The Alley Light
108 2nd St. SW . Charlottesville, VA . (434) 296-5003
Why The Alley Light?
In every respect — food, drinks, and experience — The Alley Light is a sensation. In 2015, the James Beard Foundation named it one of 25 semifinalists for best restaurant in the country. And, it has received praise from the award-winning critics of The Washington Post and The Washingtonian, as well as one of the leading culinary educators of our time. While some of that came during the tenure of James Beard semifinalist chef Jose de Brito, in the kitchen now is his protege, Robin McDaniel, who had already run the kitchen at last two nights a week, even before de Brito left in May 2016 for The Inn at Little Washington. Behind the bar, meanwhile, is devoted mixologist Micah LeMon, whose ever-changing cocktail menu combines carefully chosen liquors with his own tinctures, infusions, tonics, and more. And, helping with the wine is Will Richey, not only one of the most knowledgeable oenophiles in town but also a top restaurateur, with The Whiskey Jar, Revolutionary Soup, The Pie Chest, and The Bebedero.
The Alley Light is not just excellent. It is one-of-a-kind. Before it opened in February 2014, it was hard to realize how much Charlottesville could benefit from this grown-up lounge with serious food, perched in an intimate second-story space off the downtown mall. Now, it’s hard to think of Charlottesville without it.
What to Order
Our favorite way to eat at The Alley Light is to ask the kitchen to send out whatever it likes. It’s never failed to yield a wonderful meal. For specific suggestions, below are our picks, the chef’s picks, and appearances in Five Finds on Friday, where a local chef or personality has named an item from The Alley Light as one of the best in town. Because the specials menu changes weekly, not all of the dishes below will always be available.
The bone marrow warrants special mention. It was our 2014 Dish of the Year.
- Roasted Bone Marrow parsley crust, braised escargot
- Roasted Chorizo chickpea puree, toast
- French Green Beans grated foie gras, almond-shallot vinaigrette
- Carrots herbs, yogurt, cumin-lemon-orange vinaigrette
- Pork Belly braised and roasted, apple, celery
- Scallops (in any form)
- Stuffed Quail porcini mushrooms, brioche, red wine sauce, turnips
Rabbit Wrapped in Prosciutto, sweetbread, chestnut, mushroom, mustard sauce
Cod, Mussels, Lobster, Scallop Boudin, saffron-vanilla broth
Guinea Hen, celery root, leek, foie sauce
Seafood Charcuterie Board
- Mr. Rech hazelnut macaron, praline parfait, hot chocolate sauce
Five Finds on Friday Picks
- Roasted Bone Marrow and Escargot — Eric Nittolo (formerly, Threepenny Cafe); Vinnie Falcone (Tavola, formerly Red Pump Kitchen); Jeff Deloff (Threepenny Cafe)
- Cherry Choke — Andrew Cole (Lampo)
- Passionfruit Cheesecake — Stephanie Williams (La Vache)
- Mushroom Crepes — Michael Shaps (Michael Shaps Wineworks)
- Dealer’s Choice — Ben Jordan (Early Mountain Vineyards; formerly, Michael Shaps Wineworks); Brian Geiger (Cville Pie Fest)
- Risotto — Ellen Searcy (reader)
- Seafood Charcuterie Board — Kirk Smith (formerly, Commonwealth Restaurant and Sky Bar)
- Nelson County Gentleman — Liberty Kalergis (MAS)
- Carrots — Christian Johnston (formerly Tavola Cichetti Bar, The Alley Light)
- Rabbit Rillette — Jake Busching (Michael Shaps Vineyard, formerly Grace Estate)
- Cocktails — Shelby Park (formerly, Tavern & Grocery, Trump Winery)
- Mushroom Soup — Elizabeth and Tony Smith (Afton Mountain Vineyard)
- Vegetable Board — Elizabeth and Tony Smith (Afton Mountain Vineyard)
- Gasooza — Leah Peeks (The Whiskey Jar)
- Ramos Gin Fizz — Ian Glomski (Vitae Spirits)
- Pimms’ Cup — Nick Moon (formerly, Brasserie Saison)