinho Tinto Reserva 2015
So often overlooked, the wines of both the Douro and Dao are still tremendous values despite the quality and pedigree of winemaking here. This is a wine made for meat and roasted veggies. The grapes here are Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro and Tinta Roriz.

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