The Charlottesville 29

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

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Five Finds on Friday: Elizabeth Irvin

Charitable organizations have not been immune to the effects of COVID-19, which has slowed donations and required crowd restrictions that have cancelled fundraising events vital to charities’ budgets. Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Executive Director of one such organization: Elizabeth Irvin of The Women’s Initiative, which provides mental health care services to Charlottesville area women. In lieu of their annual Barn Party, this year The Women’s Initiative is hosting a virtual Family Variety Show, where, families can enjoy, from their own homes, a petting zoo, clowns, the infamous bear (who some say talks too much), games, and even a special performance by Dave Matthews. Learn how your family can support The Women’s Initiative and enjoy the event. Irvin’s picks:

1) Chicken Sous Poulet, with kale salad, plantains and pikliz at Pearl Island Cafe. “At The Women’s Initiative we all love that this exceptional food is just steps away from our satellite office at the Jefferson School City Center, and appreciate their years of catering our Family Barn Party.”

2) Ginger Lemongrass Noodles at Vu Noodles. “I used to be so torn between Pearl Island and Vu Noodles when they shared the Jefferson School space. Now Vu is on Water Street, and I am all about their healthy and delicious options.”

3) Charcoal Rotisserie Chicken at Al Carbon. “The chicken is absolutely delicious and we love supporting this local, family owned business.”

4) Turkey on Everything w/ Pepper Spread at Bodo’s. “A parent’s dream restaurant. For maximum enjoyment, add potato chips and a Coke and head to Walnut Creek on a Saturday morning for some stand-up paddle-boarding.”

5) Dulce de Leche Gelato at Splendora’s. “They will be closing this weekend (then hoping to reopen at a new location so keep your eyes out!), but I will get by there to order one last scoop on the downtown mall. They’re also raffling off free gelato to folks who make a donation to local mental health services—including The Women’s Initiative—through this Sunday. I’m doubly grateful for the goodness they bring to our community.”

Support Mental Health, Win Epic Gelato

gelatoSupport mental health, win epic gelato.

For the past several weeks, Splendora’s Gelato‘s “Love Letters to Charlottesville” have been weekly flights of six flavors created by owner PK Ross in homage to some of her favorite local artisans. Week one of the love letters, for example, included the following flavors, as described by Ross:

Chili lime sorbet: a collab with Chimm

Bodo’s everything bagel gelato: “They’re an institution for a reason, and a flight celebrating Charlottesville wouldn’t be complete without them.”

Buttermilk + honey gelato: Collab with Prime 109 for a dinner highlighting The Elysium Honey Company. “I miss the talented brains in P109’s kitchen. Diego and Carrie of Elysium knock me out of my socks with their food knowledge and stewardship of the land.”

Olive oil + parmesan gelato: “Lampo has asked me to do some wackadoodle flavors and I’m grateful for their faces.”

Chipotle vanilla with coffee-soaked cherries gelato: “Dustin at C & O Restaurant once used a gelato as a drink inspiration, so I took one of his drinks and turned it into gelato (leaving out the bourbon though).”

Fancy Leather Couch gelato: “A riff based on a drink at The Alley Light. Hands down my favorite seat of a Sunday is that bar. The flavor is whisky with earl grey, allspice, and a touch of lemon zest.”

Now, you can win all four installments of Splendora’s Love Letters to Charlottesville. And, all you have to do is support local mental health initiatives – a cause Ross says needs more attention. “Mental health struggles in the food and hospitality industry are very real and very rarely discussed,” said Ross. “We deal in making people happy, and facilitate celebrations. No one wants to know when we’re sadsacks, but, as it turns out, food service industry workers are still humans, and it’s important to address our mental health needs.”

To win a chance to enjoy the entire series of Love Letters to Charlottesville, just make a donation of any size to any of the following: The Women’s Initiative, On Our Own Charlottesville, Charlottesville Free Clinic, or Charlottesville Area Harm Reduction. Email your receipt to, and you will be entered in a random drawing to be held on August 30, the last day of Splendora’s downtown mall location.

A Pandemic Escape: Evenings on the Hill at Pippin Hill


In normal times, Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards is not open for dinner. The vineyards’ events schedule is so jam packed that, at 5 pm each day, staff usher out guests, leaving only to their imagination what it might be like to dine as the sun sets on the vineyards’ stunning grounds.

But, we are in a pandemic. And, for all the devastation COVID-19 has wrought, there are a few silver linings — opportunities that would not exist but for the unprecedented times. With the pandemic wiping out Pippin Hill’s events calendar, the vineyard is now open for dinner on select evenings. As we dined last night on the vineyards’ veranda with a group of friends – socially distanced from one another – the same comment recurred: “Why would we go anywhere else?”

It’s not just the setting — though that alone would be reason enough to spend an evening on the hill. It’s the entire experience. If not for servers’ masks and the fact that food and wine are delivered to a table next to your table, you would hardly know there was a pandemic. During a time when the virus seems to consume our psyches every minute, that escape is priceless.

Service hasn’t missed a beat. The decades of experience in the hospitality industry of owners Dean Andrews and Lynn Easton still show. And, the food is as good as ever, too. With sister restaurant Red Pump Kitchen temporarily closed, the vineyard has reinforced its kitchen and front of the house with staff from Red Pump. It’s a team that is capable of leaving you thinking, if just for a moment: “Pandemic? What pandemic?”



The kitchen takes the “ugly” tomatoes from the vineyard’s own garden and blends them into a vinaigrette to bathe the pretty ones in a salad of heirloom tomatoes, grilled cucumber, and burrata, topped with garlic crumb


Sauteed peach and shishito pepper with goat cheese, toasted pecan, and honey

Book your escape here