The Charlottesville 29

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

The 2020 Charlottesville 29

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The Charlottesville 29 answers: if there were just 29 restaurants in Charlottesville, what would be the ideal 29? Background here and here.

Once a year, the list is updated to reflect openings, closings, and changes in quality. Cuts become ever more difficult, as openings outpace closings. To be eligible for this year’s 29, a restaurant must have been open since January 1, 2019.

The 2020 Charlottesville 29.

Little Star

420 W. Main Street . Charlottesville, VA . (434) 252-2502
https://littlestarrestaurant.com/

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Why Little Star?

It is hard to pigeon-hole Little Star. The best description may be a manifestation of the chef-owner’s passions. Ryan Collins spent eight years working for world-famous chef Jose Andres, including three at Andres’ Mexican restaurant Oyamel. Under Andres, Collins fell in love with the Spanish cuisine of Andres’ native country as well as the Mexican cuisine of Oyamel. And so, Little Star — Collin’s first venture into restaurant ownership — showcases both.

Like its sibling Oakart Social, the restaurant’s bright and airy space was once home to a service station, providing one of the liveliest settings in town. The open kitchen is essentially part of the dining room, which allows high top tables a vista of Collins’ team at work. A stellar bar program favors cocktails of tequila, mezcal, and whiskey, along with well-chosen wines.

What to Order

The menu offers both small plates and large platters, all intended for sharing. Below are our picks, Chef Collins’ picks, and appearances in Five Finds on Friday, where a chef or personality has named an item from Little Star as one of the best in town. Also included are appearances on chefs’ Best Thing I Ate All Year.

Our Picks

  • Pan Tomate
  • Croquetas
  • Oyster Mushrooms
  • Sunny-side Eggs w/ salsa negra, green onion, sesame, grilled bread, hickory syrup
  • Beef Carpaccio
  • Braised Lamb

Chef’s Picks

  • Marinated Carrots
  • Beef Carpaccio
  • Seared Tuna w/ rendered foie gras, salsa molcajete, cilantro oil, charred onion

Five Finds on Friday / Best Thing I Ate All Year Picks

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Prime 109

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300 E. Main Street . Charlottesville, VA . (434) 422-5094
https://www.prime109steakhouse.com/

Why Prime 109?

From the team behind Lampo Neapolitan Pizzeria, Prime 109 is like two restaurants in one, each of which could warrant entry into The Charlottesville 29. One is an a la carte steakhouse showcasing a product rarely found: local beef, dry-aged as long as sixty days, and grilled to order. The other is a New American restaurant with an entire separate menu, prepared by one of the most talented kitchens in town, including two prior winners of C-VILLE’s Best Chef. 

The front of the house does justice to the kitchen. Before opening in 2018, Prime 109 gave the spectacular space a posh overhaul, preserving and enhancing features of the bank that occupied the historic downtown building for a century, like towering pillars, soaring ceilings, and ornate trim. In the rear of the restaurant, steaks are fired on a stunning open grill, where a marble chef’s counter provides the best view in the house. Completing the experience are expert-selected wine, New York City polish behind the bar, and one of the most professional staffs in town. 

What to Order

Some call the steak the best of their life. But, the rest of the menu warrants attention too. Below is a list of our suggestions, Prime 109 chefs’ picks, and appearances in Five Finds on Friday, where a local chef or personality has named a Prime 109 dish as one of the best in town. Also included are appearances on chefs’ Best Thing I Ate All Year.

Our Picks

  • Specials
  • Parker House Rolls
  • Hand Cut Beef Tartare
  • Prime 109 Burger
  • Prime 109 Steak
  • Thrice Cooked French Fries
  • Creamed Spinach
  • Whatever Cocktail Abraham Feels Like Making

Chefs’ Picks

  • Crab Louis
  • Hand Cut Beef Tartare
  • Cioppino
  • Prime 109 Burger
  • Kansas City Strip
  • Thrice Cooked French Fries
  • Creamed Spinach
  • Ice Cream Sundae

Five Finds on Friday / Best Thing I Ate All Year Picks

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