When making final cuts to The Charlottesville 29 each year, I always make the same observation: the list of restaurants omitted from The Charlottesville 29 is greater testimony to the quality of Charlottesville dining than those actually on the 29. As in, if ___ is not one of our area’s essential 29 restaurants, we must have a remarkably deep dining scene. The number of restaurants that could fill in that blank is striking, and ever-growing. We are blessed with so many good restaurants in Charlottesville, run by talented and passionate people who really care, that many do not make the list.
Indeed, right at the project’s inception many years ago, the arbitrariness of the number “29” was recognized as one of its flaws. The number is a nod towards the 29th Infantry Division Memorial Highway, better known as Route 29. But, this site could just have easily set out to recognize a different number of restaurants. The task would be much easier, although perhaps less meaningful, had the site been named after I-64.
A sports world analogy is illustrative. It’s almost March, which means the annual debates have begun among men’s college basketball fans about the “bubble” – who belongs in the NCAA tournament and who does not. As several unlucky teams learn each year, a cold and uncaring divide separates invited teams from those who are not. The NCAA Selection Committee extends 36 at-large bids, and there is rarely any significant difference between the 36th most deserving team and the 37th. Yet, one plays in the most exciting basketball tournament on earth. And, one does not.
The Charlottesville 29 has a similarly harsh cut-off. Little separates the 29th most deserving restaurant from the 30th. And as with the NCAA Selection Committee’s choices, while there are some restaurant entries with which most would agree, there may be others on which reasonable minds could differ.
Just a few slots remain in the The 2018 Charlottesville 29, with one announced each day this week. Even beyond the few who claim a slot, there are many more restaurants that make Charlottesville proud. The march to 29 continues.