The Charlottesville 29

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

The 2022 Charlottesville 29: This Year’s List of Charlottesville’s Essential Restaurants

The 2022 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. For the second year in a row, though, circumstances warrant an exemption from the removal of any restaurants from The Charlottesville 29. Whatever the criteria might be for entry into the The Charlottesville, they do not include how restaurants cope with a pandemic. And so, The 2022 Charlottesville 29 is comprised of the same restaurants as 2021. All are still worthy.

Stay tuned in 2023, though, for the likelihood of substantial changes to the 29. 2021 brought a stellar group of openings, which this year vied for Best New Restaurant, and next year will become eligible for The Charlottesville 29 for the first time.

As in prior years, this year’s Charlottesville 29 includes a description of why each restaurant was selected, as well as an updated ordering guide, with recommendations from the restaurant’s chef/owner and appearances in Five Finds on Friday.

With that: The 2022 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. One sandwich will be revealed each day, until the list is complete.

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:

#29: Simply Gruyere – ooey, gooey, crispy

Photo by Do Me A Flavor.

#28: BLT – Blue Moon Diner

Photo by Do Me A Flavor.

#27: Fish Sandwich – Burtons Grill

Photo by Do Me A Flavor.

#26: Meatball Parmigiana Submarine – Anna’s Pizza #5

Photo by Do Me A Flavor.

#25: Chicken, Cheddar, Fig Panini – Feast!

Photo by Do Me A Flavor.

#24: Oyster Po’ Boy – The Whiskey Jar

Photo by Do Me A Flavor.

#23: Shack Pastrami – Taste Shack

Photo by Do Me A Flavor.

#22: The Angry Bird – Kitchen(ette)

Photo by Do Me A Flavor.

#21: Elliewood Club and House Dressing on Pumpernickel – Take It Away

Photo by Do Me A Flavor.

#20: Fresh Maine Lobster Roll, Connecticut Style – Public Fish & Oyster

Photo by Do Me A Flavor.

#19: Reuben – Holly’s Diner

#18: Ednam – The Market at Bellair

Photo by Do Me A Flavor.

#17: Pho-rench Dip – Feast!

Photo by Do Me A Flavor.

#16: Bocadillo – Mas Tapas

Photo by Do Me A Flavor.

#15: Breakfast Sandwich #1 on English Muffin – Belle

#14: Adana Kebab Sandwich on Pita, with Yogurt Sauce – Sultan Kebab

#13: Belle Cubano – Belle

#12: Ace Dip – Ace Biscuit & Barbecue

#11: Pig Mac – Little Star

#10: Deli-Egg and American on an Everything – Bodo’s Bagels

#10: Deli-Egg and American on an Everything – Bodo’s Bagels

The Bodo’s Order

Insert your favorite Bodo’s sandwich here.

Everyone has their go-to order at Bodo’s. Charlottesville’s signature restaurant feeds 6,000 people per day. Sure, the options are endless. From the assortment of bagels and toppings, guests can play Iron Chef and create a different sandwich on each visit. Or, if they prefer, they can choose from the Bodo’s ordering guide, which includes dozens of unique combinations recommended by those who know best: Bodo’s staff. Work your way through them all.

But, amidst the variety, everyone has an order that they come back to time and again. Like a child reciting a poem by rote memory, they can say it by heart. Like this: “Deli-Egg and American on an Everything, cut in half.”

The Deli-Egg’s greatness is well-documented. Originally, it was a way for delicatessens to use scraps of deli meats and cheeses. Bodo’s version includes diced ends of pastrami, corned beef, ham, capicola, salami, provolone, Swiss, and Muenster, all folded into an omelet. Requesting more cheese some might consider gilding the lily. But, indulgence is no time for half-assing it.

#10: Deli-Egg and American on an Everything – Bodo’s Bagels
The Charlottesville 29 of Sandwiches

Others of Note: The Fox at Bodo’s Bagels, Your Go-To Order at Bodo’s Bagels

#11: Pig Mac – Little Star

The Pork Sandwich

Some chefs love food unconditionally.

Take Ryan Collins of Little Star. Collins’ taste for refined cooking is not surprising, given his eight years working for one of the most famous chefs in the world. But, his love for food does not stop there, as his heart is open to deliciousness in any form — and from any source, whether a Michelin starred restaurant, the taco trucks he chases around town, or anywhere really.

And so, on his restaurant’s menu, alongside fancy fare like beef tartare and seared tuna with foie gras, you will find a sandwich inspired by the plebeian pleasures of fast food. McDonald’s Big Mac famously combines (sing it) two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. Replace the beef patties with a pork cutlet and you have Little Star’s Pig Mac.

Collins pounds the cutlet thin, breads it, and fries it, just as is done with the tenderloin sandwiches of the Midwest, one of America’s most beloved pork sandwiches. Then come all of the Big Mac toppings, yet, unlike at a fast food franchise, Little Star’s has the attention detail of a chef whose love of food runs deep. Collins is a sandwich fiend, and once he gets fixated on a sandwich, he cannot relent until he feels he has gotten it right. His passion and talent drive him to obsess over every aspect of its preparation, as he has done in the past with deli-style subs. And, now he has done it again. The Pig Mac captures what people love about the fast food icon, and takes it to even greater heights.

#11: Pig Mac – Little Star
The Charlottesville 29 of Sandwiches

Others of Note: Dave’s Roast Pork at Chickadee, The Squeal at Kitchen(ette). Vegetarian Alternative: Grilled Broccolini and Mozz at The Fitzroy

#12: Ace Dip – Ace Biscuit & Barbecue

The Barbecue Sandwich

It is easy to think of sandwiches as simple food, ready in seconds. Open the fridge, put some cold cuts on bread, and you’re done. But, for a chef as passionate as Brian Ashworth of Ace Biscuit & Barbecue, a great sandwich can take hours or even days to make.

For his Ace Dip, Ashworth transforms an ordinary pork barbecue sandwich into one that some call the best sandwich in town. He starts by smoking whole pork shoulders for 8-10 hours, placing them in a half pan as they smoke, to capture all the drippings, the condensed essences of pork and smoke. When the pork shoulders are done, he removes the bones and makes a stock from the bones, drippings, and aromatics like mirepoix, black peppercorns, garlic, and bay leaves. To that he adds roasted garlic, crushed red pepper, house-made hot sauce, vinegar, and brown sugar, brings it all to a boil, and thickens it with a simple roux of flour and butter. He then purees it and, voila, “smoky gravy.”

Meanwhile, Ashworth cooks yellow onions over very low heat for up to eight hours, slowly removing all of their water, and gently caramelizing them. For sandwich assembly, he smears house-made parsley-garlic butter on a bun and griddles it. On that, he piles pulled pork shoulder, caramelized onions, and provolone, and serves it with a cup of the smoky gravy for dipping.

Pork smoked all day. Eight-hour onions. Gravy redolent of smoke and swine. A bun with toasty butter and garlic. One bite of the sandwich dripping in gravy and you’ll never call sandwiches simple again.

The genius of smoked pork in liquid smoked pork dates back even further than Ace Biscuit & Barbecue’s opening in 2012. When Ashworth was a sous chef at Zocalo, he would lie awake at night and dream up ideas for a restaurant of his own, sometimes jumping out of bed to jot them down so he would not forget. Thank goodness for the Ace Dip he didn’t just roll back over.

#12: Ace Dip – Ace Biscuit & Barbecue
The Charlottesville 29 of Sandwiches

Others of Note: The Hot Mess at Vision BBQ Vegetarian Alternatives: The Vegetarian Option at Vision BBQ, BBQ Jackfruit Sandwich at Firefly (GFA)

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