The Charlottesville 29

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

The 2018 Charlottesville 29: Mel’s Cafe


The 2018 Charlottesville 29 is here, answering: if there were just 29 restaurants in the Charlottesville area, what would be the ideal 29? One restaurant will be added each day, until The 2018 Charlottesville 29 is complete.

Next up is Mel’s, the West Main institution where Mel Walker serves up comforting soul food and Southern charm. Why Mel’s? See the Mel’s Cafe guide, with ordering recommendations, including appearances in Five Finds on Friday, where other chefs have named a dish from Mel’s one of the best in town.

Mel’s Cafe


719 West Main Street . Charlottesville, VA . (434) 971-8819

Why Mel’s?

Sometimes you need a fried fish sub.

For decades, from its central location on West Main, Mel’s Cafe has filled that need and others for hungry Charlottesville diners. Self-taught chef Mel Walker greets guests himself from his kitchen behind the counter, and serves up home-style soul food dishes like the ones he used to watch his grandmother cook as a child. Just like grandma, Mel takes no short cuts, and won’t even think about cooking fried chicken until someone orders it. That care and love ensures that Mel’s food never fails to satisfy. Throw in prices that cannot be beat, friendly service, and a setting that makes everyone feel welcome, and it’s easy to see why Mel’s is a Charlottesville institution.

What to Order

Meta’s Burger warrants special mention. It’s a sum-is-greater-than-its-parts sandwich that is among the most crave-inducing in town. While customers often pronounce it “met-ah,” Mel says it is actually pronounced “meet-ah”, named after a woman who would always order her burger the same way at an Earlysville restaurant where Mel worked years ago: with Swiss cheese and grilled onions on grilled rye bread. Below are our picks, the chef’s picks, and appearances in Five Finds on Friday, where a local chef or personality has named a dish from Mel’s as one of the best in Charlottesville.

Our Picks

  • Meta’s Burger
  • Fried Fish Submarine
  • Bologna and Egg Sandwich
  • Cabbage
  • Greens

Chef/Owners’ Picks

  • Meat, Potatoes, and Vegetables

Five Finds on Friday Picks

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