The Charlottesville 29

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

The 2023 Charlottesville 29: This Year’s List of Charlottesville’s Essential Restaurants

The 2023 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. Annual cuts become ever more difficult, as openings outpace closings. As in prior years, this year’s Charlottesville 29 includes a description of why each restaurant was selected, as well as an ordering guide, with recommendations from the restaurant’s chef/owner and appearances in Five Finds on Friday.

With that: The 2023 Charlottesville 29.

The Charlottesville 29 of Sandwiches: Charlottesville’s 29 Essential Sandwiches, Ranked

Welcome to The Charlottesville 29 of Sandwiches — the ranking of Charlottesville’s essential sandwiches. Like The Charlottesville 29 does with restaurants, The Charlottesville 29 of Sandwiches asks: “if there were just 29 sandwiches in Charlottesville, what would be the ideal 29?”

Unlike the restaurant 29, the sandwiches are ranked. What does this mean? Well, if there were 29 sandwiches in Charlottesville, the ideal set would be all 29. But, if there were just 28 sandwiches, it would be the top 28. And so on, leading up to the one Charlottesville sandwich that would be hardest to live without.

The list is based on 29 years of research and sandwich consumption in Charlottesville, narrowing hundreds down to a mere 29. A task this daunting requires clearly defined rules. Those are here.

And with that, The Charlottesville 29 of Sandwiches. Click each link to learn more:

#1: Roasted Vegetable Panuozzo – Lampo

#2: Stock Ham Biscuit – Stock Provisions

#3: Cemita de Milanesa y Chorizo – Al Carbon

#4: Ottobun with Beef – Otto

#5: Fried Chicken Sandwich – The Fitzroy

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Five Finds on Friday: Lora Henderson Smith

It’s a Thanksgiving tradition for a reader selected at random to participate in Five Finds on Friday, and, from the hundreds of entrants, this year’s winner is Dr. Lora Henderson Smith. An Assistant Professor at UVa’s School of Education and Human Development, Smith came to Charlottesville a decade ago as a grad student and has been on the hunt for delicious and affordable food ever since. Now with a three year old daughter, it’s often takeout, but she still enjoys seeking out great food around town. Her picks in the order she discovered them:

1) Hibachi Combination Chicken and Shrimp from Kabuto. “Bonus points for the super reasonably priced lunch special.”

2) Kao Pad Ka Pow with Chicken from Monsoon Siam. “It’s not on their menu any more, but occasionally they’ll still make it. I can always get it at Pineapples.”

3) Shrimp Casserole Platter from Sultan Kebab. “My husband first introduced me to this dish. Our household loves it.”

4) Hands On Breakfast with Chicken from Guajiros. “The cilantro aioli is to die for. I think this is currently my favorite meal in Charlottesville.”

5) “Burfday Muun Rox” Cake Tin from Caked Up Cville. “Because, just one cupcake isn’t enough, but a dozen is too much for my family of 3. The cake tins are perfect.”




Fry’s Spring Station to Close After Fourteen Year Run

For fourteen years, Fry’s Spring Station was a Charlottesville one-of-a-kind. This month it will close its doors for the last time, a signal of the challenges the restaurant industry continues to face.

Opened on Mother’s Day 2010 and revamped in 2016, the restaurant’s concept was simple: nourish the community. As co-owner Ben Thompson put it at the time, the aim was to be stewards of the Fry’s Spring neighborhood by offering “food that we would feel good about serving our families several times a week.” Accessible and affordable food, like pizzas, salads, sandwiches, and wings that earned a following. In a setting where everyone would feel welcome.

In pursuit of the goal, caring for staff was a top priroity, and remains so to the end, says co-owner PK Kamath. The restaurant is reaching out to local businesses to try to help find employment for their staff, and owners with interest may contact kamath directly. Fry’s staff unable to find a new home before closing will be offered to stay to assist with the winding-down process.

Ultimately, Kamath says, the need to close came from causes common to the industry: soaring operation costs that make it more and more difficult to offer good food and service at affordable prices. “The restaurant business has changed dramatically and the model we created no longer makes it viable to continue,” said Kamath. “I can’t stress enough how much I commend those who have been able to succeed in this environment,” he said. “It takes a special person to be in the full-service business right now and be successful and be willing to put in the work to do it.” 

For those who’d like to enjoy Fry’s while they still can, the last day of service is expected to be Sunday, November 26.


We are thankful to the neighbors surrounding us, who gave us the privilege to serve them for as long as we have, especially in a community that knows food and drink so well.  We appreciate you letting us be part of your special moments:  countless birthday parties and rehearsal dinners (some twice! go love!), and even an international squash tournament after-party that brought in 600+ raucous, but fun-loving guests in one night, from what must have been 50+ countries. Thank you to the Restaurant Weeks and the sports sponsorships and our partnerships with local philanthropies for allowing us to try to give a little something back to the community that we live in. 

We had our ups and downs, successes and challenges, made some good decisions and some bad decisions, but the neighborhood was always behind us through thick and thin. From the time we opened, to the time when the bridge into the Fry’s neighborhood was under reconstruction for over 18 months, to the COVID era restrictions, we couldn’t have made it this long without you.

Last, but certainly not least, we are thankful to all the Fry’s staff.  Without you, no Fry’s. It’s that simple. You don’t hear enough about how hard the folks that make up the hospitality industry, especially in our town, work, but I can tell you first hand they are some of the kindest, most resilient, creative and loyal people I know, even in the toughest of situations. Thank you for everything you did and continue to do for Fry’s.

Five Finds on Friday: Lisa Richey

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Lisa Richey, the very supportive ex-wife of Charlottesville’s most prolific restaurateur Will Richey. Lisa suggested Will provide her background:

“I have shared many of the greatest meals of my life with Lisa. We both share whatever that thing is that makes a person seek out great, authentic, well made cuisines. We have traveled extensively together, and we started a farm together. It was not to produce food alone, it was to produce food that was interesting to us in ways that we connected with. We still reach out to each other for travel tips knowing that the first priority when traveling for each of us is researching the best places to eat. Lisa’s recommendations are always at the top of my list.”

Lisa Richey’s picks:

1) Gulf Coast Salad as a Wrap from Revolutionary Soup (owned by Will Richey). “Look, I want to eat healthy, but eating a salad with a plastic fork is a bummer. The combo of shrimp, hard-boiled eggs and avocado makes this my healthy go-to lunch, and putting it all in a wrap makes it easier to eat at my desk. And yes, I do frequently order the Lisa Quesadilla. I’m a sucker for anything with goat cheese.”

2) Fried Chicken and Collards at The Whiskey Jar (owned by WIll Richey). “Sure, I love the BBQ Nachos, and The Jar Salad, but if I’m craving something from The Jar, it’s fried chicken with the honey jalapeno dipping sauce. The collards remind me of how we used to eat when we lived on the farm, but now I don’t have to actually harvest anything which somehow makes this recipe taste even better. I also adore the Creamed Spinach and Sweet Potato Dumplings. I also think The Jar is the best place for a business lunch with out-of-towners – you can get French or fusion in most cities, but the client who seems shocked at how small CHO is definitely needs the full Southern experience, sweet tea encouraged. (And yes, I am from NJ.)”

3) Dealer’s Choice at The Alley Light (founded and formerly owned by Will Richey). “I think this place has the best ambience of any restaurant in town. Robin and Chris continue to make The Alley Light shine, so much so that it’s hard to pick just one dish. However, I always start with the Anchovy Toast, as it is the perfect way to set your palate for everything that’s to come. Then I order whatever carpaccio is on the specials board, followed by something braised. Micah and team make magic at the bar. Their attention to detail, down to the glassware, is evident and joyful. I usually request some sort of high ball with a gin base, and I love how the bar incorporates local fruits and herbs.”

4)  Wine List at Cafe Frank (owned by Will Richey). “The great irony that Will’s first sit-down restaurant (The Jar) sells basically no wine wasn’t lost on us. Cafe Frank is the bistro I always assumed he’d want to run. It’s a great spot to go for happy hour and order an assortment of snacks while splitting a bottle of wine with that friend you’ve been meaning to make plans with for months. Also, the Mushroom Fritters go perfectly with a bottle of Burgundy.”

5) Classic Burger at Högwaller Brewing (owned by Will Richey). “I live right down the street from Högwaller, which may buy my future cardiologist a beach house someday. But until then, my idea of a perfect weekend day is a sauna at Rivanna River Company, followed by a Classic Burger and a Rives Street Lager. It’s just a burger, sure, but it’s the platonic form of a burger. And I love a beer that is both delicious but also low enough ABV that I don’t need to take a nap later. Mark makes awesome beer, and it has been a blast checking out the new taps each Thursday and chitchatting with folks around the firepit.”

“Wait, Other People Are Crazy Enough to Own Restaurants?!”

1) Banh Mi at Vu Noodles. “This may be the official sandwich of Apex Clean Energy employees. This is the only tofu I have ever craved and I probably eat this once a week.”

2) Clam Pizza at Lampo. “If I had a bat signal, it would be checking Instagram to see if this pizza is on special. When I was little, my grandfather made me linguine with clams for any special occasion, so you could say this flavor profile is my Ratatouille moment. Tavola’s linguini con vongole also makes me feel like I’m back home.”

3) Omakase at Ten. “Let the chef choose the fish, and feel like you’ve been transported out of Charlottesville to a city large enough to have a subway. Don’t sleep on the seaweed salad. I’m also a fan of the harami miso.”

4) Lobster Roll (Connecticut Style) at Public Fish & Oyster. “My oldest friend in town and I frequent this happy hour, splitting a lobster roll and a dozen oysters. She gets a Negroni and I go with a Negroni Sbagliato. The french fries that come with the lobster roll are ideal with the oysters, especially if you get a side of horseradish.”

5) Shaved Salad at Oakhart Social. “Few salads are craveable. This one clears that hurdle easily, and it’s usually the reason I end up at Oakhart. Also, their tuna crudo is fantastic.”